Pontiac MNA André Fortin has filed an online petition to prevent provincial forest firefighting service SOPFEU from moving management staff from its base in Maniwaki to Val-d’Or.
“Well, first of all ... there are a lot of people in the Pontiac who work at SOPFEU, who have been working at SOPFEU for years,” he said (tr.). “Second, SOPFEU is an important organization for the Pontiac to protect our forests from forest fires. And, SOPFEU, being based in Maniwaki, they serve the entire Outaouais region well and for me, it is something that is important to preserve this protection. If one day SOPFEU, that is to say the general management and subsequently other parts of SOPFEU, were to move to Val-d’Or, well, that could have an impact on the quality of service that is received in the region, thus the protection of our forests.”
In the spring of 2021, Pontiac Warden Jane Toller gave her support to Vallée-de-la-Gatineau in opposing this restructuring.
Union thanks Fortin
Following this filing, Unifor, which represents the workers of the SOPFEU base in Maniwaki, welcomed the filing of this petition.
“ I would like to thank MNA André Fortin who took our cause on his shoulders and agreed to submit the petition. Especially since our own MNA, Robert Bussière, did not even agree to do so on behalf of the people of his riding," said Renaud Gagné, Quebec director of Unifor (tr.).
Since the beginning of this affair, the union, whose leader is a member of the emergency committee for the safeguard of the base, has opposed the management move.
“We not only denounce the merits of this decision, but we are also shocked by the process. Everything was done on the sly and without any real consultation. While we were told in the spring that the move was on hold for the fire season, in fact, the process continued behind our backs,” the union leader said (tr.).
The union unsuccessfully demanded the intervention of the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour and his government in this matter to reverse the decision of the members of the SOPFEU board of directors.
“Elected officials must stop hiding behind SOPFEU’s board and have the decision reversed. We hope that today’s intervention will make the members of the National Assembly realize the mistake made in this case and that they will in turn put pressure on the CAQ government,” Gagné concluded (tr.).
The full (French-language) interview with Fortin is available here.