The good ship Hudson

My post yesterday titled “Our own worst enemy” set some quick records for visitors and views on this blog. I don’t smell hot tar this morning so I’ll presume it was what many needed to hear and it was also my first post that was shared by a significant number of people on Facebook, including my most beautiful, smartest and toughest critic, my lovely wife Diane.

I have personally emailed the link to Mayor Prevost and our Councillors because unlike some of the angry mobs, my comments aren`t legally actionable and I believe our leaders have a right to know exactly what I`m saying about them without searching or hearing it second hand.

Once we have elected a government, it is now the only government to work with for all sides of every issue until the end of term. We citizens become like passengers on a ship, our elected leaders must set course and trim the sails based on the laws of the land and of course the feedback that they receive from the citizens that elected them. We citizen passengers hope for a pleasant cruise to a sunny destination, but our leaders also must work within the confines of the condition of the ship they took command of, the prevailing weather and seas, and so the ideal destination isn’t always possible in a short time frame.

It is not the responsibility of our captain or his officers to allow any person or group of people to take the wheel or controls of this ship. What is important in any democracy is that we collectively lift the anchor and start moving in a direction as soon as possible to a destination or at least a direction that most of us agree on.

What about the good ship Hudson?  Once a very proud little ship in a small ocean, Hudson seemed a stable luxurious place at the peak of desirability and independence, and so most of our passengers have booked the lifetime cruise. We’ve enjoyed the best of times and recently we’ve suffered horrid times.

A series of past captains had thought the crew competent enough to have let them mostly run it themselves. Then our long serving first officer turned out to be a real nasty pirate. One of our passengers, a retired captain of industry Ed Prevost, offered to command for us and then was elected, by most of us who voted, to run our ship.

Not enough money had been spent on maintenance, so we started springing leaks, cracks have appeared everywhere and our paint is peeling. Because we were controlled by a pirate, we’ve been ignoring many of the rules for navigation of our ship and our leaders and employees must learn and adapt to many new rules and regulations.

Make no mistake; this has not been a glory assignment for Captain Prevost. Prevost has had to change much of the crew, several first and second officers have jumped ship or some were forced to walk the plank and some even seem to have chosen to stand on the plank and ask to be pushed. All the while, good citizens everywhere on the ship are paddling, bailing, painting and slowly trying to improve Hudson. Some days it seems that there’s hope and we’re seeing some light and a new dawn after the storms.

Captain Prevost and his team of elected officers have a strategic plan for the future. It’s ambitious and will possibly stretch the capabilities of our crew and passengers, but above all else this is a team that actually has a plan for our future. They’re not perfect, their plan is not perfect, but I believe that most of us want to help them guide us from these treacherous waters and into sunny days and calm seas again.

I’m all for community action and community guidance, but I believe it must be constructive and fact based not simply driven by emotion or the loser’s perpetual belief that the winning side is always wrong or always cheating. I admittedly set some pretty high minimum standards because: I hold both democracy and the town where we live in very high esteem.

We have wonderful resources and energy in town. We have credentialed experts on many fields with knowledge and experience that naturally exceeds that of many of our hired town employees. We have in our midst the solutions to many of our problems, if we could just build bridges instead of walls and communicate what we know openly and equally.

Many fear the anger of a mob, but please ignore those bullies who meet in the dark corners of our ship shouting and recommending or plotting mutiny. Frankly, if you’re going to become part of any positive community action group, the Mayor, council and relevant town directors should get minutes of your meetings including the number of members in attendance. Invite them to attend your meetings, where your group has the agenda and control of the floor, because they should want to hear from you.

If the group can’t accept those standards, then they have no right to demand openness and transparency from our government and you might reconsider joining it. Better yet, groups with good ideas should open a website or a blog and please do publish your minutes of meetings and your documents because if you’re really doing trying to do good for the good ship Hudson why wouldn’t you want everyone to know? If your ideas really have potential for consensus support of a majority then we all need to hear them, and we also all need to be able to understand and publicly question them to the point we believe in them as a community. Then progress is simple because it’s driven by education and critical mass.

