Lawyer vs. lawyer

How far can we go in criticizing the people who run the town we live in?

When does citizen activism overstep the boundaries of what’s legal?

What tools can a municipality use in protecting the reputations of its public and elected officials?

What protection does a citizen activist have against a vengeful administration bent on libel chill?

Is there a way to evaluate the damage done to a town’s reputation?

Hudson mayor Ed Prévost and director-general Jean-Pierre Roy have been wrestling with these issues following the events leading up to this week’s adoption of Bylaw 687.

It isn’t the first time this administration has tried to come up with a policy on the public’s right to comment and question. Shortly after taking office in November 2013, the current council found itself in a social media shootout with critics. I can’t find the Facebook threads, so all I have to go on is hearsay on what was posted and who was threatened with libel chill.

The fair-comment issue resurfaced this past Tuesday evening on Hudson’s town hall steps, the same steps that supply the backdrop for innumerable photos and TV standups about Hudson’s dirty laundry. The DG had just announced the results of a registry on Bylaw 687 allowing the town to borrow $550,000 to refurbish the Community Centre. The registry fell 65 signatures short of forcing a referendum or the bylaw’s withdrawal.

I asked Roy whether the town proposed to take action against Véronique Fischer, the Hudson lawyer who has been a persistent pain in the butt of Hudson’s current body politic. The week before, Fischer spent $500 to mail pamphlets to every Hudson household questioning the bylaw and urging residents to sign the register.

There have been several interpretations of Roy’s comments regarding the action the town proposes to take to silence Fischer. Roy didn’t use the word “actionner,” the closest translation for “sue.” He used the more euphemistic “prendre action,” which suggests anything from a lawyer’s letter to a lawsuit.

There’s a place for public debate, he continued, but citizens have the right to correct information. He and the mayor are in agreement that there must be “zero tolerance” for actions such as Fischer’s mailing.

On Thursday morning I sat down with the DG for a 45-minute chat about how the town proposes to silence persistent critics without being accused of stifling free speech.

Roy began by making it clear the town would seek the means to neutralize residents who make it their business to monitor the decisions and practices of municipal administrations and have the know-how to research documents and the means to take their findings to provincial authorities.

Are Hudson’s citizen activists and dissenting voices at risk of being sued? Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada with a law that protects citizen activists. Adopted in 2009, Bill 99 prevents businesses from filing strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPS. These are civil lawsuits filed with the specific purpose of silencing organizations without the finances to wage a lengthy court battle.

The law allows a court to declare a lawsuit abusive, order the plaintiff to provide for costs and to cover the legal bills of the defendant.

The original purpose of the bill was to protect ecologists targeted by major corporations. I can’t find jurisprudence on whether Quebec’s anti-SLAPP law has ever been used against a municipality, but I can’t see a reason why not – an excellent reason for the creation of a Hudson citizens’ association. There’s strength in numbers.

The DG walked me through the jurisprudence, the body of legal decisions on the subject. He began by showing me a legal opinion that a citizen cannot use a town’s name, crest, logo, etc. without authorization. The opinion cited a 1960 decision in favour of Montreal against the Fraternité des policiers which established fines of $1,000 per individual and $2,000 for the union.

Next was last month’s Superior Court ruling in favour of the City of Saint-Lambert in its defamation lawsuit against the St-Lambert Journal and its publisher, David Leonardo.

The judge found that the weekly newspaper had repeatedly published “false, inaccurate information that was factually incorrect and did not correlate with events“ and ordered the defendant to pay a total of $100,000 in moral damages and $30,000 in punitive damages “as compensation for moral damages caused by [the] wrongful, abusive and illegal conduct [of the defendants].”

The municipality’s position was that the newspaper had “significantly damaged the integrity and reputation of employees, managers, elected officials, and the municipal administration in general.”

Roy’s expert cited judgments involving half a dozen municipalities, all variations on the theme that accusations and insinuations are actionable. A couple of citations stood out: the right to speak doesn’t carry the right to defame” and “citizens who go into politics are no different than other citizens…they have the right to safeguard their reputation.”

Roy pointed out the cost to the municipality’s reputation as well as to those who represent it. Canadian courts have established that one can libel a corporation as well as an individual or individuals. Hudson’s bad press (“Just Google Hudson and see what comes up.”) makes it more difficult to find qualified managers and technicians.

Roy, too, is a lawyer, so we danced around the role Fischer has played and continues to play in town politics. Fischer represents Catherine Haulard, the former DG. Provincial labour relations tribunal judge Mylène Alder was to have submitted her ruling by today (Friday, April 21) on whether Haulard’s 2014 dismissal was unlawful. If it isn’t out by the time you read this, expect it any day.

The Prévost administration has a growing list of grievances against party or parties unknown. Did Robert Spencer have legal help drafting his complaint against the mayor to the Commission municipale du Québec? Who filed a complaint with MAMOT regarding the legitimacy of the loan bylaw authorizing the expenditure of $1.5M for the repaving of the town’s main arteries?

Roy’s only comment directed at Fischer? “She’s given me a lot of work.”

I questioned Roy on the town’s latest legal adventure. I scanned Fischer’s pamphlet. I couldn’t find a single legally actionable phrase. She questions actions but does not impute motives. She attacks no one. She makes no questionable assertions. The town’s only case against her – if there is a case – centres on her use of Hudson’s logo by copying the top of the loan bylaw.

I asked Fischer for comment for this post. Her response was to send me the results of her latest access to information requests, showing that as of January 2017, Hudson wasn’t on the list of approved Canada 150 projects. She also produced a May 2016 grant application for the Hudson Community Center presented by the Hudson Music Festival. The application is for $53,122 toward the $105,300 cost of installation and renovation of the Hudson Contemporary Arts Centre.

