January 11, 2021

This week, LaSalle, Verdun, and other boroughs in Montreal announced new ways for residents to participate in public consultations. I wrote about the Verdun consultations for Explore Verdun IDS.

They all want to help avoid crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic as they approve exceptions to the rules for new condominium projects all over the island.

From now on, anyone can submit comments or memorandums in writing by mail, online form or email about any public consultation underway in Montreal. Questions and answers can appear on the webpage where a consultation exists.

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) will very likely follow a similar process for upcoming consultations about the new l’Université de Montréal land use plan and the reduction of the Tour 6 Du Square Children building due to the elimination of social housing.

Sign up to the OCPM newsletter to get more news.

Do you want to create your own public consultation?

Anyone can ask the city of Montreal to consult the public on anything by following a process called the “Right of Initiative to public consultations.”

This process used to be open only to lawmakers but Montreal extended it to residents through bylaw 05-056-1 passed on September 21, 2009.

To get a consultation, you eventually need 15,000 signatures on a petition, but groups can’t just start collecting signatures via Change.org, Facebook or even on paper.

First you have to get 25 residents of Montreal who are older than 15 years of age to submit a question to the city or borough. There’s a specific “city request form” that allows you to collect signatures and addresses from people who care.

The city or borough then has to accept the question. At that point, it publishes a notice that the petition is underway on the city website. Groups have 90 days from that moment to get 15000 people aged 15 years and older to participate in the petition. All the signatures and addresses have to appear on specific city-created forms. Everyone who signs must live within the areas considered by the issue.

For more information about the process, refer to the city website at http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=6578,56915583&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL.

So far, only two groups have followed the process successfully: Velo Quebec, which wanted electric scooters banned on bike paths; and the GTAU, for a review of bylaws to support urban agriculture in Montreal.

Scooters banned from bike paths

The transport and public works commission held a hearing in which it limited bike paths to bicycles, wheelchairs and bicycles with electric support on September 12, 2011. Montreal’s executive committee accepted the recommendation on July 26, 2012.

Permiculture Success
Can “forest gardens” like the ones at Miracle Farms work in the city?

Urban agriculture became priority

The most impressive public consultation ever created was set up by “Le Groupe de travail en agriculture urbaine” (working group on urban agriculture or GTAU). This group encompassed 27 independent organizations that collected 29,068 signatures on an official petition. The GTAU deposited their petition on November 15, 2011.

The city announced public consultation hearings a month later but they didn’t begin until the following spring. The city of Montreal needed time to prepare a 17-page report into the status of agriculture in the city.

“This wasn’t like a regular consultation,” said Luc Doray, Secretary-General of the l’Office de consultation publique de Montréal at the time. “Normally we do consultations about real estate. This subject was much larger than our usual mandates. It was more intense, but not longer. It took place over three or four months but with many more activities.”

In the meantime, the public consultation office “worked with the groups who prepared the petition to make sure that the steps that we were planning would satisfy them and allow them to mobilize their members,” said Doray. “This was a great experience for us because we worked with very motivated groups. We used them to promote the consultations through their networks. We disseminated the information through their networks. Most of them tabled a brief and came and participated in the consultation.”

Doray said that the only contentious points raised concerned livestock, particularly chickens and rabbits, so the whole consultation felt like a party. The office held a one-day exhibition in the east end and 1,000 people attended, including many parents and children.

The office also published a calendar that included hundreds of public events, something that doesn’t occur with normal consultations.

The process ended when Doray’s office submitted a 147-page report of recommendations to Montreal city council on October 3, 2012. To see the report, refer to their website at: https://ocpm.qc.ca/fr/consultation-publique/agriculture-urbaine-montreal. (The link to a pdf copy of the final report appears on the right of the page about half way down under the words “rapport final.”)

Montreal created a permanent committee to review city bylaws into agriculture, all due to the “citizen right of initiative for public consultations.”

“This can be a powerful tool for citizens,” says Doray. “Citizens should be encouraged to use that right because it works.”

About the author 

Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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