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Open letter from Les Amis on the importance of the OCPM for Montreal’s democratic life

On November 18, Les Amis de la montagne published an open letter in La Presse and The Montreal Gazette about the crisis at the OCPM. 

Here is an edited version of the letter, and, as a complement, an OCPM guide (2016) on the follow-up to the public consultations. This guide takes a closer look at one of the questions at the heart of this public debate: how do the OCPM's consultations help guide the decisions of elected officials?


The OCPM, a Vital Democratic Body for Mount Royal 

Since the revelations about misuse of public funds by senior management at the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), many have called for its abolition, alleging its uselessness. Les Amis de la montagne, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Mount Royal, begs to differ, having witnessed time and again over the years the critical function the OCPM plays in Montreal’s democratic life. 

The OCPM offers Montrealers the opportunity to influence decision-making about projects that are important for the future of our city. And citizens are not shy about doing so. During the consultation on the Projet de Plan de protection et de mise en valeur du Mont-Royal, 3,500 individuals and representatives of organizations took part in the consultation. More recently, the consultations on the Projet de ville du Plan d’urbanisme et de mobilité 2050 generated 4,310 citizen contributions.

The OCPM and Mount Royal

OCPM consultations are a showcase for the mountain and projects that have an impact on its future. They are valuable forums for exchange, where Montrealers become aware of the fragility of Mount Royal’s natural environment and the collective efforts required to protect it.

Consultations on major projects have been significant for the mountain, as they have led to the emergence of unique concepts and measures that are essential to the preservation of our cultural and natural heritage. Numerous consultations have been instrumental in guiding the thoughtful repurposing or restoration of institutions located within the Mount Royal Heritage Site, including St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal (2004), the former Seminary of Philosophy (2009), and the Royal Victoria Hospital (2022).

A number of City of Montreal projects, such as the redevelopment of the Peel Street entrance to Mount Royal Park (2007), the ring road project (2008) and the future of the access roads to Mount Royal (including Camillien-Houde Way/Remembrance Rd.) (2019) were also the focus of enlightening OPCM public consultations.

Other OCPM consultations have been opportunities to highlight the importance of preserving the mountain’s iconic presence by protecting views to and from mountain in development decisions planned outside the Mount Royal Heritage Site.

Further Considerations

The OCPM draws on collective intelligence to push projects to the next level. The very knowledge that a project will be submitted to the OCPM for public consultation leads the property developer to include social acceptability as a criteria for the success of the project.

In their reports, the OCPM commissioners make recommendations that attempt to capture the consensus emerging from the consultations, without, however, advocating turnkey solutions. It is up to the City and boroughs to evaluate the recommendations and ensure that they are implemented. Not going ahead with certain recommendations from a report does not mean that the City is ignoring the consultation.

The fundamental characteristics that make the institution such an essential body must be maintained: neutrality, independence, transparency and openness to all.

While it goes without saying that the OCPM must be held to the highest standards in its use of public funds, the current crisis must also lead to the following improvements:

  1. Make public the city’s analysis of consultation reports and recommendations, so that citizens can rely on a systematic and transparent process to understand the directions taken by their elected representatives.
  2. Simplify requests for public consultation on a given subject, to ensure access to the population.
  3. Ensure that elected officials and municipal civil servants have a thorough understanding of the role of the OCPM and other bodies essential to Montreal democracy, such as the Conseil du patrimoine de Montréal.

Let’s continue to rely on the OCPM. Let’s take advantage of the storm to improve its essence and make its role better known.

Hélène Panaïoti
Executive Director, Les Amis de la montagne



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