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A letter to Stéphanie Vallée

April 15th, 2015

Letter to Stéphanie Vallée, Députée de Gatineau, Ministre de la Justice, Ministre de la Condition Féminine, Ministre Resonsable de la région de L’Outaouais, Leader Parlementaire adjointe du Gouvernement

We are writing to add our voices to the many family doctors who have grave concerns about the proposed Bill 20, which we believe will have significant negative consequences for the health care system. We believe that Minister Barrette’s analysis of the problem is based on a vision of medical practice that is alarmingly divorced from reality.

Over the past many years, the nature of our practices has changed due to a lack of family doctors. We have patients with multiple, complex problems that require longer visits. We have succeeded in providing timely access to vulnerable patients despite our limited resources and demands to work outside the office. We are concerned that pressure to meet certain arbitrary productivity targets will make it more difficult to meet the needs of patients.

Dr. Barrette’s contention is that there are sufficient doctors in Quebec. He proposes that if only family doctors would work harder, the problem of access would be solved. The statistics he provides to support this hypothesis do not give an accurate picture of the situation. Policy that is based on bad information will likely be bad policy. The idea that the problem with access to family doctors in Quebec is merely a function of the 8,000 or so doctors just being too lazy is as ludicrous as it sounds. GPs provide care in hospitals, emergency departments, obstetrical units, intensive care units, long-term care units, homes, hospices, public health units, and CLSCs, in addition to fulfilling administrative duties.

The Outaouais already has fewer GPs per capita than the rest of Quebec. Doctors who will be financially punished by Bill 20 will look to move across the border to Ontario. This will make recruitment difficult as young doctors evaluate their options.

Doctors who work less already get paid less, which is normal. Working less is not a crime. Doctors, like everyone else, have personal lives. People sometimes need to restrict their works hours due to personal health issues, family obligations, and other perfectly legitimate reasons. Women with young families will be particularly affected by the measures outlined in Bill 20. What happened to the principal of equal pay for equal work?

Ms. Vallée, you have always been a strong supporter of health care services. We hope that you can use your influence to encourage Minister Barrette to abandon this proposed legislation and to work constructively with the FMOQ to find realistic ways to improve access to family doctors.

Dr. Gary Satenstein

Dr. Maggie Odell

Dr. Curtis Folkerson

Dr. Diane Lemay

Dr. Michell Lajzerowicz

Dr. Tania Lemelin

Dr. Mark Saul

Dr. Sylvie Del Bianco

Dr. Pascale St Amour

Dr. Jacque Menard

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Outdoorsiness inspiring

April 8th, 2015

By Tyler Dawson

One of the great joys of working in the Hills is that you’re surrounded by people who take pleasure in being outdoors.

Growing up in Edmonton, being outside was just what you did. On Fridays, the exodus from the city was apparent as people fled for more beautiful parts. RVs lined up at gas stations, trucks pulling ATVs and dirt bikes and boats growled along the streets.

That’s not to say these things don’t happen in Ottawa, but I don’t run much in circles like that anymore. An Ottawa weekend, at least among the downtown crowd, consists of sodden elbows resting on the bar-rail until the wee hours of the morning.

But in Wakefield, practically everyone seems to be into something outdoorsy. Before going to a party a few weeks ago, a friend noted she was about to go for a cross-country ski in the dark – something I’d never even heard of before.

As a reporter, I’ll stop by someone’s house for an interview and they’d be wearing their spandex, getting ready for an afternoon ski. Or, leaving a message on an answering machine, I’d hear back in an hour or two, once the subject had returned from their preferred calisthenics.

Even if I haven’t gotten around to reforming my ways (in my first weeks here, I was told that I needed to give up “gravity” skiing and take up cross-country) it’s possible to live vicariously through others. Now that spring is around the corner, that pleasure is even more acute. Families out with their dogs, kids out for the first bike ride of the season – the joy is contagious.

The range of things out here is incredible. There’s downhill skiing, cross-country trails, bike paths, places to walk dogs, and rivers to canoe on. There’s world-class cross-country skiing rivalled only by the Nordic centres in the Rocky Mountains. And all of this just outside a city that seems determined to define itself by its degree of drudgery.

It’s worth acknowledging that – even when it all feels normal – for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live out here, it’s pretty amazing. On the other side of the country, in, say, Banff, locals chuckle at the tourists who pile out of buses to gawk at the most mundane of things.

There are plans underway to enhance all of these opportunities, but while these projects are nominally about tourism, they’re also about making this area a better place to live.

