Elected officials with the Borough of Villeray/St-Michel/Park Extension, who meet regularly with their counterparts from the House of Commons and the National Assembly, are thinking of allowing members of the public to attend some of the future sessions ― at least once a year.
Meets monthly now
That was the main conclusion to come out of a meeting last week of the Table des élus of Villeray/St-Michel/Park Extension. The group, which meets monthly to discuss various projects and dossiers of mutual concern, was initiated by Borough Mayor Anie Samson as a way of allowing better coordination between the three levels of government.
While the Table has been meeting behind closed doors up to now, they were asked during a press briefing held at the end of last week’s meeting whether they’d consider opening up the process to the public. “That might be a good idea,” said Samson.
‘Once a year’ – Samson
“It’s an idea that’s been brought up,” added Councillor Frank Venneri, who represents the borough’s François-Perrault district. “We do it on a monthly basis with our borough council, but maybe, yes, once a year we could hold a forum for citizens to see that their elected representatives are all there,” Samson said.
The idea of a special council uniting elected officials from the three governments of is not entirely new. In Quebec, provincial legislation has mandated the creation of so-called Conseils des élus, which are regional consultative bodies, alongside the usual town or city councils, facilitating better dialogue and closer coordination between elected municipal officials, provincial MNAs and federal MPs.
Proving to be useful
While some critics are quick to denounce almost anything resembling yet another layer of government, such councils are actually proving their worth by ensuring that none of the three levels is able to dismiss a problem outright by claiming it is outside their jurisdiction (i.e. “C’est la faute du fédéral”). Everything is on the table for discussion during meetings of a Conseil or Table des élus.
“It’s very important that any group or citizens gets an appropriate answer to a question,” said Venneri. “In the past we had the tendency to wash our hands of it by saying it’s not something of concern municipally. They might be told to go to the provincial level, and there they’d be told it’s not provincial, it’s federal. We were giving them the runaround. Today with coordination between the different levels, we are better able to direct citizens.”
Besides keeping everyone better informed, Samson noted that the existence of a Table des élus in Villeray/St-Michel/Park Extension is also improving coordination for all the funding grants available from Ottawa and Quebec City for local community groups.
“When we know of all the programs and subsidies that there are out there, we are able to tell golden age associations, for example, that they should go knock on certain doors because we know there’s money there,” she said. “Our purpose here is to circulate information so that citizens are better served in the end. That’s the goal of the Table.”
Not another borough council
But Samson cautioned it would be important to not simply duplicate what the borough council already does when it holds its monthly public meetings. “We musn’t recreate the borough council,” she said, noting nonetheless that the borough is often the “front entrance” through which many people come looking for solutions to problems.
While the officials at last week’s meeting (including Saint-Léonard/Saint-Michel MP Massimo Pacetti, Laurier-Dorion MNA Gerry Sklavounos and Saint-Michel city councillor Soraya Martinez) seemed determined to explain the Table’s workings, they weren’t quite as forthcoming to reveal the immediate issues being dealt with this month. According to Samson, local summer job prospects for students and organization for the various Fête de la St. Jean celebrations to be held in the borough on June 24 were some of the things discussed.