Mayor's Report on her first mandate session: accomplishments recognized and several projects to come for France Bélisle
With the arrival of the summer vacation for Gatineau's municipal council (whose councilors are currently on leave until mid-August), Mayor France Bélisle made a final appearance before the media before a well-deserved break. During a press scrum on July 6, Ms. Bélisle offered a recap of her first 34 weeks in office since her election as mayor in November 2021. Three words have guided the mayor during her first months in office, she said: listening, governance and influence.
Listening to citizens and their needs
Among the stakeholders targeted by this municipal listening, the mayor mentions first and foremost the citizens of Gatineau, followed by the local organizations, business communities and cultural communities of the region. Ms. Bélisle also cited her relationship with the First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi as an example of concrete reconciliation action on the part of the City, which announced an annual proclamation of the history of the First Nations every June, including an official flag-raising at City Hall. It should be noted that the Mayor's administration is currently preparing for the third Sommet des Premières Nations et des municipalités pour la réconciliation to be held in Gatineau next fall. Ms. Bélisle was also pleased with the partnership between the City of Gatineau and the Société des transports de l'Outaouais (STO), which allows free travel for high school students on its network for the month of July and August (and mentions that similar announcements should follow in the fall). Ukraine was also discussed and the concrete actions taken by the administration (free access to certain sports halls for Ukrainian refugees, collaboration agreement with Accueil-Parrainage Outaouais for the support and integration of refugees, addition of 100 free Gatineau+ access cards for refugees), were highlighted.
Internal governance under reconstruction
Ms. Bélisle explains that a refocusing of certain levels of the municipal and political administration was necessary when she took office. Rebuilding the bonds of trust between the city's various teams remains one of her priorities, as does the transparency of the work done. As an example, she mentions the arrival of the new director general, Simon Rousseau, for a seven-year term that includes a performance agreement (Mr. Rousseau will eventually have to report on his achievements to the city council). In addition, a position that had been vacant for five years was filled with the arrival of a new Assistant General Manager of Administration and Finance at the end of August. Customer service and quality of service are also among the Mayor's priorities in terms of citizen services and she highlights the City's accelerated investments in paving, improved snow removal operations and the purchase of related equipment. Concluding this section, the revitalization and revival of Gatineau's downtown, the 10-year financial plan established by the Service des finances and a four-installment tax payment available as early as 2023 are all items named by Ms. Bélisle.
A role worthy of Quebec's fourth largest city
The objective of the mayor's administration is clear: to act as a leader and occupy the space, role and place of the fourth largest city in Quebec. To this end are mentioned the creation of a housing committee (a project for which Gatineau has been invited to the Sommet de l’habitation 2022 to be held at the end of August), the selection of the site for the future Centre hospitalier affilié universitaire de l'Outaouais (CHAU), the STO tramway file (still in progress) and finally, the Cook site file, which continues to make progress with government and private partners in order to find a solution that is suitable for the parties involved and for the citizens.
"During the campaign, I made commitments to the citizens and there are ideas that have already been implemented. I am proud that some of them have already been realized. Obviously, all these achievements are the result of work and collaboration with the administrative teams and colleagues of the City Council. This report [...] has many actions that have been implemented and completed.” - France Bélisle
Photo caption: Mayor France Bélisle
Photo credit: courtesy of 1) The City of Gatineau 2) Sonia Roy