Friday, November 26, 2010



Current commentary: This item was originally published in June of 2003. The rapid change that occurred between those years and present day is astounding to think about. I began writing for the Low Down originally as a reporter at a precipitous time in Quebec's history. The loss of the PQ to the Liberals in 2003 marked a change in the lives of Chelseaites. The fear of separation now somewhat allayed brought new people to the region. A seven minute commute to downtown Ottawa, low housing costs and the natural beauty of the region was now within reach of many people who, no longer threatened by the "Separatists", began arriving in increasing numbers. With them they brought change. The Municipality started and encouraged the "Green Lifestyle" to such resounding success they could hardly keep up with the housing permits. At one point Chelsea had the fastest growing community in Canada. The Municipality's green regulations were at first amusing to the long-time residents who could not quite fathom the whole shenanigans but then could only watch helplessly as the forests were razed and the monster homes started going up. Now, in 2010, the commute is longer, the traffic is as bad as it might be in Ottawa, the prices of houses here began competing long ago with Ottawa's higher priced neighbourhood of Rockcliffe and the developers have moved in. Taxes no doubt will soon follow. In seven years since I wrote this piece Chelsea has become a very different animal. It would be a mistake to believe that, with the recent extension to Highway 5, what has happened and is happening to Chelsea will not be happening in Wakefield and points beyond. Whether that is good or bad is subject to interpretation.


You gotta love ‘em—the fine lawmakers of the Municipality. It can’t be easy building a model caring community. Now I don’t mean to complain really. Trouble is, and I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I’m finding it so darn difficult to keep track of the rules and regulations coming down the pipe.

I can’t remember, for example, the diameter and number of trees I can cut down on my property this year. I’m worried that I might have to drown half my litter of hamsters to keep within the five-pet limit and my darn dog might not pass her basic obedience course. I’m getting downright confused about whether toxic DEET can be used on plants or me, never mind if I can put two chairs on my lawn with a for-sale sign on them or if two chairs could constitute a garage sale that I can only have twice a year…

Imagine the poor Municipality’s ordeal of trying to police the rules. Heavens. Mind you, I’ve noticed that an interesting method of policing without the burden of hiring extra help is already happening.

It’s certainly human nature that taxpayers will end up policing each other. This way we can build a close-knit and caring community of like-minded people. We can all take comfort in knowing, as we gaze across the long wild grasses of our lawns, to our neighbor’s yard that they too believe in removing their temporary garage before the deadline and would never think of building an apartment in their basement for an elderly parent or a down-on-their-luck offspring. It’s such a comfort to know we all think the same here in our model community, newcomers and old timers alike.

Sometimes I get to thinking there must be a better way for the Municipality to do all this policing and eliminate the threat of neighbors not reporting on each other because people are funny. They sometimes like each other and wouldn’t dream of pointing out their neighbor’s flaws. The truth is that people will not completely take municipal by-laws to heart unless they have a) the threat of force or b) the threat of public humiliation.

I thought maybe the municipality could bring back public floggings outside the municipal buildings for those who don’t meet the septic system standard, but then I threw that idea out because it would entail hiring someone to do the flogging. Then I thought… what about a stockade… one of those wooden contraptions you can put peoples’ head and hands in so that the good citizens of Chelsea could pay to throw tomatoes at anyone who builds too close to the road or neglects to remove their temporary garage.

There’s nothing like a hanging or a flogging to get a community out and meeting each other. I can’t think of a better way to create a caring model community. Who needs a picnic for community-building when a hanging will do just as well, eh? ….

4 June 2003 Valley Voice

Painting: Laurentians / S. Shawcross / Oil on canvas / One of three panels / $700 complete
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Please note: A number of you have left comments but they aren't showing up. I "think" the problem is fixed now.


Anne Vallance said...

I am wondering how many trees you have cut down and if your temporary garage is still standing ... seems like yesterday that I first read that article and had to smile. Even from the other side of the world (New Zealand), Municipal governments are much the same!

jimKunstler said...

Nice goshdarn paintings, Sylvia!
--Jim Kunstler

F van den Bos said...

Your writing has always made my heart smile and my tummy do bellylaughs ... and your paintings ... they are magnificent Sylvia !