Wentworth-Nord

the "Council’s Message"

On his mayor's Facebook page, Mr. Ghali informs us that the councillors have decided to replace "The Mayor’s Message" in the Gazette with the "Council’s Message". "Who will write it? - God knows!" he adds. We know that his opponents in council, as well as the Commission municipale du Québec (CMQ), accuse him of using this forum to express "his personal position and not a municipal position".

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

C. Chap.

Wentworth-Nord Council Meeting of February 19, 2021 

Ordre du jour   Version vidéo

The Zoom counter will show 40 participants in this videoconference. All Council members were in attendance, as well as Mr. Jason Neil who was replacing the Executive Director, who was on sick leave.

Words from the Mayor and committee representatives

Following the acceptance of the agenda and minutes of the previous meetings, the Mayor paid tribute to Mr. Ed. Bachman, who passed away on January 20th, as well as to Mrs. Marie-Andrée Dionne. He specified that the former (who will be the subject of a later response by Mr. Ghali to the charges brought against him by the CMQ) resided on the (now famous) Du Domaine street. He will also recall the multiple implications of Ms. Dionne in the community. Finally, he will conclude by highlighting the centennial (February 21) of Mrs. Minnie (Goldstein) Johnson, a Montfort personality.

Before outlining the work of the Roads Committee, which he chairs, Councillor André Cliche will take as his own the tributes paid by the Mayor to the persons mentioned. The committee had met on January 22nd. In thanking the Public Works staff, Mr. Cliche will point out several novelties in the approach of the offer of these services: preventive maintenance, new tools, criteria for the choice of gravel or asphalt, the planned implementation of multi-year contracts with contractors, etc. He will say a word about the survey you are asked to participate in if it comes with your tax bill, and will cover both commercial residences and your use of the TaCL transportation service.

Councillor Yvon Paradis requested that his report on the Fire Committee be given at the next meeting.

Councillor Myriam Rioux will give an update on the Saint-Michel Church Committee. A budget of 700 000$ would have been voted.

Administration

The mayor proposed adherence to the declaration of commitment on democracy and respect, made by the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ). It is unanimously adopted. (During the question period, Ms. Danielle Desjardins will question him on the subject, recalling that his declaration of commitment differs totally, both in letter and spirit, from what he himself says in social media).

Following the resignation of Councillor Groulx, Mr. Eric Johnston is designated deputy mayor until June 30. For his part, Mr. Jason Neil is appointed Acting General Manager for three months, in the absence of Mrs. Marie-France Matteau, and a person will be recruited, with the help of a consulting firm, to provide him with support for a fixed term of twelve months.

A request for the installation of a temporary telecommunications tower by Bell Mobility to improve this service was accepted.

An accountant, Ms. Carole Lavoie, was recruited on a temporary and partial basis to fill the vacant position.

Finally, since the Human Resources Committee is responsible for conducting an internal evaluation of employees and the Mayor sits on it, Mr. Yvon Paradis asked him if he would withdraw from the committee for this occasion. Mr. Ghali stated that he would be a member by right and Councillor David Zgodzinski replied that he would be in conflict of interest. Ms. Desjardins, once again, would agree with the Councillor in question period.

Public Safety

There is talk of setting up four roadblocks on the territory of Wentworth-Nord during the 2021 food drive.

Concerning the resignation of three first responders, we understand the explanations of Mr. Yvon Paradis, that they never gave any sign of life during the Holiday season.

Transportation and public works

The nine calls for tenders are adopted in series; the two contract awards are also adopted.

Environmental health and environment

The reappointment of the members of the Comité consultatif en environnement (CCE) was accepted. For Montfort: Adrian Hausermann and Marc Filion; for Laurel: Joann MacTavish and Johanne Laurencelle. Two positions are to be filled for the Saint-Michel sector.

The financial partnership with Abrinord for the sampling station in the Rivière du Nord watershed and with OBV RPNS for the implementation of the Réseau de surveillance volontaire des lacs (RSVL) in Wentworth-Nord are renewed.

Requests for reimbursement of 50% of the lake associations' water analysis fees under the RSVL are accepted.

Urban planning and zoning

The list of permits will be posted on the municipality's website, announces the mayor.

Several requests for minor exemptions and conformity analysis within the framework of the Plan d'implantation et d'intégration architecturale (PIIA) relate to the Lake Saint-Victor sector. Many of them are about new construction, including guest houses (!) and the expansion of the main building. This will lead Councillor Eric Johnston to say that there will be a lot of houses to be built in the area.

Finally, the adoption of the controversial second draft by-law 2017-498-7 amending Zoning By-law 2017-498 at Lac à la Croix is moved by Councillor E. Johnston and seconded by Mrs. Suzanne Y. Paradis. Mr. Zgodzinski will be the only one to vote against, as promised. (For more details, see our article: "Lac à la Croix: duped?")

Mr. Michael Duhaime, of the Planning and Environment Department, is promoted to the position of Class I Inspector.

Recreation, Culture and Community Life

Saint-Michel Church: It is proposed that an external consultant be mandated to review the entire file, propose planning and seek grants.

Two employee resignations at the reception desk at Montfort Pavilion.

Question period (or New Business) for council members

Mr. Zgodzinski points out the great advantage of having residents, both permanent and vacationers, participate in Council meetings (as well as consultations) via video conferencing (Zoom). He asked that Quebec be asked to ensure that this service could be offered in conjunction with the indoor presence, even after the pandemic. He noted the difficulty for many residents to attend these sessions in person, particularly in bad weather, darkness or snowy road conditions, and especially for those who are not present on the municipality's territory when they are held.

The mayor agrees and says that it is not even necessary to ask permission from the government. Councillor Johnston indicated that council members, in any case, are required to be present on site, under normal circumstances.

Citizen's Question Period

The first questions concern the adoption of the draft by-law on the Lac à la Croix (see our article).

Then, Ms. Danielle Desjardins will bring up again Mr. Ghali's participation in the internal investigation of the employees by stating that the mayor is facing the same accusations of misconduct before the CMQ and that these employees could be prosecution witnesses against him when he appears before the CMQ. Mr. Ghali, who had already asked her what she applies from the presumption of innocence, will take advantage of his reply to justify at length the actions he is accused of. Did we hear him state that he had learnt from Councillor Zgodzinski that it was one of the councillors who had led the CMQ to investigate him?

Mrs. Myriam Dujardin will come back to the danger of telecommunications towers. The mayor will again take the opportunity to indicate that it was the result of the decisions of the four councillors (which he has in his sights), while he was working instead to obtain from Bell the installation of fiber optics.

Marie-Chantal P. will complain about the lack of respect that is too often shown at council meetings. She specifically targeted, without naming him, the mayor. Also: "The citizen has rights. Listen to us. ..." Councillor Suzanne Y. Paradis, choosing to take the chairperson's place, will interrupt her, as she will do with Mrs. Desjardins, insisting that only questions to council be dealt with here. The citizen will have time to quote comments from Mr. Ghali addressed to Councillor Cliche, such as: "economist who does not understand the budget", and to Councillor Johnston: "travel manager". The mayor, in what appears to be his new strategy, and probably relying on the fact that most of the participants in this session did not know that he was the author of these remarks, will say loud and clear that she was right to denounce the misconduct of certain councillors; while denouncing the sabotage they have allegedly accomplished in the administration of municipal affairs.

With all reservations, pending the availability of the recording and the minutes, by Carl Chapdelaine.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) & Linguee.

Tyrants against W-N

Budget & Plan 2021-23; taxes & tariffs


The videoconference session is chaired by Mayor François Ghali. All councillors participate. On sick leave, Mrs. Marie-France Matteau, Director General, is replaced by Mr. Jason Neil, the replacement Secretary Treasurer.

The meeting is quickly suspended when Mr. Neil has a computer failure that deprives us of his presence, as well as of the recording of the debates. The situation quickly returned to normal.

(See attached tables for Mr. Neil's budget presentation).

Questions and comments from members of the Council

Councillor André Cliche accuses the Mayor of having deprived the citizen of information to which he was entitled on the use of certain funds. Mr. Ghali will later respond to the "derogatory remarks" of the Councillor, saying, among other things, that it is surprising that he, an economist, does not understand anything about the budget.

[The 2021 council meetings seem to have regained the zest of the previous year. But the derogatory or contemptuous exchanges are meant to maintain decorum. (Remark: "You have put your dress on backwards, Your Honour." Answer: "I'm surprised you noticed, Master.") Councillors Cliche and Johnston will certainly have learned from the mayor and developed a more combative attitude towards him. In addition, Councillor Suzanne Y. Paradis will be less quick to attack in this session than in the previous one.]

Councillor Eric Johnston indicated that, according to his calculations, the tax rate for vacant lots indicated in the table on Taxes and compensations does not "balance" and therefore seems to him erroneous. He added that it would be important to give the details of revenues (and expenses) for amounts over $100,000 so that the citizen is well informed. Recalling his intervention in the previous budget on the injustice he perceives in the taxation of small lots, he will say that he must, again and in particular for this reason, vote against the adoption of this budget.

Councillor Cliche was also going to vote against this budget, invoking the lack of information and the non-presentation of financial statements, which he will say are necessary for the elaboration of a budget. The mayor will answer that the exceptional circumstances experienced by the administration in 2020, due to Covid-19, the death of the auditor, the accountant's errors, etc., prevented the output of these financial statements before the budget was prepared; but that this does not affect its content. He will claim that he is not hiding anything. He calls upon the councillors to adopt this budget to allow the tax accounts to be sent and to move forward. He threatens to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Andrée Laforest) to put the municipality under trusteeship if they do not adopt this budget.
Mr. Johnston explained that it is not so serious to postpone the adoption of the budget for a while, since the law allows continuing with the old one in the meantime; there is still time to send the tax bills.

Mr. Paradis will join the two councillors who have declared being against the adoption of the budget, while Mr. David Zgodzinski and the other members of Council will vote in favour. It will therefore be adopted.

In the same way, and with the same opposition, the three-year plan will be adopted.

