Costly initiative nothing more than a pit stop
By Steve Connolly
Many years ago, Low’s mayor led an initiative to establish a tourist bureau and information centre in the old police building on the hill just north of the town of Low. The Bureau d’accueil touristique de la Municipalité de Low was to be managed by the mayors of Low, Denholm, Kazabazua, and Lac Ste. Marie via an organization called Les Quatres Rives. Low’s Council agreed to this, providing that the new organization would not cost its taxpayers any money. Les Quatres Rives was to be self-funded.
As time went by, the financial statements of Les Quatres Rives were rarely, if ever, reviewed by the councils of the four communities that the new organization was supposed to serve. This may still be the case. Low taxpayers did end up paying for some of the operational costs of Les Quatres Rives – and still do.
Not too long ago, the leaders of this organization convinced the MRC de La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau to help out, in partnership with Tourisme Vallée-De-La-Gatineau, a branch of the MRC. Apparently, the MRC also manages tourist facilities in Maniwaki, Aumond, and Grand Remous. The MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais does not have such facilities. Neither does the Pontiac MRC.
Citizens might feel that a tourism bureau might be useful and worth the expense. One would think that its main purpose is to attract more tourism dollars to the area and to provide information for newcomers. One might expect that it would be managed like a business. Sadly, it has been managed by government: the MRC and the mayors who direct it.
It continues to be a total failure. Several years ago, I asked seven businesses in Low how they felt about the Bureau d’accueil touristique. They expressed both anger and amusement. They felt that it served no useful purpose and they confirmed that they would never contribute money towards its operation. A few said that it did serve as a highway bathroom, which prevented travelers from trespassing on their facilities. Recently, I asked 17 more businesses in Low, Kazabazua, and Lac Ste. Marie whether the Bureau d’accueil touristique was of use to them, and asked if they would donate $300 per year towards its operations. Again, more anger and laughter. Of the 24 businesses that I surveyed, only one would donate $300, but still wasn’t sure that it had received any extra business due to its existence.
Comments included: “I didn’t know it existed.” “What does it do?” “You mean that taxpayers pay for it?!” “It is a joke and should be shut down!” “It has never asked my business for advertisement material.” “My business has never been queried/consulted by them.” “It is in a poor location.” “It has never helped my business.” There are about 725 other businesses in our MRC, all situated further away from the Bureau d’accueil touristique. Do you think that they benefit?
This is a typical example of incompetence by elected officials who implement programs without business plans and who never evaluate what they do. The head of the Tourisme Vallée-De-La-Gatineau recently reported that tourism in West Quebec has not increased for years.
The Bureau d’accueil touristique de la Municipalité de Low is nothing more than an expensive bathroom.
Steve Connolly is a former councillor of Low.