There’s an expression in French: Elle persiste et signe. Whatever she may or may not have accomplished in the past, Fischer shows no intention of stopping her campaign to have the Community Centre loan bylaw invalidated. Prévost and Roy will do their utmost to shut her down, but I suspect the damage has been done.

Now that the curling rink roof is off the table, what’s left? Loan Bylaw 687 makes no mention of matching grants or that to-do list citizens were promised. All it says is taxpayers are on the hook for $555,000 for the next 20 years.

But not if Fischer can help it.

 Update posted Aug. 5/18 on FB Hudson and vicinity:

Here’s the context:

Municipalities throughout Quebec are having to find new ways to deal with social media and other platforms beyond the reach of traditional arm-twisting, like pulling town ads or the threat of libel actions. So municipalities are trying out new ways to control/stifle dissent. 

Example: a Violence Zero Tolerance policy which allows town employees to file complaints alleging acts of physical or psychological violence making their workplace less safe. 

Here’s how this would apply to social media: 

Let’s say a FB forum is used to convey criticism about a certain practice or action by the town or its employees.

According to some of the more restrictive VZT policies I’ve come across, an offensive FB post need not specify an individual if it is obvious the practice being criticized is the result of one employee’s decision. 

These VZT guidelines don’t spell it out, but my read is that the taxpayers end up paying for legal action a municipality may be forced to take as the result of anything someone working for the town alleges is a micro-aggression directed at them. In Hudson’s case, the current director-general indicated to me two years ago the town would be looking hard at this.

(Lawyer vs. Lawyer,, April 21/17). From what I’ve been reading from across the province, I’d have to say FB forums such as this should anticipate adoption of a VZT policy and require posts on controversial topics to be moderated. When one of these VZT cases gets to court (and I’m sure one will) an ounce of prevention could make all the difference.


The roof is extra


Hudson Legion Branch 115’s clubhouse roof leaks. So does the adjoining curling rink roof. According to the town’s new grants and certifications co-ordinator, the rink roof isn’t covered by the Canada 150 infrastructure grant the town has applied for. What is covered? We don’t know, but we handed the town a blank cheque for $555,000.

I daresay Hudson residents are thoroughly fed up hearing about that $555,000 loan bylaw for Community Centre renovations.

Because Tuesday’s register failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum or withdrawal of the bylaw, this administration can move forward with the project on the vow that if it doesn’t get a federal Canada 150 infrastructure grant to cover half the cost, it won’t dip into the loan money.

But I think taxpayers should know the new Legion curling rink roof is suddenly no longer covered.

The following was published in today’s Local Journal:

According to Corriveau [Simon Corriveau is the town’s new temporary full-time co-ordinator of grants and certifications] there are items in the renovation project […] that the grant will not cover.

”The roof over the curling rink is the only portion not included,” said Corriveau. “The rest of the building is used by other groups as well as the Legion,” he added, clarifying that because the ice sheet is used for a sport, it would be covered by another type of grant. “We are hoping for a response by the beginning of May,” Corriveau concluded.

I asked the town’s director-general Jean-Pierre Roy why the town has not been specific about how it proposes to spend up to $555,000. He said the decision was to keep the renovation details deliberately vague so that the grant application wouldn’t risk disqualification.

Essentially, Tuesday’s failed register writes this administration a blank cheque for $555,000. This is fact, not Jim Duff’s opinion.

Bylaw 687 makes no reference to federal grants, matching funds or what is and isn’t eligible. All it says is that taxpayers are on the hook for the next 20 years. If you want to read it, it’s posted on the Town Hall bulletin board.

Curious taxpayers will find the administration’s to-do list on the town website. They should know this post has no legal status and isn’t binding on the current council, except perhaps ethically. This is the only public document where ‘roof’ is mentioned.

We would like to make the necessary repairs to the building such as replacing the roofing, electrical connections and upgrading the kitchen facilities. Also, since the community centre was designated as a place of refuge for emergency measures on February 25, 2016, some of the building’s mechanical components such as air conditioning, heating, lighting and sanitary installations must be redone. This will allow us to replace old energy-consuming equipment that uses a lot of water with newer installations that consume less, thereby saving us money. In addition, the windows must be changed as traces of water infiltration have been detected and several of them do not lock. Lock mechanisms and door locks must all be changed in order to ensure the safety of the users. In some areas, the floor is quite worn and it is possible to see the underlying concrete. We also want to redo the exterior parking lot and its lighting, build a bike stop for cyclists and set up an access ramp for people with reduced mobility to give them access to the youth centre. It is also planned to expand the kitchen and build small meeting rooms to allow community groups to meet.

Why an umbrella bylaw?
This type of bylaw allows us to make various expenses (plans and specifications, repairs, additions, etc.) without limiting our options. As the Town must act quickly to complete the work before the end of the year and needs some flexibility, the decision was made to proceed with an umbrella bylaw. To carry out this multifaceted project, the Town will have to commission an architectural and engineering firm to evaluate the scope and costs of the work to be done. Only once the estimate has been produced will we be able to make judicious and informed choices regarding the project priorities in order to ensure that we respect the allocated budget.

The town’s post notes the work must be completed by Dec. 31 in order to qualify for federal funding.

Many interpret the results of Tuesday’s register as the end of the process and act as if it’s a victory. In fact it’s neither. It’s public recognition of the need to maintain an important component of Hudson’s public life, yes. But the same hard questioning that marked the process of adopting the bylaw must continue into the evaluation and renovation processes.