Question Period

Mrs. Danielle Desjardins will ask if the management of the Montfort pavilion is profitable for the municipality. Without dwelling on the sums involved, the mayor will answer yes, taking into account all that this institution brings to the community. Moreover, it allows the municipality to manage the Pavilion's budget and services, which, he and Councillor Zgodzinski say, is unlike what existed under the Coop des 4 Pôles. But the latter will rather admit that this management costs the municipality several tens of thousands of dollars, because essential services have been added and the MRC (which pays only $32,000), does not give its fair share of the costs incurred.

Ms. Desjardins will have the same question regarding the profitability of the Farmers' Market; also claiming that it competes with the Coopérative de Laurel. The mayor will justify the existence of the Farmers' Market, stating that it serves the citizens and that, being a one-time event, it cannot harm the Co-op. Mrs. Paradis, with her experience as a former owner of the convenience store, will argue that the Market, on the contrary, stimulates traffic at the store. The mayor will admit that it is the municipality that pays for the supply of fruits and vegetables and that the profits from their sale are managed by Ms. Céline McSween.

Finally, Ms. Desjardins asked the mayor how much his defense, in the face of the accusations of the Quebec Municipal Commission, will cost the municipality's treasury. It is Councillor Johnston who will lift the veil by indicating that the council has budgeted more than 100 000$ in legal fees.

A citizen complains that not enough is being done for the environment and asks what will be done for this year. He sees that the sums have decreased in this respect and is concerned about it. The mayor responded that the $150,000 savings are the result of integrating these services with those of urban planning. But the citizen does not understand that one director can do as much as two. (We asked council about the same question at the beginning of the term.) Mr. Ghali will tell him that the same employees provide the services that existed before.
Mr. A. Cliche will say that many services have been neglected, but that we don't have the information to judge that.

Mr. Johnston will admit that he is disappointed with the achievements of the municipality in environment, even if he agreed with the integration of the two directions. He will add, with the same voice, that there should perhaps be a person in charge of the environment... (Will we be able to reinstate Mrs. Raphaëlle Robitaille as head of the Environment?).

Mrs. Suzanne Y. Paradis will point out that the president of the Environment Committee, Councillor Zgodzinski, took two years to bring the lake associations together. (It seems that such meetings are now being planned.) The Mayor pleaded that everyone should work to protect the environment.

A resident of one lake said that there are several environmental infractions on the lake, but that nothing is being done to stop them. The mayor answered that notices are being sent out; that programs are being offered for individuals with non-compliant facilities; that more awareness needs to be raised; that hiring has been done, etc.

But Councillor Zgodzinski will say that the lack of follow-up by the municipality has led to the abandonment of the process. Ms. Desjardins will specify that the mayor suspended, at the beginning of his mandate, several infractions for review of their relevance by the municipality's lawyers. None of these offences were subsequently cancelled. She will want to know where these files stand since the election of Mr. Ghali.

Mr. Eric Johnston added that the Ministry of Environment can also be contacted directly.

For the Taxes and Tariffs session, By-law 2020-580 was passed, while the agenda item on contracting Arimage for a geotechnical study was postponed as not all the data was available, according to Director Jason Neil.

It is our understanding that Mr. A. Cliche will have asked if the elimination of penalties for late payment of taxes, known in 2020 with Covid, would be postponed to 2021. The mayor will answer yes. He will also ask him about the survey that some residents will receive with their tax bill...

In closing the meeting, Mr. Ghali will thank Ms. Matteau for her total involvement in the preparation of the budget. (Did he suggest that the pressure exerted on the Executive Director for this work, by the councillors in his sights, would have pushed her to exhaustion)?

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) & Linguee.

With all reservations and pending video and minutes; by Carl Chapdelaine.

Groupe citoyen Wentworth-Nord

Creation of a group in Wentworth-Nord that wants to "ensure that our elected officials work for all citizens in accordance with the rules and ethics".

Development vs. environment

While it is all well and good to talk about sustainable development, to make people forget that the increase in habitat necessarily attacks the environment, it is clear that the protection of the latter, which is involved in this concept, is not simple. And to achieve this, planning, as already outlined in the 2017 Wentworth-Nord Urban Plan, is necessary.1

In this municipality, even more so than in the rest of the Pays-d'en-Haut, an increase in the number of residents, mainly vacationers, seems to be the probable avenue for socio-economic development. Ideally and for the greater good of Wentworth-Nord, a proportion of these vacationers will convert to permanent residents. Since more than half of the new residents, according to the last census of Canada, settled in the eastern sector of the municipality, this is where the pressure on the environment, including lakes, road infrastructure and other municipal services, is likely to be greatest; as in Montfort.

The opposition between this development and environmental protection is coupled with at least one other major component: the conflict between welcoming newcomers and protecting the privileges of existing residents. Privilege there is, in fact, when you are a lakeside resident or simply enjoying a peaceful environment to protect and whose enjoyment you do not necessarily want to share.

One thus wonders, when confronted with the development project at Lac à la Croix, what the stakes are. Is it a question, for the promoters, of making the most of the space in this oasis-like setting? Is it also a question of putting a foot on land, or rather in the water, at Lac Saint-François-Xavier? Or to seek only to glimpse a sustainable development, i.e. one that would not harm the environment and that would not give access to this lake as well as to the privilege of living there? For the opponents of Lake Saint-François-Xavier to such a project at the head of "their" lake, is it a question of protecting the environment of the lake or of defending themselves against the appropriation of "their" territory? But it doesn't matter, since an alliance between the various opponents goes without saying.

