Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded

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by admin on April 13, 2011

By Martti Lahtinen

Author Hugh MacLennan once defined Canada as two nations warring in the bosom of a single state. One presumes it was French versus English, but that’s so dated. Some might now rework the definition: Leaf Nation versus Non-Leaf Nation. Some legs there.

In Chelsea, Quebec it’s hockey or no hockey, a more visceral slice of Canadiana, and a standing room only public meeting April 4 at the outdated pro tem community centre on Old Chelsea Road fortified another impression. Alongside the game, we’re known for bitching.

After the mayor dropped the puck to open the question and answer period, the session drag-moved into a succession of pro and con viewpoints on the hockey arena – only part of the planned Meredith Centre.

One stood for this, another stood for that, some trotting out their interpretations of statistics to bolster viewpoints. The parade trooping to the front for the microphone faceoff also voiced lengthy water and sewer concerns, eschewing questions to trumpet their agendae, which naturally ran into overtime. Fortunately, there was no shout-out to decide the affair.

The crowd needed to shift next door for the second Q&A period, in the MRC building where it’s mandated regular council business had to be conducted.

The overflow gathering stood for all of it, partly because there was nowhere to sit down. It may have dawned on some to observe, “Gee, if only we had a place where we could hold meetings.”

Hey, but when there’s a hockey fight going on, who’s going to let his mind wander. Given that the Meredith Centre is a done deal – council announced the approval that very night of its construction – and the footprint includes a meeting hall that will accommodate large turnouts, it’s comforting to think that in future when someone takes a stand on a issue, Chelsea citizens will be able to sit on it. On chairs.

There was a time, probably before hockey was invented, when people in confrontation mode stood their ground against the walls of the rinky-dink municipal building-combination-fire hall on Old Chelsea Road that now houses a candle factory.

Council knew where the key was kept in case they had to move the fire truck outside to accommodate the surplus of onlookers. The village has seen the light and moved on – however grudgingly.

Some people still think the old community centre is adequate as a venue for public gatherings on major issues, needing neither an upgrade in class nor adequate space to handle a full house.

That’s because council meetings usually involve more trivial matters, in front of the usual six-pack of municipal watchdogs who turn out to tick off the items on the monthly business scorecard.

Budget night might prompt a spike in the crowd count, but hey, that’s only one evening in the calendar year, and they might stand for that.

Or they might not. One could borrow a convoluted observation by a legendary sporting figure from the past and apply it to a Chelsea council meeting: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”