Cowansville seeks environmental policy ideas

By Ruby Irene Pratka – Local Journalism Initiative

The city of Cowansville has launched an online public consultation as it seeks to develop its environmental policy for the next several years.

The online form, which went live on April 22 in honour of Earth Day, asks residents and business owners what actions they already take to reduce their impact on the environment, what their biggest concerns are with regard to climate and resource use, and what actions they believe the city should take to reduce its environmental footprint and encourage conservation and active transit.

The consultation is a first in the city’s history, according to Mayor Sylvie Beauregard. The results will be used to develop a medium-term environmental action plan.

“Over the course of my first mandate as mayor, we had two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we didn’t get the opportunity to do as much as we wanted in terms of environmental policy,” Beauregard said. “We want to have an action plan with clearly defined priorities for three, five, ten years down the road, and we want to take the environment into account in all of our decisions.

“We want to respond to people’s concerns, and rather than pass a policy and say ‘What do you think?’ after the fact, we want to consult first and then refine and table the policy, so citizens will see themselves in it. There are ideas we haven’t thought of that citizens are going to contribute.”

The policy “will guide the city administration as it applies bylaws, policies and services,” city communications director Fanny Poisson said in a statement. “Its guidelines will help us respond to current and future challenges, particularly concerning climate change. The consultation covers several subject areas including land management, forest cover, drinking water and the local economy.”

Seeking input from all ages

The consultation is open to anyone who lives or owns a business in Cowansville, including children and teens.

“We’re talking about environmental issues more and more in schools, and young people are going to have to live with the environmental consequences of our decisions,” said the mayor. “It’s important to have their opinions. When young people are consulted, they’re also more likely to take action – if something’s not imposed on them, it’s easy for them to take ownership of it.”

The 15-minute survey is available online in French only and will be accessible until May 8. . Beauregard says residents who prefer a paper version, in French or English, can pick one up at City Hall or contact Poisson or environmental adviser Alexandre Charron, the city’s point person on the policy. “We want as much participation as possible, as many ideas as possible,” says the mayor.

A document summarizing the responses to the survey will be made available on the website over the week of May 9. Beauregard says she hopes at least part of the policy will be publicly presented in the fall.

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