Will Pontiac’s warden be elected by the public in 2017?

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – During the regular Council of Mayors meeting held
at the MRC building in Campbell’s Bay on September 20, a report detailing the results of an “in-house” study of 14 Quebec MRCs that have elected wardens through universal suffrage (representing about 20% of all Quebec MRCs) was tabled. 

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – During the regular Council of Mayors meeting held
at the MRC building in Campbell’s Bay on September 20, a report detailing the results of an “in-house” study of 14 Quebec MRCs that have elected wardens through universal suffrage (representing about 20% of all Quebec MRCs) was tabled. 
The report, titled “2017 Municipal Elections: Election of a Warden by Universal Suffrage” provides an overview of the 14 MRCs as well as the results of an opinion survey conducted with their management. It also explains why and how the option could be beneficial for the Pontiac.
The issue was first discussed in 2009 when a document which compiled various articles and data concerning universal suffrage was presented to the Council. The current report was a follow up to the general inquiries of the mayors.
According to MRC Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher, the report “speaks for itself”. For the most part, the MRCs that chose universal suffrage are low-populated areas with an income per capita among the lowest in Quebec and no dominant urban core.
“Most of the MRCs had very similar profiles to the Pontiac and all of them said that if given the chance, they would not reverse their decision,” said Durocher. According to the report, the telephone surveys with the MRC’s DGs brought to light certain benefits that are likely to improve governance including the availability of the warden, strengthened leadership and representation, and increased credibility.
Durocher stressed the benefit of having a full-time warden who is able to focus all of their attention on matters relating to the MRC. However, universal suffrage does come with a significantly higher price tag than the Pontiac’s current method; in addition to the election costs of $80,000 to $100,000 every four year term, ($1.50-$1.75 per resident, per year), the average full-time warden’s salary runs from $60,000 to $70,000 compared to the $34,800 the Pontiac’s warden currently receives.
“Universal suffrage would improve [the Pontiac’s] efficiency and accountability and facilitate the seizing of opportunities such as, for example, the Biomass Conversion Centre. However, status quo is just as valid if universal suffrage doesn’t fit into a
regional vision of governance, if we do not define why and how to do it,” says the report’s conclusion.
The report states the decision should be accompanied by other actions such as
creating a strategic communications plan; updating Vision 2020 to improve the MRC’s accountability; and promoting public participation in the democratic life of the Pontiac.
A decision must be made before May 2017 in order to be used for the November 2017 election. Once made, the decision is irreversible. If the MRC Pontiac makes the shift, it will be the second to do so in the Outaouais. The full report is available on the MRC’s website.