Democracy in the time of Covid-19
---Plateau district councillor hosts virtual meeting with residents
With plenty of ongoing development in the Plateau neighbourhood raising questions from residents, around 45 people joined councillor Maude Marquis-Bissonnette for a virtual meeting aimed to help paint a better picture of what the area should look like in the future. Held on December 1, the meeting lasted around an hour and featured a presentation on the city’s urban planning and municipal finance representatives, and a session where the councillor answered questions from residents. Delighted with the level of participation for the meeting, Marquis-Bissonnette said it was a success.
Marquis-Bissonnette said the purpose of the meeting was to update residents on infrastructural projects and urban planning in their district, and to gather opinions on what the area needs going forward. Considering high levels of concern among residents regarding numerous subjects, including the impacts of major construction projects, the loss of greenspaces, and the need for proximal essential services, she stressed the importance of being as transparent as possible and giving residents a voice.
Having appreciated the discussion, Plateau Residents’ Association (ARP) President Bettyna Bélizaire said it’s something that should happen more often. Considering that the event provided an open dialogue between residents and their councillor, on a number of top-of-mind subjects, she believes that, overall, it was a productive meeting. Coming out of it, the councillor said one of her main takeaways was that residents are concerned about the district’s transportation infrastructure, especially with major arteries like chemin Vanier, chemin Pink, and boulevard du Plateau.
Notably, residents expressed worries on how the district’s roads will adapt to the area’s fast growing population, and to modern active and public-transportation standards, Marquis-Bissonnette said. She added that residents also brought up qualms with the district’s sidewalk widths. Another important topic was the district’s lack of nearby essential services, notably youth programs, health care services, and schools, Marquis-Bissonnette said. “In the Plateau, it’s about continuing to build living spaces that are complete,” she said, noting that the city does not have the legal influence to affect change in certain aspects of essential services.”
As for the area’s lack of greenspaces, residents said diversifying the district’s natural spaces and protecting nearby forests are crucial. While residents are largely understanding of densification plans in certain parts of the district – notably in the south – she believes they need some natural spaces to benefit their quality of life. Bélizaire said one of the biggest issues among Plateau residents is a sense that they’re not being adequately consulted on certain municipal affairs in their district, noting that things need to improve in that regard. “It’s important for us that residents know what is going on, why the Plateau is developing so much and what is happening with the development,” Bélizaire said. “I hope other districts will also push to have this sort of meeting … it favours civic participation for Gatineau residents.”
Empathizing with that sentiment, Marquis-Bissonnette said she wants to provide more transparency to residents. However, she noted that project developers are not legally bound to disclose certain information about their projects to the public, or to hold public consultations – which causes challenges with communication.
Regarding the area’s fast growing population and infrastructure, Bélizaire said residents largely question the purpose behind the planning of major projects in the district. While circulation, the diminishing of greenspaces, and rapid growth are notable issues for residents, she believes the district is most significantly lacking in nearby community services and schools. “It’s the planning around these things that bothers residents,” Bélizaire said. “[Residents] want development that facilitates pedestrian access to services.”
“We’re not against development in the Plateau,” she added. “We would just like it to be better done, better thought out, and better planned, in terms of what is there, in terms of our environment, in terms of what we want.” Most importantly, she believes the district is lacking core services for adolescents, affordable housing access and nearby shops that favour pedestrians. Noting that some questions weren’t answered during the meeting, she invited residents wanting to discuss or learn more about certain topics to contact her.
Having held similar meetings with residents every year since being elected in 2017, Marquis-Bissonnette said she’s looking forward to engaging with the community again in the near future.