Monday, July 15, 2024
Letters to the Editor

Facing this together

Dear Editor,
The Pontiac has faced its share of uphill struggles over the years. The closing of major forestry sector employers, severe droughts which handicapped our agricultural sector, 100-year floods which uprooted many families, the list goes on and on. Our people, our towns have survived, coming together to form as tight-knit a community as there is.
Today, we face a whole other challenge. One that obviously can threaten the individual health of hundreds of our citizens. One that is also, already, wreaking havoc on our small businesses, and as such, on the employment of most citizens in the area.
The public health challenge we can deal with. If, as citizens, we all follow the established recommendations. If we take this matter seriously, with the help of our ever-caring and dedicated healthcare professionnals, we can beat this deadly virus and in time return to our normal lives. But the seriousness of this cannot be underestimated. Think about this:
All schools and daycares are closed.
Important surgeries are being cancelled.
Seniors’ residences are closed to family members.
Shopping malls, restaurants, barber shops can no longer welcome customers.
Everyone over 70 is asked to stay home.
In our lifetime, we have never witnessed such a situation. That alone should tell you just how severe the risks are.
But there is another major risk to our region. Our economy is built on small business. Many have already closed their doors and laid off their workers. Others have minimal revenue coming in and are operating with a skeleton crew. People who have never in their life been unemployed will have to ask for government assistance.
Of course, federal and provincial governments have announced major programs to help both workers and businesses. Speeding up access to employment insurance (EI), deferred payments on Hydro bills and on certain government-backed loans, grants to help pay a portion of employees salaries, etc. More is to be announced shortly. But it won’t be enough. It simply can’t be.
More than ever, local businesses need our support. The local pharmacies and grocery stores. Garages. Retail. Our restaurants who still offer take-out. Local producers. Those who are lucky enough to have a stable income can help our neighbours and friends get through this. Pontiacers are strong, resilient and community-minded. It’s time once again to show it.
PS. For information on any and all government programs, contact my office at 819-648-7070. Please do not hesitate. We are here to help.

André Fortin
Member for Pontiac, Quebec Liberal Party

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