Provincial elections: plea for the return of powers in Abitibi-Témiscamingue | Elections Quebec 2022

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ÉProvincial elections : plea for the return of power in Abitibi-Témiscamingue | ÉQuebec 2022 elections

Several political actors denounce the merger of regional directorates of certain ministries with those of other regions.

In recent years, Abitibi-Témiscamingue has seen several decision-making bodies and management positions migrate to major centres.

Less than two weeks before the election of the next provincial government, this phenomenon of centralization, where decisions concerning the region are made in Montreal, Quebec or Gatineau, is denounced in unison by the local governments as well as by the candidates in the riding of Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue.

For the prefect of Témiscamingue, Claire Bolduc, the regional departments of the ministries represent an essential tool in order to clearly identify the needs and issues present in the territory. However, fewer of them are established in the region.

Claire Bolduc claims, for example, more local governance for health decisions.

The regional offices are an antenna in the community, to explain the realities of the community when decisions have to be made in Quebec. When we no longer have these branches, how are the issues explained so that we understand the impact of the decisions made in Quebec? asks the prefect.

Having already identified the decentralization of powers as a central issue of the campaign, the president of the Chamber of commerce and industry of Rouyn-Noranda (CCIRN), David Lecours, returns to the charge. He reiterates that the departures of regional directors and the merger of regions with different realities lead to bad decisions being made for the development of Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Recently, Hydro-Québec decided to merge the position of head of community relations with Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Concretely, this means that if you have a mining development project, you will contact someone who will be from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, who does not know our realities in terms of mining electricity needs, he cites as an example.

The Administrative Center of Hydro-Québec, in Rouyn -Noranda.

In addition to the lack of knowledge of the realities of the territory and the implementation of solutions that do not meet the needs of the region, Claire Bolduc notes that centralization has the effect of demobilizing potential agents of change.

We say, “We know the situation, trust us.” We have already proven many times in the local governments that we are, in the municipal sector, we have already proven our ability to act, our effectiveness in acting. So why not trust us?, asks Ms. Bolduc.

“The provincial government can give the main objectives on the issues, but what he leaves us the means to act. »

— Claire Bolduc

According to David Lecours, who regrets hearing so little about the regions during the campaign, the sinews of war is funding.

David Lecours, President of the Rouyn Chamber of Commerce and Industry -Noranda.

We are asking more and more things from our cities, our municipalities and our RCMs and we are not funding them more, that is a problem. We know that in Rouyn-Noranda, we are a city-MRC, it is unique in Quebec with our large territory. We need more funding because cities are increasingly solicited by citizens, by business people, and need additional money, he argues.

While many issues divide the candidates for the election in Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue, the repatriation of powers and decision-making bodies to the region is among everyone's priorities. The differences lie rather in the way of going about it so that Abitibi-Témiscamingue regains greater autonomy.

According to the outgoing MP and candidate for Québec solidaire, Émilise Lessard-Therrien, the crisis that the region is going through in several sectors is not unrelated to the loss of these decision-making levers in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Émilise Lessard-Therrien, candidate for Québec solidaire in Rouyn-Noranda -Témiscamingue

For the candidate, it will be in the middle of defining which model of governance will make it possible to restore power to local decision-makers.

Yes, there is the Regional Conference of elected officials, there are many who talk to me about the CRDAT. Is it one or the other of these structures that must be found? Is it a mix of the two? At the Regional Conference of Elected Officials, some would say that citizens weren't seated around the table as much as with the CRDAT, so I think we need to free up money, first, and offer this project to the population of Abitibi-Témiscamingue so that we define together what is the model that will correspond to us, she stipulates.

In the Quebec Liberal Party, candidate Arnaud Warolin relies on the Charter of Regions, a major element of the Liberal program, to demonstrate the importance the party places on decentralization.

Whether in the ministries or in the consultation bodies, it is a central element in enabling equitable development between the regions. Today, as we can see, we had promised a decentralization of positions. What we see is a centralization of powers. We see something that is not at all adapted to the context of the territories, he said, referring to the results of the Coalition avenir Québec.

Arnaud Warolin, Quebec Liberal Party candidate in Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue

The Liberal Party proposes to provide each region of Quebec with a secretariat and an appointed deputy minister. As for him, the Parti Québécois wants to create a Ministry of Regional Development.

It is a ministry which will take care of helping to develop the regions, which will be transversal and which will be relocated to the regions, explains the candidate Jean-François Vachon. These are people who will be in contact with all the other ministries who will be able to adapt the programs to the specificities of our regions. You can't make a program the same way in Montreal, in Rouyn-Noranda and even between Rouyn-Noranda and Témiscamingue.

Jean-François Vachon, Parti Québécois candidate in Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue

According to Jean-François Vachon, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) are to blame for the centralization observed in recent years.

At the CAQ, the candidate Daniel Bernard acknowledges that more regional offices were present in Abitibi-Témiscamingue at the start of his first term as Liberal MP in 2003.

Although he does not support this move of decision-making bodies to major centers, he believes that it is possible to advance the files with the actors currently in place.

The important thing, it is not because the director is in the Outaouais that I am not able to do my job as an elected official. Each department still has a resource person here in Rouyn-Noranda for Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The most important point for success [is that] you have to work with the elected and the people in place, he says.

Daniel Bernard, candidate for the Coalition avenir Québec in Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue

Daniel Bernard nevertheless wishes to recall the intentions of the Coalition avenir Québec regarding decentralization in the health sector.

The first point on which I am really happy, the one that affects us the most, is in terms of health. Minister [Christian] Dubé has already announced a decentralization here to bring decisions back to the health sector. I'm happy with that because it's our most critical sector where we have the most needs, he observes.

For the candidate of the Conservative Party of Quebec, Robert Daigle, the decentralization of decisions in the health sector will not be sufficient.

We can't talk about chaos, but the wheel is not turning round. I think the regions are best placed to decide what is best for them. The problem we have is that both in terms of health and infrastructure, everything goes through Quebec, it's downright disconnected from reality.

Robert Daigle, candidate for the Conservative Party of Quebec in Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue (archives)

According to Mr. Daigle, it is important to bring decision-making places back to the regions.

We must repatriate these decision-making powers, at the level of health, ministries, roads, agriculture, forestry and mining. We must repatriate all these powers, it is clear and it is a priority at the level of the Conservative Party, he ends.

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