Consider unpalatable strategic voting as tactic to reclaim river

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by admin on April 13, 2011

The Editor,

Given recent conflicts over development and infrastructure decisions in La Peche and Chelsea, Quebec, it has become abundantly clear that election campaigns must be seized by the citizenry as their primary opportunity to secure detailed commitments from prospective candidates. If we want specific results on specific files, it is incumbent upon us to mobilize votes on the basis of precise promises to act, or not act, in a particular way.

This applies equally in the federal election context.

I was dismayed and unsurprised to learn of Lawrence Cannon’s position that the proposed septic waste treatment plant is a provincial and municipal issue. The federal government has clear jurisdiction, under the Fisheries Act, to authorize (or not) the release of any deleterious substance that may “harm, alter, disrupt or destroy” fish habitat (pardon the legal correctness).

Despite this, Cannon prefers, either as a matter of philosophy or public policy (likely both), to take a back seat on an issue that has direct economic and environmental impacts on our communities. Whether it concerns the regulation of the tar sands or offshore oil drilling in the Arctic or the establishment of a septic waste facility on the Gatineau River, Cannon’s approach mirrors that of his prime minister: federal intervention to protect the environment ought to be avoided wherever possible.

Thankfully, there is at least one candidate vying for federal election in the Pontiac who does not share this laissez-faire attitude, and who presents a clear alternative as regards her commitment to engage on the regional septic matter. While we do not yet know the position of the NDP candidate, Mathieu Ravignat, a Cantley resident and federal civil servant, the Liberal Party candidate, Cindy Duncan McMillan, has been abundantly clear.

She will ensure that federal jurisdiction will be asserted to its fullest extent with a view to ensuring that an environmentally sustainable technology and process are chosen. As past-president of the Gatineau River Watershed Committee, her voice is credible on this issue and she most certainly understands the interjurisdictional nature of water protection issues.

While the septic waste treatment plant is only one issue, it is emblematic of an entire approach to governance. To unseat Cannon and Harper, I believe that progressive (Green and NDP) voters must unite in their support for Cindy Duncan McMillan, regardless of how unpalatable “strategic voting” may be. Don’t forget that Liberal voters and organizers in Edmonton-Strathcona did the exact same thing to avoid vote-splitting and assist Linda Duncan (current NDP environment critic) in 2008. Unless we stand up, knock on doors, and get out the vote, how can we possibly expect to reclaim our river?
Will Amos

Chelsea, Quebec