Dear residents of the Pontiac,
As many of you are probably already aware, the Premier of Quebec announced last week that restaurants could reopen at limited capacity and that sports and recreational activities could resume for our youth as of yesterday, January 31st. The second phase of relaxations, which includes relief for places of worship and public events (such as theaters and cinemas), will begin on Monday, February 7. Today, the Premier announced that gyms and spas will be allowed to reopen at half capacity as of Feb. 14, along with sports and artistic activities for groups of up to 25 people. Legault also announced that his government will not go ahead with the proposed tax on the unvaccinated as he believes it has caused too much division amongst the Quebec population.
Recently, I have been approached by several media outlets both locally and from outside our region to ask about the low vaccination rate in the Pontiac. As of today we have the lowest rate in the Outaouais and one of the lowest rates in Quebec, especially for the age group of 25 to 34. I believe that this can be explained for a number of reasons, the main one being that the Pontiac is such a vast territory with 18 municipalities and only 1 designated vaccination clinic in Campbell’s Bay. I am very grateful to the pharmacies in Mansfield and Shawville who are offering vaccinations as well, but I believe our region would greatly benefit from more mobile clinics coming to the area. I have asked the CISSSO to organize more mobile clinics in several municipalities and for us to have at least a week’s notice to inform the population of their arrival. Recently, a mobile clinic visited the municipality of Rapides-des-Joachims where more than 80 people, which is more than half of the municipality’s population, were vaccinated. I truly believe that making the vaccine more accessible to the population will help increase our rate. In the meantime, I am encouraging everyone to please book their appointments at our local clinic, whether it be for your first, second or third dose. If you have any concerns or questions about the safety or efficiency of the vaccine, I ask that you please speak with your family doctor or call the COVID-19 helpline by dialing Info-Santé 811.
I want to express that although we have one of the lowest vaccination rates, I am very proud of the Pontiac residents who have been so vigilant and committed to keeping our cases low. The vigilance of residents distancing and wearing masks has been commendable and, as of today, I am not aware of any deaths in our region that have been directly associated to COVID-19. This is unfortunately not the case in many other regions in the Province, and I am very proud of the commitment and sacrifices the Pontiac population has made to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe throughout this pandemic. I know that people are tired but we must continue to work together to get through this difficult time.
This past week, we had a very informative meeting of the Flood Prevention Task Force where we discussed our strategies for ensuring that our water levels stay low during the upcoming spring melt. We also discussed the current flooding issues that several residents in the municipality of Waltham are currently experiencing. We are truly hoping that the level of the Black River will start to lower in the coming days. This committee plans to meet monthly to discuss and plan for any potential signs of high water levels in our region throughout the winter and spring period. We will be keeping the population informed on any developments in this regard.
Another very important and exciting committee that will resume its activities soon is the Waste Management Committee, which is made up of representatives of all 18 municipalities and MRC staff. Through this committee we are hoping to move our focus away from landfill and will be working on numerous strategies to reduce the amount of waste we are currently trucking to Lachute. One of these strategies is our initiative to host an Energy from Waste facility on our territory. We are currently in competition with the other regions of the Outaouais for the choice of location, and the technology has yet to be selected. We are expecting that a final decision will be made by the Conférence des Préfets de l’Outaouais (CPO) by the end of next year. I personally have been working very hard on this file alongside our MRC staff Energy from Waste committee who meet regularly to discuss our progress. I believe this will be the easiest way for us to save over a million dollars from our waste management budget, which should result in an eventual tax decrease for our residents. This project would also create 50 local jobs. Pontiac residents can expect for there to be public consultations on this project in the near future.
In February, I am also hoping to hold the first meeting of our MRC Pontiac youth council. After receiving recommendations for councillors from the Council of Mayors, we have selected half of our council so far. I am still looking for 9 candidates to join, and am asking that any youth between the ages of 13 to 18 who are interested in local politics to please reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 819-647-8198. The meetings will be held once a month, most likely via ZOOM to start. This council is very important because it gives a platform to our local youth to discuss issues and initiatives that are close to their hearts.
Next week, we will be hosting our plenary meeting of the MRC Regional Council of Mayors. As we are still hosting our meetings virtually, a form will be posted on the MRC website for members of the public to submit their questions for the public question period. This form will be active on the MRC website as of next Tuesday, Feb 8th at noon.
Please remember to look for weekly COVID-19 updates on my Warden Jane Toller Facebook page. I want to thank you all once again for working together and staying vigilant during this difficult time. Together Pontiac!