The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 33 no 7, February 2021. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Cantley 1889 invited Heinz Pilz to share some of his memories as a first councillor after Cantley gained its independence from Gatineau amalgamation in 1989. Writing this article gave him the pleasure of revisiting memories of Cantley’s formative years, its struggles and victories.
Very sadly, Heinz did not live to see his “Reminiscences” printed in this first Echo of 2021.
It had finally been decreed that, on the first day of January 1989, the Municipalité de Cantley would come into existence. It was an end and a beginning, after years of revolt, complaint, and hope for a majority of Cantley-ans.
A real election, after the mock election of a year or so earlier! Seven people found themselves making up that first Council: Mayor Bernard Bouthillette and six councillors: Rosalie Bernier-Smith, Denis Charron, Michel Pélissier, Denis Prud’homme, Nora Prud’homme and I.
After a two-day training in Québec civics, we divvied up the “dossiers” needed to get this new municipality going. Rosalie opted for Planning (urbanisme), Denis C. chose Roads, Denis P. found his niche in Parks and Leisure activities, Nora saw the Environment as her task, Michel went for Public Security. I took on the task of being focal point for many of the smaller subjects: Heritage, Animal Control, Tourism, Street Naming and House Numbering, Communications, publicity, and others.
As luck would have it, Cantley was blessed with dedicated volunteers to support us all in each subject committee. All those different viewpoints and technical know-how made for some great planning and decisions.
There were many council meetings in the Parish Hall of St. Elizabeth’s Church. With the help of those volunteer groups, Michel conjured up some land for Cantley’s new town buildings. Nora and I went trailer shopping. I found us some flagpoles and kept people in the know with council reports in the Echo. Rosalie worked on a vision for this now new Cantley. Denis C. kept the dust and the snow off the roads. Nora got us our blue bins, and Denis P. brought our parks and programs back up to life. And all the while, the community was besieged with the threat of becoming home to two dumps: regional household garbage and construction materials.
We fought: in our meetings (with many concerned citizens donning boxing gloves), in the media, in the courts. We won some, we lost some.
Through all this, we councillors were often flying by the seats of our pants (and skirts). Our new rural municipality faced new realities. There were no sidewalks. No fire hydrants. No paved roads. No water or sewer lines. The set of bylaws (inherited from The City of Gatineau), which should have been there to guide us through much of our new development, had to be reinterpreted and rewritten. This was 1989 and we had been transformed from city slickers to country folk in the passing of an Act.
All of us had committee meetings, and more meetings, and then even more meetings. On top of these, we had the regular council meetings and pre-council-meetings and post-council-meetings!
Other projects which were parachuted into the regular tasks of running and reinventing a municipality included possible development of a theme park at Mont-Cascades, of trying to save the “Quarry” ice-age geological site from total destruction and consideration of a state-of-the-art high-tech garbage disposal facility. Moreover, we had to create a brand-new development plan to fit in with a new MRC. We had to ensure fire protection and park services from Mont-Cascades to chemin Taché to Montée St-Amour (which needed road connection to the rest of Cantley). Our Heritage Committee worked to publish and distribute Bob Phillips’ History of Cantley. These were only a few of the many projects and challenges we worked on, all within that first four-year stretch!
Finally, the revolts went away and new complaints arose (don’t they always!), but our hopes were being realised, as the new Cantley took shape.
First council meeting after Cantley achieved its independence from Gatineau, April 3, 1989, École Sainte-Élizabeth. From left Denis Charron, Heinz Pilz, Rosalie Bernier-Smith, Anne-Marie Paul (secretary-treasurer), Mayor Bernard Bouthillette, Nora Prud’homme, Michel Pélissier, Denis Prud’homme. One hundred citizens attended. LeDroit, April 4, 1989.
On behalf of Cantley 1889 and the l’Echo de Cantley, we offer sincere condolences to Heinz’s wife Elizabeth, his family and friends. Heinz was a dedicated, passionate councillor who devoted his time and energy to help create the Cantley we know today. For this, we thank him and will remember him.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share any memories of Heinz or of Cantley in 1989. Donations can be made to Diabetes Canada.