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Our own worst enemy

I’ve lived in Hudson for 34 years, just sixteen more years until I’m considered a local. I have enjoyed the best of Hudson life and seen the worst at times.

I’ve watched and at various times participated in municipal government, our children lived and one died here in service of our town, they were both educated to brilliance here by great teachers many who live among us, my wife  was an elected school commissioner for ten tumultuous and angry years in education, our family was at the center of a tragedy that reached the national news and uncovered structural weaknesses in our local government and management of departments, I’ve spoken in over 200 often controversial columns in our best local paper of the time.

We are a wonderful community at our heart. Hudson is full of amazing people engaged in a wide variety of activities and interest. We attract some of the best and brightest people in many fields to live here. We have so many people who contribute to Hudson that I’d have to write a book and I’d still miss many of them because they quietly shape Hudson into their vision of a caring compassionate responsible and sustainable community. We support each other’s charities and causes like Nova, le Pont Bridging, the Palliative Care Center, Greenwood, le Nichoir, being the first community in Canada to ban pesticides. And yes, we spent public legal dollars defending our right to insist that we all must live equally with dandelions.

I could sum the true spirit of Hudson up in one annual event: Hudson Yacht Club’s Work Bee. A volunteer group of members spend the day organized into groups to prepare the yacht club for the coming season. They share hard work, lunch, drinks, friendship, citizenship, community and by all pulling together for a day accomplish not just the repair of an old club, but they bond into a cohesive group with better understanding of each other and the needs of the club.

There has been, for most of the years I’ve been here, an impossibility to ever truly govern Hudson. From apathy we acclaim far too many of our leaders and those who get elected are elected usually by a minority of citizens who come out to vote.

Around half way through almost every government, there are angry mobs quietly forming in Hudson that are determined to bring down the government. No public consensus required, gather a group who will listen, light the fires to heat the tar, get the feathers and they’re ready to rumble.

Because they have a responsibility to govern for the balance of their term, most Town councils under siege react by circling the wagons, plugging the leaks and forming an impenetrable bunker around their group. The angry mobs isolate them from the silent majority of citizens.

Modern social media brings new challenges for communication, including the potential for legal challenges due to slander and libel that previously only the press needed to worry about.  It is not a citizen’s absolute right to express any opinion or promote anger publicly. One cannot be sued for calmly stating verifiable facts and details, publishing legal documents in the public domain, and even carefully coming to a logical conclusion or rational request for action based on those facts. However, if you are hateful or of the opinion that there has been something illegal happening and even imply that an official or a town employee is involved, you are breaking the law and should be held accountable.

Angry mobs are not the answer; calling to bring down the government in absence of any criminal charges is not the answer because there are no recall tools available.

There’s a giant boulder in our way. Years of ineffective and illegal management of Hudson, questionably effective past mayors and councils, rising debt, and new rules and technical challenges including the MRC, the PMAD, the CMM other regional obligations that we under participate in.

The government of a few elected citizens, friends among us, is in charge of managing the moving of that boulder. But we have angry mobs forming on every side of that boulder each yelling and pushing in different directions, so because we’re not as a majority pushing in any one direction the boulder never moves.

We have the best possible government in Hudson this time; we actually elected all of them from the best choices among us who chose to run for the thankless role of leadership. And they chose to run for office at a time when they knew Hudson was in an intractable mess and that they’d inherit a swamp full of problems they couldn’t even see until they started draining the swamp. They’re not perfect, but they are the best we could have and deserve respect.

We have choices to make, we can choose to get behind or at least move out of the way of our government or we can destroy their ability to make any progress and pick them apart one piece at a time. Or perhaps we could somehow get a consensus formed to help to start pushing this boulder out of the way as a community. The problem with that  consensus is that it is buried in silence with the majority of citizens afraid to speak up and possibly be judged by the angry mobs.

I needed time off from council meetings, and I work hard long days running my own business. I’m going to begin attending council meetings again, not on any side or allied with any cause. I’m going to witness government and bear witness to the responsibilities of both sides of democracy at work. If I see abuses or disrespect on either side I will comment.

