Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.21.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Park it here

News item: The Quebec government to sell the Mont Orford ski hill and golf course. Profits will be used to purchase new park land that will double the size of the provincial park.

Imagine my apprehension when I received a registered letter last week from the Quebec government. Did I owe taxes? Had they discovered my conspiracy to shave off Philippe Couillard's beard?

The letter turned out to be from Sustainable Development Minister Claude Béchard. I knew it was authentic because the signature had little dollar signs drawn underneath it.

"Dear M. Murray," the letter stated. "It is with great pleasure that we inform you that your property at 22 Pierce Street in Stanstead in the MRC of Memphremagog in the country of Quebec has been selected for the noble honour of expropriation for the expansion of Mont Orford National Park. Legal documents will follow.

"If you have any questions about this bold initiative for the glory of our collectivity, please contact our Regional Assistant Sub-Director of Agriculture, Parks, Jumpsuits, and Crank Phone Calls in the Département de la Société de la Commission des Ateliers des Cuisines Collectives, M. Jean Plafond at 1-800-555-1234.

"Sustainably yours, Claude Béchard.

"P.S. Don't kid yourself thinking you can just phone Premier Charest and get his ear simply because he's a 'Townshipper.' It really doesn't work that way, okay?"

My property to become provincial (national) parkland? How could it be? I asked my neighbours if they had received such a letter. None had. My lot was the only one on the street to be expropriated. I knew exactly what I had to do: I phoned Premier Charest.

After the secretary hung up on me, I dialed the number on the letter.

"Oui, monsieur, your home and property will become national parkland," said M. Plafond. "It is part of the anticipated expansion of Parc Orford to compensate for selling the ski hill, the golf courses and, oh, just a few bits of pristine forest to some close friends of ours - er, I mean, my cousin, I mean private developers."

"But I'm not adjacent to the park. My property is thirty minutes away," I protested.

"That is so, but we never specified how we would expand the park. Your property will be known as 'Parc Orford, succursale Pierce.' It will be part of a network of mini-parklets throughout the Memphremagog region. We're buying 39 individual properties in all - or maybe it's 53; it's a bit hazy."

"But why not adjacent to the park in Orford or Magog?"

"Are you kidding," M. Plafond laughed. "Do you know how expensive property is next to a park? By this method, we are maximizing your tax dollars. And isn't that what citizens want? Isn't it? Isn't it?"

"You people have been to my house, right?" I asked. "I mean, you've seen what the dog has done, right?"

"Don't worry, monsieur, we appreciate and respect your natural environment and plan to safeguard its integrity," said M. Plafond.

"So what does this mean? People will come by the back yard to admire the natural wonders of our rutabaga patch?"

"No, no, yours will be a campsite - two-tent maximum or a smallish RV. Plus the Quebec government will provide you with a lifeguard for your pool during designated swimming hours. Of course, you'll have to provide campers access to your, um, facilities. It's a wonderful opportunity."

"And what if I say no?" I asked.

After he stopped laughing, M. Plafond replied, "There's no need to worry. This is a win-win situation for everyone - well, except for Thomas Mulcair."

Finally, M. Plafond assured me that all details would be cleared up in the legal documents to follow. They arrived yesterday. I only had a quick glance and it seems to be as he said. I'm just not sure about some clause in small print, something about someone building a condo in my sandbox.