Clear up water question, clear suspicion in Chelsea, Quebec

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by admin on November 4, 2010

The Editor,

It has been an interesting fall in Quebec with Maclean’s magazine naming our province the most corrupt in Canada. Much has been made of a host of contracts awarded under suspicious circumstances in Montreal, and a recent Globe and Mail article on the subject quoted Pierre Hamel, an economist and urban affairs expert, saying that “most major cities go through cycles of high probity and base corruption.

“Maintaining vigilance is difficult because complacency (and sometimes outright corruption) sets in among government officials, and entrepreneurs seek ways to maximize profit, not always ethically,” he said.

While it is hard to imagine something as base as corruption coming to a small town like Chelsea, Quebec, it is amazing the number of Chelseaites who will rub their thumb and forefingers together with a knowing look on their face when speculating about the motives behind the support of projects such as Chelsea Creek or by-law changes to facilitate water and sewer projects.

The horrific cost overruns of the relatively simple sewer projects in Chelsea Village and Farm Point fuel the distrust, but the simple inexperience of small-town bureaucrats taking on projects which are just too complex is a more likely reason than corruption.

For reasons unclear to most citizens, it now seems that we are back to another complex project in the form of a big arena with complicated water issues rather than a scaled-back community centre.

Why? The electorate can only guess, but the chatter has started again. Perhaps the time has come for mayor and council to once and for all clearly separate the arena project from the interests of developers?

Let council insist that the Meredith Centre proceeds only on the condition that it is served by a well and septic system just like our schools and community centres in other small towns.

Removing schemes to “borrow” water from developers and not trying to use a community centre to justify the construction of major sewer and water projects that benefit the interests of entrepreneurs would go a long way to building some faith that, while our municipality may be located in the most corrupt province, it is clearly above even the faintest suspicion.

Geoff Bleich

Chelsea, Quebec