CHIP 101.9 met (virtually) the Warden of the MRC Pontiac, Jane Toller, to ask her some questions on the important topics of 2021.
How do you see 2021 unfold?
JT : I think that it is difficult to predict what will happen in 2021 in terms of the continuing impact of the pandemic. As we approach another period of lockdown, it is very important to know that these measures are necessary to save lives and also to stop the virus and allow the vaccinations to be effective. We are so fortunate in the Pontiac to not have lost a life and I hope that will continue. I hope that we will notice a significant difference in the spring.I am optimistic about many things. I hope to hear good news about our internet expansion funding, Energy Davidson, the energy from waste facility and the re-opening of obstetrics. I am concerned about our existing businesses and we need to support all local businesses in a bigger way. We are attracting people and small businesses to our region because people feel safe here. I believe our population is increasing based on land sales and house construction.
It is the fourth year in my term as the elected warden and I have focused on my eleven priorities for the Pontiac. I will work hard to complete as many of them as possible this year.
You mentioned last December that high speed Internet accessibility was a priority, do you think progress can be made this year?
JT : The expansion of high-speed internet and cellular service is the most important priority in the Pontiac as it is necessary to attract new residents and investors. When I was first elected our director general and I attended an FQM meeting in Quebec City. I learned there that other regions in Quebec had increased their fibre optic network to completely cover their region eliminating all ‘no service’ areas. They also partnered with a communications company which created a revenue stream for the MRC to fund major projects. We decided to do the same. As a result, MRC Pontiac, with MRC Vallee de la Gatineau, CHSBO and WQSB hired a consultant who has guided us to submit a $57 million dollar proposal to the CRTC. We expect to hear in the next few months and anticipate a positive response. The roll-out of improved service will take 2 ½ years.
How do you think will happen at the meeting on the forestry industry that will take place on January 16?
JT : The planned conference for the Council of Mayors for January 16th will probably need to be rescheduled due to the proposed restrictions of gatherings. The meeting needs to be a face-to-face meeting of the mayors rather than a zoom or virtual call. I am excited about it as forestry is another major priority and the Pontiac needs to become active in forestry for revitalization. There are many former mill sites many of which still have equipment standing. I have worked closely with Energy Davidson and we hope to have the results of a recent study conducted by MEI which we hope will be a positive response for the cogeneration and white pine saw mill. Our meeting will involve presentations, the sharing of information and updates as well as our regional action plan which will be multi-faceted. We will present the final outcome to the people of the Pontiac.
In your position, you have to work with the provincial government, yes we have André Fortin but with the current government in place, how do you describe your relationship with the Coalition Avenir Québec?
JT :I work closely with Andre Fortin (Liberal Party) but as you have indicated, it is another party currently in power in Quebec and I need to have a strong relationship with them as well. I have worked to develop this with Mathieu Lacombe’s (Minister of the Outaouais) office, Minister Dufour (Minister of Forestry), Josee Filion with the CISSSO. I have good communication and support from the other Outaouais wardens as well.
Obstetrics and all health services are receiving attention, do you have expectations from the CISSSO and its representatives?
JT : I have been working hard to re-open the obstetrics department at the Pontiac Hospital. I created a committee of MRC and CISSSO and we have been meeting every two weeks. We asked for a pilot study to address the need for equality of salary of Ontario and Quebec. I believe that we will be successful achieving this. There is a delay as the negotiations are currently taking place province-wide with the nurses’ union.
2021 is an election year, have you thought about your political future?
JT : 2021 is a municipal election year. I have initiated some big projects, in particular,the Pontiac Aqua Gym, the opportunity to host an energy-from-waste facility here in the Pontiac and particular forestry initiatives. To ensure that these important projects move forward properly I may seek a second term. It was very important to me to establish transparency and trust on behalf of the MRC Pontiac so that we could better serve the residents of the Pontiac. It has been a challenging term with the Flood of 2019 and Covid in 2020 and still with us. In spite of this the MRC Pontiac has worked diligently to accomplish many priorities.
What can we do for you in 2021?
JT : The best way the people of the Pontiac can support me with the work ahead is to understand that I have a vision for where the Pontiac needs to go to become revitalized and prosperous. I ask for positive enthusiasm and confidence that we are moving forward with momentum. I am so proud of the efforts everyone has made through Covid-19 and we will continue to be a safe region compared to others less fortunate. I ask everyone to be proud of the Pontiac and have faith and believe that we are advancing. The Premier and his government are releasing six million dollars to help us with our progress in the next 5 years. I would like to see more communication in all of the municipalities and more engagement on behalf of the residents volunteering for committees and presenting themselves for the next election. We need energetic involvement from as many people as possible. I am excited about what we can do! Together Pontiac!