Glebe BIA seeks to turf local councillor over 'adversarial approach'

In a highly unusual move, the Glebe BIA is asking Ottawa city council to remove Coun. Shawn Menard from its board of directors, explaining that the current arrangement is 'not working in the best interests' of its members.

Coun. Shawn Menard believes ouster rooted in controversy over parking spaces

Coun. Shawn Menard was appointed to the board of the Glebe BIA shortly after being elected to council in 2018. (CBC)

In a highly unusual move, the Glebe BIA is asking Ottawa city council to remove the area councillor from its board of directors, explaining that the current arrangement is "not working in the best interests" of its members.

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard was appointed by council 19 months ago to sit on the Glebe BIA's board of directors. All business improvement area boards must have at least one member appointed by the municipality.

"There was agreement amongst the board that we need more consistent reporting from the city and a more fulsome commitment to our organization," the Glebe BIA said in a statement issued Wednesday.

"The current arrangement was not working in the best interests of our members."

The BIA said it will now ask city council to remove Menard and appoint a new delegate to the board to act as a liaison between the BIA and the city. 

Street parking controversy

In an interview with CBC, Menard said he suspected the move was due to his efforts last month to block off some street parking on Bank Street to allow pedestrians and cyclists more room to practise physical distancing, which upset some business owners.

At the time, Menard said he'd received hundreds of emails in support of the closure from residents and employees of area businesses. But others said they didn't want to lose parking space in front of their businesses, fearing it could hinder curbside pickups and deliveries during the pandemic.

Coun. Shawn Menard says the move to oust him from the board of the Glebe BIA may stem from his efforts to block off some street parking on Bank Street for pedestrians and cyclists — an idea that upset some business owners. 0:40

"This has come as a surprise to me," said Menard about the board's statement.

"The BIA hasn't given me the reasoning for requesting this, but I do suspect it's because they disagree with my response to the hundreds of my residents that were emailing and asking for space for physical distancing during the height of the COVID-19."

Menard said he would be happy to remain on the BIA's board, and said he thought he had good relations with other members.

"There were a couple of things that came up around the public process for Lansdowne, of course, and then the COVID-19 pandemic ... we disagreed on those policies around those, but other than that, I can't think of another area where we disagreed."

A cyclist crosses Bank Street at Fifth Avenue in the Glebe last month. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

'It just comes down to approach'

Andrew Peck, executive director for the Glebe BIA, said the street parking disagreement wasn't the reason for wanting Menard off the board, but rather the councillor's "adversarial approach" to dealing with issues.

The parking issue was just one example, Peck told CBC Radio's All In A Day, noting there had been others — including Lansdowne Park.

"I think it's just it comes down to approach. It comes down to going about things in a way that brings people together to understand everyone's needs and that strike that balance," Peck said.

The BIA explains why the current arrangement is "not working in the best interests" of its members 10:02

Peck said he doesn't have anyone in mind to take over the role, adding he hopes to mend the relationship with the councillor. 

Tricky to replace, says expert

It may be difficult, however, for Glebe residents to accept a councillor from another ward representing them at the table, said Christopher Stoney, an associate professor at Carleton University's school of public policy and administration.

"I don't think, really, they would be able to represent the interests of the local communities who share roads and sidewalks and issues like parking," Stoney said.

Whoever takes on the job should have experience in issues facing urban wards, Stoney said, and also be able to find the balance between business and non-business interests.

"They're there to really inform and, to some extent, represent the other local stakeholders on that board," he said.

Ottawa city council next meets July 15.

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