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The scrum that never happened...and probably won't

Posted by Alistair Steele

A consultant whose company was hired by the City of Ottawa to help boost its sponsorship program posted this to his blog earlier this month, a couple days after a staff report to the city's finance committee revealed less-than-stellar first year results.

In 2012 the program only raised $773,309, about one quarter of that year's target. When council approved the five-year scheme, staff promised $12.7-million in naming rights, advertisements and other forms of sponsorship. Mayor Jim Watson now says that was "overly optimistic."

Bernie Colterman's firm, the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing, works on a commission basis, plus an hourly rate for advice. The company can take credit for only part of last year's sponsorhip revenue; city councillors raised the rest themselves. While some senior staff laud this arrangement, at least one councillor -- Allan Hubley -- wondered whether the City might be better off going it alone.

Anyway, Colterman was a bit put out that no one from the media had contacted him to get his side of the story. Fair point, so I called him earlier this week to ask for an interview. He seemed receptive at first, although he told me he'd have to check with his people (I'm not exactly clear whom, however he assured me it wasn't the city's pathologically obstructive media office). But after I hounded him for a few days, he called me back today to decline, saying he'd rather let his blog speak for itself.

Hole lot of clout: Who's behind the e-mails?

Posted by Alistair Steele

It's a guilty pleasure of all journalists, I think, to catch a glimpse behind the scenes at the havoc we hath wrought. I am no exception. So when, at the end of an arduous (and expensive) access to information process I finally got that envelope of internal memos of e-mails pertaining to last fall's Highway 174 sinkhole, I zeroed in on the correspondence dealing with this story.

There's a trail of e-mails between various players in the mayor's office, reacting to the inspection video that I think it's fair to say they would rather NOT have seen on their television screens and computer monitors that Friday. Also included in the chain is one mystery recipient.

At a few minutes to eight, two hours after the story aired, the mayor's senior policy advisor George Young sent a copy of the web version to his boss Jim Watson, Watson's chief of staff Serge Arpin, the mayor's media guy Ryan Kennery and one other person. That last person's name has been excised from the documents under Section 14(1) of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which states the city "may refuse to disclose a record of an individuals's personal information, other than to the individual to whom it relates."

That mystery recipient replied to Young the next afternoon, apparently worried about elected officials being left out of the loop: "And is city (sic) sending something to councillors to explain why this was released while ind study is going on? And when will study be ready. When is 90 days up?" This in reference to the independent report by engineering firm B.M. Ross into the root causes of the incident, commissioned earlier that month.

Four minutes later Young forwarded this concern to city clerk and chief solicitor Rick O'Connor and city manager Kent Kirkpatrick: "We had best send something to all councillors explaining how the report went out during the investigation. I have told Mayor (sic) that east Councillors were personally notified yesterday."

By this time CBC had also contacted those councillors, and interviewed at least one -- Bob Monette -- about the video. Other councillors found out via our newscast and website, along with everyone else. It would be interesting to know the identity of this missing link in the chain of command, and why his or her name was removed before these documents were released. Since none of the other 300+ pages I received excised the names of city employees, it would appear to be someone calling the shots from outside the bureaucracy.

Taking another look at the B.M. Ross report

Posted by Alistair Steele

There's a troubling contradiction in that B.M. Ross report on the Highway 174 sink hole. (See what happens when you release important documents late on a Friday? Journalists who were forced to rush their stories and limit their questions to "high level" have the whole weekend to go back for a second look at the details.)

Among the consultant's findings:

  • Based on the August, 2011 CCTV video alone, "it would not be possible to determine when the pipe might collapse."
  • "...the video image does not indicate well that almost two square metres of material had disappeared from the side of the pipe."
  • The video showed the pipe was still "circular...considering the condition of the pipe an emergency was not warranted" despite the severe corrosion that was clearly visible on the video.

B.M Ross describes the pipe as a "soil metal structure," which is to say the soil and the pipe act as two, interdependent parts of the same machine. The forces created by the loads above the pipe (such as road surface and traffic) are transferred to the surrounding soil. The stability of the entire structure depends on something called "ring compression," or the way the circular pipe interacts with the soil around it. "Loss of soil results in loss of stability. When combined with the loss of pipe strength through corrosion, there is definite potential for failure."

Anyone who's seen the CCTV footage has also seen the large voids in the clay behind the holes in the pipe. In fact, B.M. Ross suggests by the time the collapse occurred one year after the video was taken, those voids were even larger: "Following the failure, one of the Contractor's personnel who was working in the structure commented that the eroded pockets behind the pipe appeared to be larger than indicated by the image in the 2011 CCTV inspection."

B.M Ross draws the following conclusions:

  • "Consideration should have been given to ensuring that the soil erosion outside the pipe was not a concern and that further erosion did not occur,"
  • "The significance of the deterioration in terms of the structural integrity of the pipe was not known. The potential for soil erosion to continue and further weaken the structure was apparently not understood.
  • "Those who viewed the video did not appreciate the importance of protecting the native soil on the exterior of the pipe from erosion."
  • "We believe that individuals with experience in design and/or inspection of larger steel structures would have reacted differently."

So here we have a video which was reviewed by staff in three different offices the very day it was recorded. They clearly recognized there was an issue, because the very next day the City changed the work order from a routine headwall replacement to a complete re-lining. (Why it took the contractor a little over a year to get started is another question that deserved to be asked -- and answered -- last week.) But did they recognize the right issue? It seems none of the City's professionals understood what I found out showing the video to the first engineering professor who would talk to me: Soil erosion leads to structural failure, sooner rather than later.  

So while B.M. Ross notes on one hand that the timing of the collapse couldn't have been predicted by looking at those rusted gaps, he also concludes "although those who saw the CCTV video recognized the need for rehabilitation, they did not translate what they observed into potential instability that needed to be immediately investigated further and acted on." So it's not so much what that video didn't show; it's what was shown, but wasn't seen.


Working out Ottawa's LRT jobs gain

Posted by Alistair Steele

I don't know whether Dalton McGuinty made an honest error, or intentionally embellished the truth when he said this about Ottawa's LRT mega-project earlier this week:

"About 80 per cent of the jobs generated from the project will be local. That's about 20-thousand jobs."

There's quite a bit wrong with that statement. First, other officials, including the mayor, claimed later that 80 per cent of the jobs will be local. Not that 80 per cent of the job equals 20-thousand. But there was more than a mere mathematical mix-up in the premier's statement. Here's the City's official explanation of that 20-thousand figure:

"This number, which was originally presented in the 2009 LRT Business case, was generated using a Statistics Canada input-output multiplier formula relating to the transportation sector for the investment proposed for the OLRT/Confederation Line project. The output provided estimates of the direct and indirect employment impacts of the capital investment in Ottawa.

Rideau Transit Group has provided a more detailed accounting of direct job estimates. It is anticipated that the construction of the Confederation Line will generate over 3,200 direct person-years of trades' employment in the Ottawa area.  Skills employed will encompass the full spectrum of construction trades including road building, civil works, tunnelling, track work, and bridge work; structural, architectural, electrical and mechanical work.  Expertise in systems and communications will also be required.  Highly skilled technical staff will be hired, leading to an additional 700 person years of employment in Ottawa.  Also, 375 person-years of engineering employment will be created.  As referenced above, these direct jobs will create a multiplier effect in the local economy which is anticipated to generate over 20,000 people years of employment in indirect or induced impact over the construction period."

So it's not really 20-thousand new jobs, is it? It's 20-thousand "person-years." That's the same as one year of employment each for 20-thousand people. Or longer-term jobs -- maybe even full-time, permanent ones -- for far fewer folks. That seems to be the vision for some of the 200 or so skilled workers who will assemble the trains at that new "Centre for Excellence" on Belfast Road. Rideau Transit Group says the plan is to turn them into maintenance workers after the Confederation Line is finished. There's a couple thousand "person-years" right there, measured over time.

In fact, very few of those LRT-related jobs will be long-term ones. Rail office boss John Jensen says some will last the duration of the project; others will be short-term contracts. Even those will only make up a fraction of the overall employment gain: As the Rideau Transit Group confirms, only about four-thousand "person years" will be aportioned to tradespeople, skilled technicians and engineers. As fast as Ottawa's universities and Colleges can churn those professionals out, there remains a shortage of them here. So a good many of the local jobs -- that 80 per cent we're being promised -- will likely be those that are indirectly related to the project, the 15- or 16-thousand "person years" of work for parts suppliers and service industry workers.

As Carleton University professor Ian Lee points out, politicians love to throw around big employment numbers. But while locals will undoubtedly benefit from this massive project, Lee says the real economic benefit for the city isn't in short-term employment, but in the long term, in ways that are harder to sell from behind a podium.

Marketing Lansdowne: Get your dish towels here!

Posted by Alistair Steele

I suspect this is de rigueur these days when setting up a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted business venture. Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has registered the trademarks and Domain names for the same brands have also been reserved.

And if you're looking for Christmas presents, mylansdowne has you covered. Under "Wares" associated with the new trademarks:

"Toys and games, namely educational toys, plush toys, stuffed animals, puppets, building and construction toys, playing cards, balloons, stuffed toys, beach toys, battery-operated toys, kites, flying discs, toy watches; sporting goods and recreational equipment, namely golf balls, golf markers and tees, baseballs and bats, baseball hats and gloves, baseball sweaters, soccer balls, hockey sticks, hockey nets, hockey pucks, basketballs, headbands, wristbands; clothing and all climate clothing, namely shirts, t-shirts, aprons, bibs, tank tops, swimsuits, toques, scarves, neckties, ties, belts, uniforms, suspenders, gloves, handkerchiefs, turtlenecks, sweaters, woven shirts, jogging suits, sportswear, athletic wear, overalls, jumpsuits, shorts and pants, blouses, coats, jackets, parkas, warm-up suits, bathrobes; footwear, namely shoes, boots and socks; shoelaces; baby clothing, baby towels, baby bibs, baby headwear, namely baby hats; printed goods, office and stationery supplies, namely calendars, calendar pads, agendas, photo albums, two-dimensional stickers, three-dimensional vinyl stickers, envelopes, greeting cards, bulletin boards, note pads, writing paper, posters, post cards, guest books, invitations, letter openers, memo pads, note books, paperweights, bumper stickers, crests, heat-sealed badges and emblems, iron-on decals, stickers, adhesive seals, vinyl stickers, pressure-sensitive labels, heat transfers, iron-on transfers, self-sticking transfers, ballpoint pens, felt pens, crayons, rubber stamps, name tags, luggage tags, trading cards, stamp pads; school kits, namely binders, bookmarks, book covers, note paper, desk sets, pencils, crayons, diaries, erasers, pencil cases, pencil boxes, pencil sharpeners, rulers, gummed labels, decals; packaging and wrapping materials, namely gift wrapping, paper, ribbons, bows, string and stickers; publications namely books, children's books, cut-out books, pop-up books, read-along books, comic books, periodicals, souvenir books, colouring books, story books, magazines and newspapers, coffee table books and tabloids; posters, cardboard auto windshield shades, prints, paintings, brochures; luggage, luggage tags, beach bags, sports bags, duffle bags; watches and umbrellas; souvenir items, namely pennants, flags, banners, balloons, statuettes, bottle openers; match books, souvenir albums, sculptures, Christmas ornaments, licence holders, sew-on badges, name badges, car emblems, piggy banks, plaques, carvings, figurines, teaspoons, mascot costumes and toy replicas thereof, trophies, baskets, nail clippers, crests, trinket ornaments, binoculars, novelty buttons, key chains, key fobs, key tags, lighters, flashlights; jewellery, namely earrings, lockets, medals, medallions, money clips, necklaces, pendants and tie tacks, watches and straps, wrist bands, watch chains; fridge magnets, craft magnets, paper weights, lunch boxes and pails, coasters, place mats, napkins, serviettes, table cloths, paper towels, dish towels, tray tables, clocks, cushion; pitcher sets, bud vases, swizzle sticks; cameras; glassware namely drinking and decorative glasses; cups, mugs, beer mugs, steins, shotglasses, shooter glasses; porcelain ware namely coffee mugs, beer steins."

So OSEG considers this both a belt and suspenders merchandise plan then... 

Galvanizing opinion on Ottawa's underground infrastructure

Posted by Alistair Steele

It will be at least a month before we see the results of that 90-day independent investigation into the root causes of September's culvert collapse and sinkhole in the middle of the Jeanne d'Arc off-ramp of Highway 174. City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick has assured us that this inspection video, obtained by CBC News through Access to Information, will play a key role.

For those of us growing impatient for the official report, another clue to the root cause of the collapse may be found in another report, which wrapped up more than a month ago. On Sept. 12 council directed staff to go forth and assess the condition of any critical insfrastructure "similar in age and materials" to the pipe that failed.

In a Sept. 28 memo summarizing the results of that review, Kent Kirkpatrick describes the work being done to speed up the relining of some of that infrastructure under critical transportation corridors, mostly in the city's east end. Then at the end of the memo, he offers "clarification" related to the Jeanne d'Arc culvert, including this:

"The section under the eastbound lanes, composed of non galvanized steel, deteriorated at a much greater rate than the section found under the westbound lanes, which is galvanized steel."

Kirkpatrick notes the two sections were of similar vintage. He does not explain why different materials were used under the same highway. Inspection videos of the culvert under the westbound lanes (CBC News obtained four separate videos altogether, along with still photos and written reports) reveal the pipes are in pretty good shape. That's the galvanized one. The video of the non-galvanized culvert under the eastbound lanes...well, it pretty much speaks for itself.

Here's Kirkpatrick's memo: Memo Culverts FINAL 2.doc

Lansdowne's retail map takes shape

Posted by Alistair Steele

**I am re-posting this entry from April, in light of the confirmation of another "place holder" on the map below. OSEG says Sporting Life, shown taking up most of Building A, is indeed coming to Lansdowne.**


I was recently shown this retail map of Lansdowne Park:


I realize you can't make out the details, and some of the fine print on the original's a bit difficult to decipher as well. But I can tell you that with only one exception, every space on the map appears to be occupied. (The developer calls them "placeholders"...more on that below.) Here's the breakdown:

Building A (Bank at Holmwood): Sporting Life

Building B (Holmwood): Under Armour, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's, Restoration Hardware

Building C (Holmwood): Formella (a restaurant, apparently), LoCal (another resto), Empire Cinemas

Building D (Holmwood, beside the Horticulture Building): Jack Astor's, Wasabi Sushi

Building H (Bank): Whole Foods (second floor), LCBO, Starbucks, Puma, Lulu Lemon, Laura Secord, Cake Shop (presumably the Cake Shop), Sunset Grill, and a "personal service business" that looks like it might be Renaldo, the coiffeur to the stars

Building G1 (just east of Building H): Children's Place, Bootlegger, Claire's, another small retailer I can't make out, and a restaurant called "Joey" (this Seafood place?)

Building G2 (beside G1): Sunglass Hut and another small retailer called "Fratelli" (unless they mean the restaurant and accidentally used the wrong colour)

Civic Centre (under the north side stands): Goodlife Fitness, The Source, Wind Mobile, David's Tea, South St. Burger, and another salon

Building I (the south-west corner, on Bank): TD Bank, Milestones, Spence Diamonds

This "Leasing Plan" is dated March 5, 2012. According to Trinity's Lansdowne site, only  Whole Foods, LCBO and Empire have actually inked some kind of a lease. So where did all these other names come from? Some were mentioned in the Lansdowne Partnership's refined retail strategy presented back in February (the "Amended Retail Mix" appears on page 20). Others seem to have appeared in the interim. 

None of the handful of businesses on the new map that I contacted has signed a lease, or has engaged in any significant talks with Trinity. The Glebe BIA's Christine Leadman hadn't seen the map, but says it's likely just a "developer's tool" to attract tenants. A spokesperson for OSEG confirms this, calling the names on the map "placeholders."

Still, both this map and the previous leasing strategy give some indication of the types of businesses Trinity hopes to attract. Some are generating excitement (hello Restoration Hardware). Others, not so much. Still others can be found in any mall across the city (Claire's, Bootlegger, The Source). This probably isn't the "diverse, vibrant and successful retail environment" some people had in mind.

Lansdowne questions, Lansdowne answers

Posted by Alistair Steele

For the record, here are the city's official responses to a couple questions we asked earlier this week on the Lansdowne file.

First, how did the estimated revenue from naming rights at Lansdowne leap from $15.7-million to $50.2-million in the space of seven months?

"The naming rights projected revenue has increased from earlier estimates as a result of the recommendations obtained by OSEG from their third party consultant, which is highly respected in their field and have expertise in this area. The naming rights values were increased based mainly on the fact that the overall components of the project consisted of not only the stadium and arena but also the mixed-use retail area (excluding the urban park and public space). Under this scenario sponsors would derive increased sponsorship and branding value versus earlier estimates based only on the stadium and arena. The consultants undertook extensive research and reviewed comparable venues across North America with an emphasis on Canada.

The revised naming rights values also takes into consideration the value of the CFL team, the additional value from the retail area, proposed activities in the stadium and arena, and the addition of a Soccer Team at Lansdowne.

It is important to remember that the figure represents the estimated total revenue over the 30 year duration of the partnership - this amounts slightly more that $1 million per year, inflated over the 30 years."

So who's this consultant of OSEG's who arrived at this conclusion?