I’m going to attend because I don’t want a local government who must close up and bunker themselves in protective silence and inaction and I don’t want to live in a town full of angry narrow focus mobs setting the direction.

In the end I will always try to take the side of and speak for the most responsible side that I believe speaks logically, respectfully and best supports the needs of the majority of Hudson. That is my responsibility as a citizen, as it is your responsibility.

Heritage, is it endangered?

Thank you for the suggested topic Chloe. I believe that undefined or unprotected heritage is almost always endangered. This subject is far too complex to cover effectively in one simple blog post.

Heritage is under discussion everywhere these days and this question is currently very Hudson appropriate. With PMAD coming into effect towns have an opportunity to define and then try to protect valuable heritage, but only if we do something. If we do nothing then our heritage will be at greater risk. Let’s just barely skim the surface with ideas that are admittedly biased by my personal opinions and hopefully a discussion dialogue can follow with your comments.

My bias: I really like eclectic old villages with varied buildings representing an advancing visual history of the past life of that village. I think my preference is because that format gives me a sense that a village grew, prospered or floundered at various times, still has a living anchor to its past and the village has been valued, maintained and probably has changed purposes several times by its citizens over some long period of time. In an old village perhaps you feel like you’re joining history with like minded people rather than waiting for it with strangers in a new development.

Since 1982, we have owned a 1929 Hudson village home. We significantly expanded in 1985, totally changing the look of our home, but keeping it within the village spirit and look. In fact many people who have arrived after our renovation mistake our home for an original heritage home. In the end, we would be financially, efficiency and living space wise far better to have simply torn town and rebuilt new. That’s the labour of love part of heritage and we have paid the price because I feel the responsibility of not wishing to change an old village for the worse or push it out of the character it has found for itself before I came to it.

Clearly each person in any community might define and value heritage differently, plus a community’s collective need for space and development changes with time, so it is important to regularly facilitate public discussion to identify a common vision of exactly what heritage a community feels is important to protect. Universally, each component of what we will call heritage must have some enduring value and special interest to the collective community, because without those we first lose the attachment, then we stop maintaining it, and then we will surely lose that part of our heritage before long.

It’s a rarity and stroke of great luck that we are blessed in Hudson to have the outstanding heritage example of the Greenwood Center for Living History. Greenwood was bequeathed by Phoebe Nobbs Hyde to the Canadian Heritage of Quebec not for profit organization, thereby protecting it from future sale. Study Phoebe Hyde and you’ll realize how rare a gift this is, usually a family will sell such property as part of the estate, but Phoebe had no children and she wished Greenwood protected so it might endure for the good of Hudson.

Greenwood is a wonderful and irreplaceable centuries old piece of our history sitting on what would be immensely valuable waterfront property for any high end builder. Greenwood is run by dedicated local volunteers who ensure that they raise money and secure grants for adequate funding for operating and maintenance costs, and a minimally paid executive director, and some minimal hired summer staff to help operate tours and events. If you haven’t yet, please visit Greenwood this Spring when it re-opens and better yet join it, contribute to it, or volunteer with them.

Greenwood brings life to our community with many events, including Storyfest each year. Storyfest is an entertaining and enriching part of Hudson as a great series of quite famous Canadian authors have been brought to Hudson each fall for a number of years. I hear they’ve got an outstanding line-up planned for Storyfest 2016. In Greenwood’s case our history truly not just educates but also enriches our present day live proving that protecting our heritage well can bring great benefits to a community.

Heritage buildings will be much more expensive to maintain and operate than a similar sized modern building. If we let an old building deteriorate too far, it can become far more expensive to renovate than to replace which adds further incentive to destruction. On a purely financial analysis heritage almost never makes sense and since the payback on replacing with modern can be quite quick, heritage will be perpetually at risk. We will face difficult choices with Hudson’s old Town Hall soon.

Unless there are clearly defined heritage protections or incentives, with future densification pressure always looming in metropolitan Montreal and our MRC, eventually teardown and replace becomes economically interesting for developers and villages needing to increase density.  Especially true in the case of a village that is becoming run down or is no longer commercially viable or not attracting enough daily visitors to support local businesses. Empty rental buildings have less value and are easier for developers to buy for teardown. If a village has zoning laws that allow enough density then there’s money to be made building condos or rental housing where old buildings weren’t viable.