Ms. Chantal Carrier, then representative of the Ministère des Affaires municipales et des Régions at the Forum national sur les lacs, held in Sainte-Adèle in June 2008, has taken up, in line with the orientations of Abrinord, with its Plan directeur de l’eau (PDE)2, and other organizations, the main facts of the problem and the considerations that should guide the action of stakeholders. Her presentation was entitled: "Protecting our lakes through a municipal planning and management approach". Applied to our region, it is, in concrete terms, the planning and management of cottages areas, to which our development would be attached. We will extract some excerpts from this document.

"I think that (this approach to planning and management) is one of the elements that make it possible, in particular, to protect our lakes. I think that among the actors who are called upon in this field, the municipalities have a determining role."

"We must protect our lakes because we see more and more that they are under attack, that they are invaded, that they have problems. ... We must also protect our lakes because they are a public good. The lakes do not belong to an individual or very rarely, but rather to everyone. Everybody includes the entire community, whether you live on the shore or not, and that includes our elected officials and all the people who want to visit bodies of water, even if they are not on their territory.

"Cottaging has also become the new form of urbanization of cities in Quebec, of many rural municipalities as well. ...; it is (today) done by the lakes; it is done with permanent residences. So, we are in a completely different era than what we lived before, with small cottages that were occupied one or two months a year."

"... we are (also) now in the era of tourist residences, that is to say that cottages, apartments, furnished houses that are rented for a rather important period in the summer are more and more popular. There has been an increase of almost 45% in four years in this type of resort activity. Often, these are people who are in the prime of life, who are still working, who are going to have their residence in town as well as a cottage to retire to. But since they don't occupy it all summer, they rent it out. So, we know that there are municipalities that already have to ask themselves questions about this form of occupation."

"We must also look at the carrying capacity of the lakes."

"There is the accessibility and maintenance of public access. Unfortunately, we have developed in a linear fashion along the shores and bodies of water without maintaining significant public access. Here..., I'm talking about keeping something that allows people in the municipality who may not have the means to build a cottage on the lake to have access to the lake, at least to go swimming."

"It is also necessary to protect sensitive areas. ... Yes it is necessary to develop, but it is necessary to develop while taking into account the environment."

"(MRCs) can also require local municipalities to adopt a bylaw on comprehensive development plans, commonly known as PAEs. In other words, we will say to the municipalities: 'For this sector, you are going to require comprehensive planning and you are going to adopt such criteria to accept a project within this framework.' "

"With a sensitive lake, where you can see, for example, that there are algae or other things, without saying that you are blocking the subdivision forever, you can come in and say that you want to have much wider facades at the land level."

"The most interesting but the least used is what we call park contributions. All municipalities in Quebec, in their subdivision by-laws, have an article or two that says that if you do a cadastre, a subdivision, you must give 10% for park purposes in surface area or in money, according to the convenience of the Council." "(Or) ask for 10 per cent in money, set up a fund and use it to protect the lakeshore..." "Regarding the special measures applicable along lakes and waterways, municipalities can even prohibit construction in this area, particularly via the shoreline."

"When everything is built and implemented, the question of maintenance of public and private roads arises. Public roads are maintained by the municipality; private roads are maintained by the people, either the owner or the residents' association. On the other hand, again with the Municipal Powers Act, if 50% of the roadside residents agree and if the municipality agrees, the municipality can now maintain the road. But you don't have to do it at all."

"In closing, I think that municipalities are really the pivotal body in this planning and management of cottaging."3

Last November, a document commissioned by Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (SADL) proposed an environmental policy to deal with the urbanization it was facing. Entitled "Campagne ou banlieue?" and signed jointly by the Comité sur la politique environnementale (CPE) and the members of the Comité consultatif en Environnement (CCE), it was the result of two and a half years of work. In other words, it took up the first topic of our article. But the proposals it contained, which favoured "a pause for growth, the time to adopt the tools necessary to preserve SADL's rural character", seemed to divide the Council.

The former provincial Minister of the Environment under Jean Charest, Mr. Thomas Mulcair, member of the CPE, said: "Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs and Wentworth-Nord are the only municipalities in the area that still have the campaign label. The others are becoming suburbs".4 and 5

However, Wentworth-Nord seems to be at a very different stage of development than Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs, and this is probably an opportunity for Wentworth-Nord to identify the way forward.

In Wentworth-Nord, the resort is essentially a summer one, centered on the presence of the lakes. It does not offer the alpine ski centers, the numerous leisure or cultural activities, the tourist offer, the stores, restaurants and various attractions of Saint-Sauveur, Sainte-Adèle, or other towns and villages on the axis of the former railway line of the Petit train du Nord. Water activities therefore, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling, among others, have a promising future. But these activities require the services of the municipality, without guaranteeing any revenue in return.

The Wentworth-Nord urban plan, a legacy of the passage of Mr. Emmanuel Farmer, his team, the municipal council no doubt, and the consultations that accompanied it, has provided a good backdrop for identifying this path forward. We must find there again the dilemma we have mentioned, between development and environmental protection or the privileges to which everyone believes they are entitled, but which this growth threatens.

