PLQ surveys Laval’s wants and needs for a future ‘Charter of Regions’

City still fights its image as a suburb, despite population of more than 420,000

As Laval is Quebec’s third-largest city, it goes almost without saying that the Quebec Liberals included it on a list of regions where the National Assembly Official Opposition party has been holding online consultations on the wants and needs of people across the province.

During a consultation held for people in Laval on March 9, more than 50 persons decided to participate, although most did so as observers, leaving just a relative few who spoke and actively took part.

A regional charter

The consultations are being held by the PLQ as a prelude to the party’s preparation and adoption of a new and wide-ranging policy to be known as the Charter of Regions (Charte des régions).

According to a description of the project on a PLQ website, the Charter for Regions will include new recognition for regional governance bodies and will protect the individual regions’ political representation.

“It will strengthen each region’s right to development and prosperity on the basis of individual equality,” the PLQ states.

‘A tool to modernize’

“Indeed, it seeks to be an additional tool to ensure access to innovation throughout the territory, while acknowledging the regions’ contributions to Quebec’s prosperity through their differences and specificities. More broadly, this project would be a tool to modernize and enhance our relations with First Nations and Inuit peoples who inhabit Quebec’s regions.”

In some opening remarks, PLQ leader Dominique Anglade said Laval has aspects, including transportation and other economic factors, which sets it apart from other regions and which merit being treated from a much closer perspective.

A regional approach

Anglade suggested the Charter of Regions would eventually evolve from PLQ party policy into a full-fledged piece of legislation, focusing on each region in Quebec for its individual merits and economic potential, should the Liberals form the next provincial government.

On hand to wade into the issues from Laval’s perspective were four of the region’s MNAs who are Liberal: Monique Sauvé (Fabre), Jean Rousselle (Vimont), Francine Charbonneau (Mille-Îles) and Saul Polo (Laval-des-Rapides).

Some of the online participants in the PLQ’s Charter of Regions consultation held on March 9.

Sauvé suggested that in recent years, the Laval region has lost some of its sense of connection between groups and people and that she would like to see it restored.

Reflecting Laval’s uniqueness

“There is something in particular that is very meaningful that we have lost over the years,” she said, while adding that Laval is different from Montreal in that most people still know each other here, compared to Montreal where there is a great deal more anonymity.

Jean Rousselle agreed that there is a greater sense of kinship in Laval. “It may be a big city, but somehow we all know each other,” he said. “There are a lot of groups and organizations in Laval and they all know each other. I think we could maybe make an effort to get a little closer to these organizations and learn about people’s needs at the grassroots.”

He also suggested that the PLQ should conduct consultations on a regular basis. “Things change, reality changes, and sometimes opinions can change from one day to the next,” Rousselle said.

Only one hospital here

Patrice Allard of Sainte-Rose noted that even though Laval has a population of more than 422,000 residents, there is still just one hospital, just one CEGEP, and up to 30 per cent of the territory is still used for agriculture. He also pointed out that Laval is criss-crossed by one of the most extensive autoroute networks in the province and more than 300,000 vehicles pass through the A-15/A-440 intersection daily.

‘We are a city which is unique and we are entitled to take our rightful place,’ said Mille Îles Liberal MNA Francine Charbonneau

Francine Charbonneau pointed out that Laval is located in such a way that it acts as a buffer area between metropolitan Montreal and the rural regions of the province. “Often, people pass through us,” she said, noting that people from the regions north of Laval often come here or to Montreal to get better quality hospital service which is not available in their own area.

‘We are not Montreal’

“We are not Montreal and we are not a suburb either,” she continued. “We are a city which is unique and we are entitled to take our rightful place. The Charter of Regions would offer to us in Laval the possibility of accessing sums of money without being lumped together with Montreal.”

For his part, Saul Polo said recent indications suggest Laval is in the midst of an economic transformation that will have an impact on social conditions and the population in general. “Debates such as this one on the Charter of Regions help bring together the various players who are involved,” he said.