A lo­cal loss

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

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.

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