Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Act locally

La Fédération québécoise des municipalités (FQM) has unveiled its priorities for the upcoming provincial election.
The list released by the municipal lobbying group include some interesting policies, ranging from calls for greater devolution of power from the provincial government to the regional and local level, to asking for bold action to alleviate the housing crisis in the province through building local social housing units, to encouraging immigration into the regions and mobilizing municipalities to fight climate change by focusing on public transportation and green infrastructure, among other concerns.
THE EQUITY covers a lot of issues that seem beyond the control of anyone in the Pontiac, which can be frustrating. Certain decisions that are going to be made at the provincial or federal level aren’t going to be made with the Pontiac’s interests in mind simply because it’s too small and not rich enough to matter.
That’s why the call by FQM's for greater local autonomy is so compelling. The people of the Pontiac could already make a big difference in the region by organizing at the local level, and that potential would grow if they were empowered.
Despite the ongoing provincial election, it is important to emphasize that the most direct and often most effective way we govern ourselves is at the local level. Everyone uses the roads, everyone has to live with the zoning and building decisions made by municipal officials and everyone relies on emergency services like the fire department.
Most mayors and town councillors are far more accessible than the MNA or MP, municipal and the MRC hold public meetings once a month and there are a variety of organizations operating at the local level, meaning that opportunities to get involved to make a real difference are abundant.
Quebec City is far away, but the MRC building in Campbell’s Bay is within an hours drive of almost everyone in the Pontiac (Rapides-des-Joachims being the exception).
Now granted, local government is only as responsive as people make it. Local governments can be given as much power and money as possible and it still might not make as big an impact if average people aren’t there to hold their representatives accountable and help guide resources to where they need to be.
Instead of fretting over the decisions made in the National Assembly, where Pontiac’s influence is limited to one MNA, maybe it’s time to start thinking strategically about how the community can maximize its own position where it counts.
For example, the Pontiac could lead the country in sustainable forestry and agricultural practices; it could develop towns that, unlike the rest of the country, aren’t dotted with ugly suburbs and strip malls; it could focus on creating a lifestyle that consciously differentiates itself from the stressful lives people live elsewhere.
The money currently being dispersed to the MRC by the province to vitalize the Pontiac described in this weeks story $2.5 million to be given out for projects across MRC on page 1 represents a useful experiment on how regions like the Pontiac can shape its future on its own terms. This money can make a big difference in bringing back the region if used smartly.
It’s time that Pontiacers take their future in their own hands. There’s a lot holding the region back, but there’s also a lot of potential. By thinking locally and pushing for more local decision making, Pontaciers could turn the situation around very quickly.
Get creative and start thinking locally.

Brett Thoms


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