Mayor Bélair’s final comments

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André Macron (Tr. LT)


André Macron (Tr. LT)

MANSFIELD – October 25, 2013 – “I wish to thank the citizens of Mansfield-et-Pontefract who put their trust in me since 2009,” said Mr. Leslie L. Bélair, outgoing mayor of the municipality, visibly filled with emotion. It is with regrets that the Mansfield’s mayor took the decision, for personal reasons, to leave municipal politics, but nobody could say that he was not fully involved in his work.
However, in spite of the positive results of his term as a mayor, Mr. Bélair expressed some bitterness.  He has forwarded a letter to the MRC to explain some of the frustrating aspects of his role.
According to the Municipal Code, the committees created by the MRC to address specific issues are supposed to report to the council of mayors.  In reality,  these committees are the ones taking the final decisions, and the mayors are only rubberstamping their decisions, although these committees are supposed to only have a consultative role. “We don’t even get to vote on their decisions, and I have serious reservations about this process,” declared an indignant Bélair.
During his 4 years as mayor, several files and many projects were treated successfully: lowering of taxes, tightening of the budget and stabilization of expenses, water and sewer services, public works, fire prevention services, garbage and recycling. Mr. Bélair has always attempted to exercise his role to the best of his knowledge following the principle of justice and equality for all.
Ending his term, Mr. Bélair wants to thank his colleagues at the municipal council and the employees of the municipality for their cooperation and promises his full collaboration to the next mayor. When he first took the role of mayor, Mr. Bélair remembers well that there were no files and that some correspondance was not even open. To his successor, he promises to leave a complete list of the on-going files.
Concerning the amalgamation of the municipalities, he points out that only three municipalities are in favour: Fort-Coulonge, Bryson and Portage-du-Fort.  In fact, between the years 1999 and 2002, there have been studies by the firm Raymond, Chabot on this issue. The results were not very conclusive and did not point to any savings for the municipalities that would amalgamate. According to Mr. Bélair, this amalgamation should not be imposed on the taxpayers. “We need clear figures to be able to take a good decision.” In 2002, for a property valued at      $62,000, a taxpayer of Mansfield would see an decrease of $21 in his taxes and it would have meant  an increase of $78 for a taxpayer of Fort-Coulonge. In 2013, the study doesn’t show any clear financial impact of an amalgamation, but it is obvious that these amounts would be largely increased.
Talking about the future of the Pontiac, Mr. Bélair hopes to see changes. He is frustrated that our forestry resources are being transported to Maniwaki and to Thurso and is convinced that if MNA Charlotte L’Écuyer had been more proactive in this area and given her support, it could have changed the whole economic situation and Smurfit-Stone would not be something of which we talk in the past tense.
The Pontiac is too often the last region to be taken care of.  Patching up 2 or 3 km of road is not sufficient, but, according to Mr. Bélair, we keep voting in the same people who have not done very much for the region. Today more than ever, we need a strong representation at the provincial level, and it is not the role of a mayor to do it. He hopes that our next MNA will be able to bring about changes.
As far as tourism development in our area is concerned, Mr. Bélair believes that massive investments are necessary in attractions and lodging for the region to stand out and attract tourists.
Finally, Mr. Bélair mentions that the mandates of elected officials should be limited in time to avoid situations where they just “sit in their position.’’