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#1577: Old truck revamped to fight fires in Haiti (fwd)


Thursday 23 December 1999

Old truck revamped to fight fires in Haiti

 _____Montreal is sending a Christmas present to the Haitian city of
Jeremie: a 23-year-old tanker truck that was bound for the scrap heap.  
The city has repaired the truck and equipped it with  hoses so that it
can be used  to fight fires in the Haitian  city of 60,000, which has
only  minimal firefighting equipment.   While Mayor Pierre Bourque     
called the truck "a very  important gift," some critics are calling it
nothing more than a token gesture and are asking why Bourque is      
spending so much time on international affairs. The truck was on display
at Champ de Mars, behind city hall, yesterday and is expected to leave
today for Halifax, from where it will be shipped to Haiti.  Bourque said
he personally asked that the tanker truck be repaired after learning it
was destined to be scrapped. "I asked: 'How much could we sell this
truck for?' And I was told $4,000," Bourque said. "Haiti has nothing, so
we decided to restore and equip this vehicle and send it to them."      
The city will also be sending a technician to Jeremie to train
officials  there on how to use the truck, bringing the city's total
expense to more than $10,000.  Lionel Laviolette, Haiti's consul-general
in Montreal, was also on hand yesterday and praised the city for the
donation. "We appreciate this gesture very much," Laviolette said. "This
will be very useful for the city of Jeremie, where firefighting services
are in no way adequate. Recently there was a major fire that destroyed a
number of homes and caused the death of at least 15 people." The city's
donation was seen by some, however, as an almost  insignificant gesture
by the Bourque administration designed to get good  press for the mayor. 
 "This is pure tokenism and it's insulting," opposition Councillor
Marvin  Rotrand said. "The city has a piece of junk that it's giving as
a  hand-me-down to the city of Jeremie.   "If the city wants to be
philanthropic, it should be giving a real fire truck."  Rotrand,
councillor for Snowdon, also criticized Bourque's increasing attempts to
raise his profile on the international scene, such as his announcement
this week that he has been appointed to the board of a   new
international program to improve the world's slums.  The program, called
Cities Without Slums, is an initiative of the World  Bank and the United
Nations Centre for Human Settlements. "The mayor is responsible for the
citizens of Montreal and should only  play a supporting role to the
government of Canada when it comes to  foreign aid," Rotrand said.      
"I believe that a lot of this is about creating high-profile photo-ops
for the mayor and members of the executive committee," he said. But
Bourque was quick to defend his growing involvement in  international
affairs. "I want to give Montrealers the awareness of being citizens of
this   planet. We cannot ignore what is happening in the Third World,"
Bourque said.