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Practical guide interaction with the public
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If your firm or organization is developing a project involving residential, commercial or other construction, building modifications or site development, as a manager, you want it to integrate harmoniously into its surroundings. Perhaps you are wondering how to benefit from citizens’ knowledge of their community as you develop your project. How to best interact with them, collect complementary information and consider their suggestions and concerns. Perhaps you are interested in doing all this but aren’t sure how to go about it. Above all, though, your wish is that the exercise of interacting with the public is conducted according to rules that ensure its credibility and maintain the trust of the community.

To promote the adoption of processes involving interaction with citizens right from the project development stage, production of a guide for private as well as public and community promoters was proposed and adopted at the Sommet de Montréal.

The guide suggests a step-by-step method for helping promoters specify their interests, evaluate the suitability of public interaction and, if they so decide, implement the chosen approach. As compliance with the approach is completely voluntary, the promoter retains all necessary latitude by proceeding in steps.

After reading this document you will be able to:

  • evaluate your interest and, as the case may be, specify the desired level of participation;
  • depending on your decision, implement an interaction approach and familiarize yourself with some general rules promoting a bond of trust with citizens.

You may use this guide in whole or in part, according to your needs. It was prepared jointly
by the Task Force on Democracy, set up as part of the Sommet de Montréal, and by the Office de
consultation publique de Montréal.

We wish you pleasant preparations and, most important, a worthwhile exchange with citizens!

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WHY INTERACT WITH CITIZENS
DURING THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE OF A PROJECT?

It is most often during the formal public consultation phase, dictated by legal requirements, that citizens are able to express, for the first time, their reservations about a project. When they raise concerns or objections at this stage, however, it can be more difficult for promoters to take them into consideration because the project is nearly finalized. It has already been the subject of intense appraisal, with significant sums of money having sometimes been invested in studies, plans and so on. “We should have paid attention to citizens’ concerns earlier; it would have saved us time and money,” is an oft-heard refrain.

The earlier the citizenry has the opportunity to voice their concerns, the easier it becomes to take their opinions and suggestions into consideration.

Generally, this way of proceeding offers the twofold advantage of increasing the odds that development projects integrate well with their surroundings and lowering the risks that they will be contested or rejected.

In the area of environmental concerns, government authorities traditionally encourage interaction with the public early in the process, and invite promoters to consult the citizenry as early as possible; i.e., at the impact study and other initial study stages. When the conditions for integration into the milieu are studied in this way, with the contribution of the public involved, the chances of projects gaining social acceptance are increased.

In the opinion of several promoters, although early-stage citizen interaction demands more resources and time, it is all the more effective in attenuating any difficulties they may face during the later stages of the project.

Incidentally, some Canadian cities promote this model, which enables the emergence of projects with strong community support.