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More than just a bridge

We can celebrate one thing. In the Saint John River Valley, we want to build a bridge rather than build a wall between two communities that are one in many ways.

But this doesn’t mean that an international bridge project is without challenge.

Photo Daniel Aucoin

This is why the elected officials of Madawaska and Edmundston continue to express loudly the needs, desires and aspirations of their respective communities to the Canadian and American authorities involved in this project.

We do not build an international bridge often. The current one has been there for almost 100 years. The new bridge will probably be there for just as long. We can’t make a mistake.

The common position of Madawaska and Edmundston is simple. We want a bridge that keeps our two communities together. A bridge that facilitates trade and transport in all their forms between our areas. For this reason, no one will accept a bridge that is outside the boundaries of our municipalities.

We want a bridge that helps us solve the problem of heavy transportation in our respective city centres. A bridge is not the complete solution, but it is an important element. On the Canadian side, however, the new bridge project must be twinned with a bypass road in order to solve the problem in its entirety. The reason is clear. We can talk about the lack of development in our downtown area, but as long as 1000 heavy trucks are driving through every day, our downtown area will not bloom.

We want a bridge whose appearance and look will be distinctive in the landscape, in the hearts and minds of people. A bridge that creates the conditions for a new beginning and new opportunities. Crossing a majestic river, an intimate link between two communities united by history, economy and culture, this bridge represents a unique opportunity to highlight itself to the people who will come to discover us.

But there are challenges ahead. We must put every effort into meeting them head on. Our short time to react is the first challenge. This is probably the most important one too. The condition of the current bridge imposes a major time constraint. This forces everyone to move faster than expected. We don’t dare to imagine the impact of a complete closure of the current bridge if it deteriorates further by the time we have a new bridge.

The position of some representatives of the Canadian federal government wanting to keep the existing border services building at its current location is another challenge. We do not yet know who is speaking on our behalf and what authority these people think they can speak on our behalf. But we will know it soon and questions will have to be answered. The border services are located where they are because the current bridge is there. Why should a new bridge end up at the same place? Asking the question is answering it.

There are also environmental, financial, technical and many other challenges. Not to mention the large number of Canadian and American government agencies that must agree to a final option. Otherwise nothing will move.

It’s a complex issue that our local communities don’t have full control over. That’s for sure. But what is even clearer is that OUR bridge is much more than a bridge. And that, we will make it heard on all the tribunes possible and imaginable. It's our responsibility. These are our aspirations. This is how we see it.

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Happy Holidays to you all!

  • Written by Cyrille Simard
  • Published on 20 December 2017

On behalf of my colleagues on City Council and City staff, I wish you very Happy Holidays and a New Year full of health, fun and good times! May the year 2018 show us once again that Edmundston and its people are strong by nature!

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Ti-Jean and Grand Jean

  • Written by Cyrille Simard
  • Published on 31 October 2017

A community by its nature is a variety of people. Beliefs, opinions and abilities and different paths converge and meet. At the same time, these people also have several elements in common that bring them together. This provides a sense of cohesion and solidarity. It's impressive to see how this balance between variety and unity operates.

This weekend, the launch of the opening festivities at the Jean-Daigle Centre gave me the opportunity to see it again. Two very different personalities come to mind spontaneously to illustrate this point. Curiously, both of them bear the name of Jean. For the sake of my purpose, I'll call them Ti-Jean (actually that's really what we called him when I was young) and Grand Jean.

ti-jean-1979First to mind, there is Ti-Jean. Jean Desroches was his full name. He lived in Edmundston from his birth in 1954 until his death in 2007. Ti-Jean had Down Syndrome. He was a ray of sunshine in the heart of the community of Edmundston East in particular. I was a kid at the time. His memory remains vivid in my mind.

Ti-Jean was everywhere. He was regularly seen walking around the "Le Mur" hall with his inseparable "drum sticks". He imitated the drummers by activating the sticks while walking. He sang rock n' roll tunes aloud. Always smiling. Everyone loved and protected him.

In addition, Ti-Jean was a hardcore sports fan ... especially softball, baseball and, of course, hockey. There was virtually no sporting event in town without Ti-Jean being there. He greeted people, gave them a pat on the back or told jokes and laughed with his contagious laughter. I still hear his characteristic laugh as if it were yesterday.

The diminutive name "Ti-Jean" suggests that perhaps he was just a small piece of the community. This is the perception that can emerge when one measures the place of a person in society in relation to his past exploits, his economic or political power, his place in the media, etc.

Yes, Ti-Jean was unique. He was but one element in the variety of people found in a community. But, certainly, he was part of it and he contributed to the life and identity of the community. He was an inseparable piece. The community protected him and made him grow. At the Jean-Daigle Centre last weekend, Ti-Jean would have been there with us. In fact, I think he was surely in his way.

jean-ceremonieAnd then, there is Grand Jean. Jean Daigle is his full name. Jean is more than 6 feet tall and is structured like an ice cabinet. His past is marked by high level sporting feats even leading him to the doors of the National Hockey League.

He is a successful businessman who built a large business that provided for many families in our city over time. Respected for his business acumen, he was perhaps feared by others because he evolved in a competitive field where even when the rules of the game are followed, some win and others lose.

Man of few words, Jean is imbued with great simplicity. He spent his life more often than not unnoticed in the community landscape. He has rarely been under the spotlight for his achievements.

Unlike Ti-Jean, Jean Daigle was indeed present in the community amphitheatre this past weekend. Certainly, it's in part because of the generous gift that he and his wife have given for the construction of the centre that bears his name.

But he wasn't there for that reason alone. Throughout the weekend, he told me how happy he was to see the smiling faces of thousands of people in the community who admired the facilities and expressed their pride in the outcome of this project.

Jean is humble despite the importance of his contribution to this project. He acknowledges that he did so for the common interest of all. Grand Jean can also put on the shoes of a Little Jean.

And then there was this moment of grace. I am at the centre of the rink as I wait to make the first formal face-off of the history of this building. The announcer invites Jean Daigle to come to the centre of the ice to join me. He gets on the red carpet and makes his way to the rhythm of the applause that starts.

All of a sudden, spontaneously, the 2600 people present get up for a long, warm, generous standing ovation. Emotion ties a knot in my throat. Jean Daigle's face at this moment will remain etched in my memory just as the smile our Ti-Jean of yesteryear. Pride, maybe. Humility, no doubt. Ti-Jean of old became a Grand Jean thanks to the love and protection that his community gave him. Today's Grand Jean felt undoubtedly cramped, perhaps feeling like if was in the shoes of a Ti-Jean, faced with such a manifestation of love and gratitude.

It is said that a community is a group of people who possess and indivisibly enjoy a shared heritage. All this is our heritage. A community is never as beautiful and strong by nature as when all Ti-Jeans and Grand Jeans are generous and work together beyond their apparent differences.

Yes, Ti-Jean was there on Saturday night with Grand Jean on the ice.


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