"The naming rights projected revenue has increased from earlier estimates as a result of the recommendations obtained by OSEG from their third party consultant, which is highly respected in their field and have expertise in this area. OSEG is currently in the process of selecting a consulting firm to execute the next phase of the naming rights and sponsorship program. Given that OSEG is currently tendering this next piece of work they do not want to bias the process by releasing the name of the previous consultant at this time."

City manager Kent Kirkpatrick said Wednesday he's spoken with the consultant in question, and is satisfied with the accuracy of the new, much larger figure. I still haven't managed to discover the identity of that mysterious individual. Perhaps a curious councillor will have better luck when Minto CEO Roger Greenberg faces the city's Finance and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday. Perhaps they won't. Either way, they'll be asked to vote to proceed with the Lansdowne deal. 

RVCA responds

Posted by Alistair Steele

Cast as the possible villain in the Highway 174 sinkhole saga Friday, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority is fighting back with this tersely-worded e-mail from the agency's Director of Planning, Don Maciver. In brief:

  • The City wanted to begin work on the deteriorating storm sewer in April, and wrap up by the end of July.
  • The City never followed up when the RVCA informed it those dates conflicted with the Spring fish spawning period, an annual construction blackout well known within the industry. 
  • The City never expressed any urgency. If it had for example informed the RVCA that the pipe was in imminent danger of collapse, the RVCA would have allowed the work to proceed without hesitation.
  • The contractor hired by the City didn't get started until the end of August, a full two months after the end of the spawning season.

Here's the e-mail to the mayor and Cumberland councillor Stephen Blais. (Another councillor, Steve Desroches, is cc'd because he sits on the RVCA's board of directors.)

From: Don Maciver <>
Date: Fri, 7 Sep 2012 23:28:44 -0400
To: <>
Cc: Steve Desroches <>, <>, Dell Hallett <>
Subject: FW: RV8-03/12   Highway 174 closure

With respect to the Hwy 174 closure, it is most regrettable how the role of the RVCA has been portrayed in many local media outlets this evening.  Appended below are the facts as I see them in my role as a Program Director at RVCA.  Attached also is the application form completed by the City, the RVCA letter of permission issued under Ontario Regulation 174/06 and a CA map.  The Spring in water works restriction period has been in effect for as long as I can remember; most major development proponents are well familiar with it but, as noted below, accommodations can be made in justifiable emergency situations.  Let me emphasize that we are always available for consultation and discussion.  Please do not hesitate to give me or my General Manager, Dell Hallett a call in the event that you wish to discuss this matter further.
·         An application was received by RVCA Feb 22, 2012
·         Permission was requested to reline a 3600 mm storm sewer for a distance of approximately 105m.;  Novatech was the consulting engineer.  The tributary affected is named West Bilberry Creek in our GIS (so the sub-watershed is not inconsequential in size).                                                              
·         The work dates provided on the application form were April 16, 2012 to July 31st, 2012
·         There was no indication of any emergency associated with the works and no suggestion in the file (or to our Inspector) that any special dispensation was required. 
·         RVCA handled the file as a routine submission for maintenance;  a  letter of permission with relatively standard conditions was issued April 18, 2012.
·         The City confirmed the details of the project and accepted the conditions April 26, 2012 under signature of Steven Courtland. 
·         There was no further contact with the City after this date that I have been told of.                                                                                                                       
·         According to a City e mail (Sept 7 by Ghadban) drawings were complete June 1, 2012; tender package completed June 30  & awarded July 18 (to Louis Bray Construction according to media).
·         As for any assertions that fish spawning held up works,  the collapse occurred  Tuesday the 4th  of Sept. some 65 days after the opening of the in water works construction period. In such matters the CA utilizes "construction windows" based on advice from MNR ; flexibility is available if special or emergency circumstances arise. 

Don Maciver MCIP RPP
Director of Planning
Planning Advisory & Regulatory Services Group
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
Box 599, 3889 Rideau Valley Dr.
Voice: (613) 692-3571 x1105
Mobile: (613) 355-0389
Web: <>

Here's the City's original application: 12 Youville and 174 relining application.pdf

And here's the RVCA's letter of permission:12 Youville and 174 relining Apr permission.pdf


Tadpoles latest culprits in sinkhole saga

Posted by Alistair Steele

Following Tuesday's storm sewer collapse and the chaos that ensued, Cumberland councillor Stephen Blais decided to ask city staff for a timeline of everything that happened, following that inspection last summer when engineers noticed the pipe had deteriorated and needed to be re-lined. Here's what he got today:

From: Ghadban, Ziad
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2012 02:23 PM
To: Blais, Stephen
Subject: OR174 Storm Drainage Pipe Relining

Good Afternoon Councillor Blais,

The following is the project history as requested:

17 August 2011:  Project was scoped to Design and Construction Municipal East

8 Sept 2011:  PO was issued to Novatech Engineering to commence the design which included the lining of the storm drainage pipe.  Size of lining was not known.

26 Sept 2011:  Finalized scope to determine the minimum final diameter for the storm drainage pipe after lining.

Beginning of October commenced functional design

Dec 2011 complete functional design

15 Feb 2012: Submitted application for permit to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) - determined that no work could occur on this project from March 15 to July 1st in order to protect local fish populations during spawning

16 Feb 2012: Preliminary design completed for 174 lining and headwall

7 May 2012: Final geotechnical  memo for construction information received

18 May 2012: final permit received from the RVCA - on the permit it stated "no work could occur on this project from March 15 to July 1st in order to protect local fish populations during spawning"

1 June 2012: Design Drawings Complete for 174 lining and headwall

30 June 2012:  Tender package complete

18 July 2012: tender closes and award process commences

23 August 2012: preconstruction meeting, PO created for Louis Bray and Commence Work Order Issued

27 August 2012: contractor started to mobilize on site


Ziad A. Ghadban, P. Eng.


Design and Construction - Municipal (East)

Infrastructure Services Department

100 Constellation Crescent, 6th Floor West

Ottawa, Ontario  K2G 6J8

Tel. No.:  (613) 580-2424, ext. 22663

Fax No.:   (613) 560-6064


Blais says if the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority hadn't forbidden that work from commencing before July 1, the job would have been higher on the priority list and the pipe could have been re-lined much sooner. Theoretically, that would have prevented the collapse, the sink hole, and the traffic nightmare that ensued. In other words, if it weren't for a few tadpoles, east-end residents might not be sitting in gridlock tight now. 

Don't fret about water levels, or your lawn: City

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here are the "com lines" sent to councillors by the city's communications department today (emphasis is mine):

"As residents are aware, the region has been experiencing an extended period of hot, dry weather. The City of Ottawa actively monitors weather conditions and rates of drinking water use and demand. While demand has recently been high, it is not causing water production or distribution difficulties. 

The City of Ottawa's central drinking water system relies upon the Ottawa River. The City's current water demands, while high, are only slightly over 1% of the Ottawa River flow. In other words, the City's water use is not imposing a significant demand on the river.

The City's Water Bylaw provides authority to senior City staff to impose drinking water restrictions based either upon emergency public health issues or water conservation objectives. It should be noted, however, that in the last 30 years and mandatory water restrictions have related to issues with water infrastructure, such as last summer's Woodroffe watermain replacement, not environmental conditions. The City's current position is that drinking water restrictions on the City's residents would not alleviate the ongoing low water situation in the area's rivers, such as the Rideau, Jock, Mississippi or South Nation.

While Ottawa is fortunate to have ab abundant source of water, the City still encourages residents to use this valuable resource wisely. During the peak periods in hot weather, the pressure on our water supply infrastructure can double or triple. Using water wisely prolongs the life of infrastructure, and it also save electrical power that is required to process our natural water resources into safe, drinkable water.

The hot weather may have taken the lustre out of your once-emerald green lawn, but relax. When searing heat assaults the lawn, the grass goes into a hibernation period -- just like certain animals do in the winter to survive the cold and lack of food. This built-in protection mechanism has the grass lose its vibrant colour to preserve energy. But once a good rainfall and cooler temperatures return, it regains its lush green tones.

Remember, your lawn needs only a limited amount of water to survive the summer -- and pavement needs none!"

LRT cash tied to Presto deal, too

Posted by Alistair Steele

So it turns out the the $32-million in gas taxes the city collects from the province every year isn't the only money tied to the troubled Presto payment system. The province's contribution to Ottawa's LRT project -- all $600-million of it -- hinges on the city's Presto participation as well. At least on paper.

A clause within the formal contribution agreement signed between the city and the province last September stipulates the cash is conditional on Ottawa "participating in PRESTO and, as a participant, meeting all of its PRESTO related contractual obligations, including financial obligations."

According to a senior provincial government source, "the clause is a standard one in our agreements designed specifically for the GTA transit systems to promote a seamless single card system. The City of Ottawa requested Presto before we rolled that out."

The source goes on to say: "The City of Ottawa agreed to this clause as part of the negotiation...however if the city would like this clause removed from the light rail contribution agreement at the next contract update we will work with them."

Government sources point out the city asked to be enrolled in the Presto program before it signed the contribution agreement. The document hasn't been made public in its entirety, and likely won't until after the LRT contract is awarded.  

Retail report delay blamed on Conservancy case

Posted by Alistair Steele

Buried within today's memo from city manager Kent Kirkpatrick on the ongoing legal battle with John Martin's Lansdowne Park Conservancy is this:

"As a result of the pending appeal application in the Lansdowne Park Conservancy case, reports on Governance, Legal Agreements and further progress reports related to the Lansdowne Partnership Plan will be brought forward to Council this fall. Reports related to the redevelopment of the park portion of the redevelopment will come forward in the normal course."

That is to say, various LPP reports expected this spring or summer won't surface until much later. The reason, says Kirkpatrick, is that the Ontario Court of Appeal likely won't render a verdict on Martin's appeal of the lower court decision until "late July or early August."

This seems curious, since the city has all along tended to (and in its factum, continues to) dismiss the Conservancy as an inconvenient but largely benign nuisance. I think it's fair to say City Hall has treated the Friends of Lansdowne challenge as a more significant threat to the redevelopment plan. And yet even before the Friends announced they're giving up the ghost, the city's contractors went to work.

Included in the reports neither council nor the public will see until the fall is a much-anticipated retail update. Has OSEG been able to attract the "unique" businesses council demanded, and was promised? Or have the Lansdowne partnership's legal troubles, combined with competing mall expansions and a tight retail environment, conspired to stymie OSEG's best intentions? We'll have to wait to find out, thanks to one man who we've been told all along doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

Canada Day organizer back at City Hall

Posted by Alistair Steele

The last time Angelo Filoso was in the news, it was in the context of a report from the City of Ottawa's auditor general, Alain Lalonde. In it Lalonde detailed problems with Canada Day festivals at Andrew Haydon Park in 2009 and 2010. Among the highlights: a diesel fuel spill, potentially dangerous electrical hook-ups, and unauthorized helicopter rides. Filoso organized both events.

Last year the city even sued Filoso along with his organization, the Italian-Canadian Community Centre of the National Capital Region Inc. (Filoso is well-known in Ottawa's Italian community; among other things he's publisher of the city's Italian-language newspaper.) That matter has since been settled out of court. The terms of the agreement are being kept confidential.

Apparently Filoso really likes organizing Canada Day festivals, because he's the force behind another one this summer. This time the three-day event is to be held at Queen Juliana Park, near Dow's Lake. The park sits on federal land, so it belongs to Public Works. The department says it only just found out about the dispute between the City and Filoso. Asked about whether they have any qualms about working with Filoso, the Public Works replied via e-mail:

"PWGSC requests that the organizers obtained all required permits from the municipality or other authorities having jurisdiction for the planned event to be held on PWGSC land.The proponant sic for the Canada Day Event will have to meet such obligations before a license is granted."

According to the city, Filoso has been in contact about the festival, but has not filed the necessary paperwork for said permits. Nor has he formally invited Mayor Jim Watson to attend the event, as advertized. So says the mayor's office, which adds Watson will likely be quite busy that day. 

Neither Angelo Filoso nor anyone from has returned calls or e-mails about this story. 

City reaches labour deal with CUPE 503

Posted by Alistair Steele

The City of Ottawa has reached a tentative agreement with its largest labour union. Here's the (brief) memo from City Clerk and Solicitor Rick O'Connor to the mayor and councillors, sent just now:


I am pleased to advise that, early this morning, the City's bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 503 Inside/Outside bargaining unit (CUPE 503 I/O). The tentative agreement was reached after 20 days of negotiations and respects the bargaining mandate approved by Council.


CUPE 503 I/O is the City's largest bargaining unit, representing approximately 6,300 employees or 37% of the City's workforce. Their collective agreement expired on December 31, 2011.


In keeping with the usual labour relations practices, the details of the tentative agreement are confidential until ratified by the union membership and City Council. CUPE 503 President Brian Madden has indicated that he anticipates presenting the tentative agreement to his members later next month, after which it will be submitted to Council for ratification.




M. Rick O'Connor, CMO

Certified Specialist (Municipal Law: Local Government)

City Clerk and Solicitor

Lansdowne plan plows ahead despite delay

Posted by Alistair Steele

It seems the city's legal department is getting a bit anxious about the time the Ontario Court of Appeal is taking to render its decision in the Lansdowne case. In a report going to the city's Finance and Economic Development Committee next week, city staff write:

"The timing of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision is unknown although an order was obtained on 19 September 2011, which provided that the appeal be expedited. On 30 March 2012, legal counsel for the City wrote to the Senior Legal Officer of the Court asking when a decision might be expected. No answer has been provided."

In the mean time, staff are recommending the city proceed with some tasks anyway, "to reduce adverse schedule impacts and to contain costs that might otherwise be caused by this delay." Those include moving the Horticulture Building, excavation and remediation of contaminated soil, and demolition of the Coliseum Building. Some of the work is included in the current OSEG tender, while other items are not. The total cost of these projects is $14-million, and that's all before the court rules.

Where Watson really stands on safe injection

Posted by Alistair Steele

Well this safe injection study sure dropped with a thud here in Ottawa today. The researchers are recommending two "safe consumption sites" for Ottawa, resulting in the predictable controversy.

If the study sounds familiar, that's because former mayor Larry O'Brien tipped us off to it during the 2010 mayoral campaign. He accused his rival, Jim Watson, of plotting with his pals at Queen's Park to cover up the findings until after voting day. The trouble was, O'Brien was wrong on just about every detail, and later retracted his claim.

So is the current mayor for or against safe injection sites in Ottawa? "If there are extra funds available I don't believe they should be going into safe injection sites," said Watson today. "I think they should be going into the rehab and treatment centres that we have helped fund before."

Spinning his wheels

Posted by Alistair Steele

Last month Orleans councillor Bob Monette asked city staff a series of questions about the segregated bike lanes on Laurier Avenue. Monette's query appears to have been prompted by this newspaper article, which appeared three days earlier (and which was helpfully re-published on Monette's own web site).

Specifically, Monette wanted to know the following:

  • Could signs be installed along Laurier Avenue to point patrons to nearby parking lots?
  • Could the south-side lane be modified to take the burden off businesses between Elgin and Metcalfe?
  • Could the south-side lane be eliminated altogether during the winter, when usage is lower?
  • Could something be done to make deliveries to businesses on Laurier a bit easier?
  • Could one of the two bike lanes on Laurier be moved to an adjacent street?
  • Could staff please provide a monthly breakdown showing the number of cyclists using the Laurier lanes since they were introduced last summer?

With one exception, the answer to these questions is "no." The exception is the last one. Here staff provide not one but two graphs, both showing that usage does indeed dip in the winter months, as one might expect. These responses will be delivered at this Wednesday's Transportation Committee meeting. It begins at 9:30 a.m. Monimahal's lunch buffet opens at 11:30 a.m. 

Police president's open letter

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the entire text of Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skoff's open letter to the media: He's also forwarded it to the CRTC.

Open letter to the media

Subject: Release of video

This past week has seen many articles written about our murdered brother and colleague, Eric Czapnik.  To say it has been difficult for Eric's family, friends and co-workers is an enormous understatement.  Eric chose the most difficult of professions; he worked hard so that he could earn the respect of those he protected.  Eric Czapnik made the ultimate sacrifice:  his life was ended on the 29th of December 2009 and we, as a society, lost one of our finest.  Anna lost her husband, Eric's children lost their father, the Ottawa police lost an exemplary officer. Eric's family and friends will never be able to enjoy his company again.

On the 7th of March 2012, we relived much of that horrible experience when the media decided to show the video of Eric entering the Emergency Room.  The video shows the final moments of a human life; it was not 'acted' or scripted.  Eric Czapnik was a real person, he had a family and he lived right here in this city.

Ottawa, how do we judge ourselves?  Are we a civil society if we endorse the media when they sensationalize a horrible event? I believe we are better than this.  The members of the Ottawa Police are your family, your neighbours, your coaches and your volunteers; they put their lives at risk and are ready to sacrifice so much for a city that they love. 

Matt Skof


Ottawa Police Association

Manconi's memo

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's new OC Transpo GM John Manconi's memo to Ottawa's Transit Commission. It details another round of service changes that will go into effect April 22.