Why am I so suspicious? Some years back, I got a call from a former Hudson councillor. He told me how, during the original construction of the Community Centre, the council of that time quietly voted to transfer $150,000 earmarked for lighting and other improvements in St. Thomas Park to the Community Centre, which was running over budget.

I asked him why, after all that time, he was calling me with this. “I thought you should know how it works,” he said.

As I posted last week (Plan B), we know the town already has a $160,000 contingency plan to fund the new roof and kitchen upgrades in the event the grant application is rejected. I assume this is what will happen if there’s suddenly no federal cash for a curling rink roof.

This morning Maître Roy and I spent 45 minutes discussing the difference between fact and opinion (This will be a topic for another post).  I will hereafter do my best to separate the two and alert readers before I shift from one to another.

The following is my opinion:

The price of democracy is eternal vigilance. Tuesday’s passage of the loan bylaw doesn’t change that responsibility. If anything, it makes it an imperative.

Community Centre reno approved as town threatens critic


The Town of Hudson threatens to initiate legal action against resident Véronique Fischer for her pamphlet critical of the town’s proposed loan bylaw to pay for up to $555,000 for renovations to the Community Centre and Legion building. Residents have been assured the town has applied for a $225,000 grant with the federal government’s Canada 150 infrastructure program and none of the loan will be spent if the town doesn’t receive the matching funds.
The Town of Hudson has been given the green light to proceed with its plan to borrow up to $555,000 for renovations to the Hudson Community Centre and Legion.

Tuesday’s register on loan bylaw 687 gathered 363 signatures, 65 short of the 428 which would have forced a referendum or the bylaw’s withdrawal.

In announcing the results Tuesday evening, Hudson’s Director-General Jean-Pierre Roy said the town has no news from the federal ministry responsible for administering the grants program under which the town says it has applied for up to $225,000.

Roy also served notice the town will initiate legal action against Olympic resident Veronique Fischer in connection with a pamphlet sent to Hudson households the week before the register.

Fischer’s mailing criticized the expenditure in the face of more pressing priorities, such as the town’s disintegrating roads and sidewalks and a potentially disastrous water shortage.

Its appearance in mailboxes triggered a lively debate about whether the administration has been transparent in its explanation of how it proposes to obtain a Canada 150 infrastructure grant.

It also generated a number of complaints to the town because Fischer’s pamphlet included the Hudson town logo, conceivably misleading residents to think the mailing originated with the town.

Asked whether the town proposes to take action against the author of the pamphlet, Roy said it contained false and misleading information. “This will not be tolerated,” he told a small group of journalists and citizens gathered on the front steps of the town hall, Fischer included.

“We’re in favour of a public debate, but people have the right to have correct information,” Roy continued. “There will be zero tolerance [for misinformation.]

Roy didn’t elaborate on misinformation allegedly contained in Fischer’s mailing, which pointed out that the loan bylaw contains no specifics about the grant application or on how the $555,000 is to be spent.

Fischer confirmed she was the author of the mailing, which cost her roughly $500, and said the administration’s threat didn’t scare her.

“I’m a lawyer, a litigator,” she added. “Cease-and-desists are my bread and butter.”

Although loan bylaws are usually accompanied by a public consultation where citizens can learn details and see plans and diagrams for themselves, the only information released to date was a short explanation by District 4 councillor Barbara Robinson at the April council meeting and a posting on the town website. which vowed that the town wouldn’t spend the loan if it doesn’t get the grant.

Fischer, who ran against Robinson in the 2013 municipal election, has been a persistent thorn in this administration’s side. One of her issues with the Prévost administration involved the plan to borrow $1.5 million to repave a number of streets.

It was suspended by the municipal affairs ministry, in part because the 15- or 20-year term of a loan bylaw cannot exceed the life of the repair it is used to pay for. Another factor in the suspension was due to the fact that many of Hudson’s so-called public roads are still privately owned, in whole or in part.

Fischer said the current administration has balked at voting for the funding to continue the notarial and survey procedures required to transfer those private roads to the public domain.

“I fully expect to be blamed for the roads, for Pine Lake,” she added. “But I’m not easily intimidated.”

This post was updated with the following correction: Barbara Robinson represents District 4, not District 2

Plan B

According to the Town of Hudson’s 2017 budget documents, the municipality has a contingency plan in case the application for a federal infrastructure grant and/or loan bylaw 687 are rejected.

The Town of Hudson’s 2017 budget includes $160,000 for a new Legion roof and Community Centre kitchen upgrade even if the Canada 150 infrastructure grant request is rejected, according to a printout dated the day before the first 2017 budget was adopted.

Last Dec. 15, this administration adopted the first of two 2017 budgets. The day before the meeting, the town produced a spreadsheet which broke down the proposed 2017 disbursements to community organizations, events and causes.

The three-page document is the result of a resolution, R4280 adopted at the Sept. 6, 2016 council meeting. The Politique de reconnaissance de Hudson/Hudson reconnaissance policy was to “acknowledge receipt of a Town project for a Policy in recognition of organizations to be considered [by] Council first and thereafter presented for consultation by the citizens in a process to be determined by the Town.”

I’ve posted the PDF here:

Contributions financières

The spreadsheet names the cause, organization or event, the amount given in 2016, the amount demanded in 2017 and the amount the town was proposing to give in 2017.

Under Hudson Royal Canadian Legion, the requested 2017 disbursement was listed as “Roof (included in the Canada 150 infra. Grant request).

Council’s decision: “$500,000 if granted, $100,000 if not.”