So, sure, I can live vicariously through everyone – hale and healthy – who pedals on by. But at least I can say that, as I sidle up to the bar rail, I feel darn guilty about not taking advantage of the outdoors.

Maybe I’ll try to change that.

Tyler Dawson is a reporter at the Low Down, and a begrudging resident of Ottawa.

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A final goodbye from the Des Collines health board

April 1st, 2015

At the time of its creation, the CSSS des Collines (CSSSC) served a population of 25,000. The Wakefield Hospital’s ER was built to accommodate 12,000 per year. The population has grown has grown to 40,000 and the ER receives over 21,000 patients annually.

Five years ago, the CSSC’s board of directors made it its mission to develop a level of care and services to properly serve the territory’s growing population, deal with the increased visits to emergency, and meet the growing demands of the population, both young and old.

Despite the efforts of the board and administration to reach out to the Agence de santé de l’Outaouais, the Gatineau MNA, and the three health ministers, the CSSC did not succeed in developing the services so badly needed by its citizens.

Defying logic, the CSSC and its board had to battle chronic underfunding, then new cuts of more than $2 million imposed by the Quebec government.

Successes

The CSSC maintained a professional staff and very competent administration. Against all odds, it responded to the challenges imposed by a constant lack of resources.

Most recently, the CSSC succeeded in designating safe spaces in the hospital’s ER. It managed to relocate administration offices, thereby creating additional rooms in the hospital for medical services.

Three of the four CLSCs managed to stay open five days a week. The Chelsea CLSC, created in 2003, was forced to close last year. People requiring health services now have to go to Cantley or Masham.

The recurring overload at the hospital’s ER forced the board to redirect supplementary funds to maintain services, thereby creating an annual average deficit of $700,000 for three years. As of March 31, 2015, the CSSC’s deficit is more than $1 million. It was only last month that the Agence came up with a budget to provide radiology services 24 hours a day at the hospital for a period of three months. Previously, this service wasn’t available at night due to lack of funds.

Challenges ahead

The Centre intégré des services sociaux et de santé de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) that will regroup the five CSSSs will have to consider the demographics of the des Collines territory when it comes to allocating funds.

The CISSSO will have to recognize the recurring overload at the hospital’s ER and the urgent need for technology that can respond to the diagnostic needs of an ever-increasing patient load.

The CISSSO will have to respond to the increasing demand for places in CHSLD nursing homes. The ministry recognized in 2013 the need for 80 new CHSLD spots.

It is unacceptable that the Chelsea CLSC is closed. The CISSSO will have to recognize that Chelsea citizens have the right to the same health services provided in other municipalities.

We hope the CISSSO recognizes the legitimacy of the des Collines territory as a key player when it comes to responding to the needs of the Outaouais population.

Michel Lafrenière is the president of the CSSS des Collines board of directors

 

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To walk in peace and safety

March 25th, 2015

By Kate Aley

Sometimes I leave THE EQUITY office quite late. It’s often dark and sometimes cold and the streets are generally deserted. I worry about the stories I have yet to write and I worry about my car not starting, but I never worry about being abducted. Never

Tragically this is not the case for women in many Canadian towns – and for indigenous woman in particular. A new report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. has rekindled the fight for a public inquiry. The report, conducted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, includes the findings that the highest numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside. The report also notes that the police have “failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances”, adding that multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in confusion between the RCMP and Vancouver police.

The group strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Last year, the government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Yet, when reacting to the 2014 murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper still insisted that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women was not part of a sociological phenomenon, but a crime to be dealt with accordingly.

The government continues to say it is interested in taking action, yet continues to refuse calls for a national public inquiry. One thing is clear: actions taken so far have obviously not halted the brutal and systemic violence being committed against indigenous women. For the 1,200 families that still seek justice for their missing and murdered family members, an inquiry may help them feel some solace. For indigenous women actually at risk right now, understanding how these crimes continue to be perpetrated may be what stands between them and a horrible fate.

Lawyer Christa Big Canoe is Anishinaabekwe and a member of the Georgina Island First Nation. Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation with a master’s degree in indigenous governance. Their quote from a CBC article succinctly sums up the heart of this urgent matter: “An inquiry needs to be called that is accountable to those it affects the most. Public awareness needs to be increased, but most importantly, indigenous women and girls need to be able to walk in peace and safety”.

