Community organizations protest broken gov’t promises

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Maryam Amini

GATINEAU AND PONTIAC – Over 45 community organizations from across the Outaouais held the first of four days of mobilisation, starting February 21 in Gatineau with a march, to decry broken promises
of the François Legault government. From February 22 to 24, strikes and picket lines were held in six different areas of the Outaouais, including Campbell’s Bay (February 22), Maniwaki, Saint-André-Avellin, and Gatineau.

“The Outaouais’ community organizations feel completely abandoned and betrayed by the Legault government. We were promised financing and an action plan in the last provincial budget, yet we’ve seen nothing of this at all,” explained Daniel Cayley-Daoust, director general of la Table régionale des organismes communautaires de l’Outaouais.

More specifically, the groups are demanding recognition of their important work in communities and better subsidies to fund their missions in general. Currently, a large portion of the funding they receive from the
government is project-specific, explained Martin Riopel, director of Jardin éducatif du Pontiac. He explained the problem with this model is that while project funding is always appreciated, it generally cannot be used to pay salaries, mileage, or computer infrastructure.

As a result, Riopel said many community organizations cannot offer salaries equivalent to those health and education networks or the private sector offer, where, for example, social workers make 30% or more. Without stable, reliable funding, community organizations are unable to match the salaries or the social benefits (pension, health insurance, etc.) other sectors offer, leading to difficulties in attracting and retaining staff.

“We want to be recognized and have the money to run our organizations without having to survive on pennies every year,” Riopel told the Journal.

Asked about COVID’s impact on community organizations, Riopel explained that due to the precarious and inadequate funding situation, many almost faced closure. “Others did close because they didn’t have enough income. Whatever the community organization, when you’re registered and meet all the requirements for subsidy programs and are approved, it means they believe you’re useful. And if we’re useful, then we should receive money accordingly to be able to function,” he concluded.