There’s a similar entry for Meals on Wheels, the major user of the Community Centre kitchen: “grant request Canada 150th.” The request was for “kitchen renovation. Kitchen fan up to date, etc. $60,000. Council’s decision read “kitchen renovation. Kitchen fan up to date, etc. $60,000.”

The way I read this, council approved the $60,000 kitchen upgrade whether or not the grant is approved.

A posting on the town’s website includes the following disclaimer:

“We want to reaffirm that the acceptance of our project in the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure program (PIC150) is an absolute prerequisite to go forward with the loan bylaw 687-2017 as stated in the motion and in Section 5 of the bylaw. If the Town does not receive the grant, the loan bylaw will be cancelled.”

What the posting doesn’t say is whether the town will find other means of financing the upgrade.

As Hudson residents now know, this administration had to present a revised budget a month later, after it was revealed the town had erred in calculating the budget increase. So it’s possible this document was revised to allow council to cut approximately $1M from the 2017 budget to lower the average tax increase.

But this spreadsheet was adopted without discussion at the Dec. 15 council meeting and was not repealed or replaced when the new budget was adopted in January.

I think we’re seeing the town’s contingency plan if the grant is turned down.

Hudson’s borrowing priority


The Pine Lake end of the Black Creek culvert prior to last Thursday’s emergency repairs. Shouldn’t this be a loan bylaw priority?

There’s another reason I’ll be signing the register in opposition to Hudson’s loan bylaw 687 next Tuesday.

We have no idea of the cost of repairing the Brookside and Viviry culverts under Cameron.

Clearly, one of the two main arteries in and out of town is at risk as long as the failed Pine Lake dam and both culverts are not removed and replaced.

If it comes to a choice between $500,000 for a renovated Community Centre and an unknown bill for a secure Cameron, which would be the sensible option?

Traffic on Cameron was squeezed to a single lane since the previous Friday after it was discovered that heavy rains had collapsed a section of the shoulder atop the Brookside culvert.

Last Thursday, April 13, Cameron was closed in both directions between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. so emergency repairs could be made to the culvert and roadbed between Brookside Pond and Pine Flats.

The current administration has long feared that if Pine Lake regains its former size as a result of heavy rains or runoff, the increased water pressure and volume could easily carry the dam away — and Cameron with it.

I asked Hudson director-general Jean-Pierre Roy how the town proposes to pay for repairs to the Brookside culvert and whether emergency repairs could be extended to include the larger culvert under Cameron next to the failed Pine Lake dam.

“These repairs were urgent, necessitated by runoff,” Roy said in an emailed response to my questions. “The [Brookside] culvert was under increased surveillance for the past several months and we had publicly noted its fragile state several months back.

“We [had] no choice but to proceed with immediate emergency work without a council resolution,” Roy said. “We have advised our insurers, we will be applying to Sécurité civile for financial assistance of approximately 60% of the cost.”

The Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC has authorized the work being done, he added. “We could also use a portion of the TECQ [ the fuel excise tax rebate available to municipalities].”

The town has been keeping its fingers crossed for months, Roy explained. Engineers had already been planning to install a replacement as soon as a reduction in the flow of water from Black Creek allowed, usually in the fall.

“We had hoped to repair this culvert as part of the $1.5M [road repair] loan bylaw against which a complaint had been made and was consequently suspended by ministry authorities. We had wanted to avoid having to repave the same sector twice.”

Roy termed the volume of runoff “exceptional,” threatening both the Brookside culvert and the footbridge that connects Jack Layton Park with the Sandy Beach nature trail.

“We couldn’t wait any longer. The break was caused by water. The culvert was old but without the increased volume we could have done the work together with other work in an efficient manner.”

Plans to install the replacement culvert will be finalized once the town receives authorization from the environment ministry, recommendations from the engineering consultants and authorization from the MRC, Roy said.

Closeup of the Black Creek culvert on the Pine Lake side. It was installed when Cameron was extended to Harwood Blvd. half a century ago. 

I visited the scene of the crime last week, the day before Cameron was closed for emergency repairs. Last week’s rains appeared to have washed right through a rusted-out section of the 24-inch galvanized steel pipe draining Black Creek under Cameron into Pine Lake. The culvert was installed in 1961, when Cameron was extended through the woods up to Harwood to create the Fairhaven development.

The lake itself made a guest appearance, to the delight of passersby and nesting geese, who will be sorely disillusioned when the floodwaters recede. The 2014 AMEC hydrological study showed the Viviry acts as a retention basin that can contain more than 16,000 cubic metres of water during the spring runoff.

The Viviry collects the runoff from a watershed of 13.9 square kilometres stretching south to Ste. Angèlique, west to the Fief and east to Bellevue. AMEC estimated the theoretical 100-year flood of water through the dam culvert under Cameron at 26 cubic feet per second per foot, enough to make quick work of what remains of the Pine Lake dam.

In its report, AMEC refers to the galvanized iron culvert under Cameron but makes no mention of its condition or the volume of water it conveys. Black Creek drains a 2.8-square-kilometre watershed.

The EXP study conducted in early 2014 proposed five scenarios for Pine Lake. They ranged from $148,000 for the demolition and removal of the dam all the way to its replacement with a new dam for $481,504. That included $73,584 for contingencies and $40,000 for the engineering and lab tests.

That August, the current administration adopted a $750,000 loan bylaw to cover the cost of repairs to the dam. Repairs to Cameron and the two culverts were not included because the administration felt it could access government funds.

The loan bylaw was withdrawn after a sufficient number of residents, concerned at effectively presenting council with a blank cheque of up to $750,000, signed a register to force a referendum.

