Aylmer on councillors’ minds: January 21 city council wrap-up
The January 21 city council meeting opened with the Societé Nationale Québécoise de l’Outaouais presenting a Québec flag to Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, in honour of Québec flag day. “Our flag’s colours represent our solidarité, fraternité and our joie de vivre (our solidarity, brotherhood and joy in life).”
Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin announced, “Another busy year. Right now we’re working on climate change, on a tramway, on public transportation and the consequences of recent flooding. We’re coming up with a new policy on climate change, and citizen support is essential.” Councillor Audrey Bureau mentioned work on the Boucher Forest. “Things have been done since the creation of the Boucher Forest Foundation. We are planning a park for 2021; there will be public consultations on this next October. We aim to preserve green space and biodiversity. Property taxes have risen because of the recent flooding; we will be working with the province and l’Union de Municipalités de Québec to acquire more funding. The biggest issue facing the city is climate change.”
Councillor Mike Duggan said, “The dog park near the Paul Pelletier swimming pool will be moving to Allen Park this summer. We will be adopting new techniques, wind turbines and other innovations to save electricity. The Boucher Forest should be a place of learning and ecology and protecting green spaces is a priority.”
Masson-Angers Councillor Marc Carrière expressed condolences to the family of Maurice Bourbonnais, a “well-respected businessman in Masson-Angers; he was very active in the community, particularly in creating the Ottawa Senators Rink. Perhaps the Toponomy Committee can look into this.” He also announced the “Soirée chasse-manique” for fishermen and hunters, to be held at the Angers Community Centre on February 15. “There will be films and amazing photos. Look at my Facebook page for more information.” He also announced a public consultation on flooding for next November 27.
During Question Period, many asked about the planned demolition of the Place des Pionniers, which currently houses the Aylmer’s library. Sylvie l’Hugo said, “Over 1,500 people responded to a questionnaire last June, but council voted to demolish the Place without consultation. We ask for a real public consultation before it is too late.” Micheline Lemieux added, “You plan to demolish it at a cost of $44 million, $5 million of which will be to get rid of five storeys of bricks.
This is especially egregious since there is a study that provides 400 pages of ways to renovate and refurbish it that will give us a bigger library, with space for community organizations. Consider a green roof made of plants? The plan includes work from home stations. A renovated building will affect local businesses in a positive way and free up money to protect the Boucher Forest, 100% of which the public deserves to own, not just 70%. Ian Barat added, “In the last Bulletin, Audrey Bureau made an excellent point that the Boucher Forest development plan was adopted in 2015. We can return to that plan and follow the wishes of the people. If we can follow their wishes, keep money for the Boucher Forest, and make a better place for less money, why not?”
Councillor Duggan responded, “We will have public consultation soon. But the Lucy-Faris library is far too small for the sector. We need a library that is three times bigger.” Councillor Cédric Tessier, representing Hull-Wright, added, “We have studied this at length and determined it cannot simply be renovated. It won’t be usable or have adequate square footage. This building, from the beginning, was poorly-conceived. There are areas that are completely unused. It has become a burden on the sector, an albatross. The consultations and construction will take two years, not five.”
BOUCHER FOREST: 100% PROTECTED! SAY CITIZENS
Ian Corbeau, the president of the Boucher Forest Foundation, said, “We have great news. There were over 1,500 people who signed a petition demanding that 100% of the forest be protected. We are worried that council will instead decide to protect only 75% or even less.” Véronique Corbeil added, “Protecting the Boucher Forest is investing in our natural, ecological heritage. The forest acts like a big sponge. As we lose more green space and forest to development, we have more flooding, every year. There is a domino effect. We also need to better manage our water and sewer drainage system, to avoid flooding and the loss of land in Wychwood and le Plateau.”
The mayor responded, “We had an excellent plan to conserve 75% of the forest, with an extraordinary park even bigger than the Mont-Royal Park in Montreal. This will be a real jewel in the western part of the city. In principle, I was for 100%, but there are other issues at play. People have the right to make a profit and they also have the right to safeguard and protect forested land. I spoke to Montreal and the UMQ; we’ve taken concrete steps to showcase this special land.”
AYLMER AS A MICROCOST OF SOCIETY: WEALTHY, IMPOVERISHED
Many showed up to discuss the needs of the Front Street Community Centre. Yannick Boulet of the Centre Communautaire Entre-Nous said, “We need to have the space enlarged. We have a lot of activities going on—day camp, a daycare, classes for children, a collective kitchen, parent-child days, singing classes, all free or at reduced prices. There are 4,800 people who use the centre on a regular basis, even more during the holidays. We are located in a less-well-off area of Aylmer, one of the two lowest; the other is in Deschênes. There are 25% on the threshold of the lowest incomes in Canada; 16% of the area’s residents don’t have a diploma or studies and immigrant families account for 15%. We have a lot of great activities planned but absolutely no space to accommodate them. Our plans will include a multi-purpose room that will suit us.”
Marie-Pierre Paris said, “I have used the centre since I had my first-born; I now have four children. We started with games for children up to five; these activities give mothers, who are often isolated, a chance to support each other. The collective kitchen allows families to get healthy meals at low prices, and the girls’ meetings give young women a chance to share and talk about big things in their lives, like the beginning of high school. A young woman named Caroline said she represented l’Ami des Jeunes, a gathering place for 12-17 year-olds who are homeless or at risk of becoming so. “After two major fires at the Maison au Pic, we had to shut the doors. The Centre Communautaire Entre-Nous could accommodate us. We need a space that responds to the needs of adolescents facing poverty (along with normal teen issues.” Jonathan Campeau added, “L’Ami des jeunes really helped me when I was a teenager with a huge drug problem. Today, I am proud to be an administrator of l’Ami des jeunes. I am here for the teens of today and tomorrow facing the same problems I had.”
Councillor Bureau agreed. “The neighbourhood is in Ward One, which is facing many challenges: the needs of teens, space for a collective kitchen and sports activities, and many others. The rate of usage is 99.95%, seven days a week. Council reserved some money in the past but it is not enough. In February, we will formally ask the province for financing.” The mayor added, “This is a file I take quite seriously.”
John Savage asked about canoeing and kayaking. “I come back here every two years. There was a petition; 80% of residents want docks for paddling and rowing. The dock we have is dangerous by any standards. I’ve studied other cities; Vancouver is amazing in this regard. This has given me a new hobby. I am sometimes called to give tours of the river. I point out this area as an example of how not to design a water front. The city has so poorly managed the waterfront and flooding that property values have plummeted.” Ironically, Mr. Savage is “underwater” on his mortgage, meaning that his “property value is so low I can’t even sell it for the mortgage value. A healthy city, which Gatineau claims to want, is more than just bikes and running paths. Some people, like me, face physical problems running and need canoeing or kayaking to exercise. I also have to bring in, at physical risk to me, sandbags to my house to stop flooding. Councillor Myriam Nadeau answered, “We want access for everyone; that’s why we made it publicly-owned instead of private. We have one dock for the entire public and one for those who own property near the water. Unfortunately, you don’t qualify as a property owner.”
One of the last citizens read from a book, “La transition: C’est maintenant (Change Starts Now).” Perhaps befuddled by the young man’s reading from a book and taking several polls, several councillors did not raise their hands when he finally asked, “Do you believe in democracy?” Or perhaps they were too tired, by that point in the evening, to do so.