By initiating watershed planning in Wentworth-Nord, this plan is innovative.6 The approach aims, among other things, to respect the logic of the ecosystem that the watershed represents, rather than simply trying to frame habitat growth. "The goal is to better control the health of the lakes in relation to the human nuisances created by lakeside dwellings and activities". "The municipality therefore began by inventorying and classifying the major lakes on its territory according to the state of health of each one. Following this categorization, a maximum density was established in order to protect sensitive lakes." (See maps no. 3, 4 and 5 of Plan1 or our attached map).

Analyses, plans and other studies often require considerable effort and resources; they are valuable tools in the hands of those who are willing to endorse and use them. With more popularization, they could also provide the necessary information that is too often lacking to ordinary citizens who are called upon to vote for one or another of the decisions affecting their living environment.

However, serious constraints have crept into the development planning formula, particularly with regard to the preservation of the lakes' environment; this is, of course, the danger of invasive alien aquatic plants, temporarily overshadowed today by the spread of Covid-19.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) & Linguee

1. https://wentworth-nord.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Plan-durbanisme-octobre-2017-495.pdf
2. https://www.abrinord.qc.ca/pde/
3. https://crelaurentides.org/images/images_site/evenements/eau_lacs/2008/forum_national/actes2008.pdf , p. 146.
4. https://www.journalacces.ca/remue-meninges-pour-une-politique-environnementale-a-sainte-anne-des-lacs/
5. https://www.sadl.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Politique-environnementale-projet.pdf
6. http://www.releveenurbanisme.ca/2018/04/10/la-planification-par-bassins-versants-de-wentworth-nord/

By Carl Chapdelaine

Wentworth-Nord's Council Meeting of January 15, 2021 (Notes)

Agenda    Video

Mayor François Ghali chaired the session which was held by videoconference. All six councillors, as well as about twenty citizens, participated. Among the latter was the presence of representatives from Lake St. Victor, who probably came to make sure that they were not going to be quietly passed the adoption, by resolution, of draft by-law 2017-498-7 modifying the zoning of certain lots at Lac à la Croix. (A consultation session on the project, announced on December 18, was held on January 6 via videoconference. See our article on "Wentworth-Nord-les-Lacs").

The session was to be held without the unsightly altercations between the Mayor and the "four" councillors that would occur in 2020; would this be the highlight of the New Year? However, Mr. Ghali could not prevent the less controversial debates between Councillor Suzanne Y. Paradis and these same councillors.

Mayor's Statement

The mayor highlights the recent declaration, by the Union des municipalités du Québec, on "respect in democracy", following the multiplication of aggressive statements and intimidation on social networks; among others against municipal councillors. This declaration is coupled with a campaign by the latter to fight against this trend. "This campaign must also be yours," adds the mayor. Taking up the words of the president of the UMQ, who invited municipal councils to support this initiative, he added that democratic debate must be conducted with respect for others, particularly those who are committed to representing citizens.

Committee Chairs' Reports

For the Internet committee, Mr. Eric Johnston indicated that, following the government's statements, things seemed to be moving on the electronic communications side. He hoped to have some good news to announce at the next meeting.

Mrs. Paradis again asked Councillor Cliche for an update on the presentation of the Highways Committee report. Mr. Cliche reminded that he had sent it by e-mail and did not know if it had been published on the municipality's website.

Administration

Mrs. Paradis once more attacked Councillor Cliche regarding the legal bills presented to the municipality before their authorization on December 14th. She presented a resolution so that they would not be charged to the municipality. She also claimed that, in the absence of a council resolution, some of these expenses would have had to go through the Director General. Under the control of the "four" councillors, she claimed that unnecessary legal bills would have wasted taxpayers' money. Mr. Cliche objected that the mayor had presented, without council's knowledge, an invoice from the municipality's law firm for $15,000 to, among other things, serve a formal notice to the Commission municipale du Québec, following his summons by the latter. He will assert that this formal demand constituted an obstacle to the investigation of a competent authority. (So it's not just roads that siphon off the municipal treasury...) The "four" voted against; the mayor abstained. The resolution was defeated; and the bills will be paid.

Then, Councillor Suzanne Paradis questioned (item 5.5) a citizen's request for reimbursement of more than $1,000 for the installation of a pump in Lake Saint-François-Xavier, for his water supply. The contract with the municipality specified instead that it was for the drilling of an artesian well. Mr. Paradis and Mr. Zgodzinski replied by indicating that there had been an error on the part of the municipality; that Mrs. Paradis had not mentioned anything about her reservations at the preparatory meeting and that this should have been presented long before. Councillor Cliche agreed with Ms. Paradis' argument and the Mayor proposed to postpone the resolution, which became a successful proposal.

In 5.9, the resolution allowed the Director General to choose between a sanitized air conditioning and air purification system, including a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, for Laurel Cultural and Community Centre; Covid obliges. This was as long as the cost of the latter did not exceed ($28,000?), specified Councillor Johnston. If not, she should opt for a simple UV treatment. Was it the same in 5.6, for the Montfort pavilion? (To be verified.)

