For the past few years, Grenville-sur-la-Rouge (GSLR) has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Lawsuits, accusations of collusion and conflict of interest and the angst of some residents concerning the Miller mine project have all used their fair share of ink.
Current Mayor John Saywell will not be a mayoral candidate for these elections. The mayoral candidates this time around are Tom Arnold of Alliance GSLR, Shelley Silcock, running independently, and Michel Brosseau of the Leadership and Progress Option.
Michel Brosseau and his Leadership and Progress Option team
The Leadership and Progress Option is led by an ex-police officer and recurring candidate who has been a councillor and mayor of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. His team is composed of current councillors Daniel Gauthier and Robert d’Auzac and newcomers Michel Lafrance and Richard Prévost.
The team will continue with current plans for road fixing and desires to create incentives for their aging population to stay in the area once they retire. They want to recruit a promoter to attract a developer to build housing suitable for their aging population which might not be able to take care of a house like they used too and that do not want to leave the municipality. Their first priority is to make sure that the residents can afford their property taxes.
According to Robert d’Auzac, a current councillor of GSLR, an average home worth $152,000 in 2014 is now worth $166,759. The taxes charged in 2014 on an average home were $1,805. Taxes on the same property, which has increased value, is now $1,679. He says that this type of financial management would continue under a Leadership and Progress Option council.
When it comes to economic development, Michel Brosseau said that they need a strategy tailored to the municipality and that commercial developments is not the way to go. They firmly believe that the future is about tourism and how they to get visitors to spend the weekend in the municipality. They want to attract newcomers and tourists by promoting activities which exploit nature, such as the Rivière Rouge camping grounds which is on land that was recently bought by the municipality from Hydro-Quebec.
“Buying that land was the best deal we could have ever done as a municipality. The people running the campground are doing an excellent job, but if something were to happen, we can now say that the land will not be held by private interest who could stop residents from spending time on the beach. The municipality now has a legacy. Giving a helping hand to people wanting to create natural tourist attraction and activities is obviously part of our tourism program and we will also have a promoter to help us promote our beautiful municipality.”
Concerning the Miller mining project, the whole team is on the same page. It will not block a mining project from doing its homework and getting all the information it needs. According to Brosseau, Canada Carbon will have to go through multiple studies and governmental approvals before beginning to dig which could be in as late as 2022 and that if it does get approvals, it will have 90 days to put 50 per cent of the money aside for rehabilitating the land. Within two years of operation, the mine would have to set aside the other 50 percent of the money required for property rehabilitation.
“Are we going to hire lawyers and specialists to oppose the mine? How much will that cost the taxpayer? We don’t even know if there will be a mine in the end, it would be a total waste of money. That won’t stop us from surveying the project and even creating a committee to keep an eye on it. Not to block them, but to have all the information. You can’t have omelettes, without breaking eggs. So yes, there will be more traffic and it’s sad for the people that live there [around the mining site], but we represent more than 2,500 residents and 342 square kilometers of land, that’s our mandate,” says Brosseau.
When asked that if the population would overwhelmingly be against the mining project, if they would support the population and oppose Canada Carbon’s project, Michel Brosseau answered, “We will negotiate with them [Canada Carbon] in order to get as much as we can out of the project. We can’t just say no to a job creator or keep putting sticks in their wheels. It’s by working with them that we can get the most out of this type of project. There have been mines in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge since 1845 and now the technology and laws are on our side.”
According to the Leadership and Progress Team, it is bringing people of experience to the table and will respect the citizens of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge by conducting council meetings in both official languages.
The independent Shelley Silcock
Shelley Silcock is running as an independent candidate for the mayoral position because she believes that an independent candidate can truly listen to the community and the council and make informed decisions without any bias.
“Teams, in my opinion, do not work, because you get a group of people that already have an allegiance, they already favor their leaders, they will vote the same way. That’s the reason I’m standing as an independent. I would rather have people that don’t like me, that have an opinion, that would want to oppose me or my ideas and to give me a good reason why, because it leads to greater ideas and an amalgamation of thought process. I want all elected people, including myself, to be accountable and if I’ve done something wrong then I want someone to step up and say that they don’t agree with me.”
She also questions how can a team of people have a plan when they don’t know exactly what the population wants. She is advocating for a full review and a consultative process with the community to find out what the needs are, find out what they want.
“I could sit here all day, and say we should do this, but that is just my opinion, I’m just one person. We have a community, the community is there, and the council is born out of that community. Council has certainly lost its way at the moment. They are telling people what they want; well, it’s the people that should be saying to the council what they want.”
Silcock says that the council’s job is not telling people what to do or pushing their personal agendas on the population. According to Silcock, a council is there to create a favorable climate for people with ideas and energy to change the community themselves with the help of their council. Transparency and trust will come to council if grassroots movements are listened to and encouraged by their elected officials.
Shelley Silcock is a scientist who grew up in a mining town in England, therefore, mining projects are nothing new to her.
“I have done a lot of environmental risk assessments in my background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mining at all, I understand that some people are frustrated and that they want this [mine] because of all the potential jobs. Again, jobs are a good thing, but it has to be sustainable. I want to encourage businesses that are going to be helpful for the community and that are going to bring jobs in. Now if the mine is what people want, I have to stand behind that. If I’m going for Mayor, my personal opinion aside, I have to be representative of what everybody wants, not just what I want.”
If the consent in the community is against the mine, she says, she will oppose it. She doesn’t want companies to do business any way they want in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and then leave behind a heap of problems for the taxpayers to clean up.
“The magnitude of this project could be immense. I don’t believe the council was transparent with the mining project. A lot of the council meetings were confusing. The mine is one issue; it wasn’t handled in the best possible way. We need transparency.”
Transparency, accessibility and a consultative process is what Shelley Silcock wants to bring to Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. She will be hosting a meeting at the Avoca Community Center on November 2 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. You can visit her website for more information at https://shelleyvs.wixsite.com/shelleysilcock.
Tom Arnold of Alliance GSLR
Alliance GSLR is formed by Tom Arnold, Manon Jutras, Ron Moran, Natalia Czarnecka, Denis Fillion, Serge Bourbonnais et Marc A. Legris. This political formation sprung from the SOS GSLR group, a group that opposed the mine and criticized the current administration with the handling of the project.
Their priorities are to oppose the Canada Carbon mining project as it is presented today, stating that it threatens the environment and contravenes the laws in place. According to Tom Arnold, they are not against mining, since the municipality was built on that industry. They simply believe that the Miller mining project has been poorly handled by the current administration and that the project needs to be revised thoroughly before even being considered.
“One of our priorities will be to protect our citizens and our environment from the real and potential risks to which the mine project exposes us, and to ensure that our natural resources are exploited respecting our environment,” says Arnold.
They also want to improve the road networks. According to Arnold, a clean-up of the municipal spending would allow them to asphalt up to 4 kilometers per year on main roads.
“My wish and my goal is to provide quality bilingual services, and to ensure that our infrastructure meets the needs of the population. To accomplish this important work, I have assembled a competent and dedicated team that cares about the quality of life and the development of our community. The quality of the roads has deteriorated since I was in the city 30 years ago, and it will be a priority to improve our road network,” says Arnold.
Tom Arnold also wants to improve the septic systems and to strengthen river banks on riverside properties which were damaged by the flooding. He also states the current town planning laws needs to be revised and weeded out of unnecessary restrictions. The town planning laws should be used to protect the environment all the while giving more liberty to residents who want to conduct environment friendly activities.
“We want to change, just overall change. I want to offer my experience in management, construction of municipal infrastructure and environmental remediation. In addition, as a former GSLR municipal employee, I have 4 years of experience as General Manager, Superintendent of Roads, Building Inspector, and Assistant Secretary-Treasurer,” says Arnold.
The Alliance GSLR keywords are cooperation, innovation, action, respect, competence and perseverance. More information about their program can be found on www.alliancegslr.com.