Tue, June 22, 2004

Fears arise from demerger  

'Yes' voters worry referendum will backfire on province

By TOBI COHEN, Ottawa Sun

CALLING THE Quebec provincial Liberals' demerger structure utterly undemocratic, some disappointed "Yes" supporters fear the government has set a precedent that could backfire in a big way. Aylmer resident and staunch deamalgamation supporter George Levasseur said it's only a matter of time before the Parti Quebecois comes to power again and uses this Liberal referendum model to pull Quebec out of Canada.

"People don't realize that," said a frustrated Levasseur, less than 24 hours after the province-wide referendum which saw 32 former Quebec municipalities including Gatineau's Masson-Angers successfully split from their megacities.


While demerger supporters in Aylmer won 58% of the popular vote, just 26% of all eligible voters checked "Yes," thus voiding the referendum in Aylmer.

For the province to grant municipalities the right to split, each sector needed a double majority -- more than 50% of the vote representing at least 35% of the electorate.

"It's the first time in Western democracy where politicians are scared of the will of the people," Democracity Outaouais chairman Dany Gravel said.

Considering voter turnout for general municipal elections is rarely even that high, many considered the 35% condition entirely unfair.

In charge of the "Yes" campaign, which has spent the past month canvassing the region trying to sway votes, Gravel said he was particularly disappointed in those who did not vote.

"To come up short by 2,400 votes, maybe people wanted to go barbecue instead of go out to vote," he said. "I guarantee when we see our next tax increase people will be screaming their heads off, but it will be too late."

Gravel said he was also upset with the referendum question, which he said stumped several people who voted "No" but who were actually in favour of deamalgamation.

The voters' list was also inaccurate, he said, adding he'd heard of one person who was listed as residing at an address he occupied 25 years ago.

As Aylmer deamalgamationists are coming to terms with the fact they'll have to remain under the Gatineau banner, Masson-Angers residents are bracing for change.


While those in favour of amalgamation have until the end of the week to launch a judicial recount, which they have said they plan to do because they lost by just three votes, Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Fournier announced yesterday the creation of a transition committee, effective immediately.

The committee will be responsible for overseeing the separation process and will also be required to review spending and boundaries and make recommendations to the government.

The new city of Masson-Angers is expected to take effect on Jan. 1, 2006.


Tue, June 22, 2004

Quebec vote inspires rural rebels  

By Tobi Cohen, Ottawa Sun

Defeated deamalgamation supporters in Aylmer might be fuming over process, but at least the Quebec government has stayed true to its word, say those in favour of a similar split in Ottawa. While Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty promised to review amalgamation, much like Quebec Premier Jean Charest did, it's among many promises McGuinty has broken since taking office, critics say.  

"Dalton McGuinty said initially: 'I'm going to listen to the people. That is the democratic process. We're going to give the people an opportunity to vote on this issue if they wish,' " Rideau Coun. Glenn Brooks said. "As soon as some   BROOKS
What benefits?

of the municipalities such as Kawartha Lakes voted on the issue, and voted to deamalgamate, then
McGuinty did a flip-flop."

..."there is so much dissatisfaction not only in the rurals ... but I'm getting e-mails and phone calls and comments from Kanata and Nepean and Gloucester .... They want to know what are the benefits of amalgamation. Are we getting value for money?"
Councillor Glen Brooks, Rideau Ward


Brooks and Osgoode Coun. Doug Thompson said they'll put forward a motion during tomorrow's council meeting asking the city to launch a review of the benefits of amalgamation.

"My sense is there is so much dissatisfaction not only in the rurals ... but I'm getting e-mails and phone calls and comments from Kanata and Nepean and Gloucester ..." said Brooks. "They want to know what are the benefits of amalgamation. Are we getting value for money?

"Maybe there are huge benefits there, and if that's the case I'll be supporting amalgamation," Brooks added. "(But) until we do that review, then we are going to continue down this path of more money, more demands, less services and eventually, people are going to say, 'Stop this plunge into a deep black hole and let's reconsider this.' "