Last Saturday afternoon – a nice autumn day – I walked along the Ste.Anne de Bellevue boardwalk and stopped for lunch at an overlooking restaurant. I was the only client in the bistro, and I was surprised by the scarcity of people on the main drag.
It is such a municipal rarity by the numbers, to have your main street on the water, and yet hardly anyone was out that day. Of course, Ste. Anne is generally assumed to be a summer place in terms of visitors; People accept that it is a ghost town in the winter and it makes sense to most, and therein lies the problem: The administration lets the town cocoon for nine months of the year.
And there is very little industry as in West Island towns like Pointe Claire and Dollard, to keep the tax coffers filled. In between, a nook like Baie D’Urfe manages a reasonable balance between its industrial park and the sloping residential lots. But there is no commercial zone in Baie D’Urfe beyond a modest (Provigo) strip mall.
Ste.Anne de Bellevue is a potential jewel -by-the-water but needs something desperately from its council: some imagination about what to do with it all. How do you take advantage of waterfront and create a place that people want to visit all year round?
I walked by the façade that was once the Rex Theatre and saw in its place just another store. I didn’t notice what it was selling; all I thought about was how the town could have converted it into a main centre for the West Island’s performing arts.
The trouble with most mayors, is that they concern themselves mostly with balancing the city budget while maintaining essential services – in its own right, not a sin. But there is very little in the way of the village version of a hobby farm. Ideas are needed. Investment is what is needed. That takes a creative mind, not an administrator, not a council of bean counters, well-intentioned or not. I have seen little towns across North America thrive when their local leaders come up with ways to draw investment and build commerce. Most towns are not so lucky. You get what you vote for: enriched white bread instead of multi-grain.
Why not merge the two neighbours and call it Ste.Anne de Baie D’Urfe? (Too imaginative, too against the grain of bland?) Baie D’Urfe can invest in the Ste.Anne main through tax dollars garnished in the expansion of its own industrial park, and maybe some reasonable industrial go-ahead in the adjoining (Ste.Anne) area around Highway 40. They are two small boroughs that can make each other stronger by combining each other’s strengths. What’s wrong with that?