The delicate balance of the heritage coin is that virtually no one can afford to protect what is no longer marketable, and it’s very difficult to force and enforce standards of maintenance. By limiting demolition permits, or artificially limiting permits to build on vacant lots or stalling redevelopment on existing ones, you can quickly create your own ghetto or ghost town. Villages must market themselves and the businesses therein to maintain what I see as a critical mass of interest, those things that attract visitors to come on a regular basis.

Vacant buildings, empty lots, and empty rental spaces are signs of significant problems and potential for future decline. In a world of big box and strip mall outlets a village needs to find a purpose and direction or it will become a ghost town or one day be all condos close to a train station.

Heritage protection is a very complex topic with many facets. It is in the community best interest to come together and fully discuss and define what critical parts we are unwilling to lose, which other parts we’re willing to pay to protect and what are the best ways to reach that goal.


Warning, none of this really matters, reading this might waste your time. Enough about Hudson, it’s time to discuss something far less important.

French linguists are in a bother about the impending death of the circumflex by a consensus of an obscure and uptight committee of whoever actually manages such things. That funny little hat of an accent was originally introduced to signify that a word had lost a letter there next to the vowel it capped somewhere along the way and to make French spelling even harder.

Growing up we feared bad spelling and grammar. I’m of an age and generation where proper spelling and grammar might even have been beaten or at least browbeaten into some of us. We were told that poor spelling and grammar would limit our career options, our choice of university and be a dead giveaway that we might be lower class than we were and so clearly it meant the possible difference between a mansion and a double wide and who we might marry. Bad choice of motivation for young men when Ellie May Clampett and Daisy Duke were so damned hot.

Language is indeed a dynamic beast. Long ago those less rigid or perhaps less educated stewards of American, a colloquial offshoot of English Proper, played with stiff English minds by dropping the ‘”u” from many words like honour and colour. Not stopping there, they changed the “ough” to “u” in words like “through”. I’m sure many British purists still cringe when we use those rough edged lower class American compactions, and many are surely glad that the Americans had fought their way out of colonialism lest that poor English become contagious. Obama’s dropped ending “g” is probably causin’ clenched British sphincters whenever he speaks, I have to remind myself that he may have attended Harvard, but he grew up in Chicago.

I grew up, and therefore any attempt to educate me happened, in the US. I attended an exceptional municipal public school system and in High School was blessed to follow the AP (Advanced Placement) English and science stream.  We were taught AP English by a wonderful gentle PhD, surely my first exposure to a gay man as a teacher, but we never ever talked about that and he was wonderful as a man and as a teacher. His first name was “Mister” always and while his ruler never struck flesh, it often flashed loudly out of nowhere onto your desk for all manner of spelling and grammar transgressions causing immediate shock and terror because your stupidity was about to be projected, analyzed and humiliated for the benefit of the entire class. And some call those the “good ole days”?

Growing up Canadian in the US and coming back to Canada in my mid-twenties, I’m caught betwixt and between. Generally, I have adopted the British versions because it saves people from asking: “You are American, eh?”

Modern English is in a precipitous slide and that slide is being accelerated by advancing technology. On social media are so many people who clearly don’t understand the use of the lowly apostrophe. Purists might argue that we never should have allowed the lazy writers to devolve English with a simple contraction tool. Your (preceding purposeful apostrophe abuse) maybe going to hate me for saying it, but apostrophe confusion is so pervasive I say we follow the French Accent Assassins lead and just kill the poor misused and usually abused apostrophe.

Texting and Smartphones are making the changes happen faster. Why bother with “your”, “you’re”, and “you are” when a simple “UR”  or “ur” will do? Everyone knows what you mean and only the old and cranky like me grumble about the younger generation and cringe while reading it, plus we take ten times longer to text because we don’t know texting English and we have to kill those stupid and sometimes embarrassing autocorrect changes that we did not want done for us.

