Once upon a time, Témiscamingue!
By Claire Bolduc, agronomist and Reeve of the MRC of Témiscamingue
Elected in November 2017 and now settled into my new role as Reeve of the MRC of Témiscamingue, I wish to share my view of our part of the country. I want to talk to you about my territory, the one I inhabit, but above all, the one that inhabits me.
Its name originates from Native culture and means deep water.
It is 16,420 km2 of land of which 95% is covered in lakes and forests. It is breathtaking scenery, beautiful, calm sites, and a national park in the making: the Parc national Opémican. It is 19 municipalities, two unorganized territories, four Algonquin communities, and 16,362 inhabitants. There are no mines now, although there have been in the past. There is much agriculture, some forestry, and inventive and innovating manufacturing companies. And most of all, its greatest wealth is its people.
It is a unique environment and happy place. And I wish above all that our difference be recognized, including our right to prosperity.
I live on the Ontario border. Unfortunately regulations in force and bureaucracy do not give us access to this market that is promising on several levels. My territory lives on agriculture, but has no slaughterhouse. For some the closest is in Montréal, and for others it is in Ontario. My MRC is seeing many of its services slowly disappear and it dreams of genuine recognition and of support for its differences.
Témiscamingue’s history, its incredible wealth in terms of resources, and its struggles to live from them do not mean we must resign. We can change the course of things, and I want to be a part of it!
Living in and contributing to the promotion of this wonderful region is for me a privilege. It is also a great responsibility. It is indeed my duty to be attentive to the signs of change, regardless of where it happens and even if it seems far away. I cannot ignore the economic distortions that disturb us, nor can I ignore our demographic challenges.
That is why it appears important to establish and implement, together, a real vision of the future and of our territory’s development. A vision, not only for our elected officials, but one for all our communities. In my eyes, it is crucial!
Already, change is taking place!
To truly bring about this change, for it to be in line with our dreams of prosperity for our 19 municipalities, our two unorganized territories, and our four Algonquin communities, we must stop focusing on our limitations and start looking at the abundance of opportunities offered to us. Current reflections on the agricultural and forestry models, openings on the energy front, and new technologies are development levers our communities must exploit, provided we can design a variety of distinctive actions. Each area of the territory, with its population, identity, resources, and landscape, must have the chance to promote itself using an approach adapted to its situation. This is a matter of autonomy, but also of respect toward the citizens of each village.
I also think that the outcomes will result from the type of governance model used for the management and development of this potential. As a convinced democrat, I believe that strong power is shared power. This open and different way of assuming authority requires will and wisdom, though I do admit it does occasionally result in teeth gnashing. But I remain confident that it will be a successful approach for my territory.
Developing the Témiscamingue region requires mechanisms that put decision-making power in the hands of the communities. This means that we must adhere to the principle of accountability toward the citizens. Lastly, this governance model demands vigilance to avoid falling into indulgence. Although reflection, conciliation, and discussion are part of the process, one must also know when to make a decision to ensure that this work does not become a means to prevent breaking down turf barriers. We call that leadership.
This is what I dream of for my territory, how I wish that we all see and appreciate it. I wish that it become a happy living place for everyone, that its development, both the broad guidelines and smaller efforts, be performed by involved men and women capable of measuring change and of thinking up innovative ideas.
Once upon a time, Témiscamingue… Welcome to our home!