MONTRÉAL, May 12, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - Ms. Dominique Ollivier made public this morning the 2019 annual report of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal, where she has served as president since 2014. The 12 consultation mandates begun, carried out or completed in 2019 involved 22,000 citizen participations in the various citizen information and expression-of-opinion activities. For the OCPM, this was the second consecutive year where such participation numbers were attained, a phenomenon interpreted as an indicator of a profound change in the participatory culture.
Over the years, the OCPM has proposed the use of digital means to conduct a collective reflection on conditions for a citizen dialogue that is authentic, productive and useful to public decision-making. The recent years' experiments have led to the revitalization of numerous participatory devices, while avoiding the creation of new forms of fracture and exclusion. In order to make citizen engagement less intimidating, the Office develops new tools through collective fun and/or creative deliberation exercises that are always enlightening in terms of understanding the issues and leading to relevant decision-making. Those elements help to create participatory environments encouraging the involvement of a number of segments of the population that traditionally participate less. Moreover, the results presented in the annual report reflect equal and diverse participation.
Based on those experiences, the Office believes that it has achieved an interesting balance between in-person and online participation. "We have found that, far from competing with each other, the two modes are mutually supportive in promoting greater and better participation. Together, they facilitate access for a larger public, which does not always have time or want to go out to public meetings, while preserving the anticipated and constructive debate that ensures enlightened contributions," says OCPM president Dominique Ollivier.
Furthermore, the OCPM is currently preparing for the eventual resumption of its consultation activities in a context of social distancing and with the ban on citizen gatherings. To that end, alternative consultation methods, such as online, in writing and by telephone, are being considered. In order to support upcoming decisions, a survey of groups, associations, companies and individuals who have participated in our consultations in recent years is underway (more information here).
Follow-up mechanisms overdue
Although the Office has been talking about it for over a decade, the issues of feedback and follow-up have become more pressing over the past two years. Among the ten mandates completed in 2018 and 2019, there has been an official answer to the recommendations of the Office for only one.
"The main disincentive to participation has always been the people's impression that it served no purpose, as the decisions had already been made and the principal stakeholders would not change their minds. In reviewing the questions received by the Office, we realize that the population is no longer content with merely participating and waiting to read our reports. To re-establish their trust in their democratic proceedings, the people want to know what has become of the positions they have taken and the ensuing recommendations," adds Dominique Ollivier in her yearly overview.
A mandate that could be expanded
Already in 2004, the first president of the Office called for an increase in the number of cases where recourse to the Office is mandatory. He indicated that independent public consultation should be reintroduced for all amendments to the Montréal Master Plan, and that the Office should be able to intervene throughout agglomeration territory. The consultation on the Namur-Hippodrome sector, paired with the controversy raised by the various versions of the Royalmount project, is a good example of the advantages citizens would gain from such an increase by making it possible to consider metropolitan issues as a whole and to take into account the interactions between projects. "As suggested by my two predecessors, we should discuss the possibility of the OCPM playing a statutory role in the management of projects affecting more than one borough or city of the agglomeration, and in the management of emblematic and strategic areas. That could also mean that other bodies, such as the agglomeration council, borough councils, and city councils of linked cities could give us mandates pertaining to matters under their respective jurisdictions," suggests Ms. Ollivier.
This annual report is available in its entirety in PDF format, in both French and English, on the OCPM website, www.ocpm.qc.ca, in the publications section. Furthermore, as of the 2014 annual report, a lighter web version has been available to make reading easier on mobile devices. That is another way for the Office to maximize dissemination of its message. The 2019 edition is available at rapport2019.ocpm.qc.ca.
SOURCE Office de consultation publique de Montréal
For further information: Anik Pouliot, O. 514 872-3568, C. 514 743-9369, [email protected]