FORT-COULONGE – Nearly two hundred people gathered at the Pontiac Conference Centre, November 6, to discuss the Liberal government’s proposed cuts to the region’s health care services as well as those to other local agencies such as the CLD and Carrefour Jeunesse. The evening was organized by the Centre de Sante et de Services sociaux du Pontiac Worker’s Union (CSN).
Richard Romain, union representative, Christian Meilleur, CSSS Pontiac Vice-President, Michel Quijada, President of the Central Board of National Trade Unions in the Outaouais, and Carole Ménard, Union President and Secretary, began the evening by describing the changes proposed by Bill 10, and the effects it will have on the Pontiac region. “The reasoning behind the Liberal legislation is to reach deficit zero. They are attacking on all fronts in an attempt to save about $300 billion by 2016; they are looking to recover $220 million within the health and social services sectors alone. Schools, hospitals, and municipalities are all being targeted,” said Romain, who encouraged citizens to attend a rally against the proposed cuts in Montreal, November 29.
“If there are 50 people in the streets, the government won’t listen. But if there are 300,000 people, they will be forced to listen. We must respond in numbers. The Pontiac will be greatly affected by these cuts and we can’t keep losing jobs. If we want to keep our services, we must fight to maintain them. It took 50 years to obtain what we have now,” he stressed, claiming the government is more or less looking to privatize the health
“What could happen is that when you visit a clinic, instead of being asked for your medical card, you will be asked for your credit card,” he continued.
Quijada mentioned other ways the government could address the financial situation in Quebec such as developing products locally rather than sending them abroad, and making another tax bracket for the rich so they pay more taxes. In addition, he said obtaining deficit zero in two years is not possible. “The government can’t expect to fix the problem overnight and should
consider a longer timeframe to obtain their goals. We will always have debt, and it will take time to
control that debt, but, in the meantime we need our services,” he added.
Following the presentation, community members were invited to voice their concerns; the majority expressed the need for additional services and investments, particularly here, where the economy has already been hit hard.
“We need more money injected into more
programs, which will in turn create jobs, stimulate the economy, encourage growth, and lead to
better services,” explained Romain.
Dr. Lucy Mutchmore spoke on behalf of all the Pontiac’s doctors stressing that, should Bill 10 be passed, people unfamiliar with the Pontiac area
will be representing and making decisions for local residents. “The people
currently representing us know our needs. People from Quebec City don’t, and we will just become part of the big machine,” she said. “Our rural reality is completely different from that of urban areas and a regional board,
making decisions for us, may not have the same
priorities as we do. We can all remember when our local CLSC closed for a period and the local board worked hard to have it
re-opened; that might not happen if a regional board was handling it,” she
Raymond Durocher, Mayor of Fort-Coulonge and Pontiac Warden, also took the stand and
encouraged citizens to contact Pontiac Liberal MP, André Fortin, to express their concerns so their comments can be brought to the National Assembly. Fortin was invited to attend the meeting but did not make an appearance.
L’Isle-aux-Allumettes Councillor, Gene O’Brien, reinforced Durocher’s message: “Everyone has a voice and needs to give their local politicians a call. I am kind of embarrassed to say I voted Liberal in the last election and am sure others are, too. André Fortin needs to know how we feel. It’s a slap in the face because when he was campaigning and called me on the phone looking for my vote, there was no mention of Bill 10,” she said.
“If the government had brought up Bill 10 prior to the election, we wouldn’t be dealing with the
same government,” added Romain.
In conclusion, Ménard explained that those wishing to attend the protest in Montreal, on November 29, can call 819-647-3553 to arrange for a bus pick-up, at various locations throughout the Pontiac.
Durocher and three other Outaouais wardens held a news conference in Gatineau, November 17, to state their unanimous
position regarding the
proposed Bill 10 and its effect on the organization and governance of Quebec’s health and social services and its economic impact for the Outaouais’ rural municipalities. Although the information from the conference was not available as of press time, Durocher said, “The situation with Bill 10 and the way it has advanced, is a major preoccupation for our rural region in regards to our services… what can we keep, what can we save… We’re not too happy about it.”