Sherbrooke citoyen proposes participatory budget
Candidates for the Sherbrooke Citoyen municipal political party gathered in front of city hall on Wednesday morning to announce their plan to implement a participatory budget in Sherbrooke. Under the proposed plan, five per cent of the city’s capital budget will be divided among the 14 districts to be reserved for projects coming directly from the populace.
“We want to decentralize (the budget) to the districts,” said party leader Hélène Pigot. “What we are proposing is audacious, innovative, and can be implemented immediately upon being elected.”
While stating that the exact details of the system still need to be sorted out, Pigot explained that the basic notion is that each district will get a portion of that five per cent of the budget relative to its population, starting from a minimum of $100,000. Starting from an overall estimated amount of $2 million, that means that districts with larger populations will get closer to $150,000 to work with.
Citizens in each district will then be asked to submit ideas of what to do with their area’s piece of the pie. The ideas deemed by the council to be the most realistic will then be retained for a vote and the ideas that get the most votes will be developed.
“It’s more interesting to us to do this by district rather than for the city as a whole because it mirrors our politics,” the party leader said, explaining that while a party could just as easily reserve $2 million for one larger project, distributing those funds throughout the city stands to get more residents involved in the revitalization of their own communities. “Right now the city is so focused on the downtown that when we visit the outer districts in Rock Forest, Lennoxville, or Brompton, we get the impression these places have been abandoned.”
Ludovick Nadeau, Sherbrooke Citoyen candidate in the Pin Solitaire district, shared party members consistently hear ideas from citizens about how the city could be improved and argued that putting the power to propose new ideas more directly into the hands of locals stands to increase engagement in municipal affairs.
“The participatory budget will bring people together,” Nadeau said, adding that there are interesting pre-existing models of the idea in place in cities around the world.
Both candidates said that they feel that, with some oversight to help guide the development of ideas, the new budget format will produce concrete ideas to move the city forward.
Claude Dostie Jr., communications representative for the party, clarified that under the proposed plan Lennoxville is treated as one district, rather than giving distinct budgets to the borough districts of Fairview and Uplands. Despite that, however, he noted that the smaller districts of Lennoxville and Brompton stand to benefit the most because the divisions have a minimum of $100,000 regardless of population.
Asked about what the five per cent would be taken away from, Pigot said that it remains to be seen exactly how the breakdown will happen. She was confident, however, that the $2 million could easily be drawn from other sources within the capital budget.
The party leader also clarified that it has yet to be decided whether the city as a whole would vote on the ideas in each district or if that would be up to local populations, although she showed a preference for the latter.
“I am inclined to say it will be the district because it is the district’s project,” the party leader said.
On what would happen if none of the ideas proposed in a given district were deemed feasible, Pigot expressed a hope that funding could be saved from one year to the next. She shared a concern, however, that such a process might be more complicated than it sounds.
Sherbrooke Citoyen candidates (back, l to r) Richard Vachon, Raymond Gaudreault, Julie Dionne, Christine Labrie, Mohamed Barouti, (front, l to r) Edwin Moreno, Helene Pigot, Ludovick Nadeau, and Evelyne Beaudin at the presentation of their participatory budget plan