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Letter to the editor 2, Oct. 29, 2020

Editor’s note – In the October 15 edition of The Journal, the article titled ‘Pincourt Vert says saving Rousseau Forest will benefit entire city’ included the information that District 1 Councillor Alexandre Wolford and District 5 Councillor Claudine Girouard-Morel voted against the resolution concerning the $4.3 million price tag to purchase the plot of wooded land known as Rousseau Forest. Journalist John Jantak asked Councillor Wolford why he voted against it. The following is his response, printed with permission.

I decided to vote against the different versions of the borrowing by-law proposed by the Town of Pincourt to acquire the lots of the Rousseau Forest because the proposal adopted by the elected officials was, in my opinion, unfair to the citizens and would only result in the rejection of the acquisition of the forest which is, of course, not my intention.

I believe that the Town is right to use different tax pools to reflect the collective, as well as individual benefits that this forest provides to citizens. However, I do believe that the collective benefits far outweigh the individual benefits and I consider that the tax pools adopted minimize the importance of this collective capital. Certainly, the residents close to the forest will benefit from a better quality of life (tranquility, absence of neighbours, etc.) and will see an increase in the value of their property thanks to the preservation of the forest. On the other hand, I consider that the entire population of Pincourt will benefit much more. This is a green infrastructure whose important local and regional ecological value was demonstrated by the report we required from the firm WSP. As a reservoir of biodiversity, the Rousseau Forest also plays a major role in the fight against heat islands, as well as a bulwark against wind, pollution (think of air quality), water runoff into our sewer and wear and tear on our road network. Not to mention that the population could have access to it and would benefit from its effects on physical and mental health.

The borrowing by-law adopted by the elected officials proposes three pools of taxation and Pool 1 and 2 must ultimately pay nine per cent of the by-law. Nine per cent% may seem reasonable. Nevertheless, it represents a considerable sum for two pools with a small number of citizens. The pandemic has already heavily affected our population. Not everyone has the capacity to pay this amount and even if the value of their property will benefit from it, as long as they don't sell, the money will come out of their wallet and not the other way around. I don't want those citizens to have to choose between financial stress and the sacrifice of a forest that we know will benefit our entire community. With a borrowing by-law based slightly more on the entire population, the difference would have been almost imperceptible for the citizen (a few dollars more annually) whereas it would have offered a sustainable increase for those in Pool 1 and Pool 2.

In a nutshell, the by-law should aim for a fair distribution of the loan while respecting the citizens' ability to pay and at the same time recognizing the fair value of the benefits received both collectively and individually. In my opinion, the adopted by-law does not meet these two principles and that is why I opposed it.

Alexandre Wolford

District 1 Councillor

Pincourt

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