More coverage of Ontario Votes 2011
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Councillors (mostly) steer clear of provincial race

Posted by Alistair Steele

Mayor Jim Watson isn't the only one with incomplete survey results to show off today. I too have been asking questions, and getting very few answers.

One week ago I asked every Ottawa city councillor the following questions:

1. Are you officially endorsing a candidate or candidates in the upcoming provincial election? If so, which one(s)?

2. Why are you endorsing that/those particular candidate(s)?

3. Apart from offering your endorsement, are you helping out with that candidate's campaign (canvassing, calling, fundraising or advising)?

Nine councillors responded, either by e-mail or phone. Of those, four -- Steve Desroches, Keith Egli, Eli El-Chantiry, and Katherine Hobbs -- answer all three questions with an emphatic "no." Hobbs says she'll be "pleased to work with whomever the voters of Ottawa Centre and other ridings elect." Desroches explains: "I believe that my residents expect me to work with all levels of government, regardless of their political stripes. For example, many infrastructure projects in my ward have been accomplished as a result of solid collaboration with Queen's Park and Parliament Hill."

Peter Clark's response is a bit vague. He says he's not endorsing candidates, "but would support Randall Denley and Madeleine Meilleur." Here's a man who votes for the politician, not the party.

That leaves those councillors who are throwing their weight behind certain candidates. Rainer Bloess and Bob Monette have already tipped their hands: They say they can no longer work with Ottawa-Orleans incumbent Phil McNeely, so they're doing whatever they can to get Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Lister elected (see also my last blog entry).

Allan Hubley called to let me know he's been helping out on controversial PC candidate Jack MacLaren's campaign in Carleton-Mississippi Mills. That will pit Hubley against another Kanata councillor, Marianne Wilkinson, who says she's actively supporting Liberal challenger Megan Cornell. Wilkinson says she's known Cornell for some time, and has been impressed by her community service. "She knows the local issues and has been working on many of them," says Wilkinson. "She would be a very supportive and hard working member for us at Queen's Park." 

 

East-end councillors can't hide their motions

Posted by Alistair Steele

**UPDATE** In the time it took me to post this, the mayor ruled these motions out of order and they died on the table. Anyway I'm not convinced the councillors were looking for votes, so much as they were looking for an opportunity to air their grievances.

You may be under the impression that Ottawa city councillors try to avoid mixing their municipal politics with their provincial politics, and more often than not they do. But sometimes they just can't help themselves. Take a look at these two motions by east-end councillors Rainer Bloess and Bob Monette. Both councillors say Ottawa-Orleans MPP Phil McNeely has failed to live up to the promises he's made to residents over the years, and both have thrown their support behind McNeely's PC rival, Andrew Lister.  

MOTION

 

Moved by Councillor R. Bloess

Seconded by Councillor B. Monette

WHEREAS the City of Ottawa is the sole shareholder of Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc. which provides electricity to more than 296,000 residential and business customers in the City as well as the village of Casselman, and

WHEREAS, in 2009, Hydro One Networks Inc. successfully applied to the Ontario Energy Board for an order granting Hydro One leave to sell certain distribution system assets located within Hydro Ottawa's service area to Hydro Ottawa Limited ("Hydro Ottawa"), and

WHEREAS the proposed transaction was promoted as one which would enable Hydro Ottawa to improve operational flexibility and reliability while not adversely affect the safety, reliability, quality of service or operational flexibility for other customers of Hydro One, and

WHEREAS local MPP Phil McNeely, in spite of the provincial government's recent imposition of significant additional energy taxes, has declared himself to be a proponent of "fair hydro prices for all residents" and promised in 2002 that he himself would oversee the transfer of Hydro One customers with the stroke of a pen to Hydro Ottawa to facilitate the provision of better and less costly service for these customers, and

WHEREAS the HST and various levies and charges are causing financial hardship to many residents,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT these Hydro One customers be transferred to Hydro Ottawa at no cost in accordance with Mr. McNeely's promise of eight years ago.

 

MOTION

 

Moved by Councillor R. Bloess

Seconded by Councillor B. Monette

WHEREAS the City of Ottawa is the sole shareholder of Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc. which provides electricity to more than 296,000 residential and business customers in the City as well as the village of Casselman, and

WHEREAS, in 2009, Hydro One Networks Inc. successfully applied to the Ontario Energy Board for an order granting Hydro One leave to sell certain distribution system assets located within Hydro Ottawa's service area to Hydro Ottawa Limited ("Hydro Ottawa"), and

WHEREAS the proposed transaction was promoted as one which would enable Hydro Ottawa to improve operational flexibility and reliability while not adversely affect the safety, reliability, quality of service or operational flexibility for other customers of Hydro One, and

WHEREAS local MPP Phil McNeely, in spite of the provincial government's recent imposition of significant additional energy taxes, has declared himself to be a proponent of "fair hydro prices for all residents" and promised in 2002 that he himself would oversee the transfer of Hydro One customers with the stroke of a pen to Hydro Ottawa to facilitate the provision of better and less costly service for these customers, and

WHEREAS the HST and various levies and charges are causing financial hardship to many residents,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT these Hydro One customers be transferred to Hydro Ottawa at no cost in accordance with Mr. McNeely's promise of eight years ago.