To / Destinataire

Chair and Members of the Transit Commission

File/N° de fichier:

From / Expéditeur

General Manager
Transit Services

Subject / Objet

April 2012 Transit Service Improvements

Date: February 27, 2012



I am happy to be providing you with this memo, to present an overview of the transit service changes and adjustments that will be made starting Sunday, April 22, and Monday, April 23, 2012. These service improvements are the result of feedback from customers, Councillors and staff, combined with a detailed operational assessment. They are financed from the $5.5 million in new OC Transpo funding that was included in Budget 2012.

As a matter of course, OC Transpo schedules are adjusted four times a year - April, June, September, and December. Transit Commission members and Council are provided with a synopsis of the service changes in advance of each schedule period. These changes are aimed at improving reliability and service for many customers, and have been made based on feedback from customers and operators and on operating data that have been collected.

Improved reliability - The scheduled running time for every trip, Monday to Friday, on many routes has been calibrated based on measurements taken since the route network was changed in September 2011. These changes will improve the reliability of departure times at the start of each trip and the reliability of arrivals at stops along the route. This work has been completed for Routes 2, 8, 12, 14, 20, 21, 22, 24, 27, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 60, 61, 62, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 76, 77, 86, 105, 128, 129, 156, 221, 231, 232, 261, 262, 263, and 283. Other routes and service on other days of the week are currently being analyzed, for improvements to be made with the June and September schedule changes.

Added trips and capacity increases - Additional trips will be provided at key times on Routes 94, 96, 134, 143 and 144 to provide new travel times and to increase capacity. Additional capacity will be provided by assigning articulated buses to busy trips on Routes 30, 40, 60, 71, 76, 86, 87, 94, 96, and 98.

Kanata North - Improvements will be made to Route 93, to provide all-day service on Innovation Drive and Legget Drive. These changes replace the interim changes that were made in January. Route 93 will be changed from a one-way loop to a two-way route through the residential part of Kanata North to improve convenience. The eastern end of the route will be extended to Lincoln Fields Station to provide improved connections (peak period trips will continue to operate to/from LeBreton Station). Most trips on the current Route 169 will be combined to be part of Route 93, and the trips that serve Herzberg, south of Carling, will be renumbered as Route 181.

CE Centre - Two routes will be modified to provide improved transit service to the new CE Centre. Route 147 will be changed, seven days a week, to travel south from Greenboro and South Keys Stations via the Airport Parkway instead of Uplands Drive. Buses will stop at the front entrance to the CE Centre, then continue on the current route through CFB Ottawa and back along Hunt Club to South Keys and Greenboro Stations. Northbound trips on Route 99 on Saturdays and Sundays will be changed to operate via the front entrance to the CE Centre, and continue via Uplands and Hunt Club to South Keys and Greenboro Stations. These services will be reviewed after the completion of the pedestrian connections between the CE Centre and the primary nearby bus stops of Route 97 on the Airport Parkway.

Barrhaven South - With the completion of Kilbirnie Drive through to Greenbank Road, Route 177 will provide all-day service on Kilbirnie, and the temporary operation on Dundonald will end. Northbound trips during the morning peak period on Route 177 will be extended to Fallowfield Station, where customers will have additional transfer connections possible.

Other route changes - Minor changes will be made to Routes 112, 201, 205, and 232, and to the Rideau Street trips on Route 16. The times of the trips on Route 129 that serve the Aviation and Space Museum will be adjusted to better suit the museum's opening and closing times.

Capacity adjustments on school services - Based on actual ridership levels, and following discussion with the school boards and their transportation authorities, the number of school trips will be increased on Routes 18, 86, 118, 130, 134, 613, 665, 669 and 674. The number of school trips will be reduced on Routes 5, 16, 87, 114, 131, 164, 176, 602, 612, and 622.

Construction detours - Several major road construction projects will affect transit service this spring. Buses will be detoured as required to carry out the work, and some of the detours will increase customers' travel time by a few minutes. The areas of work include:

Abbeyhill between Eagleson and Old Colony, affecting Routes 61, 118, 161, and 164;

Bronson between Arlington and MacLaren, affecting Routes 4 and 14;

Heron Road Bridge, affecting Routes 111 and 118

Meadowlands between Fisher and Inverness, affecting Routes 86B and 111; and,

Rideau between Dalhousie and King Edward, affecting Routes 1, 7, 9, 12, 14, and 18.

Full details of these service changes will be communicated to customers throughout March and April. Please direct any customers to or to our telephone information centre (613-741-4390) for more information. Once the new service begins, customers can find up-to-date schedules by using, calling 613-560-1000, or texting 560560.

Once these service changes are in place, we will evaluate their success based on feedback we collect from customers and operating staff and based on ridership and operational data measurements. Our aim continues to be to provide excellent service for customers as their travel needs change.

If you need additional information on these changes, please Pat Scrimgeour, Manager, Transit Service Design at ex. 52205 or myself at ext. 52111.

Original signed by:

John Manconi


c.c. Members of Council

Executive Committee

Chief, Corporate Communications

Program Manager, Media Relations

Transit Services Management Team

Hume clarifies OMB confusion

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the memo from Peter Hume explaining this morning's OMB issue. It was the subject of a huddle in the council chamber that can only be described as frantic:

From: Hume, Peter E
Sent: February 8, 2012 1:01 PM
To: =City Councillors
Cc: Arpin, Serge; Marc, Timothy C; Moser, John
Subject: OMB Hearing - Clarification - Lands to be included in the Urban Area


There was a question during this morning's OMB hearing from the Presiding OMB Member with respect to whether there was a double counting of the Fernbank (OPA 77 - 163 ha) lands. 


The City and all other parties have been operating under the belief that the 850 ha included the Fernbank lands and therefore what was really to be added to the urban area was approximately 687 ha.


The Board's interpretation is that OPA 77 already brought the Fernbank lands into the urban boundary and that they should not be counted toward the 850  ha. Therefore, according to the OMB the City is required to add an additional 163 ha into the urban area.


City Legal staff are currently presenting witnesses at the hearing but will be reviewing this clarification and may make further submissions to the OMB with regard to this interpretation. In the event that the City is required to add an additional 163 ha to the urban area the City Council approved priority list would be used to determine the specific parcels that would be added to the urban area.


As soon as more information is available I will forward it to you.


Peter Hume


Planning Committee

Lansdowne plans to be revealed

Posted by Alistair Steele

The latest design plans for Lansdowne Park will be unveiled tomorrow morning at 9:30 in the council chamber at Ottawa City Hall. If you think it's short notice, you're not alone: Most councillors only found out about it late this morning.

Here's part of a memo the memo they got from city manager Kent Kirkpatrick:

"The purpose of the briefing will be to inform Council on the work related to the Lansdowne redevelopment that has been undertaken since August of 2011, as approved and directed by Council. Architects and landscape architects will present their completed work on the plans to revitalize Lansdowne.

Presenters will be:
- Jeffrey Staates, Phillips-Farevaag-Smallenberg Principal, speaking about the urban park;
- Julian Smith, Julian Smith and Associates President, speaking about the Horticulture Building;
- Robert Claiborne, Cannon Design Principal Associate, speaking about the stadium; and,
- John Clifford, Perkins Eastman Principal, speaking about the commercial-residential area.

The 90-minute presentation will cover the details, sightlines, building materials, architecture and landscape plans for Lansdowne Park.

Architects and landscape architects working on the three pieces of the Lansdowne project − the urban park, the mixed-use area, and the stadium and Civic Centre - have successfully integrated their work and created a compelling design with strong connections to adjacent neighbourhoods.

Ongoing direction for this work has been provided by the Lansdowne Design Review Panel which was established by Council and chaired by George Dark."

Friends fume over Lansdowne tenders

Posted by Alistair Steele

As we patiently wait for a judgement in the appeal by Friends of Lansdowne, the developers behind the bid to redevelop the park are keeping busy, not to mention optimistic about the outcome of the court case. Two seperate calls for tender are going out this week, one by Trinity Developments for the new commercial buildings at Lansdowne, and another for the stadium, Civic Centre and underground parking.

That second project, valued at nearly $130-million, has a start date of March 2012. In other words, shovels in the ground in a matter of weeks. That has the group behind the legal challenge, Friends of Lansdowne, fuming. Here's part of an update they just released:

"The arrogance of the City and OSEG in going out with these tender calls at this time is disturbing. The legality of the partnership project is still before the courts; there are no provincial environmental or heritage approvals; the site plan is not approved; and Council has not approved the terms of the final agreement with OSESG. Why are the City and OSEG proceeding as if they have the green light? What makes them so confident?"

Friends of Lansdowne also say the commercial component is to be designed by Petroff Architects of Markham. "Whatever happened to the original architects Barry Hobin and Brisbin Brook Beynon and their designs?" ask FoL.

However the city's web site leaves the impression that Hobin & co. are still in charge, and the call for tender notes "Cannon Design is (still) the Architect of Record for the project.


But I wonder what he really thinks...

Posted by Alistair Steele

I've been wondering how Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson feels about Police Chief Vern White's Senate appointment. This may be a clue. Here's the mayor answering a question from "Steve" during his monthly on-line chat. Steve wanted to know whether Watson would himself accept an appointment to the Upper House:

"Absolutely not. I believe the Senate has outlived its usefulness and in the 21 st century to have an unelected group of people deciding laws in Canada should not be acceptable. My view is that the Senate should be abolished. The next best option would be to have it elected, but as we have seen in Washington, when you have two competing elected bodies, you have a recipe for gridlock. We could also save tens of millions of dollars by abolishing the upper house. There are some very good and hardworking senators, and I respect some of the work they do, but as someone who is an ardent supporter of democratic principles, I couldn't in good faith accept a senate seat (Don't think I'm on anyone's sort list !)"

A councillor's two cents on arts funding

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's an update from Bay Ward councillor Mark Taylor, who chairs the city's Community and Protective Services Committee. He wants us to know there has indeed been plenty of cultural investment since the period covered by the Hill Strategies study:

"The study reveals that between the period of 2006 - 2009 that there has been significant progress made in Ottawa's local cultural development such as the Museum Sustainability Plan (2005), the Arts Investment Strategy (2007) and the Festivals Sustainability Plan (2007) and the development of key cultural facilities such the Muséoparc Vanier Museopark  (2006), Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre (2007), and Shenkman Arts Centre (2009).


What the study does not show is our investments and initiatives following 2009.

Since 2009 the City has continued its progress with investments such as the new Black Box Studio at Centrepointe Theatre ($4M in 2011), a new Central Archives and Library Materials Distribution Centre ($1M in 2011), the planning of the redevelopment of the Arts Court ($12.1M) and many facility upgrades to local libraries and community museums.


We've also just completed a broad, community-wide cultural planning renewal process that has produced arenewed six-year action plan (2013-2018) for arts, heritage and culture in Ottawa.


On January 19, my Committee (Community and Protective Services) will be receiving the renewed Action and Investment Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture in Ottawa.

The renewal process brought together the strongest diversity of representation and participation ever for municipal cultural planning purposes in Ottawa, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, Anglophone and Francophone cultural communities and new Canadians as well as several arts,heritage, festivals and fairs representatives.


The actions included in the renewed plan are aimed at closing cultural gaps, meeting emerging needs and proposes further progress for  Ottawa's per capita investment (subject to annual Council budget approval)."

What you may not know about arts spending in Ottawa

Posted by Alistair Steele

There's a surprise buried within this new study, released today by Hill Strategies. Researchers compared cultural investment in five Canadian cities between 2006 and 2009. It's probably not big news that in terms of spending on operating budgets, arts grants and capital projects, Ottawa lagged behind most other municipalities. Where average per capita spending was 35 dollars in 2009, Ottawa spent just 28 dollars per resident, placing this city second-last, after Toronto.

The surpirse comes when you look at the funding trend over the study period. Growth in net cultural investment nearly doubled from the time O'Brien took over from Bob Chiarelli, when per capita spending was a miserly 15 dollars per capita, to his last days in office. That seens strange, since O'Brien's tenure was marked by protests over cuts to cultural budgets, and a general cooling in relations between City Hall and the city's arts community. Who knew?

"It's quite a consolation prize," laughs Hill Strategies president Kelly Hill. "Ottawa's growth rate was 90 per cent so there was close to doubling of investment in culture in Ottawa from 2006 to 2009, and that is the second highest rate of increase during that period."

Second only to Calgary, Canada's 2012 Cultural Capital. Could Canada's 'other' capital be unimagined legacy of the O'Brien years?

Greatwise responds

Posted by Alistair Steele

The planner for Greatwise Developments has responded to this story. It's all over this Dec. 30 pile on in which the mayor, Planning Committee chair Peter Hume and College Ward councillor Rick Chiarelli vow, in no uncertain terms, to nip the 'surprise' expansion of a west-end residential project in the bud.

It should come as no surprise the city is taking a public stand on a development issue, given Jim Watson's tough-talking budget speech back in October. Watson put builders on notice, warning them to stop treating the city's Official Plan and zoning rules as mere inconveniences. At the same time he vowed to clarify those rules, making them less susceptible to creative interpretation.

So it was really just a matter of which unlucky developer would wander through the city's crosshairs first. It may be that few people have heard of Greatwise, so that made the company an easier target than, say, Minto. (If you haven't heard of Greatwise you soon will: The company has hired Hill & Knowlton to make sure councillors and senior staff know exactly who they are.)

Here's one thing we already know about Greatwise: They don't like being called names. In an e-mail, the planner on the Redwood project, Lloyd Phillips of Lloyd Phillips & Associates Ltd., had this to say:

"It is not surprising that controversy would surround this proposed development; it has since the very beginning more than 3 years ago. However what is surprising is the type of language used by high-ranking City officials in the news release and in media coverage to imply Greatwise's motives in amending this proposal were less than honourable. Words or phrases like "sneaky", "backdoor" and "I don't think its ethical" ascribe intentions and process to Greatwise which not only don't add anything to the discussion but are also not true.

After a long protracted debate two years ago over this proposal, it is incomprehensible for anyone to suggest that this was a "sneaky" and "backdoor" scheme preplanned by Greatwise just to do it again.  This was purely a marketing decision. Nothing more. Nothing less.  The condo market in the west end has undergone a complete change over the last two years and Greatwise had to amend their plans to reflect that change."

There follows a comprehensive Q&A outlining Greatwise's position on the matter. Their most important arguments though are these:

  • The proposal conforms "100%" to the zoning for the site.
  • There never was a specific number of units assigned to the zoning; 334 was merely the number of units arrived at under the site plan.
  • The change in units is based on a shifting real estate market, specifically a growing need for smaller units -- nothing more, nothing less.
  • This is no loop hole; city staff have always known the zoning allowed for more density, and that the developer may want to take advantage of that allowance.

This will all make for quite a show at the Planning Committee meeting on Jan. 10. (The timing of the city's attack is curious, though likely no accident; it gives Greatwise very little time to prepare their defense and lobby the players.) In the end we'll know whether the city can really back up all the tough talk, or whether they've chosen the wrong developer to pick on.

Watson looks back, and ahead

Posted by Alistair Steele

As the year draws to a close we like to sit down with the mayor of the day and ask about the accomplishments - and the disappointments - of the past 12 months. Here, in no particular order, are Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson's thoughts on 2011.


On why he wasn't able to achieve all the elements of his "integrity package":


"I think it was just a matter, you can only juggle so many balls in the air at the same time. We wanted to get the fiscal items dealt with first, getting the budget under control, plus the light rail initiative needed some re-tooling to make sure the project stayed on time and on budget, plus we had a variety of other issues that we're dealing with."


On community  frustration over the city's oft-oblique zoning rules:


"There is some legitimate confusion out in the community. And I think you have to balance the needs in the community with the greater public interest that we don't want urban sprawl to go unchecked, but we also want the infill to be compatible with the neighbourhood. And it is a tough balancing act. Every municipality is going through this, because we know urban sprawl is expensive, every time we go farther east or south or west it's going to cost more money, you have to have more roads, it adds to congestion. But when people buy a home in a neighbourhood they also want to know what the rules of the game are up front, and the developer wants to know if they're going to buy a piece of property, what's allowed. So I'm hoping the summit is actually going to bring some clarity to the rules and that we're going to be able to bring in an Official Plan that people understand up front what the rules of the game are so that we can't keep changing them back and forth, and frustrating and angering everyon


On community resistance to high-rise infill:


"I don't know if we'll ever find perfection, I don't think we will find perfection, for the simple reason that there are some people that will be against anything except a single family home. But we can't continue to boast about stopping urban sprawl if we're simply going to allow bungalows everywhere in the city. There's gonna have to be some highrises, and they're going to have to be strategically located in areas that have the least impact on our residential community, but have the most impact in terms of proximity to transit, or to major bus routes."


On the cost of the LRT project:


"I think all of the prroponents have heard me loudd and clear and certainly council that we want to keep the budget at 2.1, it's not 2.7, it's not 2.6, it's 2.1-billion. That's the money we have, and that's what we've budgeted for. So I'm not interested in bids coming in above 2.1 billion."


On the ongoing labour negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union:


"I feel very confident that we're going to be able to reach a fair settlement, certainly Gary Queale the president of the union has said publicly, as have I and councillor Deans, that no one wants a strike, and I honestly believe them in that and I think they believe our sentiment, it doesn't serve anyone's interest to have a strike because it hurts so many people, and we saw the devestation it took on small businesses, on students, on the vulnerable in our society."


