Plateau Ward: Update from City Councillor Maude Marquis-Bissonette
With less than two years left until the next municipal election, the Aylmer Bulletin has decided to meet with each councillor of the four districts of Aylmer to get their thoughts on the first half of their mandate and their plans for the rest of it.
For Plateau district councillor Maude Marquis-Bissonette, the last two-plus years have been busy. Boasting the largest population in Gatineau, the Plateau district is continuously developing with a number of significant projects hitting the ground or on their way to completion.
Starting her mandate, Marquis-Bissonette’s priorities included enhancing the city’s transportation system and encouraging the use of public transport, making the city’s streets friendly to all transportation types and enhancing family services in the Plateau.
One of the most important aspects of the job was establishing initiatives to make people want to live and stay in the district. “It all goes with the perspective that what we need is to create a community,” she said.
To give residents a place to purchase goods in their backyard, she initiated the Marché du Plateau in collaboration with the local agricultural organization, CBIO, three years ago. “I know people love going there,” she said. “They appreciate it. It’s really appreciated by producers as well. That makes us very proud because it allows us to buy local and eat healthy.”
This spring, a 3,500-square-metre library that is currently being built on rue Bruxelles will open its doors. Although approved before her mandate, Marquis-Bissonette feels grateful for the project’s significance for Plateau residents. “It’s really an infrastructure that will belong to the community, that will continue to create that community and that will serve the people in the Plateau if they desire,” she said.
Once the Parc Central project is complete in a few years, likely including a variety of sports and leisure infrastructure, she expects the Plateau’s offering of family services to be finally fulfilled.
Another project that should make Plateau residents excited is the Village Urbain AGORA, Marquis-Bissonette said. Undertaken by Construction Junic, it is expected to include residential, commercial and business buildings conveniently accessible via all forms of transportation. “It provides shops nearby, offices that will increase the opportunity to work in the neighbourhood, and I’m happy that it’s finally happening because I know it’s been long awaited,” she said. While the project is largely out of the city’s hands, Marquis-Bissonette noted that she has been in frequent contact with developers and that progress is rolling smoothly.
Her biggest concern is whether or not the project provides an area for people to congregate. “We’re looking to ensure that there’s a public space in the Village Urbain,” she said. “We’re looking at how to animate that public space and, again, we want to do it with the perspective that people want to live in their neighbourhoods.”
Another big project coming is Destination Vanier, a commercial project to be built along chemin Vanier that will include a commercial smart centre and residential infrastructure.
Despite providing residents with another nearby errand destinations, Marquis-Bissonette’s issue with Destination Vanier is that it favours the use of vehicles, while the Plateau is ready for something different. “There will be very little room for pedestrians, very little room for green space, and I think we’re at the point of seeing the city creating spaces that are more welcoming for everyone, not just those who are dependent on vehicles,” she said.
For transportation, Marquis-Bissonette believes that the Societé de Transport de l’Outaouais’ (STO) 2.1-billion-dollar project – largest in the city’s history – to build a tramway from the west end of the city extending to the Portage Bridge is the way to go. After an STO study noted that the city’s current bus system couldn’t possibly withstand the passenger load it was predicted to carry over the next 15 years, city council voted in 2018 that implementing a tramway was the optimal solution.
With a number of projects expected to revolutionize the area in the near future, including a multi-ice surface arena to be built west of Canadian Tire, she believes the tramway could be a significant artery for people flowing in and out of the district. “It would serve businesses like Destination Vanier and the Village Urbain AGORA, the proposed multi-ice surface arena and the Mega Centre du Plateau, among others,” she said. “However, its construction should be as environmentally-friendly as possible.”
Still in the planning stages, she’s hopeful that the tramway includes stations in the Plateau to serve its booming population. “The increase in congestion on public transportation in the Plateau is double the level of any other sector in the city,” she said.
A member of the STO’s administrative council, she explained that the new tramways could mitigate the city’s congestion problem, while helping the city in its ongoing battle with climate change. “A tramway would greatly expand the capacity of our roads,” she said. “It fits well into our living environment; it’s quiet; it’s more ecological. It allows a lot more people to take public transportation.”
More details about the tramway project are available on the STO’s website.
Marquis-Bissonette has been an adamant proponent for complete streets – roads that are equally-accessible to all kinds of transportation, including for people with reduced mobility. She wants the city’s urban planning standards to eventually change to reflect the needs of the population, notably by providing more convenient services to cyclists, pedestrians and public transit users. She explained that the city’s current urban planning standards are focused on serving a vehicle-driven population while people, especially in the Plateau, are gradually moving away from that.
“In Gatineau, we have standardized quotes – when we build new streets, we always do it the same way,” she said. “Now, we’re looking at how we can make our roads with more room for pedestrians and for cyclists.”
As the President of the Commission sur le développement du territoire, l’habitation et l’environnement, in April, she intends to propose a policy on complete streets and to review the city’s standard urban planning practices
For the remainder of her mandate, Marquis-Bissonette will focus on the same priorities she started with. Among other things, she hopes to eventually get a pool built in the area and to help the city’s tramway come to fruition.