 

Complaints over missing audio fall on deaf ears

Posted by Alistair Steele

**UPDATE** Those missing six hours of the Sept 13 Planning Committee Meeting have now been included in the audio archives, two weeks after the fact.

City Hall watchers, advisory board members and other municipal activists-at-large protested back in the Spring when councillors made the move from detailed "synopsis minutes" of standing committee meetings to a combination of less-detailed "action minutes" and audio archives of the meetings. Several councils were themselves unhappy with the decision, and attempted to repeal it a couple weeks later. They were unsuccessful: MOTION.doc

The argument FOR the new system is that it makes the decision-making process more transparent and councillors more accountable than ever before, because every word of every presentation, every debate, is recorded for posterity. Or is it?

Conservationist Erwin Dreessen, who is perhaps best know around City Hall for his association with the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital, has noticed a problem with the audio archives from the Planning Committee meeting of Sept. 13. The final hour is therebut the first six aren't.

In an open letter to the mayor and council, Dreessen laments, "the inadequate access, let alone total absence, of this information hampers my rights as a citizen to see on what basis decisions are made and to prepare myself should I wish to contest any part of your recommendations." Several other activists have piled on, including Paul Renaud of the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands, another group that's recently taken the city to court over development issues. "We've been forced to rely on summaries, and unfortunately some of the summaries don't give you the depth of clarity and understanding, and that just breeds alarm.

Here's an example of those "inadequate" action minutes that citizens are forced to rely on when the audio conks out. But even when it works, critics complain it's not searchable, so they sometimes have to sit through hours of tape to find the item they're looking for. That's not ideal either.

The chair of the Planning Committee, Peter Hume, admits the system's not perfect. "I do admit we need to work on that and make sure that they're fully operational all the time." Hume points out that when the audio does work, it's available online before the action minutes are (those aren't posted until the minutes are confirmed at the next meeting of that committee, typically two weeks later). So it's looking like Erwin Dreessen's complaints about the new system are falling on deaf ears at City Hall.

Sherry Franklin: Denley a 'community basher'

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's a letter to our newsroom from Sherry Franklin, widow of long-time Nepean mayor Ben Franklin. She's now married to another former Nepean mayor, Andy Haydon. Franklin remains a proud Nepeanite, and she has some pretty strong opinions about one candidate's record on the riding.

 

In Defense of NepeanProvincial Candidates should Show Pride in their Ridings

By Sherry Franklin

For almost twenty years, as wife of Nepean's Mayor, Ben Franklin, I had a front row seat for the debates, community arguments and exciting developments that saw the west end of Ottawa and the former City of Nepean blossom into a dynamic community that we currently thrive in and call home.

I'm a proud supporter of Ottawa West Nepean, so it painfully bothers and upsets me that someone who has never contributed to building this community, has spent so much time abusing the west-end and its residents, would attempt to seek public office for a constituency he publicly condemns.

Denley has, for years, consistently stated his opinions and perspectives as an Ottawa Citizen writer (journalist) repeatedly running down Ottawa West Nepean.  It is unbecoming, and indeed improper for any prospective Member of Provincial Parliament to have expressed such a visceral dislike for the community that he proposes to represent.

Denley has called Nepean a "town without history" and "stunted".  He's blasted our neighbourhoods as an "unfocused, sprawling suburban wasteland" and a "suburban horror".  He says that the west-end of Ottawa is the "smugness centre of the universe."  These are just a few of his comments.

Denley failed to recognize the incredible accomplishment of the former City of Nepean's distinction of becoming the first municipality to be debt-free using the "Pay as you go" philosophy.  It attracted international business and Nepean entered amalgamation with a large surplus of money and a record of tax restraint all the while contributing their fair and equitable share of taxes to the Regional Government for major services..

After years of offering his views, as an employee, in the Ottawa Citizen  that violate the very essence of community, Denley is now presenting himself for elected office.  But while most candidates who present themselves for elected office have some history of local community building, Denley has a history of community bashing.

Perhaps it is an old fashioned view, but candidates should show pride, commitment and caring for their ridings.

 

Sherry

 

The mayor's questionnaire

Posted by Alistair Steele

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has sent this questionnaire to all Ottawa-area candidates in the upcoming provincial election. He told them he plans to publish the results on the City's website on September 29, one week before voting day.

