The other day, the National Post ran a major story on the battle between the Horse community of St Lazare, Quebec, and mechanized off-roaders; the noisy, smelly and environmentally damaging ATVs.
In the article, the National Post inevitably boiled it down to language.
When René Ste Onge first ran for the post of Mayor of St Lazare, my wife and I supported him. He led us to believe that he would stand for two very important issues. The first was to maintain a system of natural trails used by the horse community and any others who wanted to hike or stroll under the treed canopy unique to St Lazare. And the second, was to keep in place the community’s rural character.
Unfortunately, he mislead us, and everyone else who had voted for him under those circumstances. Instead of doing what he “suggested” he would do, he in fact did the very opposite.
First: he got into bed with the developers, and cascaded St Lazare into hyper-development, including the expansion of multi-family dwellings on small lots. Second: in his quest towards making the little town of St Lazare into a much bigger town, many of the trails quickly disappeared.
Ste Onge also gave St Lazare something-else no one was quite prepared for. He was a Québécois Separatist, who brought with him a micro-managing Separatist mind-set; where government knows best.
Before Ste Onge, St Lazare was a sleepy little town where everyone got along with the fewest rules possible. Post Ste Onge; there are rules for everyone and everything, whether the tax payers like it or not.
Under his tutelage as mayor, enormous amounts of money were spent on projects no one asked for, nor particularly wanted, including the planting of trees in front of a forest along Bedard, the main drag from the 40 to the village of St Lazare.
Ste Onge also orchestrated, amongst other non essential things, the changing of street signs to make St Lazare more visibly French, in keeping with the Parti Québécois policy of eliminating all vestiges of the English speaking community, and their historic presence within Quebec.
What was most upsetting however, was the amount of money Ste Onge’s administration poured into suing St Lazare tax payers if they did not follow “his” rules. To the point, where St Lazare spent more money in court against its residents, than all of the West Island communities combined. And then some.
I ran against Ste Onge during his second term campaign for mayor. My message was simple. Stop what he started. Get the municipal government out of the faces and backyards of St Lazare’s residents. Pay off the debt, and keep the taxes as low as possible. Slow down development to a crawl. Make the developers pay for all infrastructure costs. Keep St Lazare Green and rural. And maintain the fantastic array of horse trails for everyone’s non mechanized use.
Even in spite of the fact that the vast majority of St Lazare residents do not want off-road vehicles racing through their forests, whether they are horse-people or not. Tough luck. The mayor and his council know best.
And as if this is in itself not bad enough, the reason given by the “off-roaders” for the current debate, as they expressed in a full page ad they took out in a French language newspaper: is that in their opinion; horse-people are “English speaking foul mouthed elitists”.
And now that Ste Onge’s Separatist micro-managing legacy has finally caught up with the people who voted for him and his successor, the damage is such, that I do not believe it is all that reversible.
Instead of St Lazare being the beautiful independent minded rural horse community that made it famous in its own right. It is now more or less a Montreal bedroom community like so much of the West Island; with a hint of its former self.
Even though I lost quite soundly to Ste Onge, I still tried my hand at municipal politics one more time against his successor, with even poorer results. I figured that it was definitely worth one more shot.
I tried and failed. The people voted, and got what they voted for. Now no one should be surprised. Inevitably, we always seem to get the government we deserve.