Being Civic Minded in a Chocolate Rain Storm



Friday- 2:40 a.m.

At 1:08 am in the morning I finally made peace with my late father after 64 years. I always thought we were different, but in reality we are not. I never realized what I had inherited from him until last night.

Civic Pride.

If my father was alive, he would be having quite the laugh right now. Arthur Knight would find it quite hilarious that his daughter, whose mindset was “supposedly destroyed” by that ya ya ya Beatle business, was fighting for her community. It’s not that I didn’t always have it. It’s just that I didn’t know how much, until I tossed and turned in bed last night, upset about a town in disagreement over a chocolate cafe.

My father was an alderman and deputy mayor for years in Cowansville, Quebec. He was also a campaign manager for Jean Jacques Bertrand who was leader of Brome Mississiquoi county right until he became premier of Quebec.

Arthur never quite understood why his daughter did not want to trade a fashion degree for a military background– and then there was that fact I was a Liberal in a family of Conservatives. When I campaigned for Pierre Elliot Trudeau he couldn’t hide his anger, but he admired my passion. He didn’t like the way I dressed, but loved how personable I was with his customers at my annual summer job at his electrical contracting business.

I could never fully understand how my Father lost our successful family business in the 70’s that my Grandfather had started in 1920. But, in reality, he was no different than his daughter would become. He would give his right arm to anyone. When people could not pay their bill– my Father would tell them that was okay, and not to worry. He would even take Brome Lake Ducks as payment. But, you can’t pay the supplier bills with bread, or a complimentary snow shoveling, and it took its due course. My Dad had no regrets though, and neither did the suppliers, or half the town, when they showed up for his funeral.

Arthur Knight had given his life to his customers, and to the town of Cowansville, and they named a street after him when he died. I thought about the things my father had personally done and silently wished he was still alive to tell him that I was sorry for all the anger I had. As a child you don’t understand the nightly absences when your father is out supporting the town he loved. I understand it now- but it’s too late to tell him.

During my father’s tenure in council I learned that rules are not set in stone.  I know that every resident of a municipality has a right to ask their local zoning board for permission to rezone their residential property. Or you can seek a variance. Retail parking spots in a small town are not the same as a city. Things can be talked about. It can be easily worked out together.  My question is: should we really be pitted one against the other?

One big problem with being the honorable, civic, community minded is that it puts up massive barriers to being able to see straight. Sometimes you lose track of even seeing what your own personal agenda is any more. And not only is that a barrier to some humour and humility in accepting and understanding the human condition, but it makes it much more difficult to actually influence people.

You can’t side step shuffle the issue of personal motivation by talking about the tribes and tribal interests of the town as the center of competition. To motivate people you have to see behind the social roles, and speak their own language. Get in their shoes. And the world of should and could and right and wrong is not the same world as the world of personal motivations. No matter how much it should or could or would- wouldn’t it be better if we all just agreed that it was?

I have no idea why the two sides can’t sit together and hash this Manitoulin Chocolate Works problem out together. The endings of great wars and horrible divorces have been settled– why not this? Arguing can get tiresome. Aren’t we reasonable people? We are all intelligent; why is it that we can’t agree about these things? Surely it should just be a matter of exploring the matter fully.

images (28)Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. Thank you Linda for this. You are truly a huge asset to our community and speak from both mind and heart. This tribute to your Father speaks volumes for so many including myself and my Father, who is still alive and well and is a and always was a fair politician in CP for some 37 years. He always listened and did what was right for CP, there was always dialogue in a fair and respectful way. The Manitoulin Chocolate Works is and would be an added asset to cp on so many levels as we all know. Elliot Hall would be restored and revered by both people from away who come to visit this little town and by the folks who live here. It is about mature conversation, transparency and visioning that makes small towns thrive. Certainly that is not much to ask.
    Thank you and get some sleep!!!


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