Transparency in the Hills
Comparing La Pêche and Chelsea
The importance of transparency in government is often illustrated through promises to increase transparency during political campaigns, citizens calling for more information during public meeting comment and question periods and access to information laws.
Yet, in spite of the importance most citizens place on government transparency regardless of their municipality, different municipalities have different levels of transparency.
Chelsea takes about a month to make its draft council meeting minutes public in contrast with La Pêche, which posts the draft meeting minutes online sometimes the day after the meeting took place.
Chelsea is one of the few Quebec municipalities to host planning commission meetings that the public can attend, even if it is only for a portion of the meeting.
La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux responds to questions and addresses issues directly on social media through his Facebook profile.
Right now, both La Pêche and Low post recordings of council meetings on their respective municipal websites: La Pêche has a dedicated YouTube channel where visual and audio recordings of council meetings, along with videos of past municipal events, are archived, and Low posts audio records of council meetings right on its website. Both have done so since around the time the COVID-19 pandemic forced councils across Quebec to “meet” remotely earlier this year.
Chelsea, Low and La Pêche councils hold their meetings on the Zoom online teleconference platform.
All ask residents or attendees to submit questions by email before meetings, but Chelsea and La Pêche don’t shut down people who unmute themselves to ask questions during the meeting. Low, on the other hand, is still working on a way to allow for that sort of audience participation.
The mayors’ responses to municipal transparency
The Low Down asked Lamoureux and Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green, who both campaigned on increasing transparency before their 2017 elections, how transparency has been increased in their respective municipalities since their elections:
“Throughout my three mandates, in collaboration with council, I have always placed a great importance on transparency — being open, accountable and communicating well.
Increasing transparency is a way of fighting corruption also,” Green said.
“We have improved our communication overall, which facilitates access to information and improves the quality of information we publish,” Lamoureux said about the Info La Pêche newsletter, municipal mailing list, public meeting briefs, information posted to the municipal Facebook page and more.
Here’s what each mayor, with help from their municipal staff and councils, have accomplished in terms of transparency:
Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green
Makes herself available to the media for comment;
Council has asked staff to implement the broadcasting of council meetings on the website starting in 2021. Also, since COVID-19, all municipal council meetings are broadcast via Zoom and accessible to the public;
Council has worked with the administration to post agendas and draft resolutions on the municipal website in advance of council meetings;
Council has established many working committees as a means to inform and involve residents; the previous council opted to meet as a committee of the whole and not have working committees;
The Consultative Committee on Planning and Sustainable Development continues to be open to public participation, unlike most committees in other Quebec municipalities;
Council has placed an importance on consultations for a number of topics beyond those required by law, and has implemented use of the public consultation online platform Cocoriko;
Council works with community groups to provide deepen knowledge of specific topics;
Attends ward meetings with councillors and residents whenever possible;
Over the last two years, Chelsea has doubled the number of communication platforms it uses. This includes increasing the amount of content on the municipal website, increased posts on the municipal Facebook page, expanding the Chelsea Express to 40 pages, increased circulation of the municipal newsletter, and using the citizen platform Voila! and Cocoriko;
Council established a municipal registry where lobbyists are recorded as a way to fight corruption.
La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux:
Adopted La Pêche’s first strategic plan;
Published La Pêche’s first annual report;
Publishing more reports and documents on the municipal website after being made public during meetings;
Improved the budget presentations;
Working to adopt a five-year public works plan;
Adopted a two-year road plan in 2019;
Publishes draft council meeting minutes online.