It’s a sad commentary on this administration that it can’t get borrowing or zoning bylaws passed without a big drama. Could it be because residents require more transparency and frankness than our current council is willing to provide? I refuse to accept the alternative explanation that we should shut up and suspend our collective disbelief. Hudson tried that for half a century. We know how that turned out.

This post was rewritten to correct certain facts regarding the 2014 loan bylaw to replace the Pine Lake dam, but not to repair the two culverts and Cameron.

Too bad


The Legion entrance to the Community Centre. The Centre roof is in fine shape but the Legion and curling rink roofs need replacement and the Centre needs a thorough upgrade. $555,000 for this? Transparency, please.

This Tuesday, April 18th between 9 a.m and 7 p.m., Hudson residents who oppose Bylaw 687 will have the opportunity to sign a register at town hall. Bylaw 687 supposedly authorizes the town to borrow up to $555,000 for renovations and modifications to the Community Centre at minimal cost to the town.

I wish someone would explain how this is supposed to work.

At April’s council meeting residents were told the loan was a necessary first step in getting a grant from the federal government’s Canada 150 infrastructure program. The loan would cover the cost of a new roof, windows, flooring and other renovations. It would also allow the replacement of the current kitchen, which does not conform to workplace health and safety norms or commercial-kitchen standards.

According to what District 2 councillor Barbara Robinson told us, the town had to go ahead with the renovations, then submit the bills to get the grant money. From the way Robinson talked, the town had already gotten pre-approval from Canada 150, much like you and I would get pre-approved for a line of credit before we call the contractor.

To get a better idea of what she was talking about, I spent a couple of hours last Thursday visiting the Community Centre to see for myself what the town is proposing to upgrade.

The roof of the Community Centre itself is fine. It’s a stainless-steel batten roof, good for 50 years or more. The problem is the Legion and curling club roofs. Both are in bad shape. The curling club roof vents leaked onto the ice during that heavy downpour two weeks ago. The Legion is the town’s tenant, having signed over the property for a dollar and a promise of perpetual maintenance when the Community Centre was built in the ‘90s.

In other words, the town, as the Legion’s landlord, has an obligation to repair the Legion’s roofs and kitchen floor.

Like any well-used twentysomething public structure, the Community Centre needs a thorough reno and systems upgrade, with new windows, door locks, electrical overhaul and flooring. As for the Community Centre kitchen, I’ve been told it would fail a provincial health inspection. I’m not an expert but I’ve been told the town knew of this the last time it bought appliances, when Mike Elliott was mayor.

When Robinson told us at the April council meeting the deal would allow the town to go 50-50 with the feds, I believed her. I didn’t question the $134,000 stainless steel batten roof, the new windows and flooring or the updated kitchen. Like most of us, I use the Community Centre. I know how much traffic it gets and the need to bring the systems up to date.

But then the town posted the following on the municipal website that doesn’t jibe with what I understand about how municipal grants work.

“First and foremost, we want to reaffirm that the acceptance of our project in the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program (PIC150) is an absolute prerequisite to go forward with the loan bylaw 687-2017 as stated in the motion and in section 5 of the bylaw. If the Town does not receive the grant, the loan bylaw will be cancelled.

“Why now?

“As part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, Canada Economic Development (CED) has established a program to assist municipalities in rehabilitating and upgrading existing community infrastructures, including expansion. The announcement of this program has come at the right time for the Town of Hudson, given the repairs required at the community centre. The grant is for 50% of the eligible costs, up to $250,000. However, this program, like all programs, sets out certain conditions, including the requirement that all the works be completed by December 31, 2017. This grant is independent from any other provided by the MAMOT and is not conditional on the acceptance of the intervention plan.”

That got me to wondering. Has Canada 150, or any other federal or provincial government body, approved the town’s funding request? Under which program was it applied? When was the request submitted? Is there a letter acknowledging receipt of the town’s request?

Yes or no?

Then, last week, residents discovered a pamphlet in their mailboxes. Although it carried the Town of Hudson logo, it urged residents to sign the register to stop the town from spending “over half a million dollars for unspecified expenses.” Concerned citizens were urged to contact Olympic resident Veronique Fischer, a lawyer who ran against Robinson in the last election.

The pamphlet’s appearance triggered an angry Facebook debate about the morality of using the town’s logo. It also prompted the administration to release a statement denying any connection with the pamphlet and calling the author’s conclusion “misleading and inaccurate.” It directed residents to the town’s website and Facebook page as well as to the Local Journal, the same paper two councillors recently criticized for its inaccuracy.

Fischer hasn’t let up on her attack, questioning whether the town filed a funding request in time for the deadline. Fischer infers the promise of the Canada 150 grant is a deliberate smokescreen to cover the adoption of an omnibus loan bylaw to cover a shopping list of unfunded projects, ranging from new boat docks at Jack Layton Park to that notorious eco-trolley to convey fascinated visitors to the town’s many tourist destinations.

Hudsonites may not remember this, but we’ve been here before. When Mike Elliott’s council adopted a $7.2 million loan bylaw to residents for the new firehall and Public Works upgrade, residents were assured the town would be eligible for provincial subsidies. As it later turned out, it wasn’t eligible because the grant approval process had not been initiated before the town began the process of approving a loan bylaw. Hudson taxpayers ate the entire $5M-plus cost of the project, part of the 11 cents per $100 on our tax bills.

I’ll be voting against Bylaw 687 at Tuesday’s register. Not because I oppose spending money to keep up the Community Centre, but because we can’t get a straight answer from this council about whether it has filed  for which grants in timely fashion. Too bad. The Community Centre needs a facelift.

This has been updated to clarify the reason why the town was ineligible for subsidies for the firehall.

