Regional economy forum

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Will Amos speaks with Gail Sullivan from Emploi Quebec during the forum.

Lionel Tessier (tr. AB)



Will Amos speaks with Gail Sullivan from Emploi Quebec during the forum.

Lionel Tessier (tr. AB)

FORT-COULONGE – Following through with his campaign promise, Pontiac MP Will Amos invited Pontiac citizen’s to participate in a discussion forum, January 19 at the Pontiac Conference Centre. About sixty people, including
elected officials, businesspeople, and representatives of community organizations attended the meeting.
At the beginning of the evening, MRC Pontiac Warden, Raymond Durocher, welcomed the participants and stressed that elected officials, even though they have a responsibility to make the best decisions, don’t always have the answers; they rely on citizens to consider not only the difficulties the region’s communities face, but also their wealth and potential.  
The MP started the evening’s discussions by stating he is optimistic despite the challenges rural regions face.
He spoke about the measures his government has already set in place since taking office and stressed the importance of collaboration between all the players of the region’s economy. For his part, he intends to continue listening to his riding’s 44 municipalities and is in constant contact with his provincial counterpart, André Fortin, with whom he collaborates on several issues, while respecting provincial and federal jurisdictions. 
Afterwards, participants were invited to form groups to discuss issues related
to infrastructure, communications, and economic
and social development.
It seemed everyone was aware of the problems the Pontiac faces (job and
population loss, etc), and many possible solutions were brought forward.
For example, to combat the exodus of young people and to attract city workers to settle in the region (where house prices are one third of those in the city and where the quality of life is comparable), the region needs affordable, high-speed internet access.
On this particular subject, Amos announced the federal government
is investing $500 million over five years in improving internet in rural areas,
that the CRTC is willing to invest $750 million, and that the provincial
government could invest in this area as well.
Concerning infrastructure, the participants highlighted the pitiful state of the Pontiac’s forestry roads, which not only hinders tourism, but also the forest industry. Many participants suggested that instead of handing out millions for Canada’s 150th celebrations and similar projects, a part of the grants could be used to help develop second and third stage wood transformation industries in the Pontiac. For example, the Biomass Conversion project represents only 15% of the quantity of wood that could be transformed in the Pontiac rather than being transported elsewhere to enrich other regions.
It was clear the participants would welcome a better distribution of wealth between urban and rural areas. Amos stressed urban areas need rural areas, and vice versa, for development.
Other suggestions for improving the Pontiac’s economy included the
creation of a national park in the region and the conservation of the PPJ trail for attracting tourists.
At the end of the meeting, each team submitted their discussion notes to Amos, who encouraged citizens to form committees to lobby their elected
officials to look into matters of importance to them. Amos also pledged to take steps to revive the Rural Secretariat so rural populations can have a voice within the federal government.