Covid-19 update – Major Pontiac events cancelled


Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC AND PONTIAC – With the province locked down to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Québec government issued an advisory in early April asking for the cancellation of all sporting and cultural events until August 31.
As a result, some of the Pontiac’s major events have been cancelled, including
the region’s popular Shawville Fair and Ladysmith’s Oktoberfest.
“The cancellation was not done lightly. It was made to keep our fair visitors, exhibitors and volunteers safe. We prefer to see everyone safe for our 2021 Shawville Fair,” said Charleen Moore, Pontiac Agricultural Society president. The news came after the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) announced all public gatherings related to agriculture would be cancelled for 2020. This is the first time in 163 years the event has been cancelled.
Oktoberfest’s board of directors said it was the right decision given there is no clear timeline on when public gathering restrictions, social distancing practices and self-isolation measures will be lifted. “Since our festival is planned well in advance, and given the event’s largely social nature, it’s incredibly difficult to adequately prepare, especially while there’s still so much unknown and at stake,” they said.
The fifth Fort-Coulonge/Mansfield Country Festival suffered the same fate. “The health risk is too high and the well-being of all is a priority,” said Carole Faubert, who organizes the Festival with her husband Phil Denault, an event that usually draws about 1,200 people.
“The cancellation of all the Pontiac’s events will surely have an impact on the region’s businesses too, but people’s health is the most important thing to consider right now,” continued Faubert.
The Campbell’s Bay Summer Festival is also postponed until 2021. “We have raised over $100,000 in the last five years, all of which was turned over to the municipality for projects we can all be proud of,” said Tim Ferrigan, a councillor and one of the organizers.
Non-profit organizations are particularly feeling the strain of the times since many have had to cancel their biggest fundraisers. The Mansfield Fire Department cancelled their annual golf tournament and Canada Day celebration – which usually raise over $20,000 for upgrading equipment.
Edward Walsh, the Shawville Lions Country Jamboree Committee Chair, detailed the “heart-wrenching” decision to cancel their annual event, which usually draws hundreds of trailers and about 1,500 people to Armstrong Farm.
“The Jamboree had become the club’s major fundraiser, so the impact will be felt throughout Pontiac. Along with the cancellation of the Shawville Fair, another big fundraiser for the club, our efforts have been seriously affected,” he explained, noting money already invested in this year’s Jamboree will also be lost; e.g. $1,000 in start-up costs.
Walsh agreed with Faubert’s concern about the local economy. “Many Jamboree attendees frequent the local restaurants, depan-neurs, and other businesses, so the cancellations will have a snowball effect,” he told the Journal.
“We’re hoping to hear if non-profits will qualify for any form of government compensation. People’s health and safety is the biggest priority, so we will worry about finding other ways to generate revenue to help the less fortunate as we move forward,” concluded Walsh.
Government predictions
The federal government released its predictions for the Covid-19 pandemic on April 10. In summary, if strong control measures are maintained, 1 to 10% of the population will be infected with between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths. If control measures are weakened, between 25 and 50% of the population will be affected with between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. If all controls are stopped, up to 80% of citizens will catch the virus and more than 300,000 people will die. In all scenarios, the peak of the virus will be sometime between late spring and early fall.
Québec’s predictions, released April 7, stated that in the best-case scenario, there could be about 29,000 people infected and 1,260 deaths by the end of the month; worst case, there could be up to 60,000 cases and nearly 9,000 deaths.
Government support
Two weeks after the federal government created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), parliament convened for a rare emergency sitting over the Easter weekend and adopted a bill that increased employee wage subsidies from the 10% announced in the CERB to 75%.
The feds will cover 75% of an employee’s salary, up to $847 per week for up to 12 weeks, which is retroactive to March 15 and available to businesses that lost at least 15% of their revenue in March or 30% from April onward.
Among other things, the CERB’s measures include increased flexibility and removal of the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI); up to $500 a week for 15 weeks for those who aren’t eligible for EI (gig, contract, self-employed); up to $300 more per child through the Canada Child Tax Benefit, to be paid in May; and boosting the GST tax credit by an average of $400 for single people and $600 for couples through a one-time payment in May.
The Québec government launched an initiative to help local businesses stay on their feet during the epidemic on April 5. Dubbed “Le Panier Bleu”, it’s a free directory of businesses and operations in the province that support e-commerce and informs consumers which local products can be purchased online.
On April 13, the provincial government identified a number of new sectors as “essential” industries, allowing these businesses to resume work: automobile maintenance and repair, landscaping, mining, and residential construction.
Local evaluation clinic
At the beginning of April, the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) established a COVID-19 assessment in the emergency department of the Pontiac Community Hospital. “The aim is to be able to have people assessed by a doctor in one place to ensure better protection. Individuals can report to the emergency room where triage will be done. If symptoms are
similar to COVID-19, screening is done on site. Calling the COVID-19 hotline beforehand is strongly recommended,” said Patricia Rhéaume, CISSSO media relations agent.
The numbers
As of press time, there were over 18,300 cases of the virus in Quebec (877 deaths) and over 35,000 nationwide. The Outaouais now has 209 cases, of which <5 are from the MRC Pontiac.