My friend Pat


Pat Patterson takes a breather in the midst of running a championship regatta at Hudson Yacht Club. Pat’s attention to details made him a popular addition to race committees all over North America. (Jim Duff photo)
William Patrick ‘Pat’ Patterson died this past Thursday April 6 in Summerside, PEI after a battle with cancer. I never knew Pat was ailing; he’d been posting on Facebook as lately as last month. Another old friend I wish I had been able to see one last time before he left us. I’m sorry for Cathy and for all of those Pat touched. If you gathered us together, we’d fill the Big Owe and send the overflow crowd over to the Bell Centre. Everyone would have a Pat story to tell.

I met Pat when he was with the MUC police youth protection squad and I was a Gazette police reporter. He was one of those referee-minded anglo cops who made the force a lot better than it is today. That tough facade would drop in an instant to show a deeply compassionate, understanding man with a twinkle in his eye and a joke to water down the cop cynicism. I’m not saying Pat ever laid a hand on anyone in anger, but Station 9 had a very dangerous marble staircase, especially so for the pimps and predators who took advantage of helpless runaways.

Pat and I loved to gossip over beers about the sleazy side of politics. We’d tell each other stories about what our elected officials and celebrities were up to and with whom. When it came to divulging sources, both our mouths were zipped. Secrets don’t stay secret the instant they leave your mouth.

When he retired from the force Pat began his second career as Sun Youth’s reward negotiator. A young person would go missing or turn up dead and one of Sun Youth’s benefactors would offer a reward for information leading to their safe return or information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. Pat would handle the negotiations. He had the contacts and he was streetwise. It was neither easy nor pleasant.

At some point, Pat decided he’d had enough of Montreal’s dirty, dangerous streets and got involved with Canada’s paralympic ski team. He was tireless in his efforts to raise money and awareness of just how good and dedicated these challenged athletes are. I was a radio bigmouth with slots to fill, so we saw a lot of one another.

I was blown away the day I ran into him in Hudson and learned that Pat, now divorced, had reconnected with his first love Cathy Perowne and that they had bought a house on Oakland. Louise and I took them sailing up to Carillon Island and back. Next I knew, Pat and Cathy had bought a Tanzer 22 to go out sailing in the evening. Somehow, Pat got badly bitten by the racing bug. One windy day, Ron Metcalfe and I were crewing for him. He got a terrific start but he kept putting us in irons because of the 22’s tendency to disobey its helmsman and head up when it heeled. “Keep the goddamn boat under the mast,” we kept yelling. Pat got good enough at racing to want to learn the rules. Once he went down that road, there was no stopping the referee in him. He took IYRU race committee courses and was welcomed aboard race committee boats all over North America.

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The Happy Warrior at the helm of his C&C (Facebook)
One year, I left the trip downriver too late. I asked Pat if he’d help me move the boat from Kingston to Iroquois. The weather was putrid, with half a gale dead on our nose and a cold, driving rain. We set out to find a gas station where we could buy diesel. Pat flagged down a Kingston cruiser, showed the cop his police badge and explained the problem. The cop threw our jerrycan in the trunk and me in the back seat, with the wire-mesh grille and no door handles. Pat got into the front seat of that cruiser like he’d never left and the two of them talked cop all the way out to a cheap-diesel place on the 401 and back to the boat.

Pat made trip downriver bearable and showed himself to be the better sailor and navigator.

Pat and Cathy sold the place on Oakland because the stairs were giving his beat-up cop/skier knees sweet merry hell and moved to a bungalow on Ridge. We’d visit them as they were sprucing up the place, never suspecting they’d be leaving. Next we knew, they  had sold the bungalow and moved to Summerside, where they could be closer to Cathy’s grandkids and Pat could get himself a C&C 27 to sail in the ocean. Occasionally, Pat would roll through Hudson in his pickup but I was usually on deadline or chasing news to take time out for a beer. If only.

Last we saw Pat was a couple of years ago. We were sailing off Kingston in the leadup to CORK, one of eastern North America’s most important sailing regattas. A rigid inflatable roared up alongside. It was Pat and his driver, checking the racecourses. We exchanged news and made the usual promises to stay in touch before Pat returned to the job at hand.

I never told you this, Pat, but you’re the older brother I never had, the wise, knowing friend, the sharer of secrets, the commiserator and comforter. Keep an eye on us mortals, my friend. God knows we need someone to enforce the rules and keep the peace.


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Hudson Yacht Club sunset  (Maddylane photo) 

Isn’t this where we came in?

Hudson’s public works crew scrambles to close off part of Cameron after discovering the culvert draining Brookside has collapsed. The full extent of the damage isn’t known.

Today, Friday, at mid-afternoon, Hudson’s blue collar crew was scrambling to block off part of Cameron after discovering part of the shoulder had collapsed into the culvert that drains the pond opposite what used to be Pine Lake.

Closer inspection revealed a two-foot hole in the the concrete culvert.

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Water from Black Brook is visible rushing through the culvert under Cameron.

As of 3 p.m. the crew had reduced Cameron to a single lane, forcing traffic to alternate. A traffic light has been set up.

The culvert collapse is the latest development in the four-year saga that began shortly after this administration took power. Sometime over the 2013 winter, water began flowing under the Pine Lake dam. By this time that spring, the Viviry had undercut the dam, causing it to slump and threatening to wash both it and Cameron downstream.

The town dumped a few truckloads of stone to stabilize the dam (and placate an angry Pine Lake resident) while the three-year debate got moving to determine what should be done. Two surveys and an advisory committee recommendations later, the town is no closer to a solution than it was when the dam break was discovered.

