Power in Numbers
Ian Barrett, Guest editorialist
The civic engagement of Aylmerites is well known. This involvement can be joining local groups and committees, keeping our councillors informed as to the community’s wants and needs, or simply using forums like the Bulletin to air our opinions. Although city hall may occasionally feel that this makes Aylmer more challenging to deal with, our engagement makes our community a better place.
Perhaps the most significant victory that we’ve seen recently was over the wetlands around the corner of Lucerne Boulevard and Fraser Street. The city seemed quite determined to develop this area, much to the frustration of those already living there. Yet those residents created a very well organized movement, and attracted several hundred people from all over the region to a demonstration against the city’s plans. Within a day of the demonstration members of the council who had been planning to vote in favour of the development had changed their minds. The power of community activism was on full display.
Yet there are other subjects that have residents very frustrated but haven’t attracted the same level of organization. Chief amongst them is the over-densification of Aylmer given our insufficient road infrastructure. Many look on in dismay as more and more condos go up in our neighbourhoods while our roads get ever more congested. We ask ourselves why the city doesn’t focus its densification efforts entirely on Hull instead, an area that requires residents to commute much less on average. But complaints come individually. If we speak in unison the city would be more likely to truly listen to our concerns.
Several of us also tried to persuade the city to improve its offer for Place des Pionniers, and to reconsider demolition because it was both unnecessary and wasteful. We provided official reports from previous Gatineau administrations showing that the current building could be brought up to code for less than 20% of the cost of demolition and reconstruction. We also sent the city petitions signed by several hundred people asking for a better deal. In addition to savings of more than $30M, we would have had five floors instead of the planned three for the replacement. But despite our best efforts, there just weren’t enough people regularly involved to influence the city’s plans. Now we’re heading into a major construction project at a moment when the industry is overheated like never before. Costs are likely to explode even further.
We should keep in mind that many voices in unison are very effective, and that we can indeed influence the city’s plans for our neighbourhoods if we are sufficiently organized. We should all watch for movements promoting ideas that we believe in, and lend a hand in promoting them. The city has shown that it will listen if enough people voice their concerns, and do so loudly. Strategic engagement now means we’ll be much happier with how our neighbourhood develops tomorrow.
Note: Last week I referred to conflicts between residents and the city over Agora. I meant to refer to Destination Vanier and the clear-cutting of the trees in that area. Apologies for the confusion.