Pontiac’s crusade for the Holy G’rail

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While a Quebec court decision has given the MRC Pontiac a few weeks reprieve in its battle to keep the train tracks that start (or end) in Litchfield, no worries – some of our mayors, MRC and agency employees, municipal lawyers, and a few dedicated citizens are strategizing new tactics to re-launch their assault against Canadian National Railway Company.

While a Quebec court decision has given the MRC Pontiac a few weeks reprieve in its battle to keep the train tracks that start (or end) in Litchfield, no worries – some of our mayors, MRC and agency employees, municipal lawyers, and a few dedicated citizens are strategizing new tactics to re-launch their assault against Canadian National Railway Company.
During the heat of August’s rail line standoff, the media received daily “breaking news”, from the MRC’s war room headquarters, which is wallpapered in county maps showing the current movement of its troops, mostly out of the area in search of investors and jobs, we hope.
The press releases were not unlike those colour-coded alerts for a terrorist attack: “CN defies county by-law”, hmmm, sounds like a yellow for elevated risk. “Quebec receives MRC’s plea”, oh dear, calling on the National Assembly could be a high-risk orange. “MRC Pontiac wins first battle”, whew! code red was narrowly averted.
But the real gem of communiqués? “Community rallies in support”: two businesspersons blocked the rail crossing with their trucks for a few hours one day, while on another day, a half-dozen citizens joined in a media-hyped protest. That’s all the support we’ve heard from the public. Chances are those same people would lay down on the same tracks in a future protest if sludge, uranium, bitumen, asbestos, or shale were rolling into the Pontiac Industrial Park. We’d have lots of jobs though!
Fifteen years ago the MRC didn’t mind when over 90kms of rails were pulled up so they could start putting down the PPJ bike path, soon to be filled with tourists who would pedal the Pontiac out of its high-unemployment, low-education status as the 20th poorest MRC in Quebec in 1998. Ah, the dreams!
To quote several current politicians, “Keeping those tracks in place is Pontiac’s last hope of attracting businesses”. Seriously? If we haven’t attracted in the last 5 years the necessary manufacturing and industrial businesses to settle here and help pull us out of our now last-place ranking of all Quebec MRCs, why do they see anything big coming, railroad or no railroad? If retaining the rail line is so important, why is it not mentioned in Pontiac’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, launched in February 2010?
Maybe there’s another big dream to run after, dreams which seem to be getting bigger, or fluffier.
No worries. The MRC’s track record for running is in great shape! They’ve also grown strong in the past 20 years with jawing-exercises for: a prison, a furniture factory, a slaughterhouse, rice paddies, worldwide call-centre, a new administration building, amalgamation callisthenics, a 5 billion dollar bogus investor, and now – we beg from Pontiac’s latest saviour: CN stockholder, Bill ‘Microsoft’ Gates.
Sharpen your own ‘colour-coded’ pencils, folks. Elections are coming. Insist your mayors answer your hard questions about the MRC and real economic growth.

Nancy Hunt, Editor