Last week, the mayor told a local paper the environment ministry no longer considers Pine Lake a lake. It’s now a wetland, with a whole new set of rules regarding what can be done.

Pine Lake is back, at least for now. Shows we need a retention basin.

Ironically, Pine Lake is back to being a lake after several days of rain and a fast melt in the Viviry watershed. As of this afternoon, water is pouring over the dam for the first time in months as well as underneath it. The possibility that the dam could be washed out was what brought public works to check on it regularly.

Among the proposed solutions, this was the closest to what was there before and would satisfy the environment ministry’s requirements that less than half the current lakebed could be dredged. Council chose to do what it has done for the past four years.

The Pine Lake dam fiasco has become a hallmark of the Prévost administration’s inability to get things done. A consultant’s study concluded that the dam could not stay the way it was and needed remediation, replacement or removal, with costs ranging from $200,000 to $600,000. Another expert’s report concluded the town needs a retention basin to buffer the growing annual volume of water heading into Hudson from upstream. Pine Lake residents threatened lawsuits. A citizens’ advisory committee proposed several scenarios. One of the least expensive was the proposal above. Why wasn’t it acted upon? Ask the mayor and council.

This is where we came in, folks. The current council spent four years and something like $100,000 to arrive at today’s sorry mess. If anyone on council has re-election aspirations, they’ll have to explain this abysmal failure to prioritize.

Come Hell or high water

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April 3, 1974: The late Percy Cregan filling his  oil truck at the Wilson C. depot on Halcro, where the Jack Layton Park parking lot is now. (Hudson Gazette archives photo courtesy Rod Hodgson)

There’s nothing like a strong spring flood on the Ottawa to clean things up and expose weaknesses. This year’s melt is stronger than it’s been in a while, with every river, creek and stream between here and Lake Timiskaming draining meltwater from the Laurentian Shield to the Ottawa’s intersection with the St. Lawrence. The Ottawa’s flood will continue until every watershed has drained its snowpack, usually by mid-June. According to experts like Norm St. Aubin, we can expect several crests depending on the depth of the snow and the intensity of spring rains. I’m not referring to here and now.

Wikipedia: The Ottawa River drains into the Lake of Two Mountains and the St. Lawrence River at Montreal. The river is 1,271 kilometres (790 mi) long; it drains an area of 146,300 square kilometres (56,500 sq mi), 65 percent in Quebec and the rest in Ontario, with a mean discharge of 1,950 cubic metres per second (69,000 cu ft/s).[2]

The average annual mean waterflow measured at Carillon dam, near the Lake of Two Mountains, is 1,939 cubic metres per second (68,500 cu ft/s), with average annual extremes of 749 to 5,351 cubic metres per second (26,500 to 189,000 cu ft/s). Record historic levels since 1964 are a low of 529 cubic metres per second (18,700 cu ft/s) in 2005 and a high of 8,190 cubic metres per second (289,000 cu ft/s) in 1976. 

Before the Carillon Dam was completed in the early ’60s, this area flooded up to where Halcro and Wharf roads join. Since then, Hydro Quebec has recorded five years in which the flood crested above the 25-year mark and one year (1976) when it stopped inches short of the 100-year mark. When Tom Mulcair was Jean Charest’s environment minister, he enacted legislation which made it illegal for municipalities to allow construction of any permanent structure within the 25-year line and no permanently inhabited structure within the 100-year mark. Since then, the province has walked it back to allow areas between the 25-year and 100-year lines to be backfilled once a developer is able to satisfy the ministry’s wetland-flipping requirement.

Yesterday I walked Sandy Beach. I stood where Nicanco proposes to build townhouses. It’s squishy soft underfoot, with the Viviry feeding dozens of freshets through the wetlands Nicanco now has permission to backfill.

Nicanco may have obeyed the letter of the law but I’m curious to see if it will be able to satisfy the more exacting, implacable rules of nature. Will the storm sewers in the proposed 100-door townhouse development be above high water? (I’m assuming every one of these structures will be built on concrete slab without a basement, finished or otherwise.) Will Pine Beach occasionally resemble Pincourt’s rue Duhamel, with makeshift walkways, diesel pumps and sandbagged manholes? Will the sanitary sewers be able to continue pumping sewage into the collectors?

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Pincourt’s rue Duhamel. The town has invested heavily in storm sewers, but nothing can drain the combined floodwaters of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the project can’t be built, but Hudson’s taxpayers need to be reassured they won’t be on the hook every time the Ottawa River demonstrates it doesn’t care where the bureaucrats draw their little red lines.


Hudson council April 2017

Take a number: Hudson residents with complaints about damage may have to wait until the town’s legal fight with André Leroux is settled.
Hudson’s disastrous snow-clearing experiment with low bidder Transport André Leroux is headed to court. Council adopted a resolution notifying Leroux it is in breach of contract and the town reserves the right to take further action.

The contract pays Leroux $399,500 plus taxes in four instalments of $103,348.15. This winter, Leroux used close to $200,000 in salt, which the town buys separately from Cargill and let Leroux decide where and when it’s spread. Leroux also charged the town over $87,000 for sand.
A Fairhaven resident produced photos of her chewed-up front yard and demanded that the town take action only to be told the contract is headed for court, putting citizen complaints on hold.

The town has hired infrastructure analytics firm Maxxam to help conduct an examination of the town’s roads, sidewalks, aqueducts and other infrastructure to draft an intervention plan required by the province as a basis for grant applications. As I reported earlier this year, (First buy a ticket, WordPress) the town learned to its dismay there was no point applying for grants and subsidies under various federal and provincial subsidies until the intervention plan had been carried out. Total cost: $19,700.

