A referendum to decide
the future of Westmount Park?
Question could be added to the ballot for the upcoming municipal election
By Irwin Rapoport
The Stantec plan to revamp Westmount Park has led to spirited discussions about the future of the Park. The question comes down to, “Do we go for a major renovation of the park that will significantly change its current look and feel, or do we repair and spruce up the features that require attention, leaving the park as is with minor changes?”
Thus far, it appears that a significant number of people are opposed to the plan put forward by Stantec, commissioned by Westmount council. Residents were invited to comment until September 3.
Here is a link for Westmount Magazine articles that focus on Westmount Park, including a series of opinion pieces by Wanda Potrykus, which address some of the changes put forward in the Stantec plan, and a history of the park.
At the city council meeting on August 2, Councillor and Parks Commissioner Cynthia Lulham stated that any future decision on Westmount Park will only be made following the November 7 municipal election. She spoke about the future timeline for the park upgrade, which will have the City prepare additional reports and studies, and undertake more consultation before shovels go into the ground. Should work proceed, it will likely start in 2023.
The Stantec plan to revamp Westmount Park has led to spirited discussions about the future of the Park… Thus far, it appears that a significant number of people are opposed to the plan…
On August 22, Westmount Magazine published an opinion article entitled Have Your Say: A walk in the Park/Residents want detailed information about Westmount Park project and a full and fair consultation process. It featured an open letter to Westmount’s mayor and council and the citizens of the city, signed by close to 90 citizens, concerning the city’s brochure entitled A walk in the Park and providing their take on the issues affecting the park. Their letter concludes with several questions to the mayor and council as to why a major upgrade of the park is necessary.
Westmount Park is not only beloved by the citizens of Westmount, who consider it a jewel of the city, it is also regarded as one of the finest parks on the island of Montreal.
With all the discussions taking place about the park, an idea occurred to me – and no doubt many in Westmount have had similar thoughts – why not have a referendum question added to the upcoming municipal election that could determine the future look of the park?
Such a question could ask, “Do we go with the Stantec plan which could cost a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars, or do we go with a more robust and targeted repair plan that retains the best of what we have now?” This is just one suggestion for a question. A suitably worded question can easily be found that would satisfy most residents.
‘Westmount Park is not only beloved by the citizens of Westmount, who consider it a jewel of the city, it is also regarded as one of the finest parks on the island of Montreal.’
Should a referendum question be asked, it would require that the City provide information online and via pamphlets, and documents sent to residents. This is also very doable. A referendum could additionally increase voter turnout for election races that may occur.
In the 2017 election, there were vigorous contests for many council seats and the next mayor. So far it appears that districts 7 and 8 will have contested races. In the case of District 7, veteran councillor Cynthia Lulham is retiring from politics and thus leaving the seat vacant. The deadline to submit nomination papers to run for mayor and council is October 1 according to Elections Quebec.
Many issues are affecting the city, including Westmount Park, municipal spending and finances, banning leaf blowers, a sound barrier against train and highway noise, an ageing Hydro Westmount facility, poor road surfaces, and the delivery of everyday services. Westmounters take pride in having independent elected officials and municipal administrators who maintain the quality of services and life they expect. They are proud of their city and its history, and rightly so.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca or its publishers.
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Irwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist.