By Kate Aley
“You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Sage words from Joni Mitchell.
We don’t treasure and yearn for fresh flowing water until there isn’t any. It’s a familiar circumstance for anyone whose water comes from a well with an electric-powered pump. When the power’s cut for a few hours – a not uncommon occurrence in this part of the country – we are granted a slight inkling of what it feels like not to be able to get water on demand.
Now you do not flush the toilet. Now you do not rinse a dish. Now you dole out a miserly amount of precious H20 into a small cup, brush your teeth with it, then rinse your mouth with it, then rinse your brush with it, then rinse out the basin with that last precious, minute drop. This is how half this planet is obliged to consider their elusive, unpredictable supply of potable water.
Of course, the power here is usually back up in an hour, or a day, and we quickly forget all about this momentary deprivation and go back to taking our precious water for granted. There is a finite amount of water on Earth. In Canada, we are fortunate to possess some 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply. An Environmental Indicators study shows Canada uses 1,600 cubic metres of water per person per year. Meanwhile, according to the UN, 780 million people worldwide – over one tenth of the planet’s population – do not have access to clean water.
With so many lakes and streams at our doorstep, it’s easy not to give the health and security of the enormous, fast running, and seemingly invincible Ottawa River a second thought. Just a couple of weeks ago, a tractor trailer tipped over on the east side of Ottawa, and up to 200 litres of diesel fuel crept into the mighty watercourse.
The Ottawa Riverkeeper organization was founded in 2001, and its principles include communities taking responsibility, acting as stewards, and actively participating in water course protection. Volunteer help – being a ‘water watcher’ –is always being sought. Everything from algae bloom to river bank erosion to cattle standing in or too close to the waterways must be faithfully guarded against.
We need water to live, and Canadians are blessed to have lots of it; in fact, way more than our share. We certainly use way more of it per person than almost anyone else on the planet. This blessed bounty brings with it an implicit responsibility to be good stewards. What a mistake it would be for us to neglect, abuse, and waste our fresh water just because there always seems to be plenty.
Kate Aley is assistant editor at the Shawville Equity
By Charles Dickson
A Harvard researcher who suspects that a chemical called salicylic acid – derived from willow trees and found in ordinary Aspirin – could play a role in reducing the death rate from breast cancer by half. Her suspicions have not been tested and there appears to be no funding available to conduct clinical trials.
The cancer-beating potential of this abundant, inexpensive, and universally available compound remains untested and unknown. Why? The answer, apparently, is that it is precisely because the compound is abundant, inexpensive, and universally available.
Pharmaceutical companies that could conduct the necessary research are not interested in investing $10 million because there is little prospect of them achieving a return on that investment. For them, it would be money out the window. Fair enough. That’s the way the private sector operates. The quest for profit drives the private sector to do some amazing things – to innovate, to take risks, and to invest. As long as medical research is on track to produce a profitable medication, and there is a readily available clientele with enough money to pay for it, big pharma is virtually unstoppable in the race to be the first to get a product to market.
But if any of those factors are not present, then the certainty of low profitability guarantees that private sector entrepreneurs will not get involved. Should that mean that there is no method by which desperately needed research can be conducted? Perhaps we should look to the government to help fill the gap.
Unfortunately, the trend is not to focus on social need. Something seems to be terribly wrong with this picture. Look at what is happening with the Ebola epidemic in western Africa: the World Health Organization has now labelled it an international public health emergency. But if the people who need the medication – at the moment, still largely Africans – can’t afford to pay for it at a price that would generate profits, then the business community is going to avoid it.
And so the world still finds itself without a proven vaccine. We are all entitled to our differing views on the role of government. A view to which we could subscribe is the common Canadian view of government as taking on roles that respond to the kind of public needs that the private sector is either incapable or unwilling to fulfill. Medical research is one such area. If there is a drug in most medicine cabinets that could reduce deaths from breast cancer by 50 per cent, as the Harvard researcher believes, wouldn’t it be good to know about it? And wouldn’t it make sense for governments to support the research if the private sector won’t, if not to reduce the human loss and anguish associated with cancer, perhaps to save millions of dollars in health care costs? Now that would be a high return on investment. Either way, we are all paying the price.
Charles Dickson is the editor of the Shawville Equity
By Brenda Atkinson
The letters calling for Tom Werbo’s return to the Low Down reflect a depressing lack of familiarity with the lives and histories of Aboriginal people in Canada, as well as apathy and political cynicism. Several attribute Werbo’s departure to the unreasonable demands of political correctness (c’mon, he was just having a bit of fun); one entertainingly argues that Werbo’s statements were okay because, let’s face it, “the whole world is founded on genocide” and “the whole planet is a slaughterhouse” (‘Massive Guilt Trip’ Unfair, July 16 edition). Um, yeah, well alright then.
A short while ago, I attended an illuminating talk by Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Council Band Member and Ottawa University Professor Claudette Commanda. Actually, Professor Commanda doesn’t so much talk about Aboriginal life in Canada as peel her listeners, like grapes. Like Tom Werbo, she is an enemy of the politically correct. She does not court white people, and she doesn’t soft-talk hard issues. She pushes us to investigate, to question the spin, and to throw our weight behind the cause for justice. There were times when I wanted to walk out because I thought I would implode just from the stress of listening to the story of her family. A few days before, Professor Commanda had experienced a racist attack at a midsummer gathering of her community – in the middle of Hull. The incident had hurt and rattled her and she was still raw, enraged, and tearful. She did not spare anybody the discomfort of how she felt or what she stood up to expose: the fact, inconvenient for some, that white Canadians still inflict vicious racism on Aboriginal people.
For anybody who comforts themselves with the idea that the ‘Native Problem’ is no longer an issue, that bygones should be bygones, or that Aboriginal people here have some kind of a great deal, I encourage them to find out about the intimate daily lives of Aboriginal people, as told by themselves. Epiphanies are bound to follow. Much like her grandfather, the inspirational William, Claudette Commanda’s light shines. Her anger does not communicate as hatred, indifference, or sly disdain. Rather, even as she speaks directly from a place of pain, Claudette Commanda is clearly full of compassion. What she is short on, dismayingly, is hope.
Sometimes the weight of history is such that it is easier for us to deny it. Rather than lending our strength to the oppressed by encouraging collective responsibility, we lash out at them, or mouth platitudes to self-soothe. I don’t doubt that Tom Werbo is not a genocidal racist. But as a grown-up with a public platform he has influence and, hence, responsibility. What Professor Commanda said in midsummer in Ottawa made me ashamed to be white, in the same way that witnessing Apartheid in South Africa made me ashamed to be white. Not because I consider myself racist but because, until I speak out against racism, how different am I from those who perpetrate it?
Brenda Atkinson is a resident of Chelsea
By Taylor Wentges
First let me say that I like Tom Werbo. He is an excellent server. He is very intelligent and a first rate writer. And, of course, he is an excellent musician and his knowledge of music is second to none. He can also be very funny.
However, I must support his decision to resign as a columnist for the paper. For me, his column on Native issues was the last straw. Werbo’s column used to be funny, but his criticism of so many groups has long taken the bloom off the rose. It started with those who said to him, “hot enough for ya” while he was working at Kaffe 1870, then cyclists, then middle aged men, then Father’s Day, then it started to get a bit darker with Ukrainian peasants (his words), Russians . . . and on and on . . . and now Native people.
While the financial and tax regime on reserve may be a legitimate topic of discussion with respect to the best way to lift Aboriginal people out of poverty, that was not the focus of his column. His is a music column, and he is clearly not qualified to discuss other topics of social interest in a community newspaper. What may have been funny at first is now a tiring and angry litany at social groups that Werbo takes issue with. What may sound funny and informative on a summer patio or among friends does not translate to a community newspaper serving a diverse readership.
Among, perhaps, the less enlightened, the Low Down already has a reputation of being somewhat conservative and reactionary in its editorial views. If Werbo continues as a columnist, this will only add fuel to the fire. The Low Dow editor all but called Werbo a racist in her recent editorial.
If Werbo does continue to write his column, I think he would need to be watched very carefully by the editor as I believe that Werbo has a very great need to be critical of others in his column and may not have the self-awareness as to where to draw the line. Sooner or later, he will again cross that line. Since I do not think he has the ability to stick only to music in his column, I believe he should no longer serve on the Low Down staff. I feel his views are very un-Wakefield, and hurt the reputation of our great village. To those from outside the region who read his column, I apologize; his views are not representative of Wakefield.
Finally, none of the above should take away from my respect for Mr. Werbo or his talents; its just that I think they could be put to better use.
Taylor Wentges is a resident of Wakefield.
By Richard Hofer
My old friend André Renaud has published a useful history of Chelsea’s struggle to retain its identity and quality of life (Valley Voices, July 16). André is also a known supporter of building a massive sewer and water system to benefit five per cent of the residents and several very large developers, and to bail out the stumbling Meredith Centre, which costs Chelsea taxpayers $1,000 per day just to stay open. It was built (probably) illegally, without a working sewer and water system or an operating sprinkler system or even a formal environmental impact study. Within a year, the roof had collapsed and the windows had to be torn out and replaced. Lawsuits over this turkey will keep lawyers happy for years.
Existing Chelsea residents and businesses use wells and septic systems. They pay their own way. There are some local problems. The best restaurant in Canada built its own sewage and water system. Cost to Chelsea taxpayers? Nothing. Other businesses have done the same. Local developers can easily do the same.
If Chelsea ‘needs’ a massive taxpayer-financed sewer and water system, it will have to be paid for through development. It would probably be cheaper just to extend the pipes from Gatineau, but the end result will be the same: high-density housing to pay the costs. Goodbye to the Chelsea we love, hello to suburbs and strip malls.
Chelsea recently hired a consulting firm to try to justify going another $25 million in debt for the sewer and water project. I had to laugh. Every Ottawa bureaucrat has seen this movie before. A small group pushing a dubious project pays ‘outside experts’ to justify the pet project. A thick report is duly produced. By independent specialists! Lots of figures! Lots of information! Coloured charts! Projections of great outcomes! Pigs can fly! This report is a minor classic of its kind. It is now on the Chelsea website (in French only).
Nowhere does it state the actual debt position of Chelsea today. It ‘assumes’ that government grants will flow like honey. It ‘assumes’ that developers will pay for 65 per cent of the costs. Agreements with the developers – if they exist at all – are, of course, secret. Read this report and weep.
Chelsea taxpayers do not know what our financial position is now.
Or what the mega project will cost.
Or how soon our taxes will double.
Sewer and water projects in Quebec. Hello? Is anyone listening to Justice France Charbonneau?
Perhaps André Renaud and I could agree that the honourable thing would be to put all the facts on the table, then have a formal municipal referendum so that everyone – not just those with special interests – could cast their vote.
The question: Should Chelsea borrow another $25 million for a sewer and water system, or should developers pay their own way?
Richard Hofer, a former councillor, businessman, and land developer, is a 35-year resident of Chelsea.
By Kate Aley
Until 1967, the Cub Scouts in England had a code, a tiny secret agreement. At the end of a meeting, Akela, their leader, would tell them: “Dyb, dyb, dyb!” (This was an abbreviation for the command to “Do your best! Do your best! Do your best!”) The little wolves would leap to their feet, hold their hands up to their heads to imitate canine ears, and reply: “Dob, dob, dob!” (By which they meant, “Do our best! Do your best! Do our best!”)
Making a vocal, public promise to try your hardest to fulfill your mandate, professional or personal, is an interesting undertaking. We know that doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, which requires a new physician to swear to a number of ancient healing gods that they will uphold professional and ethical standards.
Last week, we discovered that nurses also make a solemn promise to care for, support, and protect their patients. This promise is even taken at the altar in a church, making it a spiritual oath as well as a professional one.
Canadian engineers must take an oath in order to be considered fully qualified. This promise-making process was instituted in 1922 in response to the rapid development of construction techniques. Read More…
By André Renaud
I was elated to learn that the Québec government finally gave Chelsea council the green light to install sewer and water in the village, which its citizens approved after much consultation. At last, Chelsea will be able to realize its vision for a vibrant community. My enthusiasm was dampened, however, after reading on Facebook that a councillor wants to revisit existing council resolutions, which will ultimately jeopardize the project by entertaining the notion of Chelsea being served by Gatineau.
It’s worth recalling that in 1971, Hull (now Gatineau), backed by its MNA and Minister Oswald Parent, proposed to annex Chelsea land from Hull to Scott Road. At the time, Hull was one of 32 municipalities in the regional government. Mr. Parent was concerned that Hull would be supplanted by its rival, Gatineau, which was growing by leaps and bounds. Unable to persuade Gatineau residents to amalgamate with Hull, he turned his eyes to Chelsea. The 32 municipalities are now eight, and Chelsea was able to remain, for the most part, intact.
In 1971, Chelsea passed a zoning bylaw that froze development from Hull to Old Chelsea Road. Chelsea wanted to develop autonomously but Mr. Parent, faute de mieux, coveted the undeveloped land. On his way to gobbling up a large part of Chelsea, he persuaded the MTQ and the NCC to move the future Hwy 50 further north. It was originally planned to go from Boulevard la Vérendrye, cross Alonzo Wright Bridge, then enter the Gatineau Park through the same corridor as the power lines. He planned the new location as an artificial boundary to permit Hull’s eventual northern urban expansion. Read More…
The article ‘Water, water everywhere’ (June 25) is written from what I believe is a biased perspective. Is it not the purpose of a newspaper to report facts and tell the truth from all sides? I suspect Art Mantell is spinning in his grave. I know Bob Mellor, my old editor, sure is.
