The auditorium of Onslow Elementary School was filled with supporters of MNA for Pontiac André Fortin on Saturday March 10. The gathering marked the re-nomination of Fortin to represent the Liberal party in the upcoming provincial elections. Community members, councilors for the Municipality of Pontiac and MRC Pontiac mayors and wardens, both past and present, were in attendance.
Preceding the announcement of Fortin's uncontested nomination, a number of speakers addressed the audience, including West Quebec School Board chairman James Shea, Quebec's Finance Minister Carlos Leitão and MRC Pontiac's warden Jane Toller. Video messages of support were sent by MP for Hull-Aylmer Greg Fergus, MP for Pontiac Will Amos and Premier of Quebec Philippe Couillard.
Fortin spent time before the meeting greeting members of the community.
Warden Toller remarked that Fortin "truly deserved the title 'Champion of the Pontiac'. He understands not only what we need and where we need to go but how to get us there".
First elected in 2014, André Fortin has been involved in many projects that directly affect the Municipality of Pontiac, including the addition to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Joie elementary school building in Luskville, the creation of a regional hops growers collective (Houblon Pontiac) and improvements to Highway 148 in Breckenridge. Permission for the construction of a slaughterhouse for locally grown meat was achieved this year. After many years of community and political effort, the hemodialysis unit at the Shawville hospital is expected to begin operation in September.
Fortin was appointed as Minister of Transport, Sustainable Mobility and Transport Electrification in 2017.
"The community is well represented by André Fortin in Quebec City," said Minister Leitão. "He reminds us to be well aware of the everyday needs and preoccupations and it is good for us to be reminded of that. To have someone of this generation actively representing you in Quebec City gives us a new sense of energy." Leitão went on to deny that the province is "on a downward slide to nowhere" under the Liberal party, as he claims the media suggests.
After his nomination was officially declared, Fortin addressed the gathering, specifically thanking his family and individual political supporters.
To James Shea, who also acts as president of QCGN (Quebec Community Groups Network which works for English-speaking Quebecers as part of its mandate), Fortin stated, "you can be sure, damn sure Jim, no matter who is across the aisle from me [...], no matter whoever they are, nobody, when I am there, nobody will be allowed to trample on English language rights, on minority language rights."
Fortin expressed a positive view of the future for this region. "I would constantly hear the Pontiac is the poorest MRC in the province [...] and I heard it because it was true," he said. "But today we don't hear it anymore, it's not true anymore. We talk of positive initiatives, of new businesses setting up shop, of growth through economic development, we talk about [...] the possibility of a decent opportunity for our children, here at home in the Pontiac."
The presence of Fortin's two young daughters, dressed in fairy wings and snow boots, added to the light-hearted atmosphere of the event.
"Pontiacers still want to see their government, all levels of government, cooperate to foster all economic development," Fortin continued. "It's always been the number one issue here, the key to this region's prosperity and long-term success.
"Aylmerites want more services,they want a better, more targeted approach to education, they want proximity to healthcare services. Like many Quebecers, they want an improved, a modernized transport system that they can rely on, day in, day out. I still have many ideas on how to we can make Pontiac better, on how we can make Aylmer better, and how we can make government better and how I can do so by giving you just about every ounce of energy I've got while representing you in Quebec City, by being the representative that I hope you can be proud of, and by always putting forward the values that we share as Liberals. The Liberal party will always put economic development first, but will do so in order to achieve greater social justice."
Fortin's speech was met with a standing ovation. The Quebec provincial election will be held Monday October 1.