Friday, July 12, 2024

Death by a thousand cuts

There is opportunity here in the Pontiac. Beautiful landscapes. Natural resources. Wide open spaces. Welcoming communities. Smart people with great ideas. All within easy access to major urban markets.
What a great place to live, work and operate a business!
What doesn’t fit this idyllic picture is news of power outages in the upper Pontiac. We’re not talking about power outages of the usual rural west-Quebec variety that last a few hours or maybe even a day or two. We’re talking about intermittent interruptions over the course of weeks! The kind of power outage that puts people at risk and damages local businesses.
Some say the trouble originates with the hydro generating station in Waltham which apparently has needed repairs for years. Others attribute the problem to the Waltham station being connected to the Ontario power grid which has been undergoing maintenance. Yet another explanation cites the clearing of branches that have fallen on the power lines. Whatever the reason, the outcome is people without power. Again.
And then there’s the recent news of bonuses being offered to medical imaging technicians in hospitals throughout west Quebec to entice them to stay put rather than bolt to higher-paying jobs across the river in Ontario. But someone forgot to offer the same bonuses to staff in the Pontiac hospital, with the immediate result that five of our imaging technicians have applied for jobs elsewhere.
We’re told the technicians won’t likely make their move until the fall, but that’s just 10 weeks away, so not terribly reassuring. When it happens, their departure will deliver a devastating blow to local health care services that are already on life support.
How can we attract more residents and businesses to the Pontiac when we can’t even count on basic services such as health care and hydro to sustain the ones we have? It is difficult enough to make a business succeed in the current economy, and provide jobs for people who live and work here. Throwing more obstacles across our path does not help.
This is against a background where it has already been made abundantly clear that the sort of bilingualism practiced in the Pontiac – where people of good will do their best to communicate with each other and usually succeed – is not welcome in Quebec.
We once had a railway that was our connection with the outside world. It was unceremoniously ripped out without the foresight of what a commuter link could one day mean to a community within an hour of the nation’s capital, leaving us with only a decrepit highway for our trouble.
For anyone trying to make a go of things in the Pontiac, it’s like death by a thousand cuts.
What is going on? Why are vital local services being allowed to languish? Is it simply due to benign neglect? Are we somehow out of sight and therefore out of mind? Do we not matter?
There is great opportunity here in the Pontiac. We are failing to capitalize on it for completely avoidable reasons.
In the hopes of rectifying matters on the health services front, Pontiac’s MNA has met with the minister responsible for Quebec’s treasury board. Similarly, mayors of upper Pontiac municipalities affected by the power outages are meeting with Hydro Quebec this week to discuss solutions.
In both cases, we can only hope a protest over the chronic neglect of the Pontiac is registered in the strongest terms possible.

Charles Dickson


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