Office de consultation publique de Montréal First Annual Report: Restoration of Its Initial Mandate
Montréal, November 29, 2004 – This morning, Office de Consultation Publique de Montréal (OCPM) President Jean-François Viau released the first annual report of the Office, covering the period from September 1, 2002 to December 31, 2003.
The mission of the OCPM, created by the Charter of Ville de Montréal, is to carry out public consultation mandates relating to matters under the jurisdiction of the City of Montréal, notably urban planning and development projects and all project designated by the council or executive committee. The consultations are led by commissioners, who are appointed by city council, and are neither public nor elected officials, thereby ensuring a fair, transparent and effective process.
During the period covered by this first annual report, the Office examined 39 different files, requiring 84 meetings in which 3,400 citizens participated. For each of these consultations, the Office published one or more public notices, distributed flyers door to door in the area surrounding the project, and made all relevant information available on its Web site at www.ocpm.qc.ca. Over 100,000 flyers were distributed, notices were published in 18 different newspapers, and meetings were held in all of the boroughs.
All of the consultations dealt with matters related to the Urban Plan, of either local or regional interest. Major regional consultations were held on the Master Plan of the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, Tennis Canada at Parc Jarry, and the development of the Benny Farm site, among others.
“Over its first 18 months of existence, the Office has become one of the major democratic instruments of the new City. In many instances, its reports submitted to city council have led to amendments to the initial projects in response to concerns expressed by participants,” says Mr. Viau.
The year 2003 ended with the National Assembly's adoption of Bill 33, which severely limits the scope of the OCPM's mandate. Consultations pertaining to amendments to the Urban Plan are no longer to be conducted by the OCPM, thereby depriving citizens of the impartial process established by the Office, which proved to be very effective over its first year of existence.
One of the effects of these new provisions is the reduction, if not the elimination, of mandates that must be entrusted to the office. This threatens citizen participation in the decision-making process. An independent organization such as the OCPM should not receive all of its mandates discretionarily, but should be considered a natural step in the participation of Montrealers in decisions dealing with issues that affect their natural and living environments.
The Office de consultation publique is therefore seeking to reclaim the place it has carved out for itself through its practices and credibility, notably by holding the consultations provided for under the Act respecting land use planning and development on all amendments to the Urban Plan. Following a vast consultation conducted by the OCPM, a revised Urban Plan is to be adopted by the end of the year. The Office strongly recommends that it be given the mandate to hold the consultations provided for by law on any subsequent amendments to the Plan. The OCPM also reiterates the recommendation, made in its report on the Urban Plan revision, that the Plan be made applicable to Montréal as a whole, even after the reconstitution of some of the former municipalities. Legislative amendments to that effect could be made upon adoption of recently tabled Bill 75.
Mr. Viau concluded his presentation of the first annual report by saying, “Montrealers now have at their disposal a strong democratic instrument that allows them to express their opinions and to be heard by city council. This mechanisms should continue to operate for major projects and policies, and be reestablished for amendments to the Urban Plan.”
The work of the Office has continued in 2004 with other files related to the Urban Plan and with hearings on draft policies, notably the policy on natural environments, the citizens' charter, and the upcoming consultations on the heritage and cultural policies. Since its inception, the Office has been entrusted with 53 mandates, involving more than 7,000 citizens who attended one or more of the 186 meetings held to date.
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