Warden talks priorities, highs and lows

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Added: Wed, 03/24/2021 - 4:05pm
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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – Warden Jane Toller held a virtual press conference, March 5, to provide an update on the progress made on 11 priorities she set for the MRC when she took office in 2017. “Some are well on their way to being accomplished, but others need more time,” she said. 
Internet and cellular coverage
The MRC applied for $57 million from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in November 2019 to connect 6,788 underserved households in the Pontiac and Vallée-de-la-Gatineau to high-speed internet. The application is still under review.
The MRC has also applied for $68 M through the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund to bring high-speed internet at 50/10 Megabits per second to rural communities. The proposal would establish a basic network of 3,055 km covering the Pontiac MRC and Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, reaching 13,342 permanent and seasonal homes.
“This is the most important priority if we are going to attract people to the Pontiac to live, invest in and work here,” she emphasized.
Increase forestry
Toller listed the creation of the MRC’s forestry committee as well as working with three former mill sites (Commonwealth Plywood in Rapides-des-Joachims, Jovalco in Litchfield, and Energie Davidson in Mansfield). “Going back to former mill sites makes sense. The infrastructure is already there. It requires money to revitalize them, but attracting investors to a structure that’s already there is the best idea,” she said.
The MRC has submitted a request to be granted a community forest: an area
of crown land designated solely for the MRC’s use. “Minister Dufour has told me we will be next,” said Toller.
A resolution to create a forestry school in the Pontiac is expected to be moved this month. (See p. 6)
Increase agriculture
The MRC has asked for special status for agriculture in the Pontiac which
the government is still considering.
The Abattoir les Viandes du Pontiac was opened in Shawville, giving local
farmers an alternative to travelling elsewhere for services, and the Arterre program was created to pair aspiring farmers without land to those who own land they are not using.
“We’re also looking at a co-op for people who can’t afford to buy their own equipment to be able to borrow and share it,” she added. 
Pontiac pool
The pool committee submitted a $7.6 million funding request to Sport Loisir towards the $11.4 million project last year. This was denied, so the committee revised its plans to a smaller $5 million facility and reapplied this year.
Improve road infrastructure
Toller noted the planned reopening of the Marchand Bridge in Mansfield this year, a request to the Ministry of Transport to improve Highway 148 by installing rumble strips and other improvements, as well as work underway to pave and straighten Highway 366. A committee was created to investigate the need for a bridge between Mansfield and Ile-du-Grand-Calumet for safety, development and accessibility reasons. 
French CEGEP and trades program
The MRC is hoping to have a number of French trades programs offered locally, possibly through École Secondaire Sieur De Coulonge in Mansfield, as well as a local nursing program and forestry school; some programs could be offered virtually, noted Toller.  
Increase composting and recycling
The MRC is running awareness campaigns and the firm Solinov is
conducting a study on how composting can be increased in the region.
The closure of the Pontiac Sorting Centre hurt the Pontiac in terms of spending moreto truck waste to Lachute, said Toller, presenting the energy-from-waste proposal as a solution; it will save $1 million a year and create 50 jobs, she claims. A meeting is organized with Québec’s Minister of Environment where Toller hopes to convince him to change regulations banning Ontario waste from entering Québec. 
ATV trails network
Municipalities are looking into which municipal roads can be used as ATV routes. “It would be very difficult to turn the PPJ into multi-use. It’s really not wide enough and in some places it can’t be widened. As much as I believe in sharing resources,
it’s best to come up with an alternate route for ATVs,” said the warden. 
The MRC recently passed a bylaw to officially allow ATVs and snowmobiles to use the former CN rail corridor in Portage-du-Fort, Litchfield and Bristol and discussions are underway with the local quad club. “We’re hopeful to have a new ATV network by spring,” Toller told the Journal.
Tourism marketing
The Destination Pontiac website was created to encourage people to visit, live, work and invest in the region.
Regional industrial park
Toller noted the area is privately owned and clean-up won’t take place until a new business is ready to set up there. She hopes to see the Sorting Centre reopened and again emphasized the benefits of installing an energy-from-waste facility in the park because of the area’s zoning and link with Hydro Québec.
Small business creation/
Main street revitalization 
The MRC acquired $180,000 through Fonds d'appui au rayonnement des régions (FARR), or $10,000 per municipality, which municipalities matched for a total of $20,000 each to improve signs, beautify their streets, etc. Toller has also asked municipalities to make a list of empty buildings that could be used for new businesses.
The highs and lows
When asked, Toller listed her top moments as warden: Pierre Dufour, Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, mentioned her name when speaking about potential
projects during a recent forestry conference; a front-page article in le Droit about the Pontiac being a willing host for energy-from-waste; and the creation of the MRC’s youth council.
According to Toller, her worst moment was the recent divided vote on the
bio-park. “I feel it’s my job to keep us united,” she concluded.