All to say that, so long as we can understand each other, and if we could learn to not judge each other by versions of our language, then the stiffness and structural constraints of any language don’t really matter much.

So, WTF, go have a wonderful day and please don’t forget to smile and LOL a lot and just try to accept that our language is a changin’ faster than ever.

Stuck in the muck

My shorts are in an ever tightening knot about Pine Lake. Sure, Pine Lake is not an essential part of Hudson, despite once being the now removed iconic picture on our Town’s website. But what does Pine Lake say about us, and are we listening?

I’ll write a few brief paragraphs each on one point of why I’m bothered. I could go on for pages and pages, but this is my quick top of the head morning coffee list. I’ll write them in no particular order of importance so that those who wish to comment can refer to a point they wish to discuss. Feel free to add your points of bother to the discussion, or just rank them from your personal highest to lowest importance.

#1) Pine Lake is a depressing eyesore that a significant part of Hudson drives by each day. Many of us start and end our day passing this reminder that Hudson is somehow so broken that we can’t fix Pine Lake.

#2) Pine Lake had value to far more than the few property owners around it. In the past, I have made early morning panic stops to move dinner plate sized turtles across the road so they wouldn’t get hit, I smiled when the beautiful herons were there on my way home from work and we took our grandchildren there on village walks to see and feed the ducks. Many people fished Pine Lake, many stopped and sat and Pine Lake was a great first impression of Hudson year round. Now it’s an eyesore.

#3) Hudson acquired Pine Lake from private owners and committed in writing to maintain it for the town use. We have failed to honour that legal document in a timely fashion and have no current plan to end this situation. What is exactly is the word of Hudson worth when residents and friends are driven to legal action against their own town trying to force us to honour our own past commitments?

#4) I believe that we have somehow made the restoration of Pine Lake a much bigger, more complex and more expensive deal than it really is. I know the government can get complex, but repairing a damn dam that’s been there for 50+ years should not be such a big deal.  We need a will to find a simple good solution. If we manage to complicate every problem like we seem to have complicated Pine Lake then it’s no wonder we don’t get anything fixed.

#5) Pine Lake and the discussions surround the required repairs divide Hudson into smaller groups exactly where we should be coming together. I’ve seen comments that support the repair if we can do it for $25K, which is totally unrealistic, others that practically demand that we repave every road in town before we get to repairing Pine Lake. Has it become a case that I won’t support your top project until my top project is funded? We have a town, but sadly we just don’t seem to have the community we once had.

#6) Pine Lake is just the visible tip of the horrible infrastructure deficit iceberg we’ve allowed and Hudson is the Titanic bearing down with a broken rudder and out of fuel. We know that there’s much to be done, yet year after year we see not enough getting done. So the lingering image of a mud flat mess instead of a pretty lake is confirmation that we are really too broke to fix things that matter, especially things that we said we’d maintain.

So, if you want to know what’s really wrong with Hudson, stop and stare for a while at the muck that was Pine Lake. Hudson is really just stuck in the muck.

Did anyone miss me?

Did anyone miss me?

It’s early days of this Duff blog adventure, and like many of you, I do miss the paper once known as the Hudson Gazette and its several subsequent aliases. I thought I’d start by discussing what I already know about the differences between weekly paper and blogging and offer to answer any questions you decide to throw my way in discussion below.

Jim Duff is away on vacation, but as Jim is a guy who never stops thinking and I have knowledge of the general part of the planet he’s visiting, so I know he’s secretly in another part of the world peeking into Hudson’s future by visiting and researching small towns without ability to borrow more money.

Since someone must herd the potential for disaster or good here, I’ve been entrusted with the keys to this online blog, a potential castle of knowledge and wisdom. You will behave or I will be ruthless in deleting your posts.

We’re competitive, so I also hope to help generate enough new traffic to not only embarrass Jim’s efforts to date but also to add value and help make some sense of the time and energy that Jim has invested in starting this blog and perhaps even help define a future direction.

I’ve been attempting to be quite active in posting and commenting in support of Jim’s endeavour here, and to drive some discussion. Why? Because on most days he’s my best friend and I know Jim to be deeply interested and caring about Hudson and also the world around him. This bloggy place should become a very good place for Hudson, so I’m willing to donate a bit of my busy days to help this great little town many of us live in think about itself a few minutes at a time.

