The YLJ letter to editor (February 15, 2018) submitted by Alan Nicol who is not only a resident of district one but is someone who helped me during the election campaign and someone I respect greatly. So I felt even more compelled to respond and clarify some of his points in his letter. In my experience, when people start making up their own facts, it’s usually a sign that there’s a lack of clear information being communicated.
This line of questioning is a fantastic way to allow council to have an open discussion about the subject and answer some questions residents may have. So here is the breakdown of his letter and my responses to him.
Alan Nicol. The mayor and council of St. Lazare have decided that a survey will be conducted during the summer of 2018, asking some 1,000 people whether Au Galop equestrian festival should be continued and how much should be spent on it, as well as asking residents’ opinions on the traffic circle, and the town revitalisation, but why?
Fact. The survey timing hasn’t been decided yet, but we’re looking at spring or summer. The number of residents who will receive this survey will be discussed with the company the town hires to run the survey (I don’t know where Mr. Nicol got the 1000 people from??). We fully intend to hire a professional company with knowledge and experience who will be able to advise and guide us in the best way possible in order to get the most accurate results from the survey.
During the elections, we heard from happy and also dissatisfied residents. A large number of them had concerns regarding several topics and we wanted to be certain that we could hear from everyone and not only the loud voices on “both sides” of the issues. This information can be very helpful in guiding council in future projects.
Alan Nicol. Surveys are not part of our political process; we have official signings of ‘contestations’ and ‘referendums’ to obtain mandates on important matters.
Fact. The survey doesn’t take away the legal or political process. It doesn’t mean council will have a free pass to go ahead with projects and spend an unlimited amount of money. The survey is to give us a sense of direction so that we understand what the majority would like to see for their town.
Alan Nicol. Surveys can easily be manipulated depending on the questions, the people being asked the questions, even the locations these people live in.
i.e. Ask a question about the traffic circle to people who live around Bédard/downtown corridor and the response will probably be more positive than the response from people in the East end or the West end of St. Lazare, because these people use Cité-des-Jeunes and Côte Saint-Charles to leave St. Lazare.
i.e. Ask a question about revitalizing downtown to people who live around the Bédard/downtown corridor and the response will probably be more positive than the response from people in the East end or the West end of St. Lazare, because shopping centers in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Rigaud, and Hudson are closer to these areas.
Fact. One of the reasons we want to hire an outside firm is to have professionals with no ties to our town that can take charge of the survey without any prejudice. Having said that, it will be important for us to make sure that this firm understands the challenges and particularities of our town.
Alan Nicol. Is it the intent of the administration that the results of a $30,000 to $40,000 ‘survey’ will be interpreted by the mayor and council as a ‘strong mandate’ for the town to go ahead and spend $1.5 million on Au Galop during the next four years, or to spend $3 million on a traffic circle, or $12 million on revitalizing the downtown area? If that is the intent it would be undemocratic.
Fact. We’re just in the beginning stages of looking for suppliers. Council hasn’t had any presentations, costs or any details of how we will run this survey (I don’t know where Mr. Nicol got the amount of $30,000 to $40,000 for the survey??).
The more informed council is, the better decisions we will be able to make for the majority of our residents. This survey should not be used as a “strong mandate” but rather should be part of information gathering. There are a lot of steps involved when council makes any kind of decisions. The cost of projects is always definitely a huge factor and as part of my own mandate, I’m maintaining that expenses have to be kept reasonable. Having said that, decisions need to be voted on by all 6 councillors and majority need to be achieved before going ahead with projects.
Alan Nicol. If the administration really believes that residents of St. Lazare want Au Galop, a traffic circle and the revitalization of downtown, why not hold a referendum on each subject, giving those who want these projects the opportunity to democratically voice their approval?
Hopefully, if there is a democratic vote on Au Galop, a traffic circle and revitalization, there will be more than a one-day signing period, which was all that was allowed for the contestation of the new town hall.
So why are St. Lazare taxpayers having to pay for a survey?
Our role as councillors involves being attentive to citizens and available to listen to demands, grievances, but also their suggestions. The survey doesn’t take away the democratic process, but it hopefully will be a good tool to give us some orientation for several sensitive topics. Residents have asked us to improve communication and allow for their voice to be heard when it comes to decision making on big projects. I believe this is a good start!