Contemplate the future after you scan the past


by admin on January 12, 2011

Ho hum. Another year is upon us. And there is nothing we can do about it. Except to review the past 12 months and lament the damage inflicted on us. Everyone over the age of nine or possibly 10 for late bloomers, that is. For those lucky ones, the world is full of promise and the burdens of life are carried by others.

Disagree if you will, but you have to admit most of us start worrying after that age. And with worry comes responsibilities. And with responsibilities comes reality. And reality sucks!

Speaking of reality, let’s look at how far our area municipalities have come since the Low Down came into existence in 1973. Back then, Chelsea wasn’t even Chelsea. It was West Hull even though it was north of Hull. And there once was a South Hull, but no East Hull or North Hull.

The Municipality of West Hull had a town hall, a ramshackle building inhabited by Ed Ryan, its municipal clerk and a part-time assistant. That

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was the entire staff. Farmers such as Vince Hendrick and Arthur Brown were the biggest landowners in the area and they didn’t like to pay taxes. (They had a little election-day trick. One of them would park outside the nominating headquarters which closed at 2 p.m. At five minutes to 2, the farmer would come in and file for any empty seat, winning by acclamation). Farmers were the only industry or business apart from a few grocery stores, so they had power. Taxes were almost laughably low until those varmint city-slickers started immigrating up the Gatineau.

A “Drive The Farmers Out” movement culminated in the election of a lady from the Glebe in Ottawa as mayor and the low-tax days ended in the late 70s. So did the small staff. So did the low-cost headquarters. Up, up and away went the tax levy.

Today, Chelsea is a high-tax haven and constantly in the news as it deals with land developers, local foundations and disgruntled residents to such an extent that the Low Down is hearing pleas of “Enough with Chelsea and its problems in the paper.”

North of Chelsea lies Wakefield, a once upon a time solo municipality along with five others, stretching from east of the Gatineau River to far west Wolf Lake. In the mid-70s, a kindly doctor from Wakefield led the movement to amalgamate, became its first mayor, then after a couple of years made way for a series of successors whose centre of interest was not Wakefield but Masham, and the rest is history.

Masham became the centre of La Peche municipality and Wakefield lost its long-held pre-eminence as the area’s municipal centre and stagnated as tax money flowed to Masham in the form of new schools, health centres and retirement homes. (Fortunately for Wakefield, the “little village that could” is hard to ignore, and received more municipal attention in recent years).

Low and Kazabazua were left alone to stagnate, but Low showed a tremendous community spirit that created its own indoor arena and led fight after successful fight to keep its little high school.

Best left unexplored is the shift to francophone pre-eminence after a 200-year history of anglophone settlement in the Lower Gatineau Valley. It’s a fact. And as Jean Chretien once said, “A proof is a proof,” so the same applies to a fact, I guess.

Anyway, Dear Reader, history is whatever you want to make of it. Hope this helps as you contemplate the past and scan the future.