There is a commonality to editing or writing for a small town paper and to posting on a blog, but also many differences, so let me wander through that and hope you see why you should visit this place.

There is certainly a lot of room in both formats room for judgement and criticism, which neither Jim nor I fear, so long as it is respectful, reasoned and reasonable. I do know Jim to be fearless, only a fearless man would have published without edits literally every word of every column of the over 200+ columns that I wrote for him. Jim and I are generally like minded, but we often disagree and argue passionately both principles and details. There are issues we’ll never completely agree on, but over the past 10 years we are indeed best of friends. I have learned much from him and perhaps have been able to teach him a little. I know that what he says is always worth listening to, even if you chose to disagree.

This blog of Duff’s, in a few short weeks, has created opportunities for dialogue and learning that never rose from all those columns I wrote over ten years. In a few short weeks there have been, by way of dialogue on this blog, in near real time, changed views and new mutual respect between people who seemed unlikely to ever come to consensus or agreement. There have been new understandings of past history and also entrenched positions and future challenges.

There have been new connections between both like minded and different minded people, and I know that some small forms of community activism will spring from the depths of knowledge and connections available herein. That all this has happened so quickly should be very positive in Hudson if we can continue to generate enough interest and traffic,

We like your participation, but silence is also golden so long as you come and read with an open mind. Trust me, I understand that many people will read what’s here and not wish to comment or get involved in having a public voice. Passive activity is a great and constructive part of blogging, so please bring your friends along. The more sides of every issue we discuss, and the more people who follow and absorb, the smarter and stronger we become as a community.

You each have, should you choose, that wonderful gift that Jim Duff came to me with one day: Say whatever is on your mind and it will be heard by some. And tell me what we should talk about, what’s on your mind and why. If you don’t want to post publicly feel free to email me:

Today is a gift, so have a great day, have some fun, hug someone, share something positive with a friend, make a new friend or call an old one.


For those of us who have occasion to drive the 401, there’s a community called Ingleside which is fast becoming the solar power generating capital of Canada. Solar-array contractor H.B. White (they were landscape contractors until they discovered how lucrative the alternative energy business can be) have completed two kilometre-square arrays and are working of two more. They were also the prime contractors for Europe’s largest array in Germany. Montebello charging station

There are plenty of arguments against wind and solar. Can’t be stored. Ugly. Disruptive. Not cost effective. I agree – to a point. Windfarms are no uglier than a line of 1.5MV transmission towers on a picturesque skyline. Solar arrays are ideally located alongside major highways, where planners are already looking past gas and diesel to next-generation fossil fuels – liquified natural gas, methane – and electricity.

The growing electric vehicle fleet is an effective decentralized alternative energy storage facility, so it’s starting to make economic sense for municipalities to offer high-output electric vehicle charging. I snapped the shot above in Montebello, Quebec. Outside the former railway station, now a died-and-gone-to-heaven chocolaterie in the centre of town, is this Circuit Electrique charging station, one of more than 600 in Quebec. (VerNetwork has 150 across Canada, while TeslaThe Pointe Claire pool parking lot is equipped with a Circuit Electrique charging station with parking for two electric vehicles. It’s not free, but it’s comparable with dollar-a-litre gas. Even with oil at $30 a barrel the price of a litre of gas doesn’t seem to drop much below that.

Car manufacturers find themselves like the guy trying to change canoes standing up. They know they have to switch their fleets over to alternate fuels but they have to move cautiously. Gas may be cheap and gas stations everywhere, but that will change quickly as western governments impose ever-higher taxes on fossil fuels in response to public pressure to stop subsidizing petrocratic tyrannies and murderous zealots. I realize most of us don’t give a rat’s ass whether the oil we pump into our SUV comes from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq or the Emirates, but what happens when we put our domestic producers out of business? Wouldn’t it be smart to have an alternative source of sustainable energy to move our economies when the Middle Eastern shit hits the fan?

