MRC meeting

It was standing room only at the MRC headquarters for the monthly council meeting held March 20.

Standing room only against EFW; plenary to stay private

Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – The MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors’ monthly meeting was held March 20 at the MRC headquarters in Litchfield.

EFW townhall meetings
The narrow Elsie Gibbons Room at the MRC headquarters was packed to standing room only with around 30 residents concerned about the proposed Energy from Waste (EFW) incinerator project.

Ahead of the public question period, MRC Warden Jane Toller announced that a series of 5 townhall meetings would be held to reveal the EFW business plan to the public. The first meeting was to be held the following Monday, March 25, in L’Isle-aux-Allumettes.

Some residents expressed concern that not enough advance notice had been given for the meetings. Amy Taylor of the Pontiac Independent Facebook group later posted a segment of the Quebec Municipal Code that states public notices regarding public meetings must be published at least seven days before the meeting. In response, Toller contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the MRC’s legal counsel for advice but did not hear back from either. Toller said the meetings would proceed as planned, adding: “We just think it’s best to get this information out.”

 All meetings will be held at 7:00 p.m. on the following dates:

  • March 27 – Fort-Coulonge – Club de l’Âge d’Or
  • April 3 – Shawville – United Church Hall
  • April 9 – Campbell’s Bay RA
  • April 10 – Otter Lake RA

L’Isle-aux-Allumettes Mayor Corey Spence will be giving the presentation at the meetings. Toller said that she asked Spence to help because he has worked closely with her on the Energy from Waste Business Plan Committee and is well-versed on the topic. Toller will also be present at all the meetings and she and Spence will both be available to answer questions.

Spence said that the presentation will be balanced considering both pros and cons of the project, saying: “We’re going to look at everything, both sides.” He said that the same presentation will be given at each location.

Public Question Period
Opening the public question period, Toller said that 30 minutes is usually allocated for questions. She asked for a show of hands of those who wished to speak or ask a question, and nine citizens raised their hands. Toller said that they would be given three minutes each to speak.

The most hotly debated question of the evening was that of when the business plan would be available to the public. The question was asked by Christine Anderson on behalf of Friends of the Pontiac, who said that they’d like to review the business plan ahead of the townhall meetings.

Toller responded that the business plan will not be given to any member of the public or media ahead of the townhall meetings as the MRC wants the opportunity to present the plan to the public before the citizens’ groups have the chance to review and comment on it.

Other citizens in attendance raised concerns about pollution and economic impact. Judith Spence of Citizens of the Pontiac asked if health and environmental considerations are addressed in the initial business plan. Toller said that they are, and Corey Spence said that health considerations will be presented at the townhall meetings.

Judith Spence also mentioned that she is setting up a private Zoom presentation with incineration critic Dr. Paul Connett for interested mayors and municipal councillors.

Plenary meetings
A resolution was presented to modify the existing structure for plenary meetings by holding part of them in public.

Ahead of the reading of the motion, Director General Kim Lesage read a letter from Mélanie Guénette, a consultant with the union representing the MRC’s employees (SFPQ), stating: “Our members are not elected representatives accountable to the public. We do not accept that they find themselves in the political arena in front of the citizens they deal with on a regular basis.”

MRC employees are unionized, but the management team is not.

The mayors voted down the resolution, 15 to 3, with only Shawville Mayor Bill McCleary, Litchfield Mayor Colleen Larivière, and Waltham Mayor Odette Godin voting in favour of opening the plenary sessions to the public.

The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held April 17.