A petition that started with La Nation council to get the federal government to prioritize high-speed internet for rural areas has gained political momentum at the upper level of municipal government.

La Nation Mayor Francois St-Amour introduced the petition at the March 11 committee of the whole meeting of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell council.

The petition, which was started by La Nation Councillor Marie-Noëlle Lanthier, requests that the $750 million the government gives to the Canadian Radio-Television/Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for meeting high-speed expansion targets is given to communities that need it the most, that funds are distributed regionally, and that additional funding is allocated for high-speed expansion in rural areas.

Counties CAO Stéphane Parisien said a recommendation and resolution in support of the petition will go before a future meeting of council for approval.

Integrity fee stays at $100

The fee UCPR residents pay to file a complaint with the integrity commissioner will not change.  There had been prior discussion about raising it to $500 from the current $100.

Parisien said any changes were completely for council to decide and noted the $300, non-refundable fee in La Nation. The CAO cautioned about how council could be perceived if the fee were raised to $500.

East Hawkesbury’s fee is also $300 but is refundable to the complainant if the complaint is not deemed frivolous.

Casselman Mayor Daniel Lafleur said the village’s fee will also be $300.

“We don’t know what the impact is going to be,” said Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux.

He said he understands there is concern about frivolous complaints but suggested leaving it as-is and finding out what happens in the future.

La Nation Mayor François St-Amour noted process of using the provincial Ombudsman is already in place for when citizens have objections to council decisions, but integrity matters are a separate issue.

“We’re talking about questions about our integrity,” he said.

St-Amour commented that people do not get their money back when they do not make claims on insurance policies they pay for or purchase a losing lottery ticket.

Champlain Mayor Normand Riopel moved that the UCPR integrity complaint fee stay at $100 and it was approved.

La Nation Councillor Marie-Noëlle Lanthier started the petition asking the federal government to improve high-speed internet expansion in rural areas. Photo: James Morgan