With the highly contentious snap election done and no change in the status quo to be seen, people are wondering: what now? The federal government hasn’t changed hands, staying a Liberal minority, and the pandemic is still going strong. The mayors of eight Eastern Ontario municipalities weighed in with what they think the most important local issues are.
Infrastructure was the biggest issue the mayors commented on. Mayor Paula Assaly of Hawkesbury, Mayor Robert Kirby of East Hawkesbury, Mayor Pierre Leroux of Russell Township, Mayor Normand Riopel of Champlain Township, and Mayor Daniel Lafleur of Casselman all cited infrastructure as their main concern; roads and bridges need repairs, and the money just isn’t there without help from the federal government. Prices are high right now due to the pandemic, and nothing is being done to bring them down. Add that onto the huge distribution centre project that will need water and electricity extended to the south of the 417, and infrastructure is easily the biggest immediate concern.
Physical infrastructure isn’t the extent of it, though. Assaly, Mayor Mario Zanth of Clarence-Rockland, and Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin of Alfred-Plantagenet all mentioned high-speed internet as a concern of theirs, especially considering it’s been in the works for a while now. Aside from being a huge quality-of-life improvement, high-speed internet would allow more people to work from home, easing up on stress and stimulating the economy. Even in Hawkesbury, which already has Bell Fibre, the service is expensive and not as widespread as it could be.
Assaly, Zanth, Sarrazin, and Mayor François St. Amour of La Nation all also mentioned they’d like to see more affordable housing in the region. Restarting the economy is important, and the jobs are there, but there simply aren’t enough people to fill them all. More affordable housing would draw people to the region and have them fill vacant positions.
Kirby was the only one to mention ending the pandemic. “I know everyone’s trying to help, but it seems we go one step ahead and then go backwards again,” he said. “I don’t want to be completely negative, but progress is slow, and we need people to cooperate if we want it to speed up. It’s not just the government, it’s not just healthcare, but everyone has to work as a team.”