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Full house for highway meeting

Les gradins situés dans la salle de spectacle Optimiste à Rockland étaient remplis lors d’une réunion d’information publique le 13 décembre dernier. Celle-ci avait comme but d’annoncer un partenariat entre les politiciens locaux et le secteur des affaires. L’objectif du partenariat est d’obtenir le soutien financier des gouvernements fédéral et provincial pour la transformation de l’autoroute 174, qui ne possède que deux voix. Le partenariat cherchera également à obtenir le soutien de la Ville d’Ottawa en tant que partenaire à part entière pour la modernisation de la 174. — photo Gregg Chamberlain

County Road 17 portion from the Landry Road intersection to Canaan Road, which marks the boundary between Rockland and Ottawa-Orleans. Premier Kathleen Wynne also promised during a recent trip to Pres- cott-Russell that planning and a possible start on construction for that section would begin in 2018. That leaves the Highway 174 portion of the route, which is part of the City of Ottawa’s municipal road program. While Mayor Jim Watson and other Ot- tawa officials have indicated they support having the 174 expanded to four-lane status, their main focus for their Master Transpor- tation Plan is on completion of the current light-rail transit project, including the eas- tern extension to Trim Road in Orleans. “That’s where the challenge lies,” said Don Boudria, former Liberal MP for Glen- garry-Prescott-Russell, and now working with Hill and Knowlton, an Ottawa-based lobby group which has taken on Rockland’s 4 for 174 project as a client. “This (Highway 174 expansion) is good for them too.” said Boudria. “We have to

convince them (Ottawa) that they’re partners in this.” Jeff Polowin, senior representative for Hill and Knowlton, promised to send out notices to everyone attending the public meeting who left their email addresses when they signed the attendance sheet. The email notice would include infor- mation on how to assist the lobbyist agency through grassroots support activities. He also explained the purpose of a professional lobbyist. “It’s not my role to get themoney,” he said. “But it is my role to try to get themomentum (going).” He noted that in the 1990s when the pro- vincial government downloaded responsi- bility for the 174 Highway onto the City of Ottawa and the United Counties of Prescott- Russell (UCPR), the Clarence-Rockland area had a population total of about 3000. Now it is 25,000, with a large amount of its workforce commuting to jobs in Ottawa. That large amount of commuter traffic is one reason, he observed, why the province is now reluctant to take back maintenance

responsibility for the highway. Polovin added that the large turnout for the information meeting, along with the united front pres- ented by local politicians and the business sector, is a good start towards building a successful lobby effort. BothMP Francis Drouin, through an aide present for the meeting, and MPP Grant Crack, in person, declared their support for the project and the lobby. But during question period, several people expressed both frustration and scepticism about the chance of success for improving the highway link between Rockland and Ottawa-Orléans. “I think we’ve all been patient,” said Su- zanne Normoyle. “Forty years of waiting for this road (upgrade).” “It’s the third time we’ve been through this,” said StanMorrow. “We’re hearing the same things over and over again.” Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjar- dins expressed confidence that a united lobby effort will succeed. “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil,” he said “We will become Ontario’s squeaky wheel on this issue.”


Every seat in the Salle de spectacle Op- timiste Performance Hall was filled last Tuesday night with a few people standing on the sidelines or in the aisles to cheer the official launch of a lobby effort to fast track full four-laning of the highway connection between Rockland and Ottawa. “We are so close,” said Marc Simard, emcee for the event and one of the spokes- people for the 174 Roundtable, “so close to making this happen. But we need to speak up.” The Clarence-Rockland Chamber of Commerce and the 174 Roundtable are joining forces in a public-private lobby ef- fort to push both the provincial and federal governments for financial planning for full expansion of the Highway 174/County Road 17 route between Clarence-Rockland and the City of Ottawa to four-lane status. The province has already guaranteed at least $40million for work on expanding the

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