This is my personal opinion and view of the future of small municipalities in Quebec, especially those attached to an MRC connected to a major metropolitan area. When and if failure comes at some point in Hudson’s future, I will take zero pleasure in having been correct. Hudson’s current collective mentality and mood makes long term survival much more difficult and Quebec would not be disappointed in any way if Hudson failed and had to be merged with a larger neighbour.
The cynical side of me says that the possibility of failure was designed into the Quebec Municipalities system in ways that would eventually benefit and simplify the Provincial and Regional government bureaucracy. Perhaps we’re expected by Quebec to eventually fail, and perhaps we’re just taking too damned long to finish ourselves off.
The technician in me says that to avoid disaster of failure, we must first identify those potential management areas where we would be expected to fail if we were badly managed. Start with the ones where we are most behind the bureaucratic requirements . Once we see the failure points, perhaps we can find ways to work with and around them.
If there’s any interest in discussion I am willing, over several blog posts, to highlight a series of structures in Quebec municipal law that I believe make it nearly impossible for a small town to survive and thrive. Perhaps we’ll together discover other ways we’re designed to fail.
Since the Bouchard days of zero-deficit municipal governments have become more and more complex. The responsibilities of municipalities have grown exponentially, the bureaucracy requirements have been expanded in exchange the right to raise more tax passed down to municipalities. Virtually no small town was prepared for or capable of the newly granted responsibilities and their ensuing bureaucracy and staff requirements.
Thirty years ago, Hudson was far more self sufficient than today, but that doesn’t imply well managed and I won’t try to pass judgement there especially on the known crimes against us. We had our own Police department, a volunteer fire department under our control, an on staff Civil Engineer, and very simple town planning that could generate a building permit for a simple addition or garage replacement in days. When the MRC came to our lives, Hudson’s leaders simply ignored it as not relevant or valuable to us at that time, and I believe that was a huge mistake that we still have not fully corrected. We’re still referred to at MRC levels as the Republic of Hudson, and we do not avail ourselves of all the possible benefits and funding and we can’t escape the responsibilities.
In that bygone era, Hudson could show some world attention grabbing vision, largely driven by a concentration of local passionate people. We were the first community in Canada to ban pesticides, embracing weeds in our lawns as a way of better life. When challenged, tiny little Hudson fought large corporate interests and won at the Supreme Court of Canada. Slowly our anti-pesticide vision started to spread and indirectly we have helped make a large part of Canada a safer place for future generations.
Development always came hard to Hudson, the majority of the local vocal wanted Hudson to never change. It had to be a local who would wrestle White Zoning from Green for his land, and then holy crap they would stand to profit where others might not. Battles driven by Green environment interests and Green Profit Envy were argued and eventually more or less settled locally.
One could argue that Birch Hill was an environmental mistake with borderline land quality and without town sewers and with that generation of septic, but Fairhaven, Quarry Hill, Alstonvale, Hudson Valleys and Whitlock Ouest came together nicely and without significant long term environmental or infrastructure liability. Not all of those developments were approved and managed by a town planning department, but there was lively debate and public consultation. Redevelopment of waterfront was never easy, but most of the major problems came from a few inches or a few feet of extra height due to changes required during construction. When we disagreed, we usually agreed to disagree and allowed grumbling rights forever to whoever lost the argument.
At some point we added an actual Town Planning department, mostly in the beginning because we had to now do so many different things required by the upper bureaucracy, and in the end things that were good for the town. We needed a Conservation Plan and we needed to identify Wetlands and areas to be protected so that we could develop the right areas of town. We needed consistent bylaws and rights to development, so that every White Land owner would be treated fairly under the same rules.
I won’t opine about the quality of our planning department, I believe that any shortcomings we see are the result of bad management practices, lack of direction from leaders, and especially the complex and growing demands of the upper levels of our bureaucracy. I believe we’re well staffed with competent people, yet we continually need to ask for extensions for legally required things demanded by the MRC, so apparently we can’t keep up.
A wise editor always told me that we lose even the brightest reader at 800 words, I’m over that limit, running out of time, I’ve got some real work to do, and I’m already freeloading on this dormant blog, so I’ll try to continue with another post if my rights don’t get yanked.
Today my first conclusion is that Town Planning is one of the overload points designed into our upper municipal bureaucracy that makes it nearly impossible for any small Quebec town to survive, especially one like Hudson that has spent decades mismanaging itself with the help of criminal activity.