In Hudson, mayoral candidates hope to turn page on fraudulent past
Town still recovering after former city manager pleaded guilty to defrauding municipality of more than $1M
With its abundance of green spaces and picturesque stretch of waterfront on Lake of Two Mountains, Hudson is considered by most to be an idyllic off-island suburb.
But for the past four years, the town has been struggling to recover after the discovery that the longtime town manager had stolen more than $1 million from the municipality.
Louise Léger-Villandré pleaded guilty in February 2016 to fraud, breach of trust and using forged documents, and she's currently serving a 30-month prison sentence.
The town's former mayor, retired CEO and entrepreneur Ed Prévost, was elected in 2013 and helped bring Léger-Villandré to justice. He announced last August he would not seek a second term. Prévost died earlier this month.
Now the three men running to replace him all agree on one thing: the priority is getting Hudson back on its feet.
"Everybody felt betrayed by this fraud that took place, and I think it hurt the town deeply," said Bill Nash, one of the mayoral candidates.
"It created a situation of this lack of trust between the municipal organization and the citizens, which in turn led to creating quite a toxic environment."
Nash is a relative newcomer to Hudson, having moved to the town about four years ago with his wife.
Jamie Nicholls agrees.
The former NDP MP for Vaudreuil-Dorion has spent most of his life in Hudson.
"The first thing that I'd like to do is get the financial direction of the town under control — taxing and spending," he told CBC. "We've really gotten out of line with our neighbouring communities."
"The first thing to do is really get the books in order."
Nicholls points to the 2015 and 2016 reports looking into Hudson's financial situation, noting that auditors gave the town unfavourable opinions.
"My aim is to actually sit down with the auditors and ask them, 'How can we get a favourable opinion?' — so we can finally turn the page on the past."
'Crumbling infrastructure' a must-fix
Joseph Eletr, a retired auto repair shop owner who moved to Hudson five years ago, says Hudson is in good shape.
He credits the current council for that and says the priority now is infrastructure work.
"We're going to make sure that from day one ... we establish a program that's going to take care of the urgent work that we need to do," he said.
Urgent work such as the conditions of the roads and sidewalks. It's something all three candidates want to tackle.
Citizens speak out
CBC Montreal Daybreak's Mike Finnerty and Shari Okeke went to Hudson to speak to residents about what matters most to them this election.
The state of the roads was a big issue.
Marlise Horst, a Daybreak listener who invited the duo to her quilting club, says the infrastructure should not have been allowed to fall into such disrepair.
"More than anything, I want to see roads repaired. This is a wealthy community. It shouldn't be a problem, but it seems it's very, very hard to get things done here," she said.
Meredith Royds, another quilter and longtime Hudson resident, pointed to the growing tax rate.
"We do need to establish a tax base. The people who are against growth, they want to keep Hudson the way it's been for 50, 60, 70 years. We can't really do that," she said.
For Gwen Giberson, the owner of Que de Bonne Choses health-food market, tackling the stagnating Main Street is a must.
"The merchants, we're working really, really hard. We volunteer a lot of our hours every week to keep our commerce doors open, and I would like to have that be acknowledged and supported by our municipal government kicking in a little bit more."
With files from Mike Finnerty and Shari Okeke