Pontiac council report - confrontation where cooperation is required
Mo Laidlaw

Over 100 people crowded into the Marcel Lavigne community centre in Luskville for the regular council meeting on 11 March 2014. The draw was an ad in The Equity by the Waterfront Revitalization Committee (WRC) (Comité de revitalisation des berges) about a proposed new community centre for Quyon, suggesting to “voice your disapproval of the position of the current council and demand that they listen to the people.” The stage was set for confrontation.

Mayor Roger Larose remained calm. Speaking only in English he stated the municipality’s position, backed up by handouts with copies of the relevant documents. “It is not council that is against the project, but the infrastructure grant has been turned down by Municipal affairs (MAMROT).” 

Backing this up were letters from MAMROT, Programme d’infrastructures Québec-Municipalités (PIQM). One dated 10 May 2013 stated that: “in order to increase equity and transparency in evaluation and selection of projects ... a new stage had been created for community centres (etc.) ... Your file was transferred to this new stage, but wasn’t high enough priority to receive financial help. However your request will remain active for the next period in the fall.”
[afin d’accroître l’équité et la tranparence dans l’évaluation et la sélection des projets ... le sous-volet 5.1 a été créé pour centres communautaires etc. ... Votre dossier a donc été transféré dans ce nouveau sous-volet. Votre projet ... n’a pas été retenu pour fin d’aide financière ... Toutefois votre demand restera active pour la prochaine période de confirmation qui aura lieu à l’automne prochain.]

The second letter dated 25 October 2013 said “Your project is judged admissible but not high enough priority. Your request is closed. We will evaluate a new request for your project if it includes new elements that will substantially improve it.” 
[... bien que votre projet ait été jugé admissible, il n’a pas atteint un niveau de priorité jugé suffisant. Pour cette raison votre demande sera fermée. Nous serons toutefois disposés à évaluer une nouvelle demande pour votre projet dans la mesure ou celle-ci comportera de nouveaux éléments qui apporteront une bonification substantielle de celui-ci.]

Mr Larose suggested apparent discrepancies between the application and response from MAMROT as reasons for the grant being turned down, which may not be the case. The original budget was for $1.8 million to construct the building, with additional amounts for kitchen and bar equipment, tables and chairs, and professional fees, bringing the total to over $2 million. The first letter stated $1.2 million and the second $1,492,750 as the potential grant. (The maximum grant is 75% for infrastructure, which does not include equipment.) 
http://www.mamrot.gouv.qc.ca/pub/infrastructures/programmes_aide_financiere/PIQM/PIQM_volet5_guide_01.pdf  (PIQM volet 5.) 

Mr Larose said that the municipality should start from scratch and determine exactly what is required by surveying residents. “First we’ll have a meeting, then a survey and finally make decisions. We have to ‘improve’ our request.”

Glen Leach spoke (in English only) on behalf of the WRC. “Why do we need a new study? Why is there no councillor on the WRC?” He threatened to withdraw the $111,000 in the escrow account. 

Bernard Marquis described how it was a dream to build a new community centre. “Now we’re losing the dream,” to which Mr Larose replied: “We’re going to build this. If we’re going to build something we have to do it right. There is a commitment from council to build it.”

Frustration was increasing despite this. Glen Leach asked the audience “Are we satisfied with what we heard tonight?” The response was a loud “No.”

Bill Hamilton of the WRC wanted to ask a further question but was not allowed, because he had not signed the book, and perhaps because the public input had gone on too long. Barrie Marfleet shouted, “He is out of order.” Mr Larose suggested Mr Hamilton ask his question in the public input at the end of the meeting, but most of the crowd left noisily as the regular council meeting started.

At the public input at the end of the meeting Sheila McCrindle said that she was still confused and many in the room were unclear about the community centre file, “an issue that may cause dissension”. She suggested that Mr Larose should address the concerns, and clarify the issue on paper.

Joan Belsher reinforced this position. “The article about Roger and the attack ad from the WRC shows a lack of communication. We have to work together, forget the past and work more positively for the future.”

Jean-Claude Carisse said that he was sad that all the discussion on the “beach barn” was in English. Councillor Amyotte agreed and said that to get support for a project like this it is important to reach both English and French speakers. (Usually council meetings are bilingual).