Whether it’s Leroux’s doing or not, the town will rebuild Ridge Road without having to wait for the intervention plan. Public works will rent the equipment, the town will acquire the gravel and asphalt and get at it. Estimated cost: $23,000.

A developer seeking a zoning change in response to the shifting real-estate market received a confusing message from this council Monday night. Less than three months after approving them, council voted to withdraw the zoning bylaws which would have allowed 24 semi-detached homes instead of 12 single-family dwellings on Mayfair, near the entrance to the Hudson’s Valleys development off Harwood Blvd.

The town had the option of putting the bylaws to a referendum after a register drew more slightly signatures that were required. The town had adopted Bylaws 679 and 680 on Dec. 5 to allow smaller homes on smaller lots.

On Feb. 24, 91 residents of contiguous zones signed a register to force the bylaws to a referendum or their withdrawal. Following the register, mayor Ed Prévost told the Off-Island Gazette many residents were out of town for the winter and were thus unable to give their views on the zoning question but if he favoured a referendum, he was outvoted by a council majority. On Monday, he noted that 91 voted against, 83 for. “No further comment,” he added. Did council tally the numbers and conclude a referendum was moot? 

The meeting was well attended, with the audience including a gratifying* number of young residents as well as returning snowbirds and the usual council regulars (*adjective courtesy of Jim McDermott). Mayor Ed Prévost opened the meeting with congratulations for the St. Patrick’s Parade organizers (“probably the best, certainly the longest”) and a reference to “misguided” opposition to Hudson Heartbeet, the new name for the Hudson Food Co-operative. “To put everybody’s minds at rest” the co-operative will be making a presentation May 1 to explain what they’re about. It has been suggested the town, by donating the use of agricultural land and promising water to a part of the west end not supplied by the municipal water system, is subsidizing competition to local food-basket producers and Farmer’s Market regulars.

The mayor also served notice to non-residents that while they would be free to ask questions, “it’s logical that they should be last in line. […] This is a Hudson town council meeting for the residents of Hudson, not for any other town.”

Finally, Prévost offered an explanation why the current administration had reinstated a policy paying its managers overtime. (The policy was adopted during Louise Villandré’s time as town manager and clerk, rescinded by the previous council following Villandré’s resignation, then quietly reinstated by this council in March of last year.) “Not only was the original policy not adhered to but was somewhat not conforming and that was the reason we went back to what we have now,” Prévost said. Asked to explain further, director-general Jean-Pierre Roy said the overtime ban as written did not comply with the Conseil des normes du travail and is being redrafted. “I can guarantee you that in that time, I did not authorize any overtime.”

Ramblers Association co-founder Terry Browitt wanted to know the status of the trail network in the Viviry Valley Conservation Area, the 32-hectare wetland the town acquired from the Whitlock Golf and Country Club as a result of the Whitlock West subdivision.

“It seems a shame that we have this opportunity with this beautiful piece of land the town owns down by the Viviry River ,” Browitt said. Other trails in town are being maintained and improved but the trail named in honour of the late councillor Bob Parkinson exists in name only in summer.
District 5 councillor Deborah Woodhead offered the same excuse as the previous administration. “The land the Parkinson Trail will go through is a wet area and the ministry of the environment has to be part of any structural or paths or bridge or anything we do on the Parkinson Trail.”

“It’s been three or four years now, Browitt noted.

Woodhead said she was aware of it. “We put it in the budget for 2016 and now for 2017…we’ll get to it before the end of our term, hopefully.”

Later, Jamie Nicholls noted that he had produced a preliminary report on the Parkinson trail network for Sentiers Vaudreuil-Soulanges while working as a landscape architect and biologist and has a good idea of the challenges of pushing a trail through a wetland. The town has had a copy since 2009. “If you have any questions about the directions to take, I’d be willing to talk with you about this.”

The trail is has been used as a winter snowshoing and back-country ski trail since 2005 but has led to disputes with landowners encroaching on town land negotiated as a trail right of way as part of the Hudson’s Valleys development.
Mount Pleasant resident Austin Rikley-Krindle asked why he’s having no luck finding the 2017 Plan trienniel d’investissement (PTI) on the town website or obtaining a copy through an access-to-information request. The PTI was handed out at the budget meeting but thus far it’s not available online (I’ll post it here). Rikley-Krindle also seeks the town’s total well capacity and plans to meet future demand. Town clerk Cassandra Comin Bergonzi and director-general Jean-Pierre Roy assured Rikley-Krindle he would be getting both.

Hudson’s PTI, undiscoverable on the town website. Sorry for the mess. 
Quarry Point resident Helen Kurgansky suggested that the town adopt the the practice of adding a descriptive paragraph to each resolution so residents can decipher the code on the order paper. The mayor seemed to think it was a good idea.

Several residents expressed concern at the $555,000 cost of renovating the Community Centre for the second time in five years. District 4 councillor Barbara Robinson explained that the entire cost is half that and will be borne by the federal Canada 150 infrastructure program. The town has to borrow the amount to pay for the improvements before it can be reimbursed, she explained. The kitchen doesn’t conform to workplace health and safety standards, the roof needs replacing and other work is required.

The town is still looking for a treasurer following Serge Raymond’s abrupt departure last fall, director-general Roy said in response to a question. It’s not easy to find someone this time of year, he explained. He admitted there is a schedule of reportings due, beginning with the Comparative Statements of Revenues and Expenditures due April 30. This is an early warning to residents of potential budget problems.

Footnote: The fire department has acquired a used 1995 Spartan aerial ladder for $94,990. This saves the town the cost of almost $1,000 an hour for mutual-aid assistance calling in ladders from adjacent municipalities.