Hudson’s distinct culture: The annual Viviry Bottle Race was one of those events that made Hudson a special place  for families. If Hudsonites don’t believe Hudson is special, who will?

There’s a FB discussion underway, sparked by a post asking people which of Hudson’s neighbours we should amalgamate with if we had to. The three choices were Vaudreuil-Dorion, St. Lazare or Rigaud.

Even having this discussion disturbs me. I see amalgamation as an admission of failure on Hudson’s part. Sure, we could merge with V-D, St. Lazare or Rigaud. V-D is out of developable land, always short on water. St. Lazare needs water, thinks a merger will confer bilingual status and is ready to discuss cost-sharing services. Rigaud needs water and likewise would be open to sharing costs.

Whoever, their residents would be asked to vote to assume our long-term debt and other obligations. An absolute majority of Hudson residents eligible to vote would have to approve the deal. It would be as ugly and divisive as Hudson’s original 1968 merger of the Three Villages.

Maybe people are past caring whether Hudson would be able to retain its bilingual status, but I can’t help wondering how that would work if we became part of one of our officially unilingual neighbours. Vaudreuil-Dorion got whacked by the OLF for offering online services in English. St. Lazare can’t even post the word “Welcome” without someone filing an anonymous complaint. Earlier this year I had a conversation with a St. Lazare official who told me a merger would bring them close to the 50% English mother tongue designation required for bilingual status. They pointed out the social ties that already bind the two communities as sufficient reason to talk. One can hear the touche-pas-a-la-loi-101 wagons circling as I write this.

I see Hudson’s bilingualism as a huge asset, especially with a new hospital coming to our region some day. Francophone families move to Hudson because they know their kids will grow up bilingual even if they aren’t allowed to attend English schools. The only other town in our region where you’ll find that is Pincourt, the second of three officially bilingual towns in the MRC (the other is L’Île-Cadieux).

Instead of fantasizing about our next relationship, let’s make a vow  to work at the one we’re in. By all means, let’s talk about an inter-municipal water board and how we can obtain federal and provincial funding for a treatment facility drawing drinking water from the Ottawa River.  Let’s explore how we can share administrative services and work together for regional arts funding.

Hudson has marched to its own drum for as long as I remember. It’s time Hudson started  walking in step with our neighbours. But I see no point in discussing the terms of our surrender.




Conflicts of interest

Just because there’s no cash exchanged doesn’t mean it’s not a conflict of interest.

If you’re following national politics, you’ll know why Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the Trudeau Liberals are being accused of ethics breaches. There’s a perception out there that Morneau’s family firm will benefit from proposed changes to how Canadians are taxed.

It’s the latest twist to a Canadian cliché: a principled businessman is ensnared in an ethics trap of his own making because he trusted those around him to advise him on what the Big Book of Rules says.

It’s no different in Quebec politics. Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette and his associate Annie Trudel, arrested by Quebec’s crime-busting UPAC, are claiming it’s because they were closing in on a conspiracy between UPAC’s top brass and the Autorité des marchés financiers to shake down corporations hoping to bid on government contracts. If UPAC wins this one it’s because they have the rules on their side.

We come to local municipal politics. Hudson has a reputation for playing fast and loose with the rules that has earned the town unfavourable audits year after year. Last year’s Quebec Municipal Commission hearings exonerated the mayor and elected officials — but hammered the former DG for not explaining the rules to a naive council with no prior experience in municipal governance.

We don’t want to pass that way again.

Politics is all about perception. One of the candidates for mayor in the last municipal election did business with the town. He was rejected by the voters regardless of his other qualities.

This election, ask yourself this: does this candidate have any financial ties to the town? Does that candidate stand to gain as the result of his or her position?

Quebec’s rules governing fiduciary interests are strict and straightforward. The mayor and councillors must declare their holdings and allegiances, including contracts with the town. When the caucus begins a discussion involving a file in which the mayor or councillor has a real or potential conflict of interest, he or she has to leave the room and it must be so noted in the caucus minutes.

If the file generates a resolution, the mayor or councillor must abstain from the vote at the public council meeting and explain to the assembly he or she is in a potential conflict of interest.

What constitutes a conflict of interest? It could be as innocent as the desire to see a municipal building converted from one use to another to benefit one’s colleagues. It could be lobbying fellow council members to approve a project of benefit to one’s clients.

One of the first things awaiting Hudson’s next council is an intensive seminar in the role of elected officials and the rules governing every discussion, deliberation and decision. Anyone who hasn’t attended council meetings regularly will be at an automatic disadvantage.

Words don’t count, especially fatuous generalizations and vague promises uttered in the course of an election campaign.  Actions — and conflicts of interest — do.