Ville de Gatineau became the first city in Quebec, and only the second in Canada, to go live with a 311 call centre for non-urgent municipal services Wednesday. (The other city that offers this service is Calgary in Alberta).
Gatineau residents, within City limits, will be able to reach the single-window telephone service 24/7.
Every day, Ville de Gatineau receives an average of 400 to 500 calls from citizens, according to a City press release. Approximately 90 per cent of callers seek general information, while the rest have specific requests.
Gatineau opted for a mid-week launch because Mondays are already very busy at the City’s call centre, according to Ville de Gatineau 311 spokesperson Marc Phaneuf. If problems crop up, 311 managers would have the necessary resources available and a couple of days before the weekend to fix problems.
“We have been very busy,” Phaneuf said. “We found a few flaws in our system, but nothing major. It was to be expected in the first few days.” Phaneuf expects the City’s new service to extend its offerings as it goes along.
He said once the City knows what citizens want it can train specific departments on how to respond to those needs. For instance, he said, right now a large volume of calls relate to tax questions. “A lot of people are calling (specifically) for the balance on their tax bill.”
Gatineau’s 311 databases will continually update features so they can answer specific questions immediately, without transferring them, in this case, to the taxation department, he said.
Last November, the Canadian Telecommunications and Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) approved a joint application by six municipalities, including Gatineau, to use the number 311 nationally for telephone access to municipal, non-emergency services.
Soon afterwards, a number of cities and regions across Canada, with varying degrees of readiness and resources, began to plan their own local implementations, as the CRTC decision covers all municipalities across Canada.
The City of Calgary launched Canada’s first 311 municipal phone service on May 18. Calgary’s pilot implementation enabled citizens to access program information, request a city service or report municipal problems.