MONTRÉAL, May 1, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - The Office de consultation publique de Montréal releases today its 2018 Annual Report. The increased public interest in integrating elements of participatory democracy into governance tools, the popularization of various methods of online contribution, and the citizens' appropriation of devices such as the right of initiative provided for under the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities are but a few indicators of that growth. The people increasingly expect to be involved in defining changes that affect their living environment.
Among mechanisms giving citizens a voice, independent public consultation holds an enviable position. With its reputation as a neutral independent body attuned to the needs of all parties interested in development projects under public examination, the Office continues to enjoy a greater level of trust from citizens and elected officials regarding major issues in Montréal. The large number of files entrusted to us and the record number of participations documented over the past few years attest to it.
We must also give technological evolution its due. It is increasingly leading us to virtual spaces to visualize projects, initiate discussions, and take the pulse of the population on specific subjects. It is also responsible for a good part of the increased participation observed this year. At the same time, we must acknowledge the fact that virtual participation leads to increased real-time participation. The number of participants in the information sessions and the average number of opinions presented to the commissions have also experienced strong growth since the advent of virtual spaces in the consultation process.
In addition to the increased number of mandates over the past year, we also observed a significant change in the type of mandates entrusted to us. While in its first years of existence, the Office intervened primarily in the case of real estate projects, it now increasingly receives mandates pertaining to land-use planning and public policy, which are carried out upstream of the decision-making process and aim to identify needs, a vision, and orientations. That type of consultation calls for the establishment of practices decidedly more complex than simple information sessions followed by presentations of briefs. They require more resources and more time, as it is often necessary, in the absence of concrete projects, to deploy an arsenal of tools to explain the issues involved, generate consensuses, and get people involved by meeting them in their own living environment.
Moreover, experience has taught us that the documentation accompanying that type of mandate is often incomplete. In order for those consultations to be fully productive and to generate constructive suggestions, a major course of reflection is required to determine the type and amount of documentation that must accompany them and to ensure that the consultation itself arrives at the right moment in the decision-making process.
Furthermore, Montréal adopted its first public consultation policy in 2004. In January 2006, it also adopted the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. The latter was revised in 2011 and is expected to be submitted for public consultation "from time to time" in order to be updated. Furthermore, the adoption by the Québec Government of Bill 122 in June 2017 obliges municipalities wishing to opt out of referendums to adopt a public consultation policy in conformity with the law. In view of all of the elements and evolutions presented above, it is time, in order to preserve openings to citizen participation, to further define consultation mechanisms available to Montrealers, to harmonize their application, and to better identify their ultimate goals.
Finally, we would like to come back to the need to follow up recommendations as an intrinsic step in consultation. In our 2008 annual report, we underscored the difficulty that citizens have in measuring the impact of their participation in Office consultations outside of the public reports of the OCPM, as well as their difficulty in tracing the actions of the administration following the submission of those reports.
Ten years later, the issue has yet to be resolved. To ensure that consultations are fair, equitable and productive for all parties concerned, we must ensure that retroaction becomes an intrinsic part of the consultation process. For the time being, the process is somewhat random and varies according to the departments or boroughs involved. Considering the importance of issues submitted to the Office in recent years, the more frequent recourse to upstream consultations, and the growing popularity of the rights of initiative, it is time to adopt an automatic response mechanism to the recommendations of the commissions. As we suggested in 2008, the mechanism could be something like what is provided for under the by-law regulating the right of initiative or what already exists for permanent commissions of the city council. In fact, when one of those commissions tables a report, the executive committee has a deadline for informing city council of the follow-up that will be carried out. That practice could inspire a procedure that also applies to the reports of the Office.
This annual report is available in full in both French and English on the OCPM website www.ocpm.qc.ca in the "Publications" section. Note that the vast majority of copies will be distributed electronically, thus limiting the number of paper copies, heavy both materially and from an environmental standpoint. In addition, since the 2014 annual report, a lightweight web version has been designed so that it can be read on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. This is also a way for the Office to maximize the dissemination of its message. The 2018 edition is available at report2018.ocpm.qc.ca.
SOURCE Office de consultation publique de Montréal
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