• John Jantak

Informal meeting between Saint-Lazare residents and councillors deemed a success


PHOTO COURTESY VILLE DE SAINT-LAZARE

The sprawling grounds of Parc St-Robert offered attendees and councillors ample space to social distance during an informal meeting held July 12.

Threatening overcast skies didn’t dampen citizens’ enthusiasm last Sunday morning as 37 Saint-Lazare residents took part in an informal Politics in the Park meeting that was hosted by the current five sitting members of council at Parc St-Robert on July 12.

It was the first time Saint-Lazare’s councillors took it upon themselves to join forces as a group and meet with their respective constituents in a common setting to discuss issues and answer questions related to various topics that currently affect the town and which have been discussed in various social media forums. The meeting was initiated solely by the councillors and was not sanctioned by the town.

Informative and respectful exchange

While the meeting was originally scheduled to last one-and-a-half hours, most residents stayed for more than two hours and participated through a combination of questions and suggestions in an informative and respectful exchange with the councillors, said District 6 Councillor Brian Trainor.

“Because it was such an informal ad hoc event, we didn’t know how many people would actually show up or how long they would stay. Most of them had their own chairs so they were comfortably seated. We had a very respectful session. The participants were polite, their questions were good and we answered them to the best of our abilities. It was a huge success,” said Trainor.

The town’s current and future water supply and new future housing developments were among the key issues discussed.

‘It was super positive’

The idea for the meeting came from District 1 Councillor Geneviève Lachance who felt it would be easier to address a group of residents in an informal setting with all the councillors together instead of discussing topics on social media on an individual basis. District 2 Councillor Pierre Casavant, District 4 Councillor Michel Poitras and District 5 Councillor Richard Chartrand also participated.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out,” said Lachance. “It was super positive. We were worried that it just going to be a complaining session but it was about people wanting to know more and listening to what we had to say about their concerns. There were a lot of questions from people on a wide variety of issues.”

Councillors open to discussing issues

Lachance drew inspiration for initiating the meeting from the exchanges she has with residents on her Facebook page. “Some of the citizens said it would be nice if there were a lot more councillors who were on Facebook to help to answer our questions. We may not all be social media butterflies but we were certainly open to discussing issues and talking to residents about their concerns and decided to create this public forum,” she said.

With the great success of this initial informal meeting with residents, plans are already in discussion for the next gathering, said Lachance. Attempts will be made to better inform residents in advance of the next meeting and residents are invited to contact their respective councillor in advance to supply contact information if they are interested in attending.

Assistance for District 3 residents

Another concern was raised by District 3 residents who don’t have a councillor to represent them. A by-election scheduled for spring to fill the vacant position was indefinitely postponed by the provincial government because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think they’re going to determine in August whether they will allow the by-election to happen,” said Trainor.

“Even though we’re councillors for our respective districts, we also represent the entire town,” he added. “If there’s anyone in District 3 who feels they don’t have somebody to talk to, they can contact any of the councillors and we’ll be more than happy to help cover the district in the meantime.”

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