The intent of this article is to reflect on the notion of empowered participatory governance in order to gain a better understanding of the institutional contexts and parameters that encourage a more participative democracy, and thereby bring to light the political mechanisms that contribute to broadening the decision‐making process. The example we consider is the Montreal Participative Budget (PB). We focus on the impact of decentralization, more specifically on the form this took as the Montreal PB was being elaborated. We examine how much decentralization circumscribes the PB process. The Montreal Participative Budget provides an illustration of the emergence of a participative level in a political context that is, on the whole, hostile to participatory decision making. We suggest that the PB in this context benefits from a new window of opportunity. The chosen example has a dual significance: it underlines the role of temporal contingencies and scales of the process of decentralization in the participative structures at the local level, and it enables us to gain a better grasp of the problem of institutional architectures in implementing participatory democracy by emphasizing the political and social realities underlying new loci for decision making.