Kate Aley is an editor at the Shawville Equity

 

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Strip search headline is misleading

March 18th, 2015

By Nancy Hall

The front page of the March 11 edition of the Low Down featured a story with the headline ‘Strip search at St. Mike’s’. I was disappointed that the Low Down chose to run such a misleading headline and to sensationalize what is a very serious issue, and one of great concern to parents, students, and educators across the province. The reader is led to believe that this strip search happened yesterday, rather than two years ago.

To say that the timing is bad for St. Michael’s High School is an understatement. We are in the process of rebuilding our enrolment following the threat of closure and are working on a proposal to improve the facility. This kind of headline is irresponsible, especially for a community newspaper.

Having said that, the issues raised by the family affected are truly justified. I was Chair of the Governing Board at St. Michael’s High School in Low when this incident occurred. While there may have been some justification for the teachers deciding a search was necessary, the parents concerned and those on the governing board were deeply disturbed at the manner in which the entire situation was handled. It is regrettable that the situation unfolded the way it did and I understand the emotional repercussions the family has felt as a result.

While I cannot comment on the specifics of this case, let me state that fault should not be laid solely at the door of St. Michael’s High School or the personnel involved. To point the finger at personnel in the face of a clear lack of provincial and school board policy at the time is to ignore the real culprit.

Searches of all kinds involving lock downs, locker searches, and, in some circumstances, strip searches, have been an unfortunate by-product of the drug culture prevalent in the high school environment. These searches were carried out in the past, albeit infrequently, by staff in high schools across the region with the decision being left to the sole discretion of the principal.

The good news is that this case has led to a change in policy by the Western Quebec School Board. As WQSB Director General Paul Lamoureux pointed out, the police will now be involved should staff feel a search is warranted. We also know that the Quebec Ministry of Education is in the process of examining a province-wide policy, something that is long overdue. The fact that the provincial Minister of Education resigned following his indiscreet comments about strip searches is an indicator of how serious the matter is.

It is my sincere hope that the family involved in this case will now be able to heal and that the change in policy by the WQSB will serve to promote the implementation of a province-wide policy on drug searches sooner rather than later.

Nancy Hall

Chair, People for the Future of St. Michael’s

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The obligation to support Chelsea economic development

March 11th, 2015

In response to Jeanne Dessureault’s letter (‘Public Money Abuse Case’), I would like to provide some background on the role of Quebec municipal councils to explain why Chelsea council is considering a request by Chelsea Commerce, and why that does not constitute a conflict of interest.

1) Chelsea’s Master Plan outlines our mission: “to improve the quality of life for current and future generations by offering community, cultural, and recreational services and activities, the protection and enhancement of the environment, a viable economic development, and the preservation of territorial boundaries”;

2) The Federation of Québec Municipalities (FQM) defines the roles and responsibilities of council members: administrator, representative, legislator, and economic development agent (FQM. Rôles et responsabilités des élus, pages 64ff; et Loi sur les compétences municipales, L.R.Q., ch. C-47.1);

3) The regional representative of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MAMOT) recently confirmed that “every municipal council has the obligation to support economic development within its community”;

4) The Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Québec (FCCQ) reported that, in 2013, Chambers of Commerce with fewer than 150 members received 13 per cent of their overall funding from local and/or regional levels of government, while those with over 150 members received six per cent (Portrait du Reseau, L’Exclusif Volume 28/No. 2 – Avril 2014. FCCQ);

5) The revised Land Use Plan of the MRC des Collines states: “re-vitalizing village cores, along with the installation of public infrastructures, will contribute to economic development…. Developing strategies in order to diversify businesses and services are ways in which local municipalities can re-vitalize their village cores.” (Schema d’aménagement et de développement révisé, pages 80-81).

The wastewater and drinking water project, designed to clean up environmental problems in Old Chelsea, will allow for a diversity of housing options and for new local businesses and services throughout the core village.

It is a well-known fact that we, as a community, must diversify our tax base in order to reduce our overdependence on residential taxes. Encouraging small, local businesses will increase other revenue streams and serve to lessen the tax burden on homeowners.

Commerce Chelsea’s request for funding would be invested in local economic development initiatives such as clustered parking, street signs, benches, bike paths, community events, and the design of a web platform for residents, community groups, businesses, and visitors.

Council will continue to examine collaborative and innovative ways to work with our partner groups – social, cultural, economic, and environmental – to ensure sustainable, socio-economic development in our community.

Caryl Green is the mayor of Chelsea

 

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Meredith Centre Success

March 4th, 2015

Thank you for your article explaining how much the Meredith Centre costs average Chelsea taxpayers (How much for Meredith? Feb. 18 edition). I would like to share another perspective with your readers.

