Publication of the OCPM 2013 Annual Report: Report and Prospects

MONTRÉAL, May 8, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The President of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), Mrs. Louise Roy, presented this morning the OCPM's 2013 Annual Report, after announcing, only a few days ago, to the city authorities that she does not intend to renew her mandate. Her second and last 4 year term ends on June 18, 2014.

The amount of consultations remains quite stable year after year but the nature of our mandates continues to evolve. Thus, last year, we had to examine matters of major planning within some boroughs or across the city. Primarily, the consultation on Montreal Development Plan mobilized significant resources, resulting in 4 thematic forums carried out in 8 events enabling the participation of some 40 experts. Through these meetings, we could count on the presence of 1,400 people who filed 95 briefs, and an online participation resulting in 1,201 completed questionnaires.

Somewhat in the same format, but on a specific and strategic sector of the city, we held a consultation on the Old Montréal Development and Enhancement Plan. Once again, more than 1,000 questionnaires were filled and several hundred people were present. Among other mandates, there are the Plan de développement urbain, économique et social, the PDUES, near the future campus of the University of Montreal in Outremont and planning exercise of the Saint-Raymond area, near the new MUHC in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. There were also some real estate files, some rather complicated, such as the establishment of a second primary school in Nuns' Island.

In addition, within the assessment of her two terms, Mrs. Roy noted that the Office has crossed its first 12 years of existence with the same concern for openness to the greatest possible number of Montrealers, transparency and readability of public initiatives, fairness in the treatment of opinions, rigorous analysis, with the conviction that quality public debate would allow elected officials to make better decisions and developers to realise better projects.

Moreover, she indicated that over the years, the Office witnessed the evolution of mandates entrusted to it. From consultations on projects with local implications, the Office extended its practices to public consultations on projects of broader, metropolitan-wide scope. We also conducted a number of public consultations in key periods, and following wide-ranging planning activities for the redevelopment or revitalization of entire neighbourhoods.

With its citizen-friendly activities, rigorous examination of expressed concerns and possible spin-offs for the Montréal community, and analysis of the conformity of submitted projects with municipal policies, it is safe to say that the Office has contributed to coherent public action serving the general interest, added Mrs. Roy. We are thinking here of consultations held in recent years on the Griffintown area, the protection and conservation of Mount Royal and Old Montréal, the Namur–Jean-Talon triangle, the redevelopment of the Outremont rail yards site, and numerous special planning programs (SPP). Furthermore, public discussions on projects have led private and public developers to raise the standards of projects examined in consultation, and led Montréal to implement submitted recommendations.

She also indicated that as our experiences unfold and discussions about experiences in other areas of the world intensify, and as university research develops, it is important that we exercise increased vigilance to improve our services, i.e. to make processes even more accessible to citizens and easier to use, and to make debates equitable and more enlightening, always with a view to assisting elected officials in their decision-making process.

In addition, Mrs. Roy identified avenues of development for the coming years:

Better reaching cultural communities and informing developers
Several avenues are open to the Office over the next few years. Firstly, in terms of tools for reaching citizens, in addition to maintaining our current channels, we must refine our methods for reaching clienteles that have always proved more difficult to reach. We are referring primarily to cultural communities. Our contact with developers could also be increased to ensure that presentations and discussions on their projects do justice to their initiatives.

Harnessing digital power
The Office will also have to incorporate digital power into its procedures. The phenomenon of citizen participation using digital tools is growing leaps and bounds, and poses a whole series of challenges, problems and opportunities that we must embrace, because digital means are playing an ever increasing role in debates on public action and policies.

Upstream intervention
Some of the projects examined by the OCPM take a very long time to complete. Those major projects inevitably change owing to market constraints and opportunities. The expertise of the Office could be more systematically employed upstream and throughout the implementation of projects, in mediation, conciliation or co-construction of decisions.

Confirming the role of the OCPM
Although the status of the OCPM is entrenched in the Charter of Ville de Montréal, its intervention is predetermined in only a few cases, and major projects are not among them. To ensure the transparency of processes leading to elected officials' decisions, it is important to identify and, in my opinion, to expand the range of cases where recourse to the OCPM, as a neutral and independent third party, is automatic

Finally, she thanked the thousands of citizens who breathe life into the Office by participating in its activities. Without them, our work would have no purpose. She also wanted to express her gratitude to all of the commissioners with whom she had the pleasure and honour of working over the course of her eight years as president. They have put all of their hearts and skills into conducting productive and useful consultations. A word of thanks also goes out to all Office collaborators, employees, experts, panelists, civil servants and developers, who also help to breathe life into our organization. Lastly, she saluted Montréal elected officials and the newly elected administration and wished them every success.

All available information on the OCPM, its role and operation can be found on the Office Web Site, at www.ocpm.qc.ca.

SOURCE Office de consultation publique de Montréal

For further information: Brigitte Stock, 514-913-3813, bstock@stockmedia.com