Who would have foreseen the last few years, back, say, at the turn of the millenium? Not only the coming pandemic – plenty of people were predicting one, including the US military, but who would have predicted all the specifics – and predicted police checkpoints at entrances to the Pontiac? Who would have foreseen police keeping city folks out of the Pontiac? That’s what happened at one period, near Covid’s begining.
The last time the armed SQ stationed itself in numbers around the Pontiac was at Quyon in the mid-90s, trying to head off a busload of Montreal independentiste rednecks heading up here to confront the Pontiac.
For generations our kids have fled to the cities, seeking further education and training, better jobs, better schools, and a wider cultural, social life. Even families who dedicate their entire lives to living and working within the Pontiac (say, teachers and health professionals) often pack up and leave when they retire – all retreating to bigger centres, to masses of people which (they hope) will provide them more of
everything (except clean air). For years those of us who stay have tried to convince some of these folks that the Pontiac – or rural life in general – can offer immeasurable benefits. Pontiac’s population continued to decline. That still doesn’t bode well.
But today we have many moving here, seeking the natural beauty, quiet and fresh foods, the uncongested streets and shops, low crime, the multiple opportunities to get out into the natural world — plus the opportunities to explore one’s creative potentials, stimulated by the Pontiac’s dynamic cultural environment! There are more artists and creators, more PhDs and experienced administrators per thousand people in the Pontiac … yet it’s those city lights we can’t resist, the boom-boom of its distant base, and the for-sale signs like urban mushrooms. Ah, city life, where noise and flashing lights cover the emptiness of the daily grind.
But then … a crisis.
What a complement those SQ were to the Pontiac back then! Police checkpoints! Armed police keeping city folks out of Quebec’s rural, uncontaminated regions. Who could have given the MRC such promotional magic: “Pontiac, less COVID!”
Who ever predicted armed guards at Pontiac’s gateways?
Yet this is what Covid came to. The government of Quebec did not want city dwellers fleeing to the countryside after their contacts in the city; no spreading the virus to the uncontaminated few. Visitors risked spreading that deadly influenza outside its urban incubators. Forget about bats or wild cats, it’s other people who were the biggest threat. Think of it, it took a calamity of this size, threatening every nation on Earth, to make this clear: humanity’s great city-feedlots are in fact dangers to our existence and our species’ future.
Now, years later, shouldn’t we be thinking that more influx from the city could be a very positive thing, if managed well, not damaging our very beautiful, peaceful and rewarding region. Migrants from the city bring skills, varied pasts, new expectations – plus, especially, their incomes and investments. They bring home sales, construction, more shopping, services, more professionals.
In particular the pandemic opened the flood-gates of working-from-home. Perfect! – for rural living. It took a near-plague to advertise the beauties, life-style advantages, and a more humane pace of life in the rural world. In our world, in the Pontiac.
This pandemic has not been the end of the world, and there may be more. And, yes, there will be more years yet to deal with its many and subtle effects. But this time couldn’t we get out ahead of the wave and gain advantages for our economy and social life – by promoting all the features and advantages that made Pontiac so attractive during the pandemic, so attractive that it required armed police check points to keep city folks out!
Finally! A challenge that will test our abilities to build an even better life here. Here, where we can thrive.