The Outaouais doesn’t exist

0
44

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan’


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan’

Year after year, we are visited (or contacted) by civil servants from Gatineau or Québec who propose schemes to strengthen our attachment to “the Outaouais”. The latest is a tourism project that identifies us with a “Route de l’eau” which identifies places to visit in the Pontiac. Earlier projects include an idea for a “regional museum” (to be located in Gatineau!), and other such ideas which have worked well in at least one other “region” of the province.
The point lost here is that there is no “Outaouais”; it’s a bureaucratic fiction.
There is an administrative district, number 10, I believe, named “the Outaouais”, but that is a construct, devised to aid the civil service in governing the province. Why is this not a genuine region, one that we local people can identify with and to which we can be proud?
A genuine region has a capital of its own, an administrative centre. Where is the Outaouais’ capital? It’s own town hall? Gatineau? . . . except that Gatineau itself does not self-identify as a part of the Outaouais! The city usually lists itself as “Outaouais and Gatineau” – the “and” means a conjunction of two different entities. Why mention this conjunction, if we were already one historical region? 
Where is the Outaouais’ government? Who is its elected leader? When did we last vote for that leader?  Where are its civil servants? Are there any? Any paid employees “of the Outaouais”? Is there even one employee? What is the Outaouais’ annual budget?
Any genuine region has some history as a region; our history is the CUO? A region should have political movements across its territory; it should have a sense of loyalty or membership by its citizens. Does Montebello see itself as “Outaouais”?  Gatineau, we know, doesn’t. Doesn’t Wakefield identify as part of the Gatineau Hills?  Shawville and Chapeau as part of the Pontiac? Where, exactly, are people who self-describe as “citizens of Outaouais”? Which Pontiacers are willing to switch their allegiance from Pontiac to “the Outaouais”? 
OK, some civil servants hired in from Montreal may say they are living “in the Outaoauis” . . . but in my travels, I haven’t found anyone in Tadoussac or Sherbrooke or Laval  who could identify “the region of Outaouais” on a map. They do know of Gatineau. 
No, the Outaouais does not exist as a human place, with a sense of identity. It is an administrative unit, useful for bureaucrats in Montreal and Québec. The closest thing we had to a real regional government was the committee of elected reps, now disbanded, and it had no real decisional functions. The ideals of responsible government tell us that public policy, programs and services are most effective when government officials are accountable to the people they serve through elected representatives. Where and who are they? The administrators of Tourisme Outaouais?
“Outaouais” is a fiction. It may be helpful in administrating our large province, but why should we buy in merely to assist government planners? In the end, it is something we will all pay for – this luxury of giving our civil servants a base from which to construct their careers. It is one more means of shipping money OUT of the Pontiac, Papineau, and the Gatineau Hills and Valley.
The Outaouais is a figment of bureaucrat administration, and having set that up, our over-lords in Quebec now want us to pretend we have loyalties, history, and even a future in this fictional place. It helps their administration. So jump to it, Pontiac! Put a saddle on that cow!