Recreation, culture and community life

After a list of whereas clauses on its "tourist parking lots", the resolution presented by Councillor Zgodzinski led the municipality to ask the MRC to close two of the four parking lots in Montfort, to protect its residents from the risk of seeing the pandemic spread by the many visitors. The mayor, although claiming some exaggeration in the preamble, said he agreed with the resolution. It was adopted.

New business

Councillor Paradis came back against authorized expenses, this time for snow removal contracts. Mr. Johnston opposed various arguments to her, but we could not understand the thread of the debates.

Question period

A citizen has a question about the arrival of fibre optics by Cogeco. The mayor replied that Bell and Cogeco are doing work and that good news is on the horizon for Cogeco. Mr. Johnston still talks about a delay to be expected.

Ms. Danielle Desjardins asked to respond to Councillor Suzanne Paradis' comments about her, made during the question period of the December 18 session, which had nailed her to the pillory. They were accusations of attacks against the Director General for the delay in the preparation of the financial statements. She went through Mrs. Paradis' insinuations and accusations point by point, explaining what must have happened in this regard. Among other things, she points out that the municipality's organizational chart allows her to identify serious shortcomings in the administration, which may explain part of the problem. She stated that she never blamed Ms. Matteau. Ms. Paradis will settle for a smile.

The mayor will move on to the next question, without commenting on Ms. Desjardins' assertions. It is precisely a request about the date of the budget presentation.

Mrs. Desjardins takes the floor again on the resolution adopted on the requested closure of two parking lots in Montfort. The mayor explained that the objective is to reduce traffic in the village. Mr. Zgodzinski noted that he did not exaggerate when describing the situation.

Note: This is subject to change; pending the Zoom version and the minutes.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) & Linguee.

By Carl Chapdelaine

Wentworth-Nord-les-Lacs

Presentation

There are 105 lakes in Wentworth-Nord. The owners around these lakes are mostly cottagers, who are the main economic contributors to the municipality's economy.1

Such a number of lakes over such a large territory, for a number of residents slightly less than 5,000, implies a disproportionate environmental responsibility for the municipality. As the development of the territory should be mainly centered on a growing number of vacationers, always in search of nature and especially lakes, the pressure on the latter will only increase. But does the municipality have the intention and the means to govern the establishment of an ever denser habitat around its lakes?

It looks like urban planning rules and environmental standards are seen by the authorities as guaranteeing the necessary protection of this lake environment. However, biologists, limnologists and others have tried to develop models that tend to define the carrying capacity of a body of water by adding variables that these rules and standards do not necessarily take into account.2,3,4

Biologists believe that phosphorus input, natural or anthropogenic, from a lake's watershed is the main cause of lake eutrophication, and wastewater discharge standards address this problem. For others, the use of municipal infrastructure (e.g., access roads, riprap ditches, sedimentation ponds), potential nuisances to the neighbourhood (e.g., noise, short-term rentals, influx of water sports enthusiasts), to wildlife (e.g., fish), or other factors also define, in a way, a lake's carrying capacity. Some municipalities, such as the town of Estérel, have broadened their approach to this evaluation, although it is still essentially based on phosphorus input.5 In Saint-Ubalde, the Association des résidents du lac Émeraude has taken an interest in defining the lake's carrying capacity for motorized watercraft.6

Lac à la Croix Resolution7

As was the case for Lac Pelletier, one can, for example, wonder about the subdivision projects that are becoming clearer for Lac à la Croix. This apparently beautiful little body of water, at the head of Lake Saint-François-Xavier and in a still wild environment, is in fact so shallow that one could not even consider allowing the slightest motorized boat traffic on it. Pejoratively referred to by long-time residents of the area, it has apparently suffered from log driving, as has Lake Saint-François-Xavier. Its current water level, as in Lake Thurston, would only be the result of beaver work. Without their contribution, it will probably require the construction of dikes or dams to maintain it as it is. Armies of deer flies swarm here in season; will we have to find a way to exterminate them so that newcomers will not have to regret their choice? In fact, with its opening to construction, the clearing of the surrounding forest will radically change the Lake's environment and eliminate all wilderness. As a precaution for the Lake itself and for the Lake of which it is tributary, should we not have zoned its environment as green space; or classify it in a more restrictive sub-category of living space?

Lac à la Croix was included in District 5, as it was part of the Lake St. Francois-Xavier watershed and the watershed line between the Red River basin and the Rivière du Nord basin at its head. Socio-economically, however, the lake is more closely linked to District 6, on the other side of the line, as it is part of the "Lac St-Victor Estates". Its exploitation is dictated by Phase 5 of the development of these estates.8 The clearing of its shores is well under way. Road access is only possible via the private Berges-du-Nord road that borders the north side of Lake Saint-Victor. On the other hand, when this road and the one that runs along Lac à la Croix to the head of Lac Saint-François-Xavier become public, shouldn't we expect that they will open up the residents who live there?9 *

The resolution requesting a zoning amendment for an area surrounding Lac à la Croix was presented at the regular council meeting of Wentworth-Nord on December 18th by Councillor Eric Johnston. However, it had been postponed to a future meeting to allow a consultation with the residents concerned by the Planning and Environment Services, under the direction of Mr. Benoit Cadieux. Among other things, it was to authorize the modification of the size of the lots. The developer will explain how he sees the construction of family residences on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a type of property with large adjoining common lots. It is unclear whether we are talking about a few dozen houses or more; and whether long-term rentals will be eligible.