On OC Transpo's $20-million "network optimization":


"If we didn't do this we would be nickel and diming the bus system for the next 10 years. It was tough medicine for some people, there's no question about that, some people have to walk a little bit farther, some people have to change routes, some routes are changing. The vast majority of people did not see a difference, I think it was 90, 93 per cent of the people either saw better service or exactly the same service."


On transparency at City Hall:


"With the expenses online, I suspect if you were to go back and compare year to year you'd see a significant decrease in the number of meals and hospitality people are engaged in, that's a good thing from a taxpayer's point of view. I think the whole debate we're having over the lobbyist registry is healthy, to make sure that the public have a clearer idea who's coming to meet us, who's trying to influence us."


On consultant Brian Guest's dual role at City Hall and Plasco:


"So I see no, nothing wrong with an individual, a private entrepreneur who wants to work on city business of working on more than one file, and if there's any perception of conflict that there is a division, and I have confidence that the city manager has assured that that's not taking place, that there's any conflict at all, with that or with any other consultant that we use."


On the new tone around the council table:


"I can tell you, some people scoff at this but a day doesn't go by when I don't have someone stopping me on the street and saying, 'Thank you for bringing some calm back to City Hall.' You can't put a price tag on that. And it's not a question of being anti-democratic, it's a question of being professional and running the organization in a professional fashion."


But what about the complaint that things may be running a bit too efficiently?:


"The only people that keep talking about those challenges are reporters, and then they quote back themselves to say, 'Well we hear there are concerns.' I've not met a single person, and I meet a lot of people in the course of the day, who are telling me 'We want longer meetings at City Hall. Go back to the good old days where there was squabbling and yelling and screaming and procedural points of order. No other organization could operate and sustain that kind of ...skitishness."


On the deal with Plasco, and the viability of the company's technology:


"Well I'm optimistic it's going to work, but if it does not work then that becomes Mr. Bryden's problem and his investors', because the city does not have money in this project."


On looming federal public service cuts:


"Often I call it the elephant in the room, so when the finance minister federally talks about reducing the deficit we have to keep a close eye on what that means in terms of job losses in the national capital region, because you live by the sword you die by the sword, and we have to ensure we are starting now the process of expanding economic development opportunities so that if those people tat do lose their jobs, there's at least a good chance that they will find something else within another sector of the Ottawa economy."

Attacking us where we live

Posted by Alistair Steele

Alta Vista councillor Peter Hume has distributed a letter to the editor in response to this piece in today's Ottawa Citizen by columnist and blogger Ken Gray. Gray was for many years the newspaper's man at City Hall, so he and Hume are well acquainted. So well acquainted Hume knows where Gray lives, and makes a point of sharing that information.

"As a resident of Westboro and a former Ottawa Citizen City Hall reporter, Ken Gray knows that development issues are rarely simple, but his column elevates his neighbourhood conflict over his journalistic principles," writes Hume.

What exactly is Hume saying here? He's saying Gray's opinion on the twin condo towers proposed for 335 Roosevelt Ave. is influenced by his address. That's insulting. We can argue about the details, but Gray's column very neatly sums up the frustration many residents of this city are feeling about the planning process, where every zoning regulation seems to come with an escape hatch, and every rule seems ripe for the breaking. But never mind all that: Ken Gray lives in the neighbourhood. 

Peter Hume has ignored the message and shot the messenger. When politicians feel it's okay to broadcast cheap insinuations about a journalist's motives, we're at the summit of a very slippery slope. I've seen it happen before at Ottawa City Hall, and it's not okay. The councillor better have some proof to back up what he's written. If he doesn't, he should apologize to Ken Gray. 

Happy Birthday Jamie

Posted by Alistair Steele

Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod made the following member's statement at Queen's Park today:

"Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. A sweet 16 is something every parent wants their child to celebrate. It's an important milestone (like) teaching them to drive or watching them grow older. My friend Allan Hubley and his wife Wendy don't have that opportunity. Their beautiful boy Jamie would have turned 16 today.

Jamie had been bullied because he was a figure skater. He was bullied because of his sexuality. He was bullied because he was different. A gifted singer and skater, Jamie was tormented not only by his bullies, but also by teenage mental illness.

For those who have mental illness, coping with bullying sometimes means they can't see a better day. So it's up to us in this assembly to find a better way. The member for Ottawa Centre and I are committed to finding the gaps in services in our community. We're going to highlight our plan for service providers, what they do best. And we're going to ensure that Ottawa has a suicide prevention plan. Because one teenage suicide, or one suicide, is one too many.

Because kids in a dark place, and parents with innumerable questions expect us to work together to prevent suicide, whether we are right ot left, gay or straight, regardless of our culture, our religion, or our economic circumstances. Because kids after all are just that: They're kids. And they deserve, Mr. Speaker, a sweet 16. Thank you very much, and happy birthday Jamie."



The play's the thing, but probably not the only thing

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the text of the short monologue Matt Taronno says he was reciting before this happened:



     Written by: Matt Taronno


(Lights up on a man in his twenties, talking on his phone)


(MAN speaks with a distorted European language; obviously a foreigner)


Man: There was a time when I didn't have to deal with these types of people. These people are tramps. I feel horrible. I mean what is it that I've done that made you despise my work effort? I am a businessman. Okay? What are you. YOU are scum. Sorry, but that's the truth. People hate men who follow rules. I am referring to myself as people. At least after I deal with you, I never have to see you again. I give you free pussy... and you give me nothing more than disrespect. And you're wondering why I'm angry? Look into the situation... you'll see.


Now, this text bears little resemblance to the description offered by the man who shot the now-infamous video:


"I paused my music and over heard this young man saying that he 'sleeps on the ground, run around with no clothes on, tries to be as spontaneous as possible, that he hates pregnancy and loves nudity.'"


It's difficult to see how either version provoked such a violent reaction from the driver. I've spoken with the videographer, who does not want to be identified simply because he doesn't want to be part of the story. (He insists he'd never seen Taronno in his life, and gave me no reason to disbelieve that, despite all the theories that this was a staged event.) He's sticking with his version, but he says Taronno did other stuff to irk the driver. He says Taronno had been ringing the bell before every stop, even though he wasn't getting off the bus, and that he'd been standing next to the driver a good four or five minutes before the finale. He says the driver appeared to know Taronno (he said something like, "Every time it's the same thing with you"), and says the swearing and threats had been going on for a while before he hit record. He says at one point the driver pulled over on the Queensway and urged Taronno off the bus. It will be interesting to see how many of those details emerge when OC Transpo announces the results of its investigation.   




Another day, another OC Transpo video

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the statement from OC Transpo boss Alain Mercier on this latest YouTube video:

"Safety is OC Transpo's top priority. Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones. Operators are trained and regularly reminded that it is illegal to use a mobile device while driving. We are investigating this incident. Individuals who do not follow OC Transpo policies and provincial law face disciplinary measures, up to and including dismissal when warranted.  As in all workplaces, personnel matters are confidential, and we do not comment on any disciplinary action(s) taken."

Mercier's memo

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the memo sent yesterday by OC Transpo chief Alain Mercier to members of the city's Transit Commission. First of all, Mercier is doing the wise thing by admitting this video is what it appears to be, instead of looking for reasons to excuse the driver. Second, Mercier points out that incidents like these, while they grab all the headlines, are exceedingly rare, and that despite what some transit users may believe, OC Transpo does make efforts to prevent this kind of thing.

Dear Chair and Members of the Commission,

As you are aware, a video on Youtube was posted showing the situation of a customer being treated disrespectfully on board an OC Transpo bus with the videographer stating it was the Operator, which is consistent with the images. This incident has been under investigation since it was first brought to our attention.

Firstly, our apologies to the customer and to all customers on the bus. Our entire team of employees do not believe in this type of behaviour, but the reality is that the incident appears genuine. The investigation will be given the utmost attention given the seriousness of the case.

It is of course important that members of the Commission receive full disclosure on our efforts to set positive behaviours for our customers by employees and to assure you that these incidents are rare and do not reflect the norm of daily service to our customers.

Since 2008, several initiatives were launched to direct management efforts to support positive engagement with our customers on board the bus. Some of these initiatives are:

A reduction in employee to supervisory ratio from 400 to 150:1 to permit sufficient oversight of resources, provide mentoring and to build an engaged team.

Introduction of cyclical training on a 36 month basis which includes dealing with difficult customer situations and understanding persons with various types of disabilities to foster compassion and patience. This is the most aggressive program we know of in Canada and features meeting with senior and customer service managers on the importance of public image.

Introduction of Silent Shoppers to facilitate objective coaching of individuals and identify needs for training. This program targets two "shoppings" every 18 months. Again, this is one of the most comprehensive programs of this type in North America.

A performance interview is now scheduled every 18 months with Operators to ensure support and coaching of employees is consistent and, where necessary, additional coaching is scheduled.

A comprehensive communications program on customer compliments are published to all Operators and sample customer testimonials are published monthly to all employees to provide positive reinforcement to team members.

Our current public program of demonstration of employee commitment entitled "People Moving People", highly valued by both customers and employees, was launched to further highlight appropriate behaviour for customers and to seek alignment by all employees to their importance in creating a successful Transit system.

Despite this sad and regrettable incident for our customers, I believe you can have confidence in each employee's choices of behaviour as we continue to enlarge positive customer experiences with new fleet and services.

Regards, Alain Mercier


Re-election bid "a mistake" says O'Brien

Posted by Alistair Steele

And now, from the man who told us he'd been the worst mayor ever days before asking us to re-elect him, more refreshing honesty: In an interview with the CBC's Adrian Harewood to mark the anniversary of his election defeat, Larry O'Brien says he regrets gunning for a second term in office.

"In retrospect, the decision to go the second time was a mistake, because my heart wasn't really in it." says O'Brien. "I (was) told by others who seemed to be fairly knowledgable that you never walk away from that job. It's like a head coach, you find very few head coaches of hockey teams that resign on their own. They're there until they get booted out."

It's an interesting insight into what was going on in the O'Brien camp a year ago. In a way it explains why O'Brien took so long to declare his candidacy. He was conflicted. Most people would have been, after the experience he'd had (he also told Adrian his criminal trial was the worst experience of his life...presumably that would include a severe illness that nearly killed him years earlier.) On the other hand, it was uncharacteristic of O'Brien to let his handlers tell him what to do. Makes you wonder who the "others" were, and why they held so much influence.

And the winners are...

Posted by Alistair Steele

When Mayor Jim Watson, transit commission chair Diane Deans and Transportation Committee chair Marianne Wilkinson reveal the consortia short-listed to bid on the city's $2.1-billion light rail project tomorrow, a lot of people will be looking to see if Siemens is on the list. The multinational giant says it's interested in bidding, despite its rocky history here. (The company has also said it's looking to get around the 25 per cent made-in-Canada rule it says gives certain competitors an unfair advantage.)

But at this stage of the complex procurement process, the consortia don't necessarily have to reveal all their partners. The builders of the trains themselves, for example, don't have to be named quite yet. So if you don't see Siemens on the list tomorrow, that doesn't mean the company's out of the running.

As for how many consortia will be named, some are reporting four. I'm hearing three. We'll know for sure tomorrow.

City goes after clean-up costs

Posted by Alistair Steele

Today chief solicitor Rick O'Connor confirmed the City is going after the Italian-Canadian Community Centre of the National Capital Region Inc. and its director Angelo Filoso for the cost of cleaning up that Canada Day fuel spill in Andrew Haydon Park in 2009.

Here's the statement of claim: AngeloFilosoClaimDieselSpillAndyHaydonPark.pdf

And here's the Auditor General's report, where the spill first came to light.

Angelo Filoso hasn't returned calls or e-mails. His son tells me he's out of the country.

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.  



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.




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.




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 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.


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.


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.

Holmwood residents not happy

Posted by Alistair Steele

When the City reached this agreement with a group of Holmwood residents opposed to aspects of the Lansdowne Partnership Plan back in April, the news was greeted with a great sense of relief at City Hall. We had, it seemed, avoided a costly trip to the Ontario Municipal Board, not to mention more delays. Well it seems those Holmwood residents aren't too pleased with the way things have unfolded since then. Here's a letter from their lawyer, received by the City's legal department last night and shared with councillors today.

Letter August 24th Letter to Council - Final Version - signed with attachment.PDF

It should be noted that when a couple councillors brought the letter up at today's council meeting, city lawyers seemed unruffled by the latest legal threat.

Twitter wars: Watson vs. MacLeod

Posted by Alistair Steele

There's an intriguing little set-to going on over on the Twitter between Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Nepean Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod. Watson is at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in London, and he's taken umbrage to comments he claims Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak made at the gathering. Here's how the conversation went (it's a bit hard to follow, but the animosity is unmistakable).

@JimWatsonOttawa: @timhudak- very concerned what you said at AMO- that you wouldn't commit to the final 5 years of the upload agreement signed by AMO and Prov  8:58 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa @blakebatson @CouncillorMcRae @timhudak I'm very concerned that there is no commitment to honour Prov-Mun upload agreement. Why  9:00 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @blakebatson @MacLeodLisa @CouncillorMcRae @timhudak I have copy and no where does it say what Tim said today that he won't honor agreement  9:15 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa @blakebatson @CouncillorMcRae @timhudak I campaigned at keeping taxes at 2.5 % and delivered 2.4 %. It was in my platform  9:16

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa YOUR city is counting on over $30 million in upload savings over next 5 years in deal signed by AMO, Toronto and Province.  9:18

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa. So will you fight to reverse your leaders policy to not honour this deal that benefits ALL 444 municipalities?  9:19

@MacLeodLisa: @JimWatsonOttawa no mention, only by you, of changing agreement.We'll fix arb,restore local decision making&bring consistency to inf funding  9:23 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: @JimWatsonOttawa so I take it you'll be VERY active in campaigning for your party this provincial election.  9:24 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa he was asked by journalist if he would honour upload agreement and he would not commit! Delegates are not pleased.  9:38 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa I will continue to speak out anytime OUR city is not being treated fairly. That's my role as mayor  9:38 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: @JimWatsonOttawa delegates I'm seeing on twitter seem to like it. Cc @tim_sutton  9:40 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: @JimWatsonOttawa I hope you'll defend OUR village of North Gower who wants local decision making restored.  9:41 a.m. 

@JimWatsonOttawa:@andreahorwath along with @Dalton_McGuinty were both very clear they would NOT download costs to cities! Bravo.  9:43 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @JonathanWilling @MacLeodLisa he was asked if he would honour upload agreement and he wouldn't, in a q and a with ...  9:44 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @JonathanWilling ask Tim if he will honour the agreement signed between AMO, Toronto and Prov. He would NOT commit. Ask Peter hume  9:49 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @JonathanWilling by 2018 we have 30 m annually build into budget. It would mean deeper cuts to programs and services to makeup shortfall  9:51 a.m. 

@MacLeodLisa: Tim Hudak will help Ottawa by fixing arbitration system&saving us money, consistent infrastructure funding& restoring local decision making.  9:56 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @andreahorwath was asked the same question as @timhudak on uploading and she was crystal clear she WOULD honour agreement!  9:57

I think they're done now. We will endeavour to find out what, exactly, Tim Hudak said about provincial uploading.


I was wrong, they kept going at it. Here's the rest of their conversation (I'm not including Tweets that aren't directly related to the discussion at hand):

@MacLeodLisa:Under the McGuinty Liberals Ottawa City Councils opposition to windfarm in North Gower ignored. @timhudak will restore local decision making  9:57 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: RT @OREAGR: @TimHudak will treat municipalities as partners to be trusted and give them more power to make decisions locally #onpoli  9:59 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: Ottawa resident can't afford another tax hike. With @timhudak we'll provide relief.  10:11 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: Municipalities will continue to enjoy $1b in uploading under an @timhudak government Cc @JimWatsonOttawa @JonathanWilling @alistairsteele  10:20 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @MacLeodLisa @timhudak @JonathanWilling @alistairsteele the deal was $1.5 billion. So are you cancelling the rest of the upload deal?  10:22 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @rmgard @willsamuel @Dalton_McGuinty. I make no apologies for defending our city's interest. Uploading deal was good for cities. Saves $120m  10:39 a.m.

@MacLeodLisa: RT @jasonlietaer: Despite #OLP spin/fearmongering, municipalities will receive $1b in uploading under an @timhudak government #onpoli  10:41 a.m.

@JimWatsonOttawa: @rjperry61 I'm standing up for a very good agreement I signed that saves Ottawa $120 million! This year alone savings was $25 million!  10:48 a.m.



Friends to appeal

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the official announcement from Friends of Lansdowne:

Friends of Lansdowne to Appeal Municipal Act Ruling

Friends of Lansdowne Inc. has decided to take its Lansdowne Legal Challenge to the Ontario Court of Appeal. A formal notice, setting out the grounds for appeal, will be filed by August 28, 2011. If successful, the appeal will quash the City's decision to approve the $400 million Lansdowne Partnership Plan.

"Friends of Lansdowne has 7,000 people on its mailing list from all over the region" said June Creelman, President of Friends of Lansdowne Inc. "We have had an overwhelming call from our supporters to continue our fight for transparent and accountable government at the municipal level."

Friends of Lansdowne will argue that the Superior Court allowed Ottawa's City Council far too much latitude in regard to restrictions set out in provincial law concerning competitive procurement, the use of tax dollars to assist commercial entities and the requirement that it put the public interest first.