Hybrids are a transitional technology, good as long as gas is more convenient than the alternatives and potential electric-vehicle buyers agonize over range anxiety. People who drive hybrids swear by them. A guy I swim with is thinking of buying a secondhand Toyota Prius after talking with Montreal cab drivers. According to him, they’re getting 300,000 km from a set of batteries. But they’re not cheap, even with Quebec’s green energy rebate. GM’s 2016 Chevy Volt ($39,590 base price) boasts 85 km in electric mode on a 4.5-hour charge, after which a 1.5-litre gas-powered generator cuts in “to help keep you going.” According to the fine print, that 4.5-hour charge rate is with a 240-volt fast-charge circuit. A 120-volt plug-in will take anywhere from 13 to 19 hours.

Pure electric cars are a tougher sell, mainly because lithium battery technology have yet to catch up to buyer expectations. Nissan’s Leaf, a pure electric car with no generator to ease range anxiety, starts at $32,698 and boasts 133 km of range. According to the VerNetwork site, the Leaf, with a maximum charge rate of 3.3KWh, takes more than three hours to fully recharge from a half-charged state. It gets 44 kilometres per hour of charge. The newest 400-volt fast chargers ($10 an hour, billed by the minute) take maybe half an hour to recharge from 50% but can be used by a fraction of the total electric-vehicle fleet. And they’re few and far between.

Tesla is closing the expectation/reality gap with its Model S, the new Model X crossover ( and the promised Model 3, a pure electric vehicle for the masses. Their range is approaching that of comparably priced gas vehicle and they have the performance options wealthy customers expect. Tesla offers more than 600 Supercharger stations across the continent with 400-volt plugins for 3,500 vehicles, but in Canada they’re confined to markets where Tesla is selling cars. Don’t look for any major jump in those numbers anytime soon. Tesla CEO Elon Musk  recently conceded the oil swoon is causing the alternative energy sector considerable near-term pain. But he’s hanging in, as are Nissan, Toyota, GM, Kia, Porsche, Daimler-Benz and BMW. (Volkwagen/Audi is taking Ballard’s fuel cell technologies for a test drive.)

Canadians are at the energy crossroads. Do we allow petrocracies to destroy our oil production, refining and petrochemical industries with domestic carbon taxes and unrealistic demands on pipeline operators? Or do we use domestic tax revenues to help build the alternative to the fossil fuel economy?

This is a question for everyone from the Trudeau government to our local municipal councils. We have to get this one right.




PMAD basics

Seems there’s confusion over the Montreal Metropolitan Community’s master development plan, better known by its French acronym. I was the only journalist from our region at the public hearings on the West Island and at the plenary in St. Constant, where our MRC delegation explained why Vaudreuil-Soulanges needed changes to the draft PMAD. We didn’t get them, but the passage of time and the provincial government’s election vows and austerity measures have further muddied the waters. All this to say there’s plenty of slack. This is far from being a strait jacket.
PMAD basics:
One size fits all, so there’s one PMAD for 82 MMC municipalities. Out here, half of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC municipalities are in the MMC because of a formula which determines how many of their residents work and shop on the island. Once in, there’s no way out. Blustering and threatening to sue will accomplish nothing because the PMAD is fixated on the following precepts:
Urban sprawl costs money.
Bigger isn’t better because it means more roads to maintain, more services to instal and upgrade, etc.
Montreal Island is choking to death in its own traffic, most of it from commuters who refuse to use public transit because they live too far out and the services aren’t as fast and reliable as driving oneself or carpooling, even when we factor in the average 2.5 hours a day commuting.
Farmland, greenspace protection and doubling down on densities in already populated areas are the three main goals.
There’s been considerable flap about Transport-Oriented Development (TOD), as if the town of Hudson abandoned its one train a day it would somehow be exempted. That’s not how the PMAD works. If you’re served by any form of public transit, such as the CIT shuttlebuses, even if your burg is within a 15-minute commute of a railway station or express bus terminus, chances are it will be characterized as a potential TOD. For example, St. Lazare and Les Cedres don’t have train service to their territories but both are within the MMC and both urban cores are considered TODable.
Having followed the PMAD since its inception (Hudson, like most VS MRC municipalities, can kick itself for not having gotten involved in the process early enough) I think we have to alter our way of thinking.
Being labelled as a TOD doesn’t force a town to develop, but it does require subsequent development to adhere to unreasonably high densities. This is why it’s best that Hudson plans for a few high-density projects in the sewered part of town. Half a dozen multi-unit residential projects on Main, Cameron and Lakeview would go a long way to satisfying the PMAD’s densification goal without substantially altering the unique character of the Quartier francais.
Ellerbeck, R-55 and the zoning already approved for Sandy Beach would add the number of doors required to defray the cost of the sewer/water infrastructure currently being downloaded on a fraction of the town’s ratepayers. The current tax burden split is neither smart nor equitable.
Proper planning is the key. Rather than blowing dough on pie-in-the-sky wish lists, municipalities have to be frugal, careful stewards of the public purse. Forget the skateboard parks and the vanity publicity. Concentrate on lasting, sustainable investments in commercialization and public convenience, such as a dedicated, covered outdoor market and more, better-planned public parking. What about that secure pedestrian path alongside Main and Cote St. Charles, before somebody is killed or seriously hurt? Get the planning right and everything else will follow naturally. Above all, learn to live with the PMAD by seeing at as an opportunity to be seized upon.

