Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Milk and Water: Montreal Water and Power Purchase

Last night I downloaded and read (quickly) a number of useful documents on Montreal's Water Supply for my play (or novel) Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927.

As it happens, the Montreal Water and Power Company Purchase happened that year: and the next year a controversy (or controversies) around it brought down the Mederic Martin Administration, which led to my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the most senior civil servant being ousted in 1930. That was also the year of yet anther typhoid epidemic, but one caused by Milk.

My Milk and Water story will feature Jules having a discussion about water with Thomas Wells, the President of Laurentian Spring Water, who is my husband's grandfather. It will be a bit of a Two Solitudes type story.

Hmm.

Again, the story of the events around the purchase are 'murky' as the Gazette articles don't describe the controversies, just the meetings about the controveries. Funny, eh.

But, in the Fong book about J.W. McConnell, the author claims it is the Montreal Star that stayed on the story and brought down Mederic Martin.

Well, I found a report on the debate around Montreal Water and Power on the National Assembly website. How cool!!

M, Houde, member for Montreal St. Marie brought up the issue.

He says the Montreal public is demanding a full inquiry in the purchase. He said a group approached the PM for a Royal Commission, but the PM didn't want to compromise Montreal's autonomy.

He said it is 'rumoured in the public' that the purchase was made on behalf of people high up in the government and as public funds were involved those guilty should be pursued like criminals.

It seems someone (a New York based group: Lee Chase) bought Montreal Water and Power for about 9,500,000 a few months before Montreal's administration, in a 32 to 12 or so vote, decided to purchase it for 14,000,000.

(Later an neutral arbitrator deemed it worth 15,ooo,ooo, but the opponent's claimed they were bought off.)

All very interesting. How my grandfather was involved in this, except for being in the wrong job and the wrong time, I haven't figured out. I must go back and read the family clippings.

The fact is: my grandfather had worked for Martin for years, so Houde wanted him out. He also knew too much, so he negotiated a huge pension.

But my story is about 1927, the height of The Jazz Age, and I am going to manufacture a good reason, involving the Prince of Wales, for my grandfather and my husband's grandfather to be stuck in a room together for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. It will have to do with the fact that the Prince like to party with Mederic Martin. It will involve an "underground" jazz club.

Anyway, I found one document that says the 1927 purchase was a benchmark in the development of Montreal's water system. Ultimately, a good idea.

Montreal Water and Power was a private company (who owned it? Lorne Webster.. Honourable Perron? McConnell?) that serviced the surburbs, which would all soon become Montreal.

And is the fact that my grandfather was related to the Forget's got anything to do with anything? I wonder.