"As an Ottawa resident and taxpayer, I expect municipal government to be transparent and accountable when they are spending $400 million dollars of taxpayers' money and developing nearly 40 acres of public land. I certainly don't want tax dollars used to subsidize a commercial shopping centre and two sports teams." said Ian Lee, a spokesman for Friends of Lansdowne.

The Appeal need not delay redevelopment of a sports stadium. Since the redevelopment of the stadium is to be paid in full by taxpayers, the City can proceed with construction of a stadium at Lansdowne, or in another more transit-friendly location, regardless of any appeal. City officials have announced that they do not plan to finalize the deal with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group until spring 2012. Friends of Lansdowne expects its appeal to be heard later this year or early next.

As a city-wide community group, Friends of Lansdowne has sought an open, transparent process and has opposed sole-sourcing. "This is the first time the Ontario Court of Appeal will be asked to address key issues raised by this case. I hope property taxpayers come out the winners", said Ms. Creelman.

A pint with your popcorn?

Posted by Alistair Steele

There's been some talk, in the Twitterverse and elsewhere, about Empire Theatres' plan to serve alcohol at their new multiplex at Lansdowne Park. Is stopping in for a quick one before the curtain rises part of the "premium VIP guest experience" the Nova Scotia-based cinema chain promises? This illustration of the lounge area certainly makes it look like the kind of place where you could order a rye and ginger.

empire-lounge-300.jpgOn closer inspection though, those are coffee cups on the tables. Maybe what Empire has in mind is something more like this. In fact Ciniplex now serves alcohol inside theatres at three locations, in London, Toronto and Oakville. "It's a hit," a Ciniplex spokesperson says of its 19-and-older screening rooms. "People seem to really like it."

Empire Theatres is mum on its plans, at least for now. The company says it's still in "development and research" with movie-goers, and will issue more details about its Lansdowne multiplex soon.

If the theatre is allowed to serve alcohol, it will be another blow for the nearby Mayfair Theatre. The historic cinema's owners are already worried a multiplex at Lansdowne will put them out of business. To add insult to injury, when they sought permission to serve booze during screenings, they were turned down.  

Chiarelli reiterates stand on Cancon rule

Posted by Alistair Steele

When I spoke to Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli last week about Siemens' complaint over the province's Canadian content requirement, he was unequivocal: The 25 per cent rule will apply to any and all companies bidding on Ottawa's LRT project, and it will not change. Period.

So I was a bit surprised to see this article in the Ottawa Business Journal today. This afternoon I went back to Chiarelli for an explanation, and here's what he told me:

"I wish to confirm that what I communicated to you and what I reported is what our position is. What I did say to the Ottawa Business Journal was that we'd received input of concern from Siemens in particular and one or two others, and I also indicated that our rule was 25 per cent Canadian content for the rolling stock, and that didn't change. I think where there might be some divergence in interpretation is that when somebody like Siemens...wants to make a representation to us we receive it, we receive their concern...They deserve the courtesy to be listened to...But we have a fixed rule which is a fair rule, as I've pointed out 25 per cent content compared to 60 per cent in the US and higher percentages in other jurisdictions. So we're going to protect Ontario jobs. [That rule] absolutely will not change."

Although the OBJ article appeared this morning, Chiarelli says he gave the interview before he spoke with me. The "divergence of interpretation" seems extreme. I can only tell you what the minister's saying today.

Made in Canada rule riles Siemens

Posted by Alistair Steele

As CBC reported yesterday, Siemens Canada is planning to bid on Ottawa's LRT project. But the international giant isn't too keen on Ontario's new Canadian content policy. Under the rule, which was enacted September 2008, public transit vehicles purchased with even a dollar of provincial money must be at least one-quarter Canadian made. The province has pledged $600-million towards Ottawa's project, so contractors who bid when the RFP goes out this fall must demonstrate they can fulfill this requirement.

Siemens doesn't like the policy because its North American manufacturing plant is in Sacramento, California. The company has quietly approached both the City of Ottawa and the province to discuss altering the Cancon regulation, or waiving it altogether (though according to provincial officials there's been no formal request). The company's Canadian spokesperson, D.L. Leslie, says the 25 per cent rule gives Canadian train-builder Bombardier an unfair advantage.

"That's one of the reasons we're talking about an ammendment or waiving, it's that it would make a plain and even playing field for all competition...[Bombardier] is the only manufacturer or the only supplier that has a facility here in Ontario." Leslie says Siemens could include Canadian content in all kinds of other ways if it's awarded the project, but the company can't be expected to construct a train manufacturing plant here.

Neither the City nor the province appear to be taking the complaint too seriously. A City Hall source says staff within the light rail office have pre-assessed several companies expected to submit bids, and have determined they're all capable of competing for the prize. That includes Siemens. 

The official line from the Ministry of Transportation is pretty clear: "There are no plans to change the policy."

And Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli says "this [policy] is the most appropriate way to support jobs and maintain an open bidding process...I've heard of various strategies by train manufacturers to become compliant. It's a little more trouble but I don't think it's overly taxing [Siemens'] competitive position. It's a very reasonable policy."

Chiarelli points out local content policies exist in many other jurisdictions, including our NAFTA partners the United States and Mexico. Such rules also exist in Europe, Japan and China. In some cases contracters bidding on infrastructure projects must conform to a 60 per cent domestic manufacturing policy.

Anyway, Siemens does indeed appear to have a Plan B. "We are interested in this project, and right now the project has a 25 per cent [requirement] so I'd imagine we would continue with our view of wanting to be participating in the project," says D.L. Leslie.

Siemens was of course the company chosen to build the last light rail plan when Bob Chiarelli was mayor of Ottawa. The new council, and the new mayor, cancelled the project, and Siemens sued, settling for nearly $37-million. Nevertheless, Leslie says the City of Ottawa has been a "good customer" in other areas, and the company is eager to continue doing business here.

Councillor Fleury's conflict

Posted by Alistair Steele

For Ottawa's youngest city councillor, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situatuion. For a group of residents he's supposed to represent, it's an 11th-hour "bombshell" that effectively leaves them without a voice at City Hall. And it couldn't have come at a worse time.

People living in the quiet corner of Lowertown they call 'The Wedge' have been battling Claridge Homes over this planned development on Bruyère Street, facing Bordeleau Park and the Rideau River. While the five-story condo complex is lower than the builder's original design, residents say it's still too dense, and just doesn't fit in. They'd been working with their councillor for six months, preparing for today's Planning Committee meeting, where councillors were to decide the fate of the site. Then last Thursday Fleury declared a conflict of interest, and informed them neither he nor his staff would be helping them on the file any longer.

It turns out Fleury's father works for Claridge. The councillor isn't entirely sure what his father does, but last he heard he was working as a quality control inspector. Fleury describes his relationship with his dad as "distant." His parents split when he was just eight, and he always lived with his mother. He sees his father rarely. The last time they spoke was at Christmas, and the conversation wasn't about Claridge Homes. Fleury says they've never discussed that subject.

Fleury says given the nature of that relationship it never really occurred to him he might have a conflict. It was only after a chance conversation with a more experienced colleague and advice from the city solicitor that he sought the opinion of his own lawyer. He's still awaiting the official word, but says he's recused himself from any and all matters involving Claridge "just to be safe."

In Rideau-Vanier, this is no small thing, and Claridge is no bit player. There are seven or eight major Claridge projects in the ward, either built, under construction, or, like the Bruyère property, in the planning stage. They include this one and this one. Fleury's declaration of conflict means he can't talk to residents (or by the same token, to the developer) about any of them. When issues involving Claridge Homes arise at committe or council, Fleury must leave the room.

Fleury points out he's not a member of Planning Committee anyway. While it's true he has no vote, councillors routinely sit in on committee meetings even when they're not voting members. There was an example of that today, when David Chernushenko spoke, questioned staff, and had another councillor introduce a motion on a new heritage conservation district in the Glebe. Other councillors generally respect that kind of intervention, and vote according to their colleagues' wishes (there have of course been exceptions to this rule). Fleury says his residents can appeal to other councillors for help. In fact Planning Committee chair Peter Hume and mayor Jim Watson are working behind the scenes to find Fleury a proxy. The committee's vice chair Jan Harder appears to be taking on that role, at least temporarily. But let's be honest. Councillors are busy enough putting out fires in their own wards to douse someone else's, and many of them said so today.

Conflict is of course all about appearance. Fleury -- or at least his advisors -- have now recognized that if he were ever to side with Claridge on an issue, someone could call him out. Better to eliminate that threat now. On the other hand, how real is the conflict? According to Ontario's Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, "the pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, of a parent...shall, if known to the member, be deemed to be also the pecuniary interest of the member." But the Act doesn't apply when the relationship "is so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member." And the Act defines a parent as "a person who has demonstrated a settled intention to treat a child as a member of his or her family." Under these terms, it's difficult to see how the "distant" relationship Fleury describes constitutes a conflict.

For his constituents though, none of that matters now. They'll have to rely on whichever councillor will adopt them. They've been given a brief reprieve: They now have until mid-August to prepare their case, and recover the six months' of work they say they lost when their councillor cut them loose. 

Chasing waterfalls

Posted by Paul Jay

by Paul Jay, CBC Ottawa

Lawyers for the Friends of Lansdowne plan to argue in court Wednesday the City of Ottawa gave Ottawa Sports and Entertainment preferential treatment in its partnership over the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.

In particular, Friends of Lansdowne alleges the city provided OSEG leases at below market value, provided financial assistance to acquire and operate CFL and OHL franchises, and gave preferential terms for OSEG to get money back from their investment in the deal.

Much attention is likely to be spent today on the "waterfall" payment system, in which payments are to be delivered in levels, where level one payments are first handed out before any money is delivered to level two.

The CBC's Giacomo Panico will be reporting today from the court proceedings, but we thought it would be worth it to explain the waterfall levels here online, for a better understanding of how the city fares, financially, under the waterfall scheme, and what issues Friends of Lansdowne has with the plan.

The priority payment structure, as laid out in the partnership plan, is as follows:

Level 1: Annual payments to the City's lifecycle fund - for maintenance and other costs associated with the park - take precedence over all other payments. This is estimated to be $1.3 million in 2013, growing with inflation in years after;

Level 2: Annual payments to both OSEG and the City of eight per cent of their equity stake in the project. OSEG's stake is estimated at $30 million, though expenditures could push that higher, while the city's funding equity is about $13 million.

Level 3: Annual payments to the OSEG partners of a return of additional equity above the $30 million minimum.

Level 4: Annual payments to OSEG based on OSEG's minimum equity of $30 million and the city's equity of $13 million.

Level 5: Annual payments to the City of Ottawa of eight per cent of its deemed equity, valued at $23.75 million;

Level 6: Cash balances after levels 1 to 5 have been fully met are split evenly between the City of Ottawa and the OSEG.

If cash flows are not enough to pay out to all of these levels, annual deficits will accumulate and be paid out in subsequent years.

Holy green bin!

Posted by Alistair Steele

Last week I asked whether anyone else out there had seen evidence of critters gnawing holes in their City of Ottawa green bins. I was curious because here's what my own bin looked like when I returned from a two-week vacation:


Turns out I'm not alone. Here's a pic from Dave Bownass:

greenbin1.jpg Here's one from fitforakid blogger Liisa:


I went for a stroll around my neighbourhood the evening before garbage day. About one third of all the green bins I saw at the curb had been gnawed. Some had holes like mine. At first I suspected those nocturnal bandits, raccoons. Or rats, though I've never seen a rat, dead or alive, anywhere near my house. But according to a couple animal control experts I showed these pictures to, those are squirrel holes. That theory is borne out by this video, shot and posted to YouTube by Marty Price. Apparently it doesn't take one of our fat, black squirrels long to gnaw a sizeable hole through that thick green plastic.

The City recommends menthol vapour rub to repel persistent critters that chew on the lid. But I got the distinct impression no one at City Hall was expecting this level of persistence. A green bin with holes is useless, and needs to be replaced. The good news for homeowners is that getting that replacement is easy, and free. The good news for the City is that the bins are covered under a five-year warranty, so replacing them isn't costing taxpayers anything. For now. Environment Committee chair Maria McRae says she's asking the company that manufactures the bins about the problem. She should also ask why Toronto, which purchased a slightly different model from the same company, and which has had its green bin program running in some neighbourhoods for nine years, hasn't experienced the same damage (there the problem was with the latches, which weren't raccoon proof). Norseman Environmental Products didn't return my calls last week. And after days of badgering the city's communications people, no one's been able to tell me how many residents have called 3-1-1 to request a new bin. The City says it doesn't keep stats on how many bins were chewed through, versus cracked or crushed. But when I called for my new bin, I was asked why, and the 3-1-1 operator dutifully entered "squirrel holes" into her computer. 

OMB dismisses remaining Lansdowne appeals

Posted by Alistair Steele

Busy day on the Lansdowne front! The OMB has dismissed the remaining three appeals of the special by-law that paved the way for the redevelopment plan. In part, the appellants were challenging the project on the basis that it didn't coform to the City's own zoning rules, or its Official Plan. Here's how the City resonded to the OMB ruling: 

Ontario Municipal Board Rules in favour of Lansdowne Redevelopment


Ottawa - The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) today released its decision on the appeal of City of Ottawa By-law 2010-329 which approved the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.  The OMB dismissed the appeals and approved the by-law as amended to reflect modifications agreed upon in the mediation sessions with the BIA, the Community Associations and the Holmwood Residents Group and later ratified by Council.


The mediated settlement was the result of significant effort, a willingness to work together and goodwill on all sides during the mediation sessions. "Reaching this mediated settlement with key stakeholders from the area marked a turning point in the City's working relationship with the community on this important project and today's decision is another step forward," said Deputy Mayor Eli El-Chantiry.


The Board found that the Amended Zoning By-law is in conformity with the Ottawa Official Plan and consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement. The Board's ruling released today stated that the amended zoning is "considered to be in the public interest and based upon good planning grounds so as to make the Proposal fit with the surrounding community." (Page 19)


"We are now one step closer to making Lansdowne a place the whole city can enjoy and be proud of," said Planning Committee Chair, Peter Hume. "With a favourable decision from the OMB, an important condition directed by Council in November 2010 has been satisfied, allowing work to continue in advance of final site plan approval."


In dismissing the appeal the OMB made the following findings:


"The process has been fulsome.....The Board finds the City zoning planning process to be in accordance with the Planning Act." (page 11)


"The effect of By-law 2010-329 is to rejuvenate a blighted area of the City and to restore it to its grandeur.  A gated community as it is now will be opened to the Community nearby and the Community at large.  The planning concepts well known across the Province of sustainability are hard at work in this case.  The goal is to live, work and play in close proximity in a complimentary manner.  Throughout the process there have been modifications so that the proposal will fit in terms of compatibility and design.  The amendments sought in this hearing and granted are but a part of the continuing planning process.  For all of the reasons given in the decision, the Appeals of the Appellants... are dismissed."  (page 19)


On April 13, 2011 the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and two community groups, representing nine appeals, reached a significant mediated settlement. This compromise resulted in changes to this project that includes:


ü      Elimination of mid-rise residential buildings along Holmwood Avenue

ü      Reduction in the height of the residential tower at Bank and Holmwood

ü      Restrictions on vehicular access to Lansdowne from Holmwood Avenue

ü      Collaboration between the City and community groups on traffic and parking issues

ü      A cap of 280 total residential units


This past May, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) heard the remaining appeals, filed by three individuals. The three remaining appellants pursued their challenge of the Lansdowne zoning by-law related to land use planning matters including conformity to the City of Ottawa Official Plan.


With the conclusion of the hearing, the Board reviewed the evidence tendered and rendered its decision earlier today. The final decision of the OMB dismissed the appeals and gave approval to the modified zoning by-law. 

The City responds

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the City's factum in the Lansdowne legal case, filed today in court.


What not to say about Lansdowne

Posted by Alistair Steele

I will never fully understand why the City of Ottawa so openly shares these speaking points with us. I often suspect staff and some councillors are reading from a page when I'm asking them questions, and this just confirms it. Anyway, here it is: Instructions to the mayor and members of council from the City Manager's office in the event some pesky reporter starts asking about some of the claims made by Friends of Lansdowne in their factum. In short, "no comment."

The purpose of this email is to provide the Mayor and Members of Council with a concise update on the upcoming Friends of Lansdowne Legal Challenge. The City of Ottawa and Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), its Lansdowne partner, are pleased that dates have been confirmed to deal with the legal challenge that the Friends of Lansdowne (FOL) have put forward.


The Superior Court of Ontario hearing is set for June 21, 22, and 23, 2011. A decision is expected later this summer.


The sooner these allegations are dealt with by the Court and cleared up, the sooner the revitalization of Lansdowne can get fully underway.

A recent media report indicates that the FOL are planning a news conference next week to lay out its argument before the big hearing.

In anticipation of the potential press conference mentioned in this article we are providing the following messages for your consideration in speaking to the media:


It would be inappropriate to speak to the media while the case is before the courts.


The Friends of Lansdowne legal challenge is proceeding as scheduled.


The City remains confident of their position.


The City hopes to have a decision on the FOL application by mid-summer.


The City will not be drawn out into a debate about the issues in the media.


If there is anything left unsaid after the decision by the Court, the City will be happy to respond.


