We don’t need permission . . .


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Brazil . . . much of the world is better off than it was fifty years ago: more wealth, industries, jobs, and more people (as consumers). Yet Pontiac has fewer people, industries, jobs, and less wealth. Why? We do like to blame others, especially politicians and civil servants. In the last edition, we looked at what they and their agencies are doing to reverse these trends.
In the end, it seems there’s little this government infrastructure can do for us. Our conclusion was mild: no accusations of incompetence, but two minimal requirements. We want more transparency from our governments on how much they are spending on whom and for what, and, second, we want governments from town councils and MRCs to the federal government, to hire mature, business-experienced agents for business development. No rocket science here, but our governments are not reaching these basic targets.
Tax-payers have a right to be angry. But before we climb up on our soapboxes to complain, there is a Part Two, and it concerns what WE can do about our dismal economic future. We all bear some responsibility for Pontiac’s doldrums.
Well, we can encourage tourism and local business by making Pontiac more attractive to visitors and to cottagers. They bring new money in; they create jobs.
We can also make Pontiac a more attractive place to invest in, to bring in business and investment. We do this by showing we are a reliable, optimistic, educated population, with a good work ethic, and which supports its own economy.
We can fix up our properties, our street signs, directional information – making Pontiac look better. We can talk to visitors, give directions, be friendly and out-going. A friendly population draws visitors to the Maritimes. We can have our councils improve signage and maps, beaches, parks and camp-grounds, trails, boat launches, etc.
We ourselves should attend some of the events which attract people here – from the artists’ studio tour to fishing derbies, skidoo and dog races (check the Journal!). This encourages the organizers, and it creates an audience, a critical mass which will keep these events rolling.
We have to be proud – and show it – of our Pontiac, proud of what we do have here, and not only what we’re missing. We have to value our positives: wild scenery, fresh air, forests, lakes and rivers, friendly towns, low crime, modest prices, wildlife, etc. We are optimistic and appreciative.
How about volunteering? And can’t we donate to local causes, too: the food bank, Pontiac scholarship fund, literacy campaigns, school committees, and clean-up drives? This demonstrates our determination to create a better life right here.
In short, we all have to become activists. We’ve been passive too long about our own lives and futures. Show that the Pontiac is engaged. Want to keep the CLSC emergency clinic in Mansfield/Fort Coulonge open? It will only happen if we stop the big-shots who want to close it. Don’t we need better education? Better sports and recreational facilities? Better skills training?
For too long we’ve been manipulated by appeals to artificial divisions: French/English, Quebec/Ontario, municipalities vs municipalities,  Canada/US – look for the puppet strings on all these divisions. We’re being played.
Take your pen and check off your contributions here; add new ones. There’s plenty we ordinary people can do to help ourselves, and we don’t need permission from anyone. Our economic futures, and our kids’ futures, come down to us. Nothing less.

Voting “None of the above”

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

In a democracy we elect politicians on their ability to address problems that beset our society. We make our decisions on the         various platforms and     proposals the candidate has laid out during their campaign. We expect the positions of the candidate to be presented in a clear, direct, and informative manner. Unfortunately, the last    several federal and provincial elections have not followed this script. Instead, candidates have concentrated on personal attacks on opponents, unjustified claims about the malicious intent of other candidates and hollow rhetoric about the current and future realities that beset our society. Two items follow which may assist in rectifying some of the weaknesses in our current system of  electing candidates.
First, there is the question of who is allowed to vote. During the last provincial election, the leader of the PQ claimed there was a threat from out-of-province Anglophones to stack the deck in favour of the Liberal party. It turns out that the issue related to a handful of students at McGill University who thought they were eligible to vote. They were residents of Quebec for more than the six month period stated in the elections act.
However, the claim was made that they were not domiciled in Quebec because, after graduation, they might seek employment outside Quebec. The solution is obvious. Every person who votes must answer: “If, within the next two years, you were offered an employment opportunity that paid significantly more with good benefits and promotion opportunities but required you to move out of the province of Quebec, would you accept this job?” According to the definition of domiciled in Quebec, any person who answered “yes” to this question would not be       eligible to vote in Quebec provincial elections. Unfortunately, only a handful of English-speaking university students were asked this. This is unacceptable.
The second issue relates to those who disagree with all listed candidates andspoil their ballot. This identifies the voter as someone who does not know how to make a proper X on the ballot rather than one who wants to register a protest. The solution is to have each ballot indicate a  “None of the above” option. Of course there is the possibility that “None of the above” would have the most votes. But that is surely the point of the option. “None of the above” is the identified preferred candidate and should be allowed all the privileges of any elected representative.