Expropriate the old rail line?

Posted 10.28.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Next month's municipal elections have generated remarkable public interest. That is excellent news, if accurate, due to the decline in participation and voting over the past few years, almost everywhere. There are close contests -- from Gatineau itself to regional MRCs and municipalities.

There are issues today which challenge councils and voters across multiple areas. Solving them will require jurisdictions working together, something, also, uncommon. The Chalk River radioactive dump is one example, since any failure in that plan would lead to serious harm from the Upper Pontiac to Montreal. That subject's certainly on the minds of voters -- every candidate for Warden of MRC Pontiac has condemned the plan, as it stands.

A less-dramatic issue is the RouteVert, connecting the municipalities of the MRC Pontiac to the city of Gatineau and the rest of Quebec's extensive Green Highway.

Years ago, the MRC Pontiac opted to join the RouteVert (a cycling/hiking trail across Quebec, linking to the TransCanda Trail) and invested a considerable sum in upgrading the old rail line to its present status. Aylmer and Gatineau did the same, as did one route up the Gatineau Valley.

However, the Municipality of Pontiac declined, and sold off the old rail line to the line's neighbours, effectively strangling the Route's access to the Ottawa Valley, and killing any chance of the municipality's own fledgling tourism businesses profit fro this popular tourist link.

Similar trails linking Tremblant, Mount Laurier, and multiple other locations to Montreal and Quebec City have clearly stimulated a booming green tourism business. Thousands of city dwellers use these lines every year. But not the Outaoauis.

That's a clear regional-community issue.

There are citizens who want to re-open the completion of the link. The Municipality has agreed to a system of paved shoulders on the major, busy, and narrow highway, the 148, plus gravel back roads. This does not meet the standards of cycle tourism for obvious reasons. It's rare to see a cyclist on the Municipality's so-called Route, which proves it is not a real RouteVert. Interestingly, a tourist operator is challenging MoP's incumbent mayor.

Some tourist people in the municipality want to re-open the original decision to sell of the line; if not amicably -- for mutual benefit (property safety and tourism business) -- then via a legal look at that decision, the council which decided it, and those who profited from the decision. That deal always did have a scent.

Others want a community-minded council and mayor elected who will look at the problem -- and the opportunities -- that a real RouteVert through the municipality would bring. Win-win, they say.

I also heard the opinion expressed by a Gatineau councillor a week ago, that the old line could be expropriated. What? Based on the unhealthiness of the original decision and on its subsequent ill-effects. An expropriation by the province, if local or regional bodies hesitate to get involved, the councillor suggested.

That should be a last resort, and this election could make it un-needed.


Copyright © 2017 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.17