Where are the voices of the 3,500 households who just became the risk-takers for developers and businesses to the tune of over $20 million dollars? The same 3,500 households who had no vote on this now inflated mega sewer and water project? It is utter nonsense to say that these businesses are ‘finally’ willing to spill the beans about the state of water and septic affairs in Chelsea’s centre. Whoever didn’t know this by now must be living under a rock. Not noted in the Low Down’s article is the irony that one of the complainants about delays, Hendrick’s Farm, is actually responsible for the two votes in question being considered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MAMROT) as possibly being illegal and is taking its time in rendering a decision.
Chelsea residents were resigned, at this point, to the project, and were waiting for the bulldozers to show up. It was a dispute with developers behind the scenes that caused the delay. The proprietors of Hendrick’s Farm are complaining, in effect, about the consequences of their own actions. Or should no one have questioned what might have been an illegal vote? Perhaps there are ulterior motives for questioning the vote? Perhaps letting the vote go through unchallenged would have been best?
Whatever the result of MAMROT’s decision, neither taxpayers nor councillors can be blamed for the delay. I have some sympathy for the businesses and developers of Chelsea. They made a gamble (some more than others) and, so far, things are not working out as planned. Promises have been made to them by parties that had not yet figured out all the ins and outs and costs of a mega sewer and water system. They are now subject to the diverse opinions of residents of Chelsea, who were unable to participate in any vote on this costly project.
The municipality should not be twisting itself into a pretzel to figure out a way to please the businesses and developers of Chelsea, who should be collectively figuring out how they can provide sewer and water in exchange for the privilege of building and for making their profits – and not at the risk of taxpayers.
As for the Low Down, well . . . journalism is a calling: to tell the truth objectively, honestly, completely, and to the best of one’s ability. It is negligent to do otherwise.
Sylvia Shawcross lives in Chelsea, QC.
By Sandy Mackay-Smith
The trouble with our generation is that we tend to leave our excesses for future generations to remedy. They will not be happy with us.
Directly above the Wakefield spring watershed, Styro Rail is supplying hundreds of polystyrene slabs to the contractor responsible for building the Hwy 5 extension. The slabs are being buried for the ramp up to the Valley Road overpass. Passers-by can see the light blue blocks (although they are already starting to discolour) piled on top of each other as they drive by the roundabout.
The blocks contain blown polystyrene. Styrene is considered toxic (poisonous) and is a suspected carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemical – both the U.S. toxic chemicals administration and its European equivalent have made these findings.
There are no studies on the ‘weathering’ of these blown polystyrene blocks that our group can find. ‘Weathering’ means how the blocks react long-term to soil erosion, ageing, and exposure to water and wind. What we don’t know is how the blocks will break down and if their by-products could seep into the water table. Read More…
By Tammy Scott
In a few short weeks, the petition to convert the rails to a multi-purpose trail has reached over 4,000 supporters. The petition was started after Le Droit revealed that the amount to repair the tracks would ring in at $50 million. While the train was a beautiful part of the history of the area, it’s time to consider other options. Many feel the $50 million price tag is far too high; some are questioning whether that amount is 100% accurate. Either way, the instability of the soil and the financial viability of the train have always been pretty shaky. The train has had a go/no-go history over the years and several changes in ownership and management, leaving many to wonder why the latest proposal would have a better outcome. One simply has to drive to the corner of Hwy 105 and Patrick Road to be reminded of the landslide potential. A simple stone dust path requires far less maintenance than what is needed for a heavy, fast-moving train.
Sentiers Chelsea Trails, in partnership with Lafleur de la Capital and the Municipality of Chelsea, has been grooming the corridor for skiing, snowshoeing, and walking over the last seven winters. The project has been hugely successful, attracting folks from all over the region, and encouraging locals to get out, be active, and favour carbon footprint free ‘transportation’. For decades, there has been discussion to permanently convert the rails to a trail for all-season use, similar to other very successful projects in the Laurentians and Eastern Townships. A recent study in Kelowna for a similar project demonstrates the huge potential on all levels: tourism, environmentally friendly transportation, and connecting multiple communities through a safe, family-friendly, accessible passage. Read More…