A local loss
The defeat of the Liberal Party yesterday marked the end of an era for us in the Townships that started at the election of the first PQ government in 1976. Before that, our region was not the tourist playground that it is today, supposedly too English for the francophones who preferred the Laurentians or the then ‘up and coming’ Lanaudière, north of Montreal.
All changed when René Levesque decided to hold camp in North Hatley to form the cabinet of his newly elected government. Quebec’s worst kept secret was out: we had the most beautiful scenery and charming unspoiled villages, and so we became the place to be.
Language Commissioner, Graham Fraser, referred to that period in the speech that he gave a couple of weeks ago at North Hatley’s Universalist Church. It was a speech about missed opportunities, of what would have been an evening with his friends and the friends of Gérald Godin, the poet, journalist and soon to be minister who vacationed in our region, as did dozens of Quebec artists who kept their choices very quiet. Let’s put it this way, we don’t brag much and a star, international or local, can live in peace here. Ask Donald Sutherland or, on the French side, the soon-to-be-seduced guest of Stanstead, Rémy Girard.
But power attracts money. So right after the moment that our region became trendy, came those who like to be seen in the right place. Parvenus, the social climbers, started to descend in droves, attracted by low prices of vintage fix-me-ups where they could ‘renovate’, i.e.: hire someone to do the job, and be close to the powerful and the mighty. As fate would have it, it would continue for years, on both sides of Lake Memphremagog, ending with Jean Charest in North Hatley, as if to finish the loop started by René Levesque!
Remember when Mr. Charest was elected premier in 2003, that summer you could hardly walk in North Hatley, and when the French President showed up in town in August? All hell broke loose. Forget a cottage anywhere but on Lake Massawippi, would say our parvenu, trying to decide on which garage door style he would put on his soon to be erected monster chalet’s triple garage.
The summer after, you had droves of French tourists, unable to understand what the fuss was all about. And then reality struck: the beauty was marred by the awful problem of blue algae which disappeared by the stroke of a pen of a civil servant who changed the definition of what a bloom was. For details ask Gisèle LacasseBenoit of Memphremagog Conservation, heard on Radio-Canada deploring the fact that she cannot let her grand-children swim in Lake Memphremagog. The simple fact is that we did not hear much about the environment in this election. Yet for us it is the most important issue.
So, we can expect that the ‘did you see me’ crowd will now descend to Charlevoix, home of Mrs. Marois ‘chalet’. We do hope that they are spared the monster cottage, pseudo chateau and other architectural horrors that were built here, but let’s not forget the former home of our new premier. Then, tastes are personal. We wish the best to the people of Charlevoix.
So we should expect a return to our storied past, tranquillity. We have a feeling that those who chose the Townships for its beauty will stay. So we will still cross paths with the Sutherlands and the Girards, doing our best to ignore them. They have chosen to live here, why bother them. A nod is enough.