How can we honour Charlotte L’Ecuyer?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Most Journal readers will have learned that our former MNA, Charlotte L’Écuyer, passed away February 1 (see page 7), another loss during this "great winter of our discontent". The pandemic was not the cause, but it puts the brakes on mourning – or any celebration of Mme L’Écuyer’s life and accomplishments. We’ll separately honour this remarkable woman from the Pontiac.
Leaving us at 77, too early, she left a heritage that most leaders could aspire to achieve. Charlotte managed to live several careers into those 77 years, from mother to civil servant, from leading Pontiac’s great step forward in community health and seniors’ care to her four mandates as our provincial deputy. She was usually "one step ahead of everyone around her," remembers the Journal’s publisher, Lily Ryan, who worked for several years with Charlotte in her constituency office.  Lily deliberated entering provincial politics during those years, inspired by Mme L’Écuyer. 
Charlotte was a straight-talker; she didn’t beat around the bush, and
this was immensely helpful as she stick-handled her projects through the bureaucracies, especially Health. It was in health that she made many of
her contributions, leaving a well-managed Pontiac Community Hospital, still one of the bright lights of health service in the Outaouais, despite the cutbacks imposed by her own party. She was "honest and frank"  remembers MNA André Fortin, speaking to the Journal last month – « c’est une qualité que trop peu d’élus ont, » added Mr. Fortin.
Charlotte’s frankness was not always appreciated by her party. She seemed to have the facility to say the right thing but occasionally at the wrong time, at
least for political agendas, especially during her most recent campaign. She did not sugar-coat her words, and most Pontiacers appreciated this quality, even when the political big-shots and the gotcha-journalists professed horror with
some of her frank remarks. Her observations were refreshing, not shocking!
Premier Charest recognized her strengths and appointed her to important positions in health and social services, territorial management, agriculture
& food, transportation and the environment. 
Curious, that we honour this woman as a trusted leader while in many parts of the world – and in our own nation – there are people up in arms with all political leaders. It seems a brainless fad sweeping across the world’s democracies that voters automatically distrust anyone in a political position. That’s dangerous and self-defeating for the future of democracy. But Mme L’Écuyer was one who rose to the challenge of living, not just talking up, her role in our democratic country.  Democracy is not a birth-right, nor a gift, it’s a long-running battle which needs constant citizen focus and action. 
Charlotte walked the walk, as well as the talk – and damn few of us do! Armchair quarterbacks are a dime a dozen; good government, attentive to the health of the whole body politic is what’s needed, not today’s fast-talking, slippery-tongued oligarchic pretend-leadership we seem to get from every political party. For example, a Gatineau radio host asked Charlotte about the shortage of doctors – when will everyone have their own physician, he wanted to know. Charlotte was straight: "probably never". The cost-benefit ratio is outrageously expensive, while the goal of general good health service to everyone is achievable.
Clearly, Charlotte’s example will not attract everyone … and it need not. We don’t all have to run for office, although it would be beneficial to have more local candidates, especially women. What we can’t do without are  citizens who can recognize AI manipulation of our interests and needs, voters who know more than one or two issues, who can name more than one or two candidates, with accurate knowledge of their general goals; an educated, awake population. 
Perhaps it’s not bad that we can’t celebrate her life during the pandemic; instead, we can walk in Charlotte’s shoes, pursue some of her unfinished projects, and dedicate a little of our energies to making the Pontiac a better home for us all. That’s the finest honour we can give this admirable woman.