The Right to Initiate Public Consultations was adopted by the Montréal city council and allows residents to petition the government to hold consultations on matters concerning the city or their borough. The right is enshrined in the City's Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.
Problems and Purpose
Enshrined in Montreal's Charter, the Right to Initiate Public Consultations “empowers citizens to propose new and constructive solutions or innovative and mobilizing projects in order to meet the issues and challenges of their city by obtaining a public consultation following a petition.”1 However, the result of the process “has no decisional character”.1
Origins and Development
The Right to Initiate Public Consultations is one of the key projects developed by the Task Force on Democracy, a working group formed in 2002 in the midst of the municipal merger and the Montreal Summit. The Task Force is composed mainly of citizens who participate on a personal level, without the involvement of organizations. It is accountable to the mayor and aims to promote collaboration and cooperation between civil society and the city. The Right of Initiative was designed to this end.
The Right was adopted by the Montréal city council in September 2009 and has been in effect since January 1, 2010. Two public consultations have emerged from the Right of Initiative since it was implemented in 2010; one about the “state of urban agriculture in Montreal” and another about “the sharing of the existing bike path network”.
How it Works
Participants are self-selected. While the draft petition must have at least 25 signatories, each has chosen to sign under their own volition. As well, three signatories must serve as representatives of the group. The selection of these individuals depends on the organization of the group.
The exercise of the Right to Initiate Public Consultations begins with the filing of a draft petition. This draft petition must clearly and briefly state the object of the proposed consultation, justify the desirability of the consultation and be signed by at least 25 people including three signatories designated to serve as representatives of the group.
Within 15 days of the draft petition being judged admissible by the concerned authorities, a notice is given to announce the beginning of a petition signing period. To obtain a public consultation, groups must obtain a required number of signatures within the following 90 days. A total of 15,000 signatures are required for proposals that concern a central city matter. (As of 2011, Montréal had a population of 1.65 million people.) In the case of a borough, 5% of the population, up to a maximum of 5,000 signatures, has to sign the petition. (Population varies from borough to another. More than 160,000 people live in Cote-des-Neiges--Notre-Dame-de-Grace, but only a little more than 20,000 in Outremont.) To give young people “an opportunity to become involved with municipal affairs”2, the city of Montreal allows every person aged 15 years and over to participate to the process.
Once the required number of signatures has been collected, a public consultation must be held within a reasonable delay.
In the case of a public consultation bearing on a borough matter, the authority responsible for holding the consultation is the borough council, one of its committees, any committee or group of designated persons, as the council concerned may choose.
Where the city is concerned, the consultation is held by one of the council committee or by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), an independent public organization whose mission is to carry out public consultation mandates entrusted to it by the Ville de Montréal city council or executive committee.
The public consultation takes place in two parts. During the first part, representatives of the city or borough present information and answer questions from citizens. This is when those who have submitted the request will be required to explain the reasoning behind their request for a public consultation. In the second part, which takes place at least 15 days later, everyone gets the opportunity to express an opinion or submit a brief.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Those in charge of the consultation have to publish a written report within 90 days following the end of the proceedings. The document will itemize all concerns and opinions expressed at the hearing, analyze the proposals and draw conclusions or formulate recommendations, but will not render a decision. Then, the borough council or city council will inform citizens of the findings of the public consultation and, depending on the case, announce decisions that may be made and the reasons behind them.
The Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities allows a maximum of three public consultations to be held per year by the city as part of the Right of Initiative, and two public consultations per year by each of the boroughs.
Furthermore, certain matters are ineligible and will not be considered for public consultation if they concern, for example:
- the sharing of powers, or the governance or the status of the city
- administrative organization or contracts management
- budget, fees or taxes
- an urban development project for which a public consultation or approval by referendum has already been prescribed by law
- a project that has already been submitted for public consultation within the previous three years
- a call for tenders, pending or completed, or for which a contract has already been awarded
- a matter pending before the court or a matter that was the object of a judgment, or an out-of-court settlement.
Citizens' Initiative Review
 Ville de Montréal (2012), By-law 05-056-1: By-law concerning the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and the Right of Initiative, Online. http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/DROIT_INITIATIVE_FR/MED...
 Ville de Montréal (2011), Take the initiative...it’s your right!, Online. http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CHARTE_MTL_FR/MEDIA/DOC...
 Ville de Montréal (2011), Leaflet – Right of Initiative to public consultations, Online. http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/DROIT_INITIATIVE_FR/MED...
 Ville de Montréal – Cabinet du maire et du comité exécutif (2013), « Montréal met sur pied un Comité de travail de la collectivité sur l'agriculture urbaine », CNW Telbec
 Ville de Montréal, Official city portal – Ville de Montréal, Online. http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=5798,85041649&_dad=porta...
 Office de consultation publique de Montréal (2012), « L'agriculture urbaine à Montréal : des initiatives multiples qui nécessitent une meilleure coordination, estime l'OCPM », CNW Telbec
 Office de consultation publique de Montréal (2012), État de l’agriculture urbaine à Montréal : Rapport de consultation publique, Online. http://ocpm.qc.ca/sites/ocpm.qc.ca/files/pdf/P58/rapport_au.pdf
Lead image: CNW Group/Office de consultation publique de Montréal https://goo.gl/8H9u1W