You report that the capital cost per household to build the Meredith Centre was $60. For those of us who were involved in the early days of fundraising, we remember that projections always included the sale of the old community centre on the revenue side of capital cost estimates. When accounting for inflation and today’s dollar value, and including the $400,000 net revenue to the municipality from the sale of the old community centre, we can be enormously proud that together, as a fiscally responsible community, we built the Meredith Centre within the original target of $52 capital cost per household.

Now what about the report that taxpayers are “shouldering an additional $148.80 per household for operating costs”? Remember that from this we need to subtract the $135,000 per year that the old community centre was costing to operate. Also remember that construction design flaws and the resulting wall damage inflated operational costs of the new building in its first two years of operation. Insurance money will recoup much of this.

In 2015, the Meredith Centre expects its four-season cultural and recreation program to grow. We know that sewage and water costs will decline significantly once the Meredith Centre is connected to the new village systems. And we know that there is potential for significant electricity cost savings. In other words, Meredith Centre operational revenues are growing while costs moderate.

The team that manages the Meredith Centre, led by General Manager Sharon Ryan, is dedicated, hard working and creative. Two full years of audited financial reports provide rock-hard evidence that the centre is able to generate an annual surplus given the present management agreement with the municipality. The trend lines provide confidence that this surplus can be sustained and that operating costs reported by the municipality in your article can be halved.

The untold story of the Meredith Centre is this: Chelsea came together and built a brand-new community centre. Total cost to the average household in 2014 was roughly $4 per week. It will be less than this in 2015 and less again in 2016.

The Meredith Centre was conceived and built by the community of Chelsea, and supported by generous provincial and federal grants, and a loan approved by a visionary municipal council. Unlike many community centres that are operated by city officials, the Meredith Centre is directed and managed by a community-led board. By trusting and empowering its citizens, the municipality has assured that the Meredith Centre program is responsive, efficient and sustainable.

Become a member, participate in a program, come as a volunteer, or stand for election to the governing board or a board committee. Above all, celebrate. The Meredith Centre is one of Chelsea’s great success stories.

Bob Vandenberg is a Chelsea resident and member of the Chelsea Foundation Board of Directors

 

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Biased campaign against Chelsea development

February 25th, 2015

By Peter Markhauser

In Barbara Martin’s Valley Voices submission (Feb. 18), she laments the fact that I am trying to build 120, rather than just 35, new residences on our property in Chelsea. She suggests that the people of Chelsea will be “victims” of this development.

The properties that we own are approximately 30 acres in size , which were to be developed with 120 single family homes for this neighbourhood, as allowed in the master plan. The Quebec Ministry of Transport study on land stability released in 2011 rendered approximately 25 of our 30 acres unsuitable for residential development, which required us to consider other ideas, including clustering the 120 homes onto unaffected land on our property. Clustering is an accepted concept included in the master plan.

A building of this nature will yield cost efficiencies that will allow us to introduce more affordable housing solutions for a broad spectrum of our community – not just seniors. It will also allow us to build underground parking and communal spaces. This is about sustainable development that meets the stated needs of our community and leaves 25 acres of land for non residential use, such as parks or community gardens already included in our plan.

Barbara Martin states that only 35 homes should be allowed and that these can still be affordable, but the reality is that each time that we compromise on efficiencies of scale, there will be a corresponding effect on the cost of a unit.

She also stated that a building of this size will overwhelm the neighbourhood, including the adjacent “one storey” CLSC building, failing to recognize that the CLSC building, designed by Alan Hopkins and me in 2002, is one of the biggest buildings in Chelsea; and it has two stories, not one. It is in harmony with the streetscape as direct a result of clever design practices which we intend to leverage again in our current project.

The size of the proposed building will not be out of character with the surrounding buildings, and the design will be harmonious and integrated with its neighbours. It is important to note that the current zoning change request is the first step in a planning and design process that includes other requirements to ensure that the final design will ultimately be appropriate for the neighbourhood.

This biased campaign against this project by a municipal councillor comes as no surprise, as it comes on the heels of similar inaccurate and sensationalistic campaigning on the Facebook group Chelsea Folks, where Martin made the exaggerated statement that we are trying to increase the density allocation from four houses per acre to 30 houses per acre – which was blatantly misleading. Clustering houses is a sustainable practice that leaves green space in exchange for increasing density on one part of the property. This is our plan and we are confident that there is a market demand for these homes from a broad spectrum of our community.