The City is not interested in, nor is it appropriate to, comment on a case before the courts. The City would not want to appear to be influencing the outcome of the case through the media. The City respects the legal process and encourages FOL to bring their evidence before the court.


After the court hears the case and make their ruling the City will present their position to the media.


There will be a time for the City to respond and we are looking forward to that date.


The Lansdowne redevelopment is a large, complex project, and City staff is working to proceed according to Council's direction and the associated timelines.

The perfect candidate

Posted by Alistair Steele

In case you're wondering whether Brent Colbert was happy to step aside and make way for Randall Denley, a quick visit to his web site offers a clue. He wasn't. "It is with sadness that I announce that effective immediately I will be suspending my campaign for the Ontario PC Nomination in Ottawa-West Nepean," Colbert writes. "Unfortunately it has been decided that someone else will seek and win the nomination." He goes on to say he'll remain loyal to the Party, and to leader Tim Hudak who flew to Ottawa this morning to announce Denley's candidacy. Colbert is best known locally as chief of staff to former mayor Larry O'Brien.

Former Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group leader Ade Olumide is even less chuffed. "I was told by a party official that there will be no nomination, Tim Hudak was obviously not consulted before this official free lanced on the democratic rights of the membership," Olumide announced today. He's refusing to give up his nomination bid.

When he's not running for elected office or writing columns for the Citizen, Randall Denley is a novelist. His oeuvre includes this political thriller

Watson's backtracks on 'divisive' naming

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the full text of Mayor Watson's memo to his council colleagues explaining his reversal on naming the city's Archives building after Charlotte Whitton:

Dear Council colleagues,

I am writing to inform you that I am withdrawing my suggestion that we transfer the name of Charlotte Whitton from the old City Hall Archives to the new facility on Woodroffe Avenue. This item, which passed FEDCO last week, was scheduled to go to Council on Wednesday.

These kinds of commemorative namings should be positive occasions that bring the community together. Instead, this suggestion, which was mine and mine alone, was creating disunity in parts of the city, and as Mayor, I felt it my obligation not to allow the matter to continue to divide.

While I was and am appreciative of the fact that a clear majority of you were prepared to support the transfer in an effort to honour Dr. Whitton, I nonetheless believe that the divisiveness and character of the debate was becoming very unpleasant and for the good of unity in our community I will not proceed with the report.

Even in death, Dr. Whitton is a controversial figure, and one who draws strong reaction and emotions both for her many accomplishments, as well as for her faults and shortcomings.

I have spent a great deal of time immersed in the history of Dr. Whitton before and after the report was tabled and have found a wide body of contradictory information on her many statements and actions.

In the spirit of not furthering a long drawn out debate on her history, merits and faults, I felt it best to not pursue the naming.

With this withdrawal, I will now ask the Ottawa community for their suggestions on who we should name this new building after. While it is scheduled to open next month, we will proceed with the opening, and retroactively name it after we have heard from the public and council has made a decision.

I want to thank all members of Council for your input into this debate.

I also wish to thank the three dozen citizens and organizations who took the time to express their views, both for and against the FEDCO recommendation that I received last week.

Jim Watson, Mayor

City of Ottawa

Cannings, Clark and "The List"

Posted by Alistair Steele

When Richard Cannings contacted our newsroom shortly after last October's municipal election with allegations of campaign shenanigans by Peter Clark, we listened to what he had to say. We called Clark about this alleged "top secret electoral tool called the Liberal List." We talked to a couple Liberals about The List, and how it might have ended up in Peter Clark's hands. But lacking a shred of evidence, we dropped the story. Today the city's Election Compliance Audit Committee reached the same conclusion, and it didn't take them long.

The crux of Cannings' complaint is that such a list, complete with automated call capacity, is worth as much as $50,000. It says so in his original submission to the committee, citing unnamed "marketing industry reps" (although in another version distributed today, his estimate is a more modest $10,000 to $20,000). Cannings also describes conversations with University of Ottawa prof Gilles Levasseur and former councillor Georges Bédard in which both men confirm Clark has the list. There was an unnamed constituent who got five calls from Clark. At one point, Cannings told the committee, "It's all over the neighbourhood. Everybody knows about it, people talk about it, my barber told me."

You don't need to be a lawyer to see the opportunity there. Unfortunately for Cannings, Clark happened to have a lawyer with him anyway, and it didn't take long before Cannings' story was in tatters. Clark even produced receipts showing the true cost of his phone campaign: $1,999.72. Clark says he got the numbers the old-fashioned way: "Based on postal codes. Oh, what a surprise."

Unsatisfied with spinning just one unconvincing yarn though, Cannings presented the committee with four fresh allegations. 

1. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his campaign website, which probably cost between $3,000 and $10,000, plus assorted fees.

Most municipal candidates launch decent sites for a fraction of that. Scott Moffatt, who designed and maintained his own site, says it cost him exactly four dollars a month. While it's true Clark didn't list his website expenses seperately, he was able to show the committee he paid $67 for his domain and $113 for hosting. Volunteers designed it. If I recall correctly, Clark's site was a pretty basic affair.

2. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his phone and internet. It should have been $3,000.

Clark declared $1,000.89. The commitee saw no reason to challenge him on that.

3. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his campaign headquarters rental, which should have been $4,500.

Clark declared $3,898.81 under "office expenses." The committee didn't ask him to elaborate.

4. Liberal MP Mauril Belanger broke the law when he donated $500 to Clark's campaign, because the Municipal Elections Act forbids "a federal political party...or a registered candidate at a federal election that was endorsed by that party" from making such contributions. Cannings threatened to take this one to Ottawa Police for a "possible criminal investigation."

This might have been a problem had the writ dropped five months earlier, but it wasn't. When Belanger made the contribution he was an MP, not a registered candidate. 

Following today's meeting, Clark suggested Cannings needs psychiatric help. That's unkind on a number of levels. But Cannings did tell reporters he's interested in pursuing this in court. Unless he can come up with better evidence than barbershop gossip, he might want to sleep on it. 

City parks preserved

Posted by Alistair Steele

Councillors on Ottawa's Community and Protective Services Committee took a small but vital step this morning when they approved this new by-law. Dedicating public parks and adding them to the city's official inventory seems like a perfunctory measure, but users of Sylvia Holden Park found out the hard way just how tenuous a park's status can be, and just how clueless the City can sometimes be about its own holdings. 

SHP3.jpgFew people outside of the Glebe had heard of Sylvia Holden until the City lumped it in with the rest of the Lansdowne redevelopment deal. It didn't seem to matter that a very official-looking, blue and green City of Ottawa sign identified the land at the corner of Bank and Holmwood (and perhaps the adjacent strip of grass and trees) as Sylvia Holden Park. According to the City, it wasn't a park in the way most reasonable people would understand the term. Adding to the confusion, most people in the community knew the larger park bordered by Lansdowne, O'Connor Street, Fifth Avenue and Queen Elizabeth Driveway by the name "Sylvia Holden." So, it seems, did the City, because its official inventory still lists the address of Sylvia Holden as 10 Fifth Avenue. That is in fact the address of a day care. In a rather clumsy attempt to clear up the confusion, the City decreed that the larger park was in fact called "Lansdowne Community Park," and it was eventually removed from the process (see Lansdowne Myth #3). The 'other' Sylvia Holden Park remains part of the deal. (A mediated settlement between the City and groups challenging the Lansdowne re-zoning means a "passive public open space area" measuring six by six metres will be retained near Bank and Holmwood. No word on whether it will be named after Sylvia Holden.) 

Today's decision to dedicate parks will, in theory at least, prevent this kind of giveaway from happening again by closing a gaping loophole in the city's parks policy. It gets even better: In scouring the city for nameable greenspaces, city staff have uncovered some 100 parks that weren't on the list. They will now be added, and people who enjoy them now will continue to enjoy them.


Not Larry's party

Posted by Alistair Steele

Today's ribbon cutting ceremony at Ottawa's sparkling new Convention Centre was a veritable who's who of local politics. Mauril Bélanger and Norm Sterling made appearances. So did premier Dalton McGuinty, alongside most (if not every) city councillor. The lineup of former mayors resembled the portrat gallery at 111 Lisgar: Jacqueline Holzman, Jim Durrell and Bob Chiarelli joined Jim Watson for the big event. There was just one man missing.

My CBC colleagues Chris Goldrick and Paul Morisset were outside on Colonel By getting exterior shots of the building, when who should happen by but Larry O'Brien. He was out for a stroll with his dog. O'Brien said he didn't know about the ribbon cutting, and hadn't been invited to the big gala tomorrow night. Seems incredible, since a great deal of the work that led to this day happened under O'Brien's watch. That includes the approval of the city's portion of the funding. O'Brien may have exagerated during his re-election bid when he claimed credit for the project. But to be relegated to passer-by? Some might call that unfair. Petty even.

While O'Brien stood there chatting, Richard Hayter came out to say hello. He's with the Building and Construction Trades Council, a group representing a couple dozen unions. Hayter invited O'Brien in for a private tour. At first O'Brien resisted, because he had his dog with him. No problem said Hayter, and in the three of them went.

Bélanger to make LRT pitch at historic station

Posted by Alistair Steele

So the Liberal candidate for Ottawa-Vanier, Mauril Bélanger, has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. tomorrow in front of the Government Conference Centre on Rideau Street. According to his news release, he will "unveil a proposal on the light rail transit network's "flagship" station in Ottawa." That would be Rideau Station, which the the LRT folks at the city say will look like this. The Conference Centre, to the west, is only mentioned in terms of "future links" to the LRT stop.

A spokesperson for Bélanger isn't saying what the incumbent's proposal is, only that there will be lots of business people and representatives from the hospitality industry at the announcement. Could Bélanger be tearing a page from former mayor Larry O'Brien's book? Looks like that train still hasn't left the station.

Jack MacLaren takes on City Hall

Posted by Alistair Steele

Libertarian landowner Jack MacLaren's victory over political veteran Norm Sterling for the Ontario PC nomination in Carleton-Mississippi Mills was met with shock and awe, both from within the party and from those of us on the outside. In fact MacLaren seemed to be the only one who didn't seem surprised last Thursday night. Whether he wins a seat at Queen's Park this fall or not, no one should be surprised if MacLaren emerges as bur under the City's saddle. The criticism began minutes after he secured the nomination.

"As government grows and we bcome more and more regulated, small business and the private sector shrinks," MacLaren told reporters. "I had breakfast at Pinto Valley Ranch last week, that ranch has been there for three generations, they had a restaurant before. The City of Ottawa now thinks that they need to get this other permit or land use designation change to conform to some government requirement for only 16-thousand dollars. How many bacon and eggs do you have to flip and fry before you make 16-thousand dollars? That's a crime when a small business that everyone enjoys and appreciates in the community is going to be put out of business because of some stupid regulation."

Where rural meets urban and different ways of life collide, expect more of this from Jack MacLaren in the months ahead.

OTAG calls for Lansdowne "back-up" plan

Posted by Alistair Steele

The Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group is urging city manager Kent Kirkpatrick to pursue a "back-up plan" to pay for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park. The fiscal conservatives at OTAG say if the court challenge by a group fighting the Lansdowne deal succeeds, Ottawa taxpayers will be out "millions," with nothing to show for it. OTAG believes Kirkpatrick should pursue a federal funding commitment, just in case. Here's their news release:

OTAG presses City to seek alternative funding for Lansdowne redevelopment in face of potential legal defeat

Ottawa, Mar 21 - In an email to Ottawa City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick, Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group President Kevin MacDonald pressed Mr. Kirkpatrick to seek alternative funding as part of a backup plan for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park and a new sports stadium.

"In the face of Rosen & Associates' scathing review of the Lansdowne Partnership Plan (LPP) financial proposal, we are concerned that if the Friends of Lansdowne legal challenge is successful, the Lansdowne Partnership Plan will collapse and Ottawa taxpayers will be stuck with the bill, with nothing to show for it," MacDonald said.

In the email, MacDonald asked if the City is considering pursuing federal and provincial funding as part of a back up plan that assumes an OSEG defeat. Our City management, he said, should be hard at work on an alternate plan should OSEG fail in its bid.  

MacDonald pointed to the delayed construction and the recently announced delay in CFL football as evidence of cracks in the current plan.

With the Liberal Party of Canada's recent commitment to fund new stadium projects, OTAG would like the City of Ottawa to pursue all funding alternatives including the Liberal commitment if they are successful. "Clearly we need to ask these questions now before the Federal Candidates start knocking on doors".

"Too much time, energy, and millions in taxpayers' money has been invested in this project already to see it go to waste," MacDonald said. "Even if it means starting over and returning to an open competition in order to be eligible for provincial and federal funding, we want to see Ottawa taxpayers' existing investment in this project protected."

Mr. MacDonald is currently awaiting a reply to his letter from Ottawa City Manager, Kent Kirkpatrick.

OTAG is right about one thing: No government is going to fund a sole-sourced deal like the LPP. Killing this plan will mean starting over, and could mean many more years with Lansdowne Park left in its current state.

But is it planning?

Posted by Alistair Steele

My colleague Giacomo Panico was perusing the city's Official Plan recently when he came across something interesting. There amongst the secondary plans adopted by city council in 2003 are the designs for the various former municipalities, including the old City of Ottawa. Within those, you'll find illustrations for specific areas, such as "The Core."

index_en-1.jpgOr my personal favourite, "The Canal."

index_en-5.jpgIt's probably safe to say city engineers won't be relying too heavily on these whimsical drawings for future construction projects. But I for one would love to see more of this kind of thing to brighten up dull city documents. Maybe Bhat Boy's looking for a new project...


City responds to LRT cost claim

Posted by Alistair Steele

There was quite a bit of chatter at Ottawa City Hall this morning about this story by Le Droit's man at Ottawa City Hall, François Pierre Dufault. The story refers to a September, 2008 document from the Transport Minister obtained through access to information in which the cost of the first phase of the city's LRT project is pegged at $2.1 to 2.8-billion. At the time, the official cost estimate was $1.8-billion, and the deputy city manager overseeing the project, Nancy Schepers, was quite open about the fact that the figure could grow by 25 per cent.

Anyway, here's how the city responded to the article:

"The Phase 1 referred to in the article is a Transportation Master Plan (TMP) term that denotes multiple transit projects including: Blair to Tunney's LRT with tunnel in the downtown (current project), Tunney's to Baseline LRT (Western Corridor), and several BRT projects. The TMP estimate for this phase was $3.03B.  The current project - Blair to Tunney's with a tunnel in the core - is increment one of Phase 1.  In total there are three increments of Phase 1.

The email originating from the federal official was likely referring to the different options that were outlined in the TMP update that explored alternative implementation phasing for the entire transit network.

The current projects $2.1B dollar cost estimate was developed as part of the functional design in late 2009 and was approved by Council in January 2010.  At no time has there been any internal or external communications that indicates that the estimate is, or has ever, been higher.

 The project cost estimate is not going up. The preliminary engineering team (comprised of industry experts from around the world) has been directed to design a system that matches the $2.1B cost estimate. So the cost estimate that will be presented to Council in July 2011 will be $2.1B or under."

Police chief questions silence

Posted by Alistair Steele

Is there a lack of public discussion on the City of Ottawa's 2011 budget? Police chief Vern White seems to think so. Here's what he said to reporters earlier today outside the Champlain Room, where the Police Services Board had just adopted the police budget, and where no one from the public gallery took up chair Eli El-Chantiry's invitation to ask questions:

"We've been to all the public forums. I don't think there's been a question to the police or about the police budget yet, which is a bit of a surprise...I do wish that the public were asking more questions overall about the budget of the city, I mean I think that's healthy for the city. I'm not hearing a lot of questions...I wish there was some grassroots discussions going on, and I'm not hearing them. If they're happening, I'm not hearing them."

Why does Chief White think that is?

"How long have you known (the city's budget target) has been 2.5 per cent? Months, right? I mean there's not really a debate around the budget this year. It's more of a discussion about what is 2.5 per cent impact, 12 dollars per home kind of thing...I think debate is important around all aspects of public accountability, and I think certainly on the budget debates."

Chief White is correct: Police Services Board Executive Director Wendy Fedec confirms there were no public delegations when the board first debated the budget back on January 24th. There was none at the board's regular meeting on February 28th. And there was none today. There may have been some questions put to officers who attended the five multi-ward budget consultations. But the fact that there's no official record of this indicates how much weight those questions carry.

The fact is the force was able to find the $6.1-million needed to meet council's 2.5 per cent tax decree with relative ease. It will become a much more difficult task in 2013 and 2014 though. White promises uniformed positions will remain unfilled. He says the public will notice a reduction in service. 

The chief also seems to be commenting here on a general lack of consultation on the City of Ottawa's 2011 budget. While public delegations were heard at the committee stage, there will be no comments or questions from the peanut gallery when councillors begin debate tomorrow. They made sure of that when they passed this new budget process back in December.


City councillors pay it forward

Posted by Alistair Steele

So no big scandals in the detailed office expenses posted on the City's web site this week. Councillors have had it drilled into them by the clerk's office: Charge sunglasses and underpants to your office budgets at your peril. So far they seem to be listening.

What the expense reports do reveal is how big-hearted some city councillors can be. West Carleton-March councillor Eli El-Chantiry donated $2,035, or nearly one per cent of his annual office budget, to purchase an aluminum sign for the Fitzroy Harbor fire station. Apparently there wasn't enough money left in the construction budget to get the firefighters a sign, so El-Chantiry bought one for them.

