MP Mathieu Ravignat speaks to the Journal

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An aerial picture of the construction currently taking place on Des Allumettes bridge.

Fred Ryan

Pontiac needs real help on Allumettes Bridge, seniors’ housing, roads and infrastructure



An aerial picture of the construction currently taking place on Des Allumettes bridge.

Fred Ryan

Pontiac needs real help on Allumettes Bridge, seniors’ housing, roads and infrastructure

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Pontiac’s sitting MP, Mathieu Ravignat, outlined his plans and concerns for the final year of the federal Conservatives’ term, August 7.

Although the House is on holiday, Ravignat is busy across his riding – one of the largest in Canada – meeting residents, awarding recognitions in person, and discussing issues and problems.
Allumettes Island Bridge 
“For the bridge, the money was earmarked for this project three years ago by the federal government, and so far very little is      happening. This couldn’t be deliberate on the part of the government, but I do think it shows a level of mismanagement of the contracting process. The Conservatives have problems with           procurement contracts—the new bridges in Montreal and Quebec, and new military equipment are major examples. There’s a big question of transparency here, and of efficiency. Why does it take three years to merely grant the contract?
“The work so far looks cosmetic. Are they waiting for the election? Look, they promised to do this and the bridge needs replacement. Major work should go ahead before the election is called, but we have only one summer left. I hope the local municipality and my office can put enough     pressure on the government to get them moving.
“So far a lot of the hiring seems to be in Ontario, but   I feel the jobs should be shared. I know the Ontario side is a Conservative        riding, but there’s a         question of fairness here. Some of the hiring is for professionals from a long way away, but not all.
“I’ve asked the minister about this bridge specifically, and the response I get is ‘It’s in the works.’ Is that transparency? This government is not transparent, period. My role is to keep the pressure on them, to bring up their promises and get them to live up to them, to get the work done.”
Social and
seniors’ housing 
“Basically the Feds have made massive cuts to      most social programs, including housing, and this impacts everyone. The Conservatives have refused to tackle poverty, a fundamental problem in our society. The federal government just refuses to help the provinces or municipalities.
“Canada needs a National Housing Strategy, which the NDP has            proposed. It would help the Pontiac significantly: renovations to existing homes, help for seniors still living in rural ancestral homes, with high heating and hydro bills. We need infrastructure funding to help deliver clean water and sewer lines to the seniors trying to live alone. The Pontiac has among the highest poverty rates in the country, so       any poverty strategy will help us.
“Housing is a human right. The Conservatives refuse to invest here and they question this right. Their focus is what’s good for the corporate world. For example, the White Birch paper plant in our riding (Thurso) has the parent company declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying employee pensions. They want to cut them by          50% right away. The Conservatives support this, and it ends up with               the paper workers selling their homes or having to           refinance, all without a job!
“We have to change bankruptcy laws. The NDP proposes that employee pensions be treated as    creditors – ahead of the banks. The law now allows the company to pay off the banks and not their employee pensions when they go bankrupt. In the White Birch matter, the courts ruled in favour of the employee pensions but the corporation just refused to pay and delayed further. Now they’re appealing the court’s ruling, with no penalty or pressure from the Conservatives.
“Pensions are important for the whole economy. That’s what retirees spend and it stimulates the local economy. The employees have paid taxes, done their work – and they get their pensions cut. I must say Quebec has been up to speed on this, but it’s a      federal matter here. In Jack Layton’s first term we   introduced a bill to put    pensions ahead of other creditors, like banks, but the Conservatives defeated it. We’ve re-introduced it, and it was defeated again. Pretty clear where they stand, and it’s not with ordinary        people.”
Highway 148
 and infrastructure
“Infrastructure is another big one for the Pontiac. The feds must be involved in municipal infrastructure renewal. Our municipalities are too poor to keep up all the roads and streets,       playgrounds, water, sewage; all those things need more resources that we can       generate here.
“Take Highway 148 for example. It’s a provincial matter, but, look,  nothing is being done to improve the 148 except patching holes and re-surfacing. Yet we’ve had Liberals representing us – Norm MacMillan was Deputy Transport Minister! – and they haven’t helped at all. Yearly summer closures of the 148 affects us tremendously, not just in convenience but in attracting tourists and investors. If the Liberals are so effective, where have they been?”
Mr Ravignat covered other topics – ethics and accountability, help to industries in trouble,          like forestry, voting reforms, whistle-blowing, First Nations’ issues, and          environmental questions, including preparing for climate change and its effects.