Peter Markhauser is a resident of Chelsea

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Re-writing the rule book?

February 18th, 2015

By Barbara Martin

Change in Chelsea may be inevitable, but we do not have to be victims of change. We can ensure that, as we grow, we respect and protect what makes us want to stay here. Right now, change is being advocated in the name of affordable housing and housing for seniors, which are already identified needs within Chelsea’s Master Plan. That plan was agreed upon three years ago, after extensive public consultation. Developers in Chelsea have sought to incorporate these needs into their plans, and, so far, they have done it without requesting changes to the Master Plan. So, let’s keep our arguments straight. This is not about whether the rules allow affordable housing and housing for seniors. They do.

So why does one developer consider the current zoning for a parcel of land beside the CLSC building to be unacceptable? Right now, some 35 units spread over several two- or three-storey multi-unit buildings up to 39 feet high could be built there. The scale would fit with surrounding buildings. They could accommodate singles, couples, and seniors. What is wrong with that? The condos in Wakefield do it – and provide about 1,400 square feet of living space to boot.

The proposed zoning change would allow for one 91,500 square foot building, 49 feet high, with 120 units (averaging 600 or 700 square feet). A building of this size would overwhelm the small, old houses on Mill Road, and make the United Church and the historical homesteads on Hwy 105 look out of place. It would tower over the one-storey CLSC building. It would not fit with Chelsea’s rural look and feel. Why is such a massive building necessary? Who really benefits from supposed ‘economies of scale’?

According to CMHC, affordable housing costs no more than 30% of total income before tax. However, Logement Quebec has subsidy programs for “affordable housing” for low- and moderate-income households and for people with special housing needs. The Farm Point units come to mind. So what do we mean and, more importantly, what does Mr. Markhauser mean by “affordable housing”?

As to seniors’ housing, there is housing where those over 65 live and there are residences for the elderly. These are very different things. Residences for the elderly require provincial compliance relating to such things as health and safety, food, and medication. Are we talking about condos for seniors who want to downsize or residences for the elderly?

There is a lot to consider before we rewrite the rulebook for the first developer to ask. For the sake of Chelsea, we need to get it right.

Barbara Martin is councillor for Ward 3 in Chelsea

The editor responds: ditto my response to Peter Newing concerning the ‘seniors’ housing’ label – see Letters.

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Pay to play on Gatineau Park trails

February 11th, 2015

By Carsten Podehl

‘Pay to Play’ is an increasingly accepted system in recent years: requests for funding to use public lands for recreation are inundating land management organizations. These come from a growing number of user groups as funding for operation expenditures becomes tighter. Paying to access trail networks and related infrastructure is pretty much the norm across the continent. For our local park, the future may include accessing parking lots and roads via automated fee gates (construction at P19 shows that this may already be underway).

The recent price change for various forms of winter access to the Gatineau Park is an interesting ball of used ski wax. For some, the new fee is welcome, as it helps to level the field among winter trail users. For others, skiing and walking should be free. Yet others understand the infrastructure required for trail maintenance: plowed parking lots, cabins, fire wood, and trail rescue – items not covered under general land management. Then there are the locals, who may have a tainted view of paying for the park and take issue with its governing body. Judging by the money spent on the park, it does seem that, at times, the NCC has money to burn.

Trail etiquette is worth mentioning. Trails are maintained, used, and destroyed with consequences to the end user. For example, one set of footprints or snowshoe tracks on a groomed ski trail can elicit expletives from skiers. The grooming is for specific activities – the trails that leave from P8 are for skate and classic skiing.

Walking over a ski trail can destroy the skiing experience and can even be hazardous. It is peculiar that in the backcountry people charge over a ski trail with their snowshoes without a second thought, destroying the groomed track. The Low Down editor has it right when she says, “to don the appropriate footwear”. The Gatineau Park is finally promoting exactly that with their new signage: ‘To each their own trail’.

The winter experience in the park is world class and, for what we have, we have it fairly cheap. At the same time, I grew up in a family of four on thrice-used gear and skied for free on un-groomed trails; a family of four now needs $60 to simply get on the snow with skis for one afternoon. The library does have a few individual passes for loan, but I believe that the NCC should also offer family passes.

The beauty of the honour system is that it’s designed to allow access for those who can’t afford to pay, who shouldn’t be shamed by those who can pay. In the end, karma and nature have always played well together.

Carsten Podehl is a resident of Wakefield

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