CN corridor and bio-park spark debate at the MRC

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Added: Wed, 01/27/2021 - 3:38pm
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Warden Jane Toller awarded Sylvie Landriault, a long-time member of the MRC’s investment committee who recently retired, with a Certificate of Recognition.

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – The MRC Pontiac’s mayors met for their monthly meeting, January 20, again via ZOOM. Aside from their usual business, the debate got heated concerning two matters: a bylaw allowing off-road vehicles to use the former Canadian National (CN) railway corridor and a resolution supporting the Pontiac Bio-park project.
The meeting kicked off as council awarded Sylvie Landriault, a long-time member of their investment committee who recently retired, with a Certificate of Recognition for her “extraordinary and lengthy” service. Landriault also worked at the local Carrefour Jeunesse for 35 years.
A resolution of sympathy and gratitude was passed following news of the death of Mario Guay, an SADC Pontiac business advisor and member of the MRC’s investment committee.
The MRC’s annual mayors’ meeting, which will focus on forestry, was postponed to February 13 and the forum for the public to learn more about regional government and how it works is now scheduled for March 8.
Mayor Maurice Beauregard (Campbell’s Bay) said he will be presenting a resolution next month to require the region’s Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ) inspector to work better with municipal building inspectors “so we know what’s going on in our towns.”
Beauregard also sparked
a resolution asking the Transcollines bus service to reinstate an Ottawa drop-off for the 910 run rather than requiring passengers to catch an STO bus from Aylmer. “It’s causing delays and people can’t get to work on time,” he said. 
Off-road vehicles on CN corridor
Cyndy Phillips, MRC economic director, and Alexandre Savoie-Perron, MRC land planner, gave a report on the public comment period that ended January 10 on a draft bylaw allowing snowmobiles and ATVs to use the former CN railway corridor in Bristol, Clarendon, Litchfield, and Portage du Fort. Savoie-Perron listed citizens’ concerns (noise, security, parking, affecting biodiversity, etc.) while Phillips explained the measures in the bylaw to address them.
When it came time to adopt the bylaw, which Toller summarized as changing the corridor’s designation to allow recreo-tourism, a small debate began. Mayor John Armstrong (Clarendon) requested that municipalities meet with the snowmobile and ATVs clubs first to sign an agreement before voting on the bylaw. “We don’t want to pass something when there’s not an agreement between both parties [ensuring] nobody is held liable in any way,” he explained.
Phillips explained that once the bylaw is passed, there are still many steps to take, such as sending it to the government for approval and ironing out many more details. “It will be months before traffic is seen on the corridor,” she said, noting talks with the clubs could take place in the meantime.
After some back and forth concerning the urgency of passing the bylaw, the decision was deferred to a special meeting on February 3.
Bio-park support controversy
Mayor Brent Orr (Bristol) put forward a resolution to “firmly support” the bio-park project at the Pontiac Industrial Park “which guarantees sustainable development of forestry throughout [the MRC], which will be made possible by implementing a solid industrial structure focused on producing bio-products that meet local and global consumption.”
The resolution would be sent to: Renmatix, one of seven or eight partners that could potentially join the park; local elected officials and government ministers; and to each municipality for further endorsement.
The controversy began last November with two resolutions concerning the Fibre-Pontiac file and the MRC’s forestry consultant contract. Warden Jane Toller and several mayors were frustrated with the lack of progress on opening the
Bio-park. Fibre-Pontiac was supposed to research and start a diversified project to recover value from forestry by-products; it has been in the works for
eight years, under forestry consultant Pierre Vezina, with about $700,000 spent.
The two resolutions wanted a confirmation of federal funding and a commitment from a private company to locate their wood recovery facility in the Pontiac before the MRC moved forward with any further support, including
the consulting contract with Vezina. The mayors came to a deadlock of nine votes
for and nine against, with Toller breaking the tie in favour of both resolutions.
Some mayors emphasized how the bio-park is essential for the economic recovery of the region, while others were hesitant to support it.
“Some mayors feel not enough progress has been made while others think it’s too early to stop,” said Toller. Colleen Larivière (Litchfield) noted that the federal
government has invested over $500,000 in the bio-park so far and four out of seven feasibility studies have been completed.
Toller was frustrated that the resolution was only added to the agenda a few days before the meeting and wasn’t discussed in the plenary meeting. “We haven’t had a chance to look at it, ask questions, etc.” she said, noting there will be a new policy: resolutions will not be accepted unless they have been “run through
plenary,” with exceptions for time-sensitive issues.
In the end, the resolution was adopted, with an amendment to say it will first be brought back to the next plenary meeting in February.
In the media scrum after the meeting, Toller said she was surprised to learn that Renmatix’s government funding request is delayed until sometime in 2021, when the MRC was under the impression it had already been submitted and the business was awaiting an answer. 
The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held February 17.