There are smaller donations too. Orleans councillor Bob Monette gave $250 to the Club Citadel condo board for interest accrued on their water bill. Monette says the City had been billing the wrong address, but was unwilling to own up to the mistake. Then there's Osgoode councillor Doug Thompson. He contributed $100 to help send a young constituent, Kristina Alexander, to Carnegie Hall in New York City. Alexander is working on her Master's in voice performance at the University of Ottawa. She performed Berlioz's Requiem on the famous stage under the direction of renowned conductor Robert Spano.

Andy Haydon's VIP parking

Posted by Alistair Steele

A few years ago we did this cheeky story about Andy Haydon's trick for getting free parking at Ottawa City Hall. The former regional chair was leaving his silver VW Cabrio in the media lot at 111 Lisgar, and placing an official-looking "CBC Newsworld" sign on the dash to avoid both a ticket, and the $12 fee to park underground with everyone else.

Haydon's been popping up at City Hall again lately, including at today's Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting, where councillors were briefed on the LRT project. So where's Haydon parking now? Same place. Different sign.


Well he is passionate about maintaining the Transitway. And as I concluded back in 2007, when half of City Hall is named after you, I guess you can park anywhere you want.


Watson willing to gamble on gaming tables

Posted by Alistair Steele

So Jim Watson would like to see black jack and craps alongside the one-armed bandits at Rideau Carleton Raceway. The Raceway approached Watson's office with the idea a couple weeks ago. They're seeking permission from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to launch a two-year pilot project. The City already rakes in more than $4-million a year off the slots at the Raceway, thanks to a long-standing revenue sharing agreement. Twenty or 21 gaming tables would pull in another $2-million. But what about the ethics of it? You know, those stories we hear about toddlers left for hours in the car while their gambling-addicted parents are inside the casino, throwing their money away? Here's what the mayor had to say today:

"The debate over casinos was 20 years ago. We have casinos, so it's my perspective that we have to do what we can to keep some of that money on the Ontario side of the border. We estimate there are millions and millions of dollars that are going over to Quebec that could remain in Ontario that help facilitate our projects, our hospitals, our municipal projects."

Here's another view on the matter, courtesy of the Canada Safety Council.

If the Raceway gets permission from OLG, it will then need to be re-zoned to allow gaming tables. That's where the City comes in, and that's where Watson says there will be plenty of public consultation before anyone starts counting their money.

Friends of Lansdowne lawyer fires back

Posted by Alistair Steele

Friends of Lansdowne lawyer Steven Shrybman doesn't think much of city clerk Rick O'Connor's memo to councillors regarding Monday's court ruling. Shrybman fired back today:

Memo to Friends of Lansdowne dated Feb 17-11 (00317988).pdf

Shrybman makes several important points here, but I think the key one is that those e-mails the group DIDN'T get are, as Master MacLeod pointed out, probably irrelevant anyway. The documents Friends of Lansdowne WILL get are the ones that matter. O'Connor appears to gloss over that key fact in his memo. That may explain why many councillors I've spoken with don't seem to be taking this legal challenge very seriously.

One ruling, two (very different) views

Posted by Alistair Steele

Just goes to show you perspective is everything. Yesterday I wrote about Ontario Superior Court Master Calum MacLeod's decision on three pre-hearing motions related to the Lansdowne Legal Challenge. The group fighting the redevelopment, Friends of Lansdowne, hailed the ruling as a victory. City clerk and solicitor Rick O'Connor takes a somewhat different view. Here's his memo to the mayor and councillors, sent today:

Sent on behalf of M. Rick O'Connor, City Clerk and Solicitor:

The purpose of this memo is to clarify the outcome of the procedural ruling issued by the Court late on Monday, February 14, 2011, in the Friends of Lansdowne Inc. ("Applicants") litigation against the City of Ottawa.

For the reasons set out below, the Court ruling was actually very favourable for the City and confirmed that the City's actions to date in the litigation have been reasonable and appropriate.

Briefly, in this latest procedural motion before the Court, the Applicants sought the following:

(1)  the production of a large number of documents that would have taken six months and cost over $500,000.00 for the City to produce;

(2)  immunity from any costs order for the individual Applicants; and 

(3) to file two expert affidavits which the City claimed were filed contrary to the Court's earlier case management order.  

In response to these requests, the Court, in its latest procedural ruling, ordered the City to produce only a small group of the requested documents, which should be able to be done in a reasonable timeframe for relatively little cost to the City.  Second, in response to an offer which had been made publicly by the City in December 2010, the individual Applicants accepted the City's offer to let them remove their names as Applicants in the litigation without cost consequences.  Third, the Court agreed with the City that the two expert affidavits were not filed in accordance with the earlier Court Order but allowed them to be filed with the proviso that the City would be able to file additional evidence responding to these affidavits.  Lastly, the Court commented on the ultimate issue in the litigation and the burden of proof that the applicants will have to satisfy as follows:

"It is important to understand the small piece of this large public debate that is now before the court.  The applicant, Friends of Lansdowne Inc., seeks to overturn the decision on the basis that it is "illegal".  Section 273(1) of the Municipal Act provides that the superior court may quash a by-law of the municipality in whole or in part for "illegality".  This cannot involve the court in sweeping policy debates about the future of Lansdowne Park.


It is not necessary that the plan be perfect or results guaranteed.  The court is not to second guess the wisdom of city council.  It is surely not enough to render a by-law illegal or convert a plan into a bonus if it could work out badly or less well than hoped.  No plan based on assumptions about future revenue or expenses can be ironclad."

I trust that the above is helpful in clarifying the practical outcome of the recent procedural ruling by the Court which is attached for convenience.

City told to fork over Lansdowne documents

Posted by Alistair Steele

Friends of Lansdowne are celebrating yesterday's decision by Master Calum MacLeod of the Ontario Superior Court as a victory. Read it, and it's pretty clear why.

Opponents have always doubted the City's assertion that the redevelopment plan won't cost taxpayers a dime. They've been demanding financial data and other information that helped guide that PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis the City holds up as proof positive of its "revenue neutral" claim. Master MacLeod says the data is of "fundamental relevance," and he's ordered the City to hand it over. OSEG will also be ordered to hand over certain documents if it wants to participate as an intervenor. 

Master MacLeod also turned down the City's motion to bar affidavits by tax expert Harry Kitchen and investigative accountant Al Rosen. Armed with new financial data from the city, those two will now be sharpening their criticism of the Lansdowne deal.

The City will not be compelled to hand over e-mails and other correspondence between the former mayor, the city manager and OSEG related to the deal. Master MacLeod says those negotiations aren't important: Rather, the "final iteration" of the deal, and whether it "confers an illegal benefit" on OSEG, is what's relevant here. In other words, "whether the plan as presented actually does what city council was told it does."

I ran this by Alta Vista councillor Peter Hume earlier today (he hadn't had time to look at the decision). His take on the disclosure question? The City should have just cooperated in the first place. "That's the best way to avoid all of this protracted discussion, and quite frankly the fear (that) there's some grand consiracy to keep information. You know what? Just give it all to (them)." 

Lawyers will now have to get together to decide how the information will be produced and shared. The lawyer for Friends of Lansdowne, Steven Shrybman, says he doesn't think that will slow the process, and the legal challenge will go ahead in April as planned. 

Water rate hike held to 3.9%

Posted by Alistair Steele

I think they meant to sit on this till tomorrow's Environment Committee meeting, but here it is now:

For immediate release:
February 15, 2011

Proposed Water and Sewer Rate Increase Lowest in Eight Years

Ottawa - Mayor Jim Watson and Environment Committee Chair Maria McRae are pleased to announce the City's 2011 draft water and wastewater budget contains the lowest proposed rate increase in eight years.

The draft rate budget, tabled today at the City's Environment Committee, supports City Council's commitments to providing high-quality drinking water, protecting the environment, reducing the risk of flooding, and renewing existing infrastructure while keeping costs down.

The budget contains a 3.9-per-cent increase, which is less than half the increase imposed in each of the last three years and the lowest since 2003. At the same time, the budget maintains funding for the City's infrastructure renewal and flood protection needs, and makes the necessary investments in the Ottawa River Action Plan. (See Highlights below)

"I'm pleased to deliver a rate budget that balances the City's pressing infrastructure needs and protection of the environment while limiting impact on taxpayers," Mayor Jim Watson said. "Ottawa produces and delivers some of the safest and best quality water found anywhere in the world, and we need to invest in our infrastructure to make sure this continues."

The draft rate budget will be debated at Committee March 28 and sent to Council for final approval on April 13.

According to the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI), City of Ottawa water and wastewater services are consistently operated efficiently and effectively. In every category, the independent body concludes the citizens of Ottawa are receiving excellent value for money by meeting or exceeding provincial averages.

The replacement value of the City's network of pipes is estimated at approximately $17 billion, and, since much of this infrastructure was installed shortly after World War II, these systems require continuing rehabilitation or replacement to maintain current standards.

Principally, this is what drives increases in water and wastewater budgets in all cities. In Ottawa's case, the proposed 2011 rate increase will cost roughly 50 cents per week for the average household, and mean that, for about same price as one 500ml bottle of water, the City delivers 1,000 litres of some of the best drinking water in North America through your tap.

"We are committed to delivering top quality services to the citizens of Ottawa in the most cost efficient manner possible," Environment Committee Chair Councillor Maria McRae said. "With the investments we are making in the Ottawa River Action Plan and combined sewer overflow control, the City of Ottawa will remain a leader in environmental protection."

Highlights of the 2011 draft Rate Budget include:

  • A greatly reduced rate increase -- 3.9-per-cent - when compared to the last three years when nine per increases were imposed.
  • An overall operating budget of $264 million for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.
  • A $206 million capital works program directed at improving and renewing the City's water and wastewater infrastructure. Of that total, approximately 95% of this program will be directed towards rehabilitating and renewing City infrastructure.
  • Major elements of the 2011 capital program include:
    • $17 million for Ottawa River Action Plan projects aimed at ensuring the long-term health of the Ottawa River;
    • $6.8 million in works to reduce the risk of flooding in the City's West End;
    • $1.75 million to reimburse residents who install protective plumbing devices;
    • $5 million to rehabilitate more than eight kilometres of watermains in total;
    • $3.8 million to rehabilitate the Woodroffe Avenue watermain and other measures to increase service reliability in the area;
    • $4.8 million to rehabilitate more than seven kilometres of sanitary sewers; and
    • $4.4 million to rehabilitate more almost five kilometres of storm sewers.
  • The City will also continue to directly assist homeowners improve their own infrastructure through programs including:
    • The Protective Plumbing Program -- $1.75 million;
    • The Sewer Lateral Replacement Program -- $1.2 million; and
    • The Lead Service Replacement Program -- $1 million.
  • A proposed water charge of $1.32 per cubic metre - roughly 1,000 litres of delivered water for the same price as one 500 ml bottle of water bought in a store.
  • A sewer surcharge of 117% of the water charge.

No gas tax for Lansdowne

Posted by Alistair Steele


It's been pointed out that the Lansdowne Park Plan wouldn't be eligible for federal gas tax money anyway, because the project was sole sourced. This clause from the agreement between Canada and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario would seem to bear that out:

"AMO agrees that any of its contracts for the supply of services or materials to implement its responsibilities under this Agreement will be awarded in a way that is transparent, competitive, and consistent with value for money principles."

You can find the whole agreement here. (Each province and territory has its own agreement with the feds. So does Toronto.)

That said, we don't know how the Harper government will change the program. If it's loosening the qualification rules, maybe other aspects of the agreement will change too.


Naturally, all the focus was on Quebec City when this story broke this morning. I wondered what it might mean for Lansdowne Park. If municipalities can now redirect gas tax funds to arenas and similar projects, might it lighten the taxpayers' load here in Ottawa? The short answer, from city treasurer Marian Simulik, is 'no.' Here's the long answer:

"The city uses federal gas tax for transit capital and as we have the light rail project coming forward within the next few years there are no gas tax funds remaining to use on Lansdowne. With respect to lightening the taxpayer's load, there is no load to lighten as the debt servicing is funded from existing budgets and from a portion of the existing property taxes that (will) be generated from the redevelopment." 

Rebate program faces the axe

Posted by Alistair Steele


Here's some new information on the post below, thanks to my good friends at the city. The reason cutting the rebate program would only yield a $125-thousand saving in 2011 is because it's costed over a four-year period. The estimated payout forecast for 2014 is $500-thousand. That's close to what the city paid out in 2006. (The actual figure was $503,333. More were eligible, but not everyone claims the rebate. In 2006 for example, only 54 out of 100 campaigns took advantage of the program. In 2003, the first year of the program, the payout was much smaller: $155,440, with a 68% participation rate.)

When the program was established nearly a decade ago, it was funded through the general election reserve. But the city never topped up the reserve to pay for the program. Staff say that can't continue. Last year they recommended creating a separate fund for the program. Deputy city clerk Leslie Donnelley points out the Election Reserve Fund -- and the mandate of the Election Office itself -- is to increase voter participation and turnout, not to level the playing field for candidates or encourage individula donations. Those are the goals of the rebate program, which is NOT what the City calls a "core election function." In other words, it's optional. And at budget time, council is hungry for options.

One final note of interest: Because Alex Munter's 2006 mayoral campaign relied heavily on individual donations (that's where he got 96% of his money that year), it accounted for more than half of the rebates doled out. Staff therefore consider 2006 an "anomolous" year, so the half-million estimate for 2014 may be generous. Then again, 21 of 24 councillors took advantage of the rebate program in 2010. The final numbers for the most recent election won't be in until after the filing deadline on March 25th.


Buried amidst all the cost-cutting proposals in the 2011 budget is one item that won't get much attention until 2014. But anyone considering a run for a job on City Council should take note.

The city wants to eliminate the election contribution rebate program. Under the program, almost anyone who contributes at least $50 to a candidate's campaign is entitled to some money back. The size of the rebate is determined by the size of the contribution, and it's capped at  $187.50. That's what you'd get back if you contributed $300. Donate $100 and you get back $75. That's pretty generous.

The intent, according to the city, is to "encourages citizens to participate in municipal elections by supporting a candidate of their choice while learning more about the municipal issues affecting their day-to-day lives." It's also been argued that the program helps level the playing field at election time. New candidates need a boost to take on strong incumbents. It's a lot easier to build up a war chest when they can promise donors most of their money back.

I always thought this program was mandatory under the Municipal Elections Act. Turns out it's only guided by provincial legislation. It's a bylaw, and the city can scrap it whenever it wants. If it does, that will save taxpayers $125-thousand. That may seem like a good idea now, but councillors should ask themselves whether it will look so good in three years.

Watson stands his ground

Posted by Alistair Steele

It looks like Jim Watson has passed yet another leadership test. On Tuesday he emerged from an in-camera meeting with members of the city's Planning Committee and lawyers advising them. His message to developers was clear: The urban boundary won't budge a centimetre from the 230-hectare expansion approved by council in 2009.

That vote two years ago was a tight one. It was pointed out yesterday that of the 12 councillors who voted for the 230-hectare restriction, only three survived last fall's election. Ten of the 11 councillors who voted against the move are still around. Many of those councillors voted to re-open the debate last year (that attempt failed.) Add to the mix a new crop of suburban and rural councillors (Moffatt, Blais, Hubley), and it looked like the city could have veered back toward that 851-hectare expansion favoured by staff. Indeed, the Planning Committee heard yesterday that while such a move wouldn't erase the prospect of a trip to the OMB, it might lighten the burden.

Somehow, Watson has them all on the same page, vowing to "vigorously" defend the boundary, as he promised during the election campaign.

A councillor gets his hands dirty

Posted by Alistair Steele

Rideau-Goulbourn councillor Scott Moffat was on a trip to Montreal when he started getting the e-mails. Some residents had heard the city is toying with the idea of bi-weekly garbage pickup. They were not amused.

That's when Moffatt's wife Jill had a novel idea. Why not try it out at home, to see if a young family of four (soon to be five), with all its dirty diapers and other non-recyclables, really can get by on less frequent curbside collection?

The Moffatts got militant about recycling. Their green bin filled up fast. Their garbage can didn't. It's only been two weeks, but it's working. Bi-weekly collection won't be a problem for the Moffatts.

Something else is working: The councillor is finding it's a lot easier to speak to people about the merits of waste diversion. Maybe it's his retail experience shining through, but he's smart enough to know he can't sell an idea to constituents if he doesn't believe in it himself. Not everyone will agree with him, especially in a rural ward like his. But at least Moffatt can say he knows what he's talking about.

Friends and foes: The Lansdowne file grows

Posted by Alistair Steele

Another week, another scathing review of the Lansdowne deal. This one courtesy of Rosen & Associates, which bills itself as "the premier independent litigation and investigative accounting firm in Canada."

Rosen & Associates prepared the 37-page report for Friends of Lansdowne Park and the two individuals fighting the redevelopment plan in court. It's a response to material filed by the City and OSEG, which has intervenor status in the case. The firm's findings are a startling check on the claim that we'll break even on the Lansdowne deal.

