InterGovWorld’s Spotlight series profiles executives, decision-makers and their initiatives across all levels of Canadian government.
In Gatineau, Que., citizens can stay connected to city government with an inside view of Council from the comfort of their couch. In Part 1 of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight on Marc Bureau, the Mayor of Gatineau discusses the many reasons why his city has been short-listed as one of the world’s most “intelligent communities.”
Q) Why do you think the City of Gatineau has been named among the top seven intelligent communities in the world by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum? What specific qualities do you think make the city stand out?
A) The City of Gatineau meets all the ingredients required for an intelligent community. First of all, 23 per cent of the population of Gatineau has a university degree, which is the highest rate in Canada.
In addition to that, our region has twice the amount of PhDs than Montreal or Calgary and our population is the most bilingual in Canada, with a rate of 65 per cent. The average salary per family in Gatineau is the highest in the province of Quebec and our unemployment rate is also the lowest in the province, and among the lowest in Canada at around five per cent.
Obviously our well-educated population is more inclined to work with new technology and demand new technology from their local government. We also foster the constant development of the knowledge economy. We have many high-tech companies in our region that are operating in fields such as security software and telecommunications. We want to build on that to ensure our economy not only relies on the presence of the federal government, but also build on the presence of companies that offer high value through these projects, which in turn attracts highly qualified workers.
We have also created many programs to help new companies with venture capital investment. We are in the process of creating new programs with the help of private and public investors. The city’s economic development branch has recently signed a protocol with the new research centre by which the city will invest $250,000 to help spin off new companies and we hope that more investors will join us.
We recently opened a world-class language technology research centre in our city and we are trying to create a cluster for these new products. The transformation software technology business is booming, and we want Gatineau to be a world leader.
Photo courtesy of the City of Gatineau.
Q) Could you speak about the Web-casting services currently offered through the City of Gatineau site?
A) During the election campaign, I pledged for a more open and transparent Council.
As my first order of business, I canceled almost all the closed-door meetings and opened them to the public and media. Now every citizen can watch the debate at the Council table.
We also wanted to entreat the participation of those who can come in the middle of the day and listen to us deliberate. We thought that the best way to reach them was by using the Internet, so with our new Web-based technology, we are the first city in North America to Web-cast all of our meetings.
Most of the debates are taking place along the plenary and executive committee table, so to be consistent with my promise of more transparency and openness, this was the next logical step.
Photo courtesy of the City of Gatineau.
Q) With respect to the technology you’re using in the Web cast, it’s technology that was developed by U.K.-based Public-i, a company that develops web-casting tools for the local government sector. How did you come to use this specific technology?
A) We found the Public-i system while we were at a conference in England. Our city manager brought the system back to Gatineau, and we all love it.
With the help of a local high-tech business, we tailored the system for our type of meetings. Now in the comfort of their home, our citizens can see and listen to their elected officials debate the future of our city. It is a very simple system, housed on a Web page on the city Web site.
You can watch, listen to and view the documents that are presented to Council. What is fascinating with this technology is that you can watch the meeting live, or you can watch at any time of the day because the system archives everything. What is even more fascinating is that you don’t necessarily have to watch the whole meeting: you can pick and choose the agenda items that you want to watch. With this tool, citizens are more informed. So when they come to Council with questions, they are well-documented, which makes for a healthy municipal democracy.
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