In Part 1 of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight on Marc Bureau, the Mayor of Gatineau discussed the many reasons why his city finds itself on a shortlist of the world’s most “intelligent communities.” In Part 2, Bureau points to the online tools at citizens’ fingertips through the city Web site, and why Gatineau is quickly becoming a top contender in e-government.
Q) Since Gatineau citizens are more informed as a result of the online services and webcasting technology available to them, what kind of feedback have you heard from them?
A) We are still at the beginning of our initiative, and we haven’t received much feedback yet. But we haven’t received any complaints, so that’s a good thing. We know that the media loves it, and we should receive reports in the coming weeks on our first few months of activity. And I know that the next congress with all the cities in Quebec, they want to invite the City (Gatineau) to talk about the work that they do.
Photo courtesy of the City of Gatineau.
Q) In addition to the webcasting, are there other online resources that Gatineau citizens can access?
A) The City of Gatineau Web site is also an excellent tool for citizens. We have won many awards over the years for the quality of our Web site. It contains all the information they need to know regarding their municipal government whether they are looking for social, cultural, or sports activities, they can register and have access to all the schedules. They can also reserve books at the library, purchase tickets for sport and cultural events, and also access the property tax account.
One of the most interesting features of our Web site is the public consultation component. Whenever we hold a consultation you can participate or register online, and you can also find out where and when the consultation will take place in our city. The press conferences and media scrums are also available online as well as all the council meetings. I could go on and on about all the nice features or our Web site, but the best way to experience is it to visit the site at www.gatineau.ca
Q) With all these resources that the City of Gatineau now has available to their citizens online, from reserving a book to watching a council meeting, do you feel that Gatineau is becoming a leader in e-government?
A) Gatineau is definitely a leader in e-government. And with the quality of our Web site and by being the first city in North America to implement the webcasting system that we have, I think that we probably are the number one leader in e-government.
Q) In a recent interview you had said that one of your goals is to be transparent for the citizens with respect to accessing information. How is this something that you’ll ensure for the long-term with respect to transparency, and accessibility?
A) We have made great improvement over the past year-and-a-half, and we’ll continue to tweak these new initiatives and continue to improve the capacity of our webcast initiative. We plan to have our committees and commissions on the webcast in the near future as well as our council meetings, like the environment and financial committees.
In another phase what we would like to do is allow citizens to participate in a public consultation via the city Web site. They could watch the consultation live, and post their comments on the site or even participate via webcam from their home. But that is further down the road.
Photo courtesy of the City of Gatineau.
Q) You’re a member of the Big City Mayor’s Caucus with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; could you discuss the work you do?
A) The Big City Mayor’s Caucus meets regularly to discuss challenges that the big cities are facing, in particular funding from the other levels of government. I would say that our biggest issue right now is the fiscal imbalance. We have a federal government with a surplus while the cities are struggling to maintain their crumbling infrastructure. In the past, the Caucus was able to secure the gas tax revenue from the federal government until 2010.
Now our objective will be to ensure that the revenue is permanent and that the other sources of revenue such as a portion of the tax that grows with the economy will be returned to the cities for their infrastructure. The cities are generating a lot of wealth but do not receive enough; only eight per cent of all taxes are going to the cities and newer responsibilities are being dumped on local government every year. Eight per cent is definitely not enough.
Part 1 of Spotlight on Marc Bureau, Mayor of Gatineau
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