Here are the questions:

A. The Ottawa River Action Plan has been partially implemented. Phase III remains to be completed. This Phase will see the construction of large holding tanks that will prevent sewage overflows into the Ottawa River. The cost of this Phase is estimated to be approximately $150 million. The funding for this Phase of the project will be supplied by all three levels of government on an equal basis, as with the first two phases.

 

1. Do you personally agree that the Province of Ontario should provide its 1/3 share of the funding to complete the ORAP project? Yes ____ No ____ Other_________________

 

2. Does your political party support the funding? Yes ____ No ____

Additional Comments: _______________________________________

__________________________________________________________

 

B. Light Rail Transit (LRT) is a project that is vital to the future transportation needs of the City of Ottawa. LRT is a shared-cost program with all three levels of government participating. The provincial share will be $600 million.

 

1. Do you personally agree that the Province of Ontario should provide this $600 million to help finance the LRT project? Yes ____ No ____

 

2. Does your political party support the funding? Yes ____ No ____

Additional Comments: _______________________________________

__________________________________________________________

 

 

C. The Federal Government and the Provinces announced the $1.4 billion Affordable Housing Framework 2011-2014 on July 4, 2011. This will be a shared cost program and it is expected that the City of Ottawa will derive approximately $25 million over the next 3 years from this program.

 

1. Do you personally agree that the Province of Ontario should provide these funds necessary? Yes ____ No ____

 

2. Does your political party support the funding? Yes ____ No ____

Additional Comments: _______________________________________

__________________________________________________________

 

3. Would you support a longer term affordable housing strategy be delivered after these funds expire? Yes ____ No ____

Additional Comments: _______________________________________

__________________________________________________________

 

D. The Province of Ontario began "uploading" approximately $1.5 billion in social service costs in 2008. This program has been partially implemented and saved the City of Ottawa $25 million in this year alone. The program of "uploading" will not be fully completed until 2018 and will also include the uploading of certain police service costs.

 

City of Ottawa long-range budget planning encompasses annual additional anticipated uploaded dollars of approximately $2.765 million in 2012; $5.205 million in 2013; $5.155 million in 2014; $5.340 million in 2015; $5.545 million in 2016; $6.150 million in 2017; and $6.065 in 2018. This does not include additional funds of approximately $5 million for police services, which provide a final annual total savings of $40- $41 million by 2018.

 

1. Do you personally agree that the Province of Ontario should complete the implementation of this uploading as planned? Yes ____ No ____

 

2. Does your political party support the completion of this uploading program?

Yes ____ No ____

Additional Comments: _______________________________________

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

 

E. The City of Ottawa has formally requested the province permit approximately 20 gaming tables for the Rideau Carleton Raceway Slots on a two year pilot project.

 

1. Do you support proceeding with this pilot project later this fall? Yes ____ No ____

 

2. Does your political party support the funding? Yes ____ No ____

 

Your Name: ______________________________________________________

 

Riding: __________________________________________________________

 

Political Party: _____________________________________________________

 

Signature: _________________________________________________________

Keeping score of Ottawa's new bike lanes

Posted by Alistair Steele

I've been wondering how, exactly, the city has been counting bicycles on its new segregated bike lanes on Laurier Avenue, and feeding that information to the daily tally on ottawa.ca. Those numbers seemed awfully high to me, and I'll admit to some skepticism.

So here's how it works: There are two counters embedded in the asphalt near the intersection of Laurier and Metcalfe, one in the eastbound bike lane and one in the westbound. You may have rolled over them without noticing. It's that elongated diamond shape in the lane.

Ottawa-20110907-00234.jpg

A spoksperson for the company that makes and installs the counter explains how those sensors count bikes, and just as important, how they avoid counting cars and other objects. "It's an inductive loop, and it emits a force-field if you will that's broken when a bike passes over it," says Eco-Counter's Ryan Whitney. "It uses 13 different parameters to measure the presence of a bicycle. It measures the beginning and the end of the wheels on a bike. If a pedestrian passes over it, it will not count the pedestrian, it will only count the bike." 

Once the bike passes over the loop, the count is transmitted to a cylindrical logger, which is also under the asphalt. If outfitted with a modem, as Ottawa's are, the counts can be relayed automatically to a web site for anyone to see. Similar systems are up and running in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New York City, Portland, Chicago and Washington D.C., just to name a few. The NCC has apparently adopted similar technology as well. Here's a pic of a familiar Ottawa site, before the top layer was put down.

coil-bike-lane.jpgSo the numbers seem legit. In fact, the true count could be higher. That's because there are four more loops at different points along the lanes.

bike-lane-map.jpg

These additional sensors aren't feeding tallies to the on-line counter just yet. That means there could be hundreds of trips that aren't being included in the count. If for example I join the lane at Bronson but end my trip before I reach Metcalfe, I won't be counted. So there may be even more cyclists using the Laurier lanes than the city's numbers suggest.