Quebec town, population 210, was at risk of vanishing. Now it’s making a comeback

23 April 2024
Quebec town, population 210, was at risk of vanishing. Now it’s making a comeback

When Debra March first moved to Moffet, Que., 30 years ago, she says she was “scared to death.”

Moving to the quiet town more than 700 kilometres northwest of Montreal took some adjustment for March, who came with her husband from Cleveland in 1989.

“I wanted to go back. I was really intimidated,” she said with a chuckle.

“It was being in love that kept me here because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to really stay that long.”

Decades later, she is now among the few who have witnessed the town’s revitalization efforts following its decline — when the town, once lively with several stores, restaurants and bars, started to grow quiet in the ’90s.

“It seemed like a lot of people were moving out of here, going to bigger towns,” said March, who has run a local outfitter, Camp Grassy Narrows, with her husband for over 30 years.

“There were some hard times there. It was very sad. I mean, we lost the restaurant, we lost the store. We lost the people in the town.… It took a lot to get it up and going.”

But things have turned around, says Mayor Alexandre Binette.

The town was circling the drain with no bank, gas station or local store just a decade ago. But thanks to revitalization efforts, the village has welcomed new faces and is bustling with projects — which include a greenhouse, car share service, theatre show, gym and pickleball court.

The village of Moffet, Que., is gaining recognition for its revitalization efforts that have brought new people to the town 700 kilometres northwest of Montreal. (Thomas Gerbet/Radio-Canada)

Today, 210 residents call Moffet home and Binette knows every one of them.”

It’s almost like a big family,” joked Binette, who became mayor in 2017.

“We have a good story to tell…. We were like the most devitalized municipality.”

Binette says the town has seen that vitality return in the last two years especially, something that is reflected in economic data from the province.

And earlier this month, Rues principales, an organization that helps municipalities stay prosperous, presented the town with a public choice award for its community revitalization project.

“That’s the thing that was recognized by our peers, the effort that we have [made] and even if we’re small, we’re agile. We can do stuff much quicker than big cities,” said Binette.

“It’s kind of fun to try stuff. People don’t expect anything of you.”

‘We’re kind of the underdog,’ says mayor

Binette says everything started to change in 2018.

The first step was a modern playground and park, but what followed was a gas station, general store and a slew of other developments.

Although 18 people left or died between 2018 and 2022, the population still increased by 27 per cent overall during that period, says Binette.

A park in town is one of several new projects in Moffet. (Thomas Gerbet/Radio-Canada)

“People are staying. I think they’re having fun,” said Binette.

“We’re kind of the underdog. Nobody thinks that we’re going to be able to do stuff, but we managed to get stuff done and have some results.”

Binette says about half of the newcomers are from Ontario.

LISTEN | Mayor Alexandre Binette on Moffet’s comeback story:

Breakaway10:31Mayor of Moffet awarded prize for efforts at revitalizing small town

Just a decade ago, the town of Moffet in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region was considered one of the province’s most devitalized communities. The town’s Mayor, Alexandre Binette, vowed to change that, and just received an award for all the work he’s done to bring the small community of some 200 residents back to life. He speaks with Alison about the town’s success story, what it means to be awarded a prize by the public, and what’s on the town’s bucket list for the future.

‘You feel that vibrancy’

Ashley Warrilow, from Owen Sound, Ont., about 200 kilometres northwest of Toronto, moved to town with her three kids and husband last July after visiting Camp Grassy Narrows.

“It really did feel like an up-and-coming area,” said Warrilow.

“Just the vision and the growth that the municipality has for the area definitely gets people excited and was a draw for sure.”

Moffet welcomed 72 new people from 2018 to 2022, according to the mayor. (Thomas Gerbet/Radio-Canada)

She says another pull was language.

Warrilow says she has a passion for French and wanted her children aged nine, 11 and 13, who are home-schooled, to grow up bilingual.

“Everyone is super friendly and very welcoming, so I’m sure that has aided in the transition,” said Warrilow.

“You feel that vibrancy in a community and it just felt right.”

A new greenhouse will be run by volunteers in the town. (Submitted by Marie-Claude Légaré Coderre)

Among the initiatives, Binette says he wants his town to be a safe space for businesses, which is why the municipality has taken to partially supporting and funding operations in town for vital services.

Among its most recent initiatives, Binette says the village bought an electric car for residents to use if they have to travel outside of town for appointments to avoid paying steep prices for gas.

As small towns in B.C. grow, so do fears over gentrification

Northeastern Ontario cities campaign to woo Toronto-area residents

He says the ideas just keep coming.

“It’s something that started and that we don’t know how to stop it,” joked Binette, who knows he’s working with limited resources. “My job now was to push on the brakes.”

Source: cbc

Breaking News
Cookies allow us to personalize content and ads, provide social media features, and analyze our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising, and analytics partners.
I accept!