One citizen, one vote, one voice!
I often think about the quality of our democracy. From a local perspective, I participate almost monthly in the town council meetings (before and during Covid). In recent months I have made several interventions which seemed to be listened to, but which were clearly not heard and which changed nothing. I am aware that these interventions can have consequences.
Being thought of as a “whiner” is one of them, even if my only intention is to speak up for our community, our citizens and future generations and to remind our elected representatives that they are accountable to us. Our basic right is to be fully informed and consulted regularly…and well before important decisions are made and become irrevocable.
A matter of identity
It seems to me that our local identity is currently in tatters, being eroded to the point that in ten years, we won’t even recognize ourselves. Progress, economic growth and prosperity are probably the goals that we all share. But are we also equally invested in the desire to defend and protect our identity?
The possible dissolution of our municipal police department, which has existed in one form or another since the ‘70s, the development and loss of the centenary golf course La Belle, of Gray Rocks, and the growth of commercial activities on the 117 – to the possible detriment of the rue de Saint-Jovite – are all examples of this erosion.
The privatization of access to our lakes, the ejection of Ski de Fond Mont-Tremblant (which has existed for more than 45 years) by the trustees of the Domaine Saint-Bernard and by the Ville are other examples of news that worry me greatly.
Let’s bear in mind that Ski de Fond Mont-Tremblant began its activities at the Domaine well before the creation of the trust. In short, we can only deplore the progressive disappearance of several of our local institutions.
Can we really, as citizens, change things?
We must not be afraid to express our concerns, just like the defenders of La Belle golf course. Getting into the front lines to defend a conviction can be intimidating and it is easy to think, beforehand, that it will change nothing. But it is our right and has nothing to do with socioeconomic status. We all have that right.
The preservation of our local identity depends, increasingly, on us…on our courage, determination, tenacity, firmness, and our desire to be heard and listened to, and not just around election time.
I would like to believe that my vote, my voice and yours have exactly the same value as certain interest groups. It’s up to us to make sure it does. Our job, as citizens, is to insist on the same quality of life for everyone. It’s up to us to define, for our elected representatives and the town managers, what we want, and not the other way around.
Process of consultation
The trends as described in the “Stanford Social Innovation Review” are clear. Opportunities for the involvement of citizens must be more numerous, more flexible, adapted and collaborative. The engagement of citizens must occur through frequent opportunities for the exchange of ideas and opinions.
These exchanges must go well beyond a Facebook page and well beyond a monthly council meeting which is quite mechanical and could hardly be more administrative. It’s also time that a town as rich as ours start facilitating greater participation through technology.
Two essential things to do
The ongoing improvement of the local model of democracy will occur when at least two actions have been carried out.
First, it’s important to create a new consultation process based on regular opportunities for elected representatives and citizens to interact and exchange ideas, because the power of oversight of what happens in our town belongs to its citizens. Second, we must, therefore, take back this power and more of them must become engaged.
This engagement is the second essential pillar of a rethought democratic model. The following has been said: “It’s by participating that citizens learn to participate, to express themselves and to have their opinions confront those of others […]” (Venne, 2008, p.194).
In summary, a rethought, transparent, municipal democratic model, where a large number of citizens are engaged and in which they know that they are listened to, involved and feel that they can influence the current and future prosperity and well-being of everyone represents a huge community project to be undertaken and achieved in the coming months and years.
Are you ready to be on the front lines? I’ll be there!!
More from this author by clicking on his picture below.
Michel Savard14 Posts
Doyen d’une des grandes écoles hôtelières anglophone canadienne et propriétaire hôtelier avec son épouse Sharon à Mont-Tremblant pendant plus de vingt ans, Michel prend, depuis sa retraite, le temps d’écouter et de conseiller les citoyens de Mont-Tremblant sur divers sujets. Il adresse certaines de leurs doléances au conseil municipal afin que leurs voix soient entendues. Articulé, calme et posé, Michel est toujours extrêmement bien documenté et représente un atout nécessaire à l’exercice d’une démocratie saine au sein de notre communauté. Dean of one of the great Canadian, English-language hotel schools and a hotel owner with his wife Sharon in Mont-Tremblant for more than twenty years, Michel has had, since his retirement, the time to listen to and advise the people of Mont-Tremblant on a variety of subjects. He takes some of their complaints and grievances to the municipal council so that their voices will be heard. Articulate, calm and poised, Michel always has full documentation and represents a much-needed asset in support of the healthy exercise of democracy in our community.