Announced on December 18, this consultation took place on January 6; unfortunately, it was not on our agenda. About ten citizens from Lake Notre-Dame, and perhaps as many from Lake St. Victor participated, including Councillor Eric Johnston and another member of the Planning Committee. Few or no Lake St. Francois-Xavier residents would have been seen there.

Owners of luxury residences at Lake St. Victor, who were promised an environment suitable for their investment, would be concerned about what the developer's announced projects would mean to their neighbourhood. Were there to be build lower-value homes that would diminish the value of their own? As for those on Lake Notre-Dame, it was the forced passage of trucks on Notre-Dame Nord Road, known with other phases of the development of the Estates, that was most worrisome. But the director was also asked if the environmental impact of the projects that would result from these authorizations had been properly analyzed. It was also put forward that a referendum be held prior to the adoption of such a resolution.

Conclusion

In order to be better able to evaluate development projects that target one or the other of its lakes, shouldn't the municipality, via the MRC des Pays-d'en-Haut and institutions such as the Conseil régional de l'environnement des Laurentides (CRE), Abrinord, the Interuniversity research group in limnology and aquatic environments (GRIL), or the Ministry of l’Environnement et la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, seek to obtain a protocol or guide that integrates the various calculations of the carrying capacity of a lake, or recommendations, adding them to the urban planning rules and environmental standards in effect?

It is not within our competence to evaluate the relevance of developing habitat around a particular lake or to judge the intentions of its promoters; but we would be reassured to see a competent authority pronounce on the environmental impact of any similar project to allow an informed choice on the part of our municipal officials. The sad environmental disasters that have occurred, until recently, in Lake Saint-François-Xavier, and that continue to affect its health, do they not justify our distrust?

* The maintenance and municipalization of private roads, or the prohibition of building new ones, seems to have been the subject of discussions and resolutions in many municipal administrations: Chertsey, Saguenay, Orford, Wentworth-Nord, etc... Between theory and practice, or feasibility, there is however a whole world here and a division of responsibilities that is difficult to determine.

Note: Thank you to Ms. Danielle Desjardins for sharing her notes on this consultation.

  1. Plan d'urbanisme de Wentworth-Nord
  2. The carrying capacity of a lake
  3. Ville d'Estérel
  4. Capacité portante du lac Émeraude
  5. Mémoire de maîtrise de Mélissa Laniel
  6. La modélisation de la capacité de support des lacs au Québec
  7. Projet de règlement 2017-498-7
  8. https://www.lacstvictor.com/terrains-disponibles/
  9. The Lake à la Croix road

By Carl Chapdelaine

District Committee? 

November 7, 2021 will, with few exceptions, be Election Day for all municipalities in Quebec. By dropping off your vote in the ballot box or by handing it in the mail, you will sign, in the Pays-d'en-Haut, a four-year contract with a prefect, a mayor and a councillor. Will you wait until you arrive on that date to find out if your choice is well-founded? If there is a choice... Go back to the last election; did you make the right choice to wear your colors? Did your elected officials, for all their good will, show themselves to be the faithful representatives of all voters or were they more inclined to favour those who brought them to Council?

Shouldn't it also be clear what you expect them to do after November 7 before you sign the contract? More importantly, what can they deliver on what they promised you? You should therefore try to get to know better those to whom you are going to entrust the reins of administration, and their agenda. Get to know them as soon as possible. Unless that, for you, their past is a guarantee of their future.

How about a game changer? Rather than blindly deferring to our future elected officials for a four-year term, wouldn't we be better off demanding some involvement in their administration of our affairs through the formation of district committees or councils* dedicated to this task?1 Participatory democracy is a relatively new value in our country, even though it was practiced by the Greeks and Romans in ancient times. However, we should not wait until elected officials are already in control of the process before demanding it, because they might see it as a way to limit their power and alter their vision of the future of the municipality rather than as a means of gaining valuable cooperation.

Ideally, one can imagine that, in such committees, "the participants, although having different, even opposing positions, are willing to listen to each other's arguments in order to reach an agreement taken with reason and accuracy, i.e. with full knowledge of the facts. ... The realization of this deliberative process is achieved through the quality of the discussion, guaranteed by institutional arrangements set up in the spirit of greater participation by all".2

Perhaps we should not be thinking here of creating any kind of independent sector or ad-hoc committee, bringing together a group of residents dedicated to the defence of a particular cause. Indeed, the formula, even if it has become an institution in Quebec City, as with the Citizens' Committee of Old Quebec, still seems too avant-garde for the conception of the administration that we find here. Moreover, it can too easily lead to the contestation of the legitimate power of elected officials.

There are perhaps more appropriate models. They offer instead collaboration with the administration; when they are not derived from it. They are committees or councils that are more or less integrated into the municipal structure. They are subject to rules enacted by higher authorities. As they can be institutionalized, they take advantage of the means made available to them by the municipality. Elected officials may be part of these committees, as is the case with the municipal advisory committees that we are familiar with. In order to have an "informed" discussion, we would expect them to be able to call on the management of the various municipal departments if necessary.

