Fort-Colounge Nov. 4, 2021
NOTE: Due to an error on our part, THE EQUITY failed to publish a profile on Fort Coulonge mayoral candidate Christine Francoeur in this week’s edition of THE EQUITY, for which we apologize to Madame Francoeur and to our readers to whom we are now able to provide the following article.
After four years on the Fort Coulonge municipal council, Christine Francoeur has decided to take a shot at the top post of mayor.
A life-long resident of Fort Coulonge, Francoeur and her husband of 40 years have raised three children. For the past 33 years, she has worked at the CISSS de l'Outaouais. She is currently in what she calls "pre-retirement," working three days a week, and plans to retire fully in May 2022, freeing up all her time to devote to the community.
During her four years on council, she worked on the parks committee, waste management, recycling and is on the "administrative council" of Tricentris, a recycling firm based in La Chutes, Quebec. She also worked on the Remembrance Day committee, as well as with the Red Cross to organize the accommodation centre during the 2019 floods.
Ms. Francoeur also worked on the inter-municipal community file in collaboration with her counterparts in nearby Mansfield-et-Pontefract to study if it would be feasible to share resources and save money on garbage pickup and recycling.
"We are two villages, but only one community," she said, describing the relationship between Fort Coulonge and Mansfield.
Prior to her time on council, Francoeur volunteered wherever she could. "That is one of the things people tell me, 'you're everywhere,'" she said.
She is particularly proud of her work on Village en Fête, which, unfortunately, has been cancelled for the past two years due to COVID.
According to Francoeur, her first interest and involvement in politics were for purely pragmatic reasons. Roughly five years ago, she explains, she complained to her husband about ongoing problems with waste management in the municipality. Her husband asked, "'Christine, why don't you run for council?'" she said. "And he says, 'this way you'd be able to help them realize new projects."
And so she did. "Instead of complaining at home, I'm going to go over there and help," she said. "I'm a take-charge kind of person."
Francoeur admits she picked a difficult four years to become councillor.
"But I'm enjoying this, it's all just more experience for me," she said. Reflecting on COVID-19 and the 2017 and 2019 floods, she said, "I've learned a lot."
"I would like the people to start coming to meetings. People don't come to meetings," she said, describing how a lack of community engagement has led to misinformation in the municipality about the reasoning behind council decisions.
"I want people to come and get the right information, to ask questions and to help us, because we need help. We do need suggestions," Francoeur said.
"When they leave the meeting, I want them to say, 'okay, now I know why that road wasn't paved.'"
If elected mayor, one of her first objectives is to meet with people directly and address their concerns, one-on-one.
Francoeur wants to create an environment where people feel welcome at council meetings. She intends to invite the public to speak on issues that concern them. She plans to make sure policy issues are the first thing mentioned on the municipality's Facebook page.
Waste management and, in particular, composting are high priorities for Francoeur. The Quebec government has mandated that all municipalities have composting programs in place by 2025. The government has set aside more than $1 billion to help municipalities build their systems. Francoeur wants to consult with the community and get something in place by 2022. There are logistics involved – where to store the material, how to provide the compost to the community, will the municipality need trucks? All these details need to be worked out and that's a top priority for her.
Recycling is also a concern. "People need to realize that the more we recycle, the more money we get back from the government. So, we need to reduce our garbage, it's costing us too much," she said.
"Recycling is cheaper than garbage disposal. I think we are the ones that recycle the best," she said, "but there is always room for improvement."
Water treatment plant
Francoeur described how the current water treatment facility needs a lot of care and attention. She says the council is currently trying to implement a remote monitoring system that will see an immediate cost-benefit in reducing overtime paid to public works employees who now have to monitor the system on-site during the weekend.
She says that, if implemented, the five water pumps could be monitored from a smartphone. A staff member would be on call in case an issue did develop that required direct interaction.
According to Francoeur, the water treatment system had been neglected for quite a few years.
“In this term, we did update it," she says, “but it needs constant maintenance and upkeep, which costs money, and the remote system costs money.” As mayor, Francoeur intends to look for funding opportunities, including grants from the Quebec government.
As in all of THE EQUITY’s profiles of mayoral candidates, each candidate is asked what they think are the top three issues and to explain how they would address them. Francoeur noted, and wanted to remind our readers that, in addition to the three issues discussed above, there are other important issues.
"Just because I mentioned these three, doesn't mean that all other the other projects are not important. It's not that at all. I didn't mention roads, I didn't mention taxation," these are all important issues.”
"Sunday is the last day to vote and we would appreciate everyone coming out and voting," Francoeur said.
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