OCPM's 2012 annual report: comeback on the tenth anniversary of the organisation and the outlook for the future

MONTREAL, June 13, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The year 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal. Born with the new Ville de Montréal arising from the municipal mergers in the early 2000s, the OCPM now has ten years of operation and over 100 public consultations under its belt. We wanted to mark this important milestone in the life of our organization and involve Montrealers in our commemoration. We wanted to reflect on our course and the path that lies ahead of us by asking Montrealers about their understanding and perception of the OCPM after ten years of service.

Following a survey carried out at our request, we noted that approximately one Montrealer in five knows what the Office de consultation publique de Montréal is, and that among those, 86% have a favourable opinion of it, 85% believe that it is useful, and 80% find it credible. We find those numbers encouraging. We also wanted to reconcile our statistical data to answer an often asked question about participation in Office consultations: Who are the people who speak at the meetings? We noted that 31% of the opinions expressed come from interested or directly concerned citizens. Social and community groups, urban planners and related specialists, and socio-economic groups, which are often local, account respectively for 22%, 18% and 20%. Lastly, representatives of political communities bring up the rear with 9%. We pushed our examination further to learn that 79% of citizens only came to one meeting, with the corresponding figure at 75% for organizations. This attests to the great variety of citizens and organizations appearing before us.

Moreover, our 10th anniversary afforded us an opportunity to take a closer look at the effects of our consultations on Mount Royal, an emblem that is near and dear to the hearts of Montrealers. The volume 3, no. 1 of the Cahiers de l'OCPM, entitled Le mont Royal, une richesse collective, recounts, throughout history, high moments of citizen involvement focusing on the preservation and enhancement of the mountain, and sets out concerns expressed by the public, since 2006, over the course of the ten public consultations held by the OCPM on projects located in the historic and natural borough of Mount Royal. This analysis allowed us to evaluate the influence of the results of the consultations on policies concerning the mountain, and to define perspectives and issues for the coming years.

In addition to all of the above, 2012 saw Montréal's first-ever consultation held at citizens' request, under their right of initiative. In accordance with the citizens' Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, Montrealers may, under certain conditions, request that a public consultation be held on a subject of their choice. One of those conditions is to collect the signatures of 15,000 citizens. Some groups took it upon themselves to use that tool to obtain a consultation on the state of urban agriculture in Montréal. More than 29,000 signatures were collected, and the OCPM was given the mandate to hold the consultation. The latter provided an opportunity to ascertain the interest of a collaboration of a number of partners from community and institutional milieus, as well as civil servants from various Montréal departments and boroughs, in the realization of a whole range of public information activities. One hundred and five briefs were submitted to the commission, which drew up an outline of urban agricultural practices in Montréal and proposed courses of action to consolidate and disseminate those practices.

Other consultations took place, particularly on real estate development projects as well as collective equipment such as a Soccer Centre and an Organic Matter Treatment Center. We cannot complete this overview without mentioning the innovative exercise that helped to define a vision for the development of the Griffintown area in the Sud-Ouest borough. This area, lying at the gateway to downtown, has experienced booming development over the past few years, and everyone felt the need to plot a course to ensure planned development of the area according to a shared vision. The upstream consultation, bringing together Ville de Montréal representatives, citizens and community groups, experts, and representatives of the economic and institutional communities, was a great success in citizen participation, with more than 1000 people taking part in the process.

The review and reflection brought about by the tenth anniversary of the Office lead us to reiterate the necessity of a neutral third party like the OCPM in the public examination of major projects or major actions that affect the city. We believe that many Montrealers share this conviction, as do the elected officials who reiterated their unanimous support for the Office through a motion adopted by city council at its meeting on October 22. We are also of the opinion that Office interventions should be foreseeable and predetermined, so that all citizens, groups and developers know the circumstances under which the Office will intervene.

Therefore, we believe that the Charter of Ville de Montréal should specify and broaden the criteria whereby cases are automatically submitted to the Office for consultation, while preserving the political authorities' option to mandate the OCPM on any other issues, as already provided for in the Charter. Along the same vein, we believe that in the event of a reform of the Land Use Planning and Development Act, in any future major cases where the right to referendum may be excluded, automatic recourse to the Office should be provided for Montréal.

The last ten years largely attest to the viability of a model like that of the Office de consultation publique, as does the fact that Porto Alegre, Brazil, a beacon city in terms of citizen participation, is preparing to emulate it. The coming years should serve to consolidate this institution that has become, over the years, a point of reference in public debates on major policies and development projects, as well as a special venue for public debate and citizen participation.

SOURCE: Office de consultation publique de Montréal

For further information:

Luc Doray
514 872-3568
514 977-8365 (Cell.)

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