Citizens' committees or councils, as a true level in the municipal structure in Quebec, are rare, but they do exist in the form of neighbourhood councils. To our knowledge, they only have the power to consult. But, even when very limited, this power must bring a greater involvement of the citizen in municipal life. While imposing a certain constraint, at least morally, on elected officials in their decision-making, it can enable them to better guide decisions and facilitate their acceptance. And since Quebec has committed, through Bill 122 adopted on June 15, 2017, to giving more responsibility to the municipal level and, among other things, to "strengthen citizen participation in local decision-making,"3 it is to be hoped that the formula will have a future.

"In order to allow the population to express its views outside of election periods, some cities have innovated by creating neighborhood councils.4 In the case of the City of La Tuque (population 11,000 in a territory of 28,295 km2, larger than the Laurentian administrative region and divided into seven sectors), the city council must form a neighbourhood council upon request by a minimum number of residents. It is then composed of at least one elected member of City Council and representatives of the neighbourhood.5 The latter are appointed by City Council from among its residents.4

While in Quebec the members of neighbourhood councils are appointed by the city council, in France the members of citizens' councils can be chosen on a purely voluntary basis, depending on the number of seats available, as in Lorient6, by vote or by drawing lots after a call for candidates, and even before a bailiff, as in Saint-Martin (French West Indies).7 Such a draw ensures the independence of this body.

Even if one speaks of co-construction, the citizens' councils of France seem to us, however, as in Quebec, to have, at the limit, only an advisory power.8 There is therefore no question of parallel power. The only breakthrough leading to direct citizen participation in the Quebec municipal administration would be the referendum approval required by the Act respecting land use planning and development (LAU), of which we have seen a few examples in Wentworth-Nord. Since 2018, municipalities may replace this provision, which is seen as negative, by developing a "public participation policy ... in accordance with the requirements of the Regulation respecting public participation in land use planning and development ".9 The latter is intended to be more constructive; in other words, to be located upstream of the decision-making process, rather than downstream.

In a large city, you can't easily get a significant proportion of the population to participate on such committees. However, it seems more likely in a small municipality like Wentworth-Nord. Here, in an area where a large proportion of residents, both permanent and temporary, are clustered around the many lakes in the area, lake associations have been able to act as the voice of their community. In villages such as Montfort, Laurel or Saint-Michel, however, these associations cannot adequately represent all their residents; hence the interest, perhaps, in including them in district committees.

Couldn't the Orphan Lands Advisory Committee have become one? Anything to counter the cacophony of e-mail chains or bogus surveys for information and consultation, and the inconsistency of some of the decisions made in recent years? Ms. Diane Théorêt, candidate for mayor of Wentworth-Nord in 2017, promised to introduce "participatory democracy"; while the candidate for the position of councillor for District 6, Ms. Danielle Desjardins, specified the establishment of a "District Council with a budget and including sectors 5 and 6 of Montfort "10 + 11.

Such committees therefore enjoy a legislative framework already developed in the charters of certain cities. This framework specifies certain modalities of their constitution and functioning. It thus ensures that they are representative of their environment, etc. In our opinion, it would be important, contrary to the rule in the current municipal committees, that each citizen be able to participate in one way or another as he or she wishes.

In conclusion, if you aspire to be more systematically informed, consulted, and even involved, even after the delegation of power that you will have granted to your elected officials on the day of the vote, should you not first require them to plan to allow the establishment of district committees or other measures for citizen participation in local decision-making the day after they take office?

*One could argue at length about their distinction. Let's say that the council has greater authority and stature; that it is often the organ of an administration. The committee may be, among other things, a simple delegation of the council; or it may represent a group of individuals dedicated to a cause; etc. https://pediaa.com/what-is-the-difference-between-council-and-committee/#Council

By Carl Chapdelaine

  1. https://www.equiterre.org/fiche/comment-creer-un-comite-citoyens-ou-de-quartier
  2. https://books.openedition.org/pum/19206?lang=en
  3. https://www.mamh.gouv.qc.ca/organisation-municipale/democratie-municipale/participation-des-citoyens/
  4. https://www.mamh.gouv.qc.ca/amenagement-du-territoire/guide-la-prise-de-decision-en-urbanisme/acteurs-et-processus/conseil-de-quartier-et-comite-local/
  5. https://www.ville.latuque.qc.ca/fr/vivre-a-la-tuque/membres-du-conseil
  6. https://www.lorient.bzh/fileadmin/lorient.bzh/territoires/Quartiers/Conseils_citoyens/charte_des_conseils_citoyens.pdf
  7. http://www.lepelican-journal.com/saint-martin/societe/Nomination-des-membres-des-conseils-de-quartier-16206.html
  8. https://www.villesetterritoireslr.fr/site2015/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Doc-Charte-type.pdf
  9. https://www.mamh.gouv.qc.ca/amenagement-du-territoire/guide-la-prise-de-decision-en-urbanisme/acteurs-et-processus/reglement-sur-la-participation-publique-en-matiere-damenagement-et-durbanisme/
  10. Mrs. Diane Théorêt. candidate for mayor
  11. Mrs. Danielle Desjardins, candidate for district 6
  12. Municipal democracy
  13. Participatory democracy