MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – Municipal governments in Québec are creations of the provincial government; the province sets the rules for all municipal business. In 2017, the National Assembly passed Bill 122, revamping municipal procedures including the important question of how municipalities are to inform their citizens of council decisions, dates, meetings, and other municipal matters.
The question of notifying citizens of upcoming municipal budget meetings became a point of contention following Pontiac’s 2019 Budget meeting, held December 20, 2018, in the library in the municipal complex, in Luskville. Multiple citizens complained they were not given legally-required notice of this important meeting — specifically that the meeting was not advertised on the internet. Mayor Joanne Labadie insists her council followed the provincial rules.
The Journal took this question to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, MAMROT, and communications agent Pierre-Luc Lévesque submitted the question to a specialized team in the ministry and replied as follows (translated): “Under sections 474.2 of the Cities and Villages Act and 956 of the Municipal Code
of Québec, the Clerk or Secretary-Treasurer must publish a public notice of the meeting at which the budget is to be adopted, at least eight days before the meeting. In general, municipalities … must post their public notices in two places on their territory, or … must publish them by postings in the municipal office and in a newspaper circulated in the territory.”
In 2017, Bill 122 was passed to give municipalities increased autonomy and powers. The requirements for public notices were changed to allow municipalities to “….. by regulation, determine how to publish their public notices by, minimally, providing for these notices to be published on the Internet.”
M. Lévesque added, “Municipalities are not required to publish their public notices on the Internet unless (until) they have adopted a regulation to that effect.”
The Municipality’s lawyers, in response to Mayor Labadie’s request for clarification of the legality of the budget meeting notice, concluded that council had conformed to the bylaw in effect. Mayor Labadie declined to reveal further details of their decision, claiming the lawyers’ response was “confidential”.
MAMROT’s clarification explains that all of Bill 122 does not currently apply because the municipality’s 2016 bylaw states that public notices are to be
displayed “….occasionally on our web-site….”. For Internet notification to be mandatory, said MAMROT, the local by-law needs to be changed
to include the proviso that notices for public meetings must be published on the Internet, as well as the traditional methods which were used for the 2019 Budget’s meeting.
MAMROT did not comment on the meeting’s location, nor on the traditional methods of notification which were used by the municipality.