Making Montreal More Open

At Montreal City Hall a culture of secrecy prevails.

Montrealers, like myself, demand Mayor Gerald Tremblay’s administration to be more open and transparent. Unfortunately, since being re-elected for a third term last November saying he’d clean up government, Tremblay has continued to keep himself out of the spotlight and not address these issues.

A citizen-run advocacy group known as Montreal Ouvert is now pressuring city officials to adopt an open data policy, which has been successfully implemented in other Canadian cities, such as Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton and even Nanaimo, British Columbia. You might ask yourself, what is open data?

Well it’s a movement calling for more municipal information, like say garbage pick-up details, or even financial reports, to be made available online at no cost. And there are actually entrepreneurs out there saying how they want to create websites and iPhone applications dedicated to helping Montrealers navigate this impenetrable data.

How about knowing more about services offered by the city? Or let’s say helping find a local hockey rink to play a game of shinny? Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

I went to meet with a few of the people involved in Montreal Ouvert to get them to explain to me what kind of data they’d like to get their hands on and what they’d do with it, if it were available.

The city of Montreal does post information on its official website, but according to Jonathan Brun, co-founder of Montreal Ouvert, the data produced by the city isn’t accessible or even useable. It’s posted in hard-to-read PDF files that aren’t very user-friendly. Brun says he’d like to compile health and safety data about local restaurants, so Montrealers can find out online if their dining choice is a good one.

I actually went down to city hall to see for myself if they’re considering an open data policy. As you can imagine, if a journalist starts poking around, asking questions about where to find certain information, the city immediately becomes concerned and goes into defense mode.

Which got me thinking, why has Montreal been so slow to adopt an open data policy? Is there something Tremblay’s administration is trying to hide?

Maybe. And that’s what concerns me most of all.

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Posted in Uncategorized

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