Have the amalgamation discussions gasped their last, dying breath?

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Added: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 5:15pm
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Since February of this year, every issue of the Journal has published something on the topic of the MRC Pontiac’s study on the possibility of amalgamating some of its municipalities. Whether in the countless articles, letters to the editors, advertisements, and editorials, no other single topic in the Journal’s history has occupied as much newsprint space.
Foremost, our deepest thanks go out to our many readers who took the time to write letters to us. If public opinion can be gauged by those letters, the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current form of governance.
There were several letter writers, though, while not 100% against or for amalgamation, who offered workable suggestions for some sort of changes they felt necessary. Those changes would involve much more cooperation, sharing of services, and acceptance of distinct differences (linguistic, economic, social, etc) than what some municipalities are currently proclaiming as being fully engaged in.
During the heat of the debates we did receive a few letters from people who expressed strong criticism of their municipal councils. Those writers refused to sign their names and as such, were not published.
Will this “silent majority” be speaking out with their votes at the ballot boxes, as some mayors and councillors believe, rather, hope will happen? Is the gulf between the citizens and the politicians now even wider than previously imagined? While some of the elected have claimed they were just trying to work within parameters set by Quebec City, will all the attention given to this topic spell political suicide for some of them this November?
To quote an unsigned letter: “I question our council’s anti-amalgamation, anti-change stance. What are they afraid of? The world is changing, and unless we change with it, we will not survive as a municipality or as a region. It’s not about saving money today; it’s about long-term economic growth and community development, and having qualified people directing our future.”
What have we learned from more than a dozen public meetings on amalgamation since April that are finally winding down this month? The discussions have made clear what amalgamations cannot do. They cannot move the MRC Pontiac up from being the poorest of all communities across Quebec for the fifth year in a row; increase our population; bring in more tourists; or keep all of Highway 148 repaired.
Pontiacers feel abandoned by our province. Rather than discussing bureaucratic amalgamations, why don’t the mayors face the genuine issue and unite in demanding Quebec create a “Plan Nord” for the lowest five MRCs? Offer incentives for investors, for job creation and for building plants here? Create high-speed transportation routes to attract business?
Yes, we have tiny municipalities. So what? It’s our lack of investment and jobs that’s the problem – and our leaders can do something about this, if they face the real challenges. Can our mayors rally themselves to do this?
Nancy Hunt, Editor