Hudson: Another fiscal crisis?

I have in front of me documents dealing with the Town of Hudson’s finances, beginning with the Prévisions budgétaires 2014. This is the official version of how the administration spent the budget it adopted Jan. 20, 2014. It was filed with the municipal affairs ministry Feb. 4, 2014 by then treasurer Sylvain Bernard, another of the growing list of victims of Hudson Town Hall’s lethal revolving door.

I have yet to see the 2015 version. It was supposed to have been filed by now but I’m told it has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. I hear the failure to file is provoking another crisis at town hall. Municipal affairs isn’t known for its patience, especially in dealing with a municipality that can’t seem to get its act together. We shouldn’t be surprised if Hudson is assessed a penalty for late filing. I’d counsel less emphasis on unimportant stuff. Stick to the basics, like feeding Quebec the numbers they want, when they want them.

I’ve already voiced my concern: last year’s numbers don’t add up and there’s no way they can be tweaked. The town has burned through two treasurers for undisclosed reasons. Transparency on this issue would be welcome.

Thirty months

Now that Hudson’s former town manager is behind bars for 30 months (we can discount that by half and maybe more under various jailtime reduction plans, and yes, they can be combined) one hopes the current administration will come to realize there’s no point in continuing to beat a dead horse.

I’m assuming the town carries insurance for the $1.1 million Louise Villandré admitted to having stolen. I asked DG Jean-Pierre Roy that question at the January council meeting. He didn’t seem to know and said he would get back to me (he hasn’t). We can hope.

More to the point is the way the mayor and council carry on about the bag of troubles they inherited as an excuse for why they can’t move forward. Mom used to call it the Crown of Thorns Syndrome: it’s your fault I’m a failure. To her credit, Villandré never blamed her crime spree on how, when her husband was dying of kidney failure, she had been approved as a donor, only to have it discovered as they were prepping her that she had breast cancer.  It all happened about the time when she supposedly began cutting herself cheques. Others accused of far more heinous crimes have been declared not guilty by reason of insanity.

Most of us are guilty of blamecasting in moments of weakness and despair, but it makes for a lousy municipal mission statement. If/when we fail, it’s not our fault, so get off our backs. Drop the blame crutch, folks. Move on.

The way I figure it, Villandré should be out of prison next October, about the time Hudson residents are preparing to decide who their next mayor and council will be. All the more reason why this administration should stop wasting time and money on peripherals, such as sanctimonious mission statements, implausible strategic plans and threatening to sue anyone who steps out of line. They should concentrate on getting the town back on track, which means hearing what people have to say and not just pretending to listen.

Above all, they should give public recognition to the contributions of their predecessors, and yes, that includes the selfless Louise Villandré – until a combination of tragedy and temptation triggered something I’ll never understand. To err is human; to forgive is divine.