Francois Carrier (tr. AB)
Francois Carrier (tr. AB)
OUTAOUAIS – The Outaouais is still suffering from underfunding that has reached critical levels, said Équité Outaouais (EO) in a recent report, noting the Quebec government invests significantly more in other regions. Health spending remains the main topic, but EO stated that education, the socio-community sector and culture also suffer inequity.
EO is a group made up of stakeholders from different areas of the Outaouais who are concerned about inequities in the region in terms of health services, education and social justice. The group’s spokespersons claim that for several years, Outaouais taxpayers have been paying more in taxes than what they receive.
“After we were ignored in the March budget, community organizations in the Outaouais and Quebec were left out of the government’s economic update. The community sector is an essential link in the social safety net,” said Daniel Cayley-Daoust, executive director of the Table régionale des organismes communautaires autonomes de l’Outaouais (TROCAO).
EO said that in Outaouais’ urban areas, the number of homeless individuals and families is increasing because of the lack of investment in affordable housing. “Rent is going up, ‘renovictions’ are rampant, and housing support programs are only trickling in,” said Lise Paradis, director of Gîte Ami.
In terms of health care and social services, EO said the Outaouais is now at a crossroad: the announcement of a new hospital in Gatineau is an opportunity to rethink and reshape how the services are offered. However, the pandemic has highlighted old regional problems that require looking at the management of health services differently.
“When it comes to equity, the Outaouais health network is missing the mark,” said Denis Marcheterre, president of Action Santé Outaouais.
“The underfunding of public services in the Outaouais has serious consequences: staff shortages in our emergency rooms, overflowing hospitals, and the exodus of health care to Ontario,” said family physician Gilles Aubé.
In education, there are fewer programs offered in the Outaouais than similar regions. As a result, close to 2,500 students have to go elsewhere to obtain a diploma that suits them. At the college level, the attrition rate is about the same. At the university level, more than 7,500 students leave the region due to a lack of space, among other things. “More space for more programs is the key to developing education in the Outaouais,” said Christian Bernier, president of the Cégep de l’Outaouais teachers’ union.
In the heritage field, the Outaouais receives only $2.52 in funding per capita, making it by far the most disadvantaged in Quebec.
“Our region is the only one without a regional museum,” said Jean-Pierre Deslauriers, retired professor at UQO.
“In 2019-2020, in regions comparable to the Outaouais, per capita, the Quebec government spent 9 times more for performing arts, 7 times more for cinema, 4 times more for books and periodicals, 2.5 times more for heritage, museum institutions and archives and 1.8 times more for libraries,” concluded Céline de Guise, Culture Outaouais president.