As the countdown to Quebec's provincial election begins, Pontiac Mayor Roger Larose is looking at a long list of needs for his community and hoping this time, the Outaouais won't be ignored.
Health care, agricultural support and the need for a new daycare are top of mind as the Oct. 3 election date nears, and have been for a long time, Larose said.
"Pontiac was left for years because we're so close to Ontario and we've got lots of English-speaking people in the municipality," he said.
"No matter which language you talk or which sector you are of the province, I think at the end the service has to be the same for everybody."
People in the Outaouais have long felt ignored, and as the provincial election gets underway this week, officials in the region are hoping their communities will be heard and their needs will be addressed.
But of the five major party leaders vying to form Quebec's next government, only one has confirmed when she will visit the region during the provincial election campaign.
Quebec Liberal Party Dominique Anglade is scheduled to visit Gatineau on Friday.
Representatives for the Parti Québécois said Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon anticipates being in the area sometime this week, but weren't immediately able to say when.
The three other major provincial parties have all said they expect to stop in the region at some point, but weren't able to share specific plans by Monday.
"All the leaders of the five parties ... they must come here in Outaouais and ... say what is their view for our region," said Marc Carrière, warden of MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais.
"It's really important that every leader would come here in the next 30-some days."
Carrière presides over a council or mayors representing seven different municipalities in the region, which is home to about 53,000.
He listed affordable housing, environmental support and a need for more long-term care options as some of the issues that matter to the area.
Carrière also pointed to the promised new hospital in Gatineau and the future of the Wakefield Memorial Hospital as important issues for the communities.
Expert says parties will be interested
Carrière said he's heard a lot over the years about Outaouais being ignored, but was quick to add other parts of the province likely feel the same way.
"Outaouais is an important region for any government," he said. "[But] our reality, beside Ottawa and another province, that's unique in Quebec, so it has to be taken in mind every day by the leaders and every representative of the region."
An expert who spoke with Radio-Canada said he doesn't believe the region will be forgotten this time around.
"For once, our region will see several parties have a particular interest in it. It's good for us, we will be at the centre of the concerns of the major parties," Yan Plante, vice-president of consulting firm TACT and a former conservative strategist, said in French.
Communication is key
All five MNAs elected in western Quebec in 2018 are back to defend their seats after the Coalition Avenir Québec took Chapleau, Gatineau and Papineau four years ago, while the Liberals kept Hull and Pontiac.
Gatineau had elected a Liberal MNA in every election since 1962.
Radio-Canada has created a French-language map with a list of candidates so far. Nominations officially close Sept. 17.
Candidats par circonscriptions en Outaouais
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Larose said he believes that in order for provincial parties to understand what communities need, their leaders need to visit the region and speak with those who live there.
"Communication is really important," the Pontiac mayor explained.
"Sitting at the table from Quebec City and deciding on a map what's best for my municipality, sometimes I think it's not the best way. I think you need to talk to the people on the ground."