Following the discussion between the candidates for warden in MRC Pontiac, Jane Toller and Mike McCrank, at the Club De L’Age D’Or in Fort Coulonge on October 21, CHIP 101.9 asked both some additional questions off-camera. The topics concerned the possible amalgamation of smaller municipalities in the MRC, options for tourism and the use of French by the council of mayors.
The amalgamation of certain smaller municipalities is a topic that often comes up during election season, as the MRC has roughly 14,000 year-round residents but is represented by 18 mayors and 106 councillors. A feasibility study performed by Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and Co. was presented at the MRC in February 2013, which recommended that “the status quo is no longer a realistic option”. The report noted that MRC Pontiac had 8.7 elected officials per 1,000 residents, compared to the provincial average at that time of between 0.6 and 1.
McCrank said that the decision ultimately lay with the citizens of the municipality, not elected officials.
Toller said that she knew the issue had been studied in the past, and added that the expansion of shared services made sense.
While tourism was discussed during the filmed discussion, the conversation mainly revolved around cycling and snowmobiling on the PPJ trail as well as ATVs.
Toller said that she would like to see more investment in accommodations, so that tourists would have more options to stay overnight in the area. She also said that she was hopeful for the possible park created in the Lafontaine Islands, near L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet.
McCrank said that the dogsledding was one example of niche tourism attractions that could bring people to the Pontiac.
Language at MRC meetings
The issue of language was briefly touched upon during the on-camera discussion, with the mention of Bill 96, the provincial government’s massive overhaul of language laws. The MRC recently completed a petition asking the government to maintain services for English-speakers and not place restrictions on small businesses. A statement read before every MRC meeting encourages everyone to speak in their preferred language, however the discussion is almost exclusively English. Both candidates said that they were in favour of increased bilingualism at the regional council.
McCrank said that he would like to see additional French spoken at MRC meetings, adding that every citizen had a right to be served in the language of their choice.
Toller said that she would be in favour of increasing the amount of French spoken at MRC meetings, and noted how much her own French had improved over the course of four years.