Pontiac’s issues are staring us in the face

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DIspatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


DIspatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Despite all the talk about another referendum, the Secular Charter, and a stiffening of Law 101’s thrusts, these are not Pontiac’s vital issues. They are our emotional issues, but, as we have seen in the past, who won the election has had virtually no effect on our daily lives. We are not    in the hot-house of Montreal or Quebec City; we are in the wasteland known as “The Regions.”
Our two realities are not who speaks which language, or wears which garb, but how many    people have a full time job and how much more biodiversity we can afford to lose. Our reality has been the worst-case possibilities and virtually none of the best-case possibilities. Pontiac has been de-industrialized, de-populated, and        further marginalized, one election after the next. Let’s see our MNA’s blueprint.
What can we expect in economic development? The MRC Pontiac’s Economic Development Corporation (CDE) has launched a new year with a larger budget, and with even more staff. The budget virtually doubled last year to over a million dollars, and the CDE added five employees, including a new full-time director. This may be excellent news in the MRC, but it is                 disappointing outside.
The disappointment comes from seeing more public money spent, more people hired  (and not always from the Pontiac), but with almost no change in our          economic circumstances. We don’t expect immediate new jobs, but we have to at least see a light through this tunnel, and we’re not seeing it.
First, it might be   helpful for us, the public, if the MRC’s branches actually told us what they are accomplishing and which businesses or  business sectors they are bolstering. We don’t see that information in the media or the public sphere. Merely throwing out some numbers, “80 files” or “projects worth $957,551,” doesn’t tell the public anything at all. 
These huge, unidentified numbers are empty when we see so few jobs, so few new businesses, and so little infrastructure being created here in the Pontiac. The next politician who talks about “transparency,” and yet practises none it, deserves to be fired.
We are dutifully assured that “tourism” will be our ticket to  prosperity. Every MRC in Quebec tells its       population this. Every region, every town and city is told that tourism is “coming.”  It’s been  coming for fifty years.
Hopefully the newly reorganized economic development branch of the MRC with its new staff and a new director will not take years to catch up on “the files” before we see results.   Are we going to be subjected to more blather about social media changing the face of the world (except here) and how new tourism trends in New York State will soon make their way to the Pontiac?
We expect the MRC’s new development crew to hit the ground with energy and ideas, not   easing into their new careers. Urgency!
We’d like our political leaders and our development agents to explain why, basically, nothing real has been accomplished during their terms. When do we get  an accounting of the money spent and hours used for economic development that has yet to appear? This is not an accusation; look around the Pontiac! We – not Quebec City – are asking for details, not possibilities.
This is Pontiac’s challenge to our MRC and CDE.
 (In the next Journal, we’ll look at Pontiac’s challenge to all of          us ordinary citizens.  Development is our responsibility too.)