Stop the blame game already!

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Added: Tue, 10/22/2019 - 10:05am
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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor

Late last month, five of the Pontiac’s federal election candidates participated in a forum in Campbell’s Bay where they were asked how they would ensure better management of the Ottawa River’s water levels in light of recent flooding. All candidates stressed the need for cooperation and studies to determine the causes.  
Claude Bertrand from the Green Party detailed what happened following the record-breaking flood in Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean in July 1996: all stakeholders assembled – dam operators, government and municipal authorities, meteorological services, insurance experts, etc. – and together they assessed the situation and determined how they could each help prevent the same problem in the future. The report was released about six months later with solutions that made a difference in the region’s ability to deal with major flooding.
During last month’s MRC meeting, Council resolved to ask the federal and provincial governments to conduct an urgent independent inquiry into the dam management system before spring 2020, and included a statement speculating about mismanagement of the river system. It was adopted at the following week’s Fédération québécoise des municipalités (FQM) meeting with some changes.
The federal government has also called on the provincial governments to “work together to protect people and property, including the option of an independent review.”
With next spring quickly approaching, is it necessary to pinpoint the causes of the
flood before solutions are implemented? Does someone need to be held accountable before any progress is made?
Regardless of how well something operates, there’s always room for improvement. Why waste valuable time pointing fingers, defending the status quo as ‘the best that can be done’, or waiting around for an official inquiry? This could take many months, maybe even years to complete and there likely won’t be one clear answer. With about six months remaining until spring 2020, it’s critical to use the limited time wisely.
The socially responsible thing to do is start now, looking to the future and not the past, with each party giving their own actions a critical review and presenting ideas for improvement. Instead of asking who is to blame, those implicated should be collaboratively determining what is needed to improve our prospects of managing spring waters.
Are the dams all fully functional? Can water levels be better managed, both in late winter to make way for the thaw and when high waters hit? Can municipalities contribute to management decisions? Is municipal infrastructure, like permanent dykes, needed and what government funding is available?
Can resident alert systems and volunteer recruitment be improved? Is there a need for an additional reservoir? …
It’s time to shift to problem-solving mode! An official inquiry could be useful, but a plan is needed for the time in between. In the end, the livelihoods and quality of life of a significant portion of the Pontiac’s residents, cottagers and many municipalities depend on it. It’s time to literally sink or swim!