The report points out the overlooked fact that the city has no obvious plan to set aside property tax from the redevelopment to finance its project-related debt. As far as the Rosen & Associates (and anyone elses who's analyzed the plan) can figure out, tax revenue derived from a redeveloped Lansdowne Park will end up in the general pool, and Lansdowne debt will be serviced from the same pool of money. It is therefore "misleading," concludes the firm, to claim the redevelopment will pay for itself. Rosen & Associates says removing tax revenue from the equation will in fact result in a deficit of between $111-million and $208-million. That's a long way from revenue neutrality. That claim, says Rosen, tends to "grossly overstate the city's probable financial benefit" from the plan. Furthermore, the financial terms "raise serious financial concerns," and "an analysis of the overall project cash flow clearly shows an imbalance of risks and benefits." An imbalance that favours OSEG every time.

There's a body of evidence piling up here. Add this report to last week's affidavit by municipal tax expert Harry Kitchen and various submissions from lawyer Steven Shrybman and other experts, and there should be enough to cast doubt in the mind of even the most ardent Lansdowne booster. But will it? Earlier today city councillors Rick Chiarelli and Rainer Bloess dismissed the Rosen report without having read it. Supporters have so far gotten a lot of mileage out of dismissing opponents as spoiled Glebites and anti-development NIMBY's. Carleton business prof (and Friends of Lansdowne ally) Ian Lee says the city can still move ahead with the Lansdowne plan, but it can no longer pretend it's a good deal for taxpayers.

Meeting expectations

Posted by Alistair Steele

First it was coffee and cookies at their inauguration, now this. Some Ottawa city councillors are growing tired of the mayor's austerity measures, and whispering "small town cheap" behind his back.

At a special meeting of the city's Finance and Economic Development Committee, Jim Watson and six other members out-voted three of their colleagues to trim attendance at two important out-of-town conferences. Just three councillors will attend June's Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention and expo in Halifax; another trio will travel to London in August to attend the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference. Originally six names were put forward for the FCM gathering, and nine for AMO event.

"At the end of the day we all have to show a little restraint. If we could save $21,000 as we did today and still have a couple of our members go to these conferences, we get the best of both worlds," says Watson. He also suggests the more desireable the venue - say, Whistler B.C. (FCM '09) - the greater the interest among councillors in attending. You don't have to be a travel agent to see the corelation, says Watson. 

Some veteran councillors weren't buying it. Diane Deans, who has attended many of these conferences, calls the decision to send only three representatives "penny wise and pound foolish." At the FCM, delegates vote for a national board of directors. That board sets FCM policy. Reps from the 905, for example, tend to vote as a bloc. Councillors from poorly-represented regions tend to sit on the sidelines. Deans says the FCM conference also provides an excellent opportunity to network with other municipal leaders, and to learn best practices (and hard lessons) through the experiences of other cities. Councillor Maria McRae says the conferences give councillors unique access to provincial and federal ministers. She recalls valuable meetings with Jim Bradley about light rail and the Hunt Club extension. Those meetings bore fruit.

The key, according to all councillors, is that whoever goes to the conferences must share whatever information they glean. Currently councillors are under no obligation to submit reports or brief their colleagues. That must change.

It costs taxpayers $101,816 a year just to belong to the FCM (that's based on population). The city needs to make sure it's getting its money's worth. If it's not, then that $21,000 Watson is saving isn't worth much.

Welcome to @CityHall

Posted by Alistair Steele

Welcome to @CityHall, CBC's municipal affairs blog. This is where you'll find the story behind the story you hear on CBC Radio, see on CBC Television and read online at I'm planning to post regularly, and on a variety of subjects. Please help me keep the conversation going by commenting on whatever you see here. Please keep it clean and respectful. Enjoy!

That's a wrap

Posted by Alistair Steele

Ottawa has voted for change, in a very big way. Voters said no thanks to six incumbents who were seeking re-election. They said yes to 10 new faces. That's an unprecedented turnover in this post-amalgamation city. Some of them are young and fresh (hello Mathieu Fleury). Some are neither young nor fresh (hello again Peter Clark), but will bring valuable experience to the horseshoe. As a group, this council may have tilted just a bit towards the conservative edge of the spectrum, especially with the loss of such left-leaning stalwarts as Doucet, Legendre and Bedard. But it's just a tilt, not a shift. As a group, they are bound to get along better than the previous council. More important, they're bound to get things done.

Jim Watson says his first order of business is meeting with each and every one of his council colleagues. His second is to meet with Larry O'Brien. Both men are being gracious about it, but this is more tradition than useful exercise. The new mayor can't have much to learn from the old one. Then it's on to the budget, the first real test of his leadership, and his first opportunity to prove this city has turned a corner.

This will be the final entry here, but watch for the new CBC blog, @cityhall (at least that's what I'm calling it for now). Thanks for reading, it's been a pleasure. 

O'Brien speaks his mind

Posted by Alistair Steele

Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get when you interview Larry O'Brien. The mayor's penchant for going off script and floating new ideas in front of the cameras has for four years delighted reporters, and horrified his (several) communications directors. Today's little scrum at a pumpkin carving contest for children at risk was no exception.

On his admission, reported in today's Ottawa Sun, that "I'm not counting on a win":

"Aw, I don't think I ever said that, I think I made a few comments last night to someone who I did not believe was actually a reporter that in fact the polls did not look good....(It's) more or less what I would expect about you know that particular newspaper at this point in the campaign."

On the cruise he's planning to take in November:

"I had that planned for six months...Win or lose, you need a break after a rugged campaign, so we planned that cruise, and it's going to be an exciting cruise. I'm really looking forward to it."

On his council colleagues who chair committees at City Hall:

"You know a lot of the mistakes that I admitted to a little while ago that I did...were all made in the first 10 days when I chose the wrong people to lead committees, when I chose the wrong structure, and added to the difficulties. I would never make those mistakes twice...I'm going to do a lot of restructuring in terms of responsibilities of councillors in terms of committee chairs and co-chairs."

On his criminal trial:

"I think I'm still living with, under the shadow of the trial. I think there's a large component of that in some of the thinking of the people."

On undecided voters:

"Our numbers, and we do them consistently, show that 33 per cent of the people out there who are committed to voting, haven't made up their minds yet. And most of those people were former O'Brien supporters, former supporters of mine, and I have to give them every reason in the world so that when they get into that voting booth that they check that X beside my name."

On City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick:

"My goodness Kent has done such a fantastic job, but every so often you need to refresh parts of the organization, and that would be one that I think council and myself would have to think about very thoughtfully as to what kind of administrative leader we need in the city going forward after his contract expires in April."

The scrum lasted just over four minutes.  

Weekend war of words

Posted by Alistair Steele

It's been a wild and woolly weekend on the campaign trail. It began with Larry O'Brien's vision for growth and community planning on Saturday morning.

Precisely 23 minutes later, Jim Watson's camp sent out a news release headlined: "O'Brien to Scrap Years of Work and Compromise Urban Boundary for Sprawl Plan." It read, in part:

Larry O'Brien is pushing a misguided plan for sprawl that shows a fundamental lack of understanding of both the planning process and the Official Plan according to Jim Watson, candidate for mayor. "This talk of carving a new huge satellite town out of rural and agricultural land means scrapping the planning work our city has done over many decades...Mr. O'Brien's plans would cost the city a billion dollars before a single house was built and would squeeze smaller builders out of the market. Mr. O'Brien has a long track record of making rash decisions without considering their costs and consequences. His decision on the original LRT project cost the city $100m, now he wants to waste all the public participation and millions just spent on renewing our Official Plan."

O'Brien's people responded this morning, accusing Watson of misleading voters about the mayor's vision:

"What Jim Watson is saying is that the Plan is good enough for him, and that he wouldn't change any part of it. Because of his fixation on social engineering and intensification, he is telling residents in the core of Ottawa that they should get ready for an influx of high-rise buildings in their neighborhoods, and that residents outside the core should accept being treated like second class citizens...Jim Watson's view of Ottawa is clearly still anchored in the way things were before the turn of the century, and doesn't embrace the reality of the Ottawa we live in today," said Mayor O'Brien. "In order to realize our full potential as a world-class city, Ottawa needs vision and a sense of the possible, not timid leadership or fear of tackling the real challenges we face," said Mayor O'Brien.

A couple hours later, Watson was standing on the beach at Petrie Island, releasing his platform on sustainability.

Again, O'Brien's camp responded:

"The City does not need bureaucratic green police adding to the cost of construction," said O'Brien. "Just like the Green Energy Act at the province, this would lead to higher building costs for Ottawa, on top of Mr. Watson's promised double-digit tax increase and his planned hydro rate hikes...The plan he released today represents social engineering at its worst," continued O'Brien. "He is proposing a series of small cosmetic changes rather than using the Official Plan for what it was intended to be - a blueprint for a holistic approach to community planning."

O'Brien also questions Watson's claim that as a minister within the McGuinty cabinet, he "fought" for that $600-million provincial contribution to Ottawa's LRT project. 

Watson was a passive player in the process who showed nothing but disdain for the proposed underground tunnel and the idea of a rail-based system until recently. "While it's good that Mr. Watson is now publicly supporting the plan, just months ago he was criticizing it at every turn," said O'Brien. "He has been a Johnny-come-lately to this project, and I think residents are right in questioning whether or not he will actually see it through."

It's not over yet, folks.

Larry O'Brien: The lost tapes

Posted by Alistair Steele

I've had many people ask me why George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (or the show formerly known as The Hour) canned that interview with Larry O'Brien last week. The segment was taped, but never made it to air.

Here's what I can tell you: When they heard about the interview, CBC executives reminded the show's producers of the corporation's standard policy of treating candidates equitably over the course of a campaign. The policy applies to Strombo's show, as it would to any other CBC production during any other election. We shine the spotlight on all the candidates, or we don't shine it on any of them.

In the end, the decision not to air the interview was the show's. The CBC believes that in the interest of balance and fairness, they made the right choice.

Signs of trouble

Posted by Alistair Steele

Update: October 12, 2010

It's been pointed out to me that Clive Doucet has no lawn signs per se. Instead, he has downloadable signs that people have been putting up in their windows. It's also been pointed out that this process is a bit cumbersome, and so that may help explain why there are four Jim Watson signs on the stretch of Holmwodd across from Sylvia Holden Park, and no Doucet signs. Maybe, but it still doesn't explain why people who are opposed to the Lansdowne development are supporting Watson. The sign owners I spoke with on Sunday struggled to explain it themselves. One wasn't really aware Watson supports the Lansdowne plan, and the other felt Doucet simply isn't a viable choice. The other two weren't home.


I dropped by Clive Doucet's presser at Sylvia Holden Park yesterday. In case you don't know, he's calling on his opponents to leave the strip of grass and trees that forms the northern border of Lansdowne Park alone. Under the current plan to redevelop Lansdowne, the park will disappear to make way for a tower at the corner of Bank Street and Holmwood Avenue, and a strip of 4-story town homes along Holmwood.

You'd think the folks living along the north side of Holmwood would be interested in preserving the park as well. And many, if not most of them are. But they're not showing it with lawn signs. There are exactly five election signs between Bank and O' for Capital Ward candidate David Chernushenko, and four for Doucet's rival for the mayoralty, Jim Watson. Watson has been very clear: If elected, he will not seek to alter any part of the Lansdowne plan, including the condos on Holmwood.



O'Brien takes another stab

Posted by Alistair Steele

Larry O'Brien says a supervised drug injection site could be coming to a neighbourhood near you. What's worse, the province knows where, but won't tell us until after the election.

Here's an excerpt from his news release, titled "PROVINCE SITTING ON DRUG INJECTION SITE STUDY":

"Today, Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien called upon researchers studying the potential for multiple drug injection sites in the City of Ottawa to release their report before the October 25th municipal elections in Ottawa and Toronto. O'Brien stressed the need for Ottawa's residents to know which neighbourhoods are being considered for these sites, and to have the opportunity to determine where Council and Mayoral candidates stand on the issue.

"I am shocked to learn that this report, originally scheduled to be released in the spring of 2010, is being held back by the Province until after the October 25th elections," said Mayor O'Brien. "Our residents have the right to know if one of these sites could pop up in their community...I'm concerned that this report is being held up until after the elections in Ottawa and Toronto so that the province can once again impose their policies on our cities without the community input that debate during this campaign would allow," said O'Brien.

Turns out just about everything here is wrong. There is a study. That much is correct. But the province's involvement is peripheral. The research is funded through the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, a not for profit group that gets its money from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Network put the funding call out in 2007, and researchers affiliated with St. Michael's Hospital's Keenan Research Centre and the University of Toronto were awarded the $292,312 grant. Their study is titled "Safe Consumption Sites: Potential Impact and Cost Effectiveness in Toronto and Ottawa." One of the co-principal investigators, Dr. Carol Strike, says they're looking at three issues: Whether supervised injection sites encourage a reduction in drug use; how residents feel about the sites; and what "types" of locations would be suitable, and how many...if any.

So, why the delay? Simple, says Strike: "We're not hiding anything. We're just not done." The researchers continue to compile data, and don't expect to release their finding until next year. They say that was always the intended release date. No part of their findings has been released to anyone, including government.

So why would O'Brien make the claims above, before making a few simple phone calls? The research has been going on for two years. Members of the city's Police Services Board have been interviewed for it. Faculty at the University of Ottawa have been involved. Did O'Brien really find out about this "a couple days ago," as he claimed this morning?

As wedge issues go, there are few more divisive than harm reduction programs that, from some perspectives, appear to value the comfort of the addicts over the well-being of the community. Remember the great crack pipe debate? This of course plays right into O'Brien's public safety pledge. "My responsibility is for the safety of the citizens...the men and women and families of the city," he said this morning. "I'm not as interested in the safety of the drug users."

Another thing: The federal government, not the province, will ultimately decide where supervised injection sites go. Under this government, they're not likely to go anywhere. It certainly won't be decided before October 25th.

By the way, the banner on O'Brien's website is worth a look. It shows a glum-looking Jim Watson, a "Top Secret" folder, and a map of Ottawa dotted with needles. You can find O'Brien's full statement on the matter there as well.

The Peter principal

Posted by Alistair Steele

Alta Vista councillor and planning committee chair Peter Hume has an interesting idea that could help nip future building height battles in the bud. He says the revamp is necessary because -- in his own words -- "people don't trust City Hall." Here's an excerpt from Hume's news release:  

"Hume's committee is a recurring battleground where planners, developers and residents clash over what kind of development should be allowed. He says the residents or City Council often escalate their grievances to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) where they frequently lose their cases.

One of the most controversial sticking points is the allowable height of new buildings. Hume plans to bring forward an Official Plan amendment to "pre-zone" areas to introduce fixed height restrictions. He wants the city to place five-storey height limits for traditional main streets and ten-storeys for arterial main streets, except where a Community Design Plan takes precedence."

Hume goes on to say:

"Residents have a right to know what is allowed and we can help them avoid spending a small fortune at the OMB. They usually lose because they are asking for something that does not comply with the Official Plan. Determining areas for height limits beforehand puts everyone's cards on the table. Residents don't trust the city to treat them fairly, and that must change."

That's another refreshing admission, in a week of mea culpas. Especially coming from the chair of the committee that oversees development planning. A couple caveats though. First, Hume is running for re-election to council, and may or may not resume his duties at the helm of the planning committee if he wins. Second, this wouldn't stop developers from taking issues to the OMB. What it would do is make the game rules clear from the outset, and force developers -- not residents -- to explain why those rules deserve to be broken.

The mayor's mea culpa

Posted by Alistair Steele

I've interviewed mayor Larry O'Brien many, many times over the last four years. I don't claim to know him well, but I can tell you I have never seen him quite like I did today. He was subdued, humble, and contrite. There was no swagger, just a very earnest plea to voters. We were speaking about the new poll by Holinshed Research Group. Asked: "If the municipal election were held today, who would you vote for the mayor of Ottawa? (Supporting & Leaning)," 36 per cent of the 396 respondents picked Jim Watson, and just 16.6 per cent chose O'Brien. Nearly 30 per cent were undecided. I asked the mayor what he thought of that, and here's some of his response:

"I think it confirms something that I've been feeling for a number of week, that there's a lot of people out there that voted for me that are, quite frankly they're disappointed in what I did during the first couple of years, and I have to admit that my first two years weren't very good. I was a novice, I made a lot of mistakes, I created a lot of my own problems. And (I) started to catch on after I made a...made a significant effort to understand really what this job is. It's a big job, and as I started to become more comfortable with this, quite frankly biggest job I've ever had in my life, things started to move forward and I'm hoping I can ask for the support of my, you know the people who wanted me to succeed four years ago, ask them to think about supporting me again. The next four years won't be like the last four years. It'll be like the last year times four."

A frank admission, and a big promise. O'Brien will now want to focus squarely on that 30 per cent who haven't decided who they'll vote for. It's also worth noting that, while 64 per cent want a change, 23 per cent think O'Brien has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected.

The telephone poll was conducted from September 28th to October 1st. Three-hundred and ninety-six people responded. The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 4.92 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The pollster calls that margin "within the industry standard" for this kind of survey.

The Tweeps are not amused

Posted by Alistair Steele

Are folks getting a little tired of the incessant online name-calling between some of our mayoral candidates and their campaigners? Here's just a sample of the tweets from Sunday afternoon that lead me to believe yes, yes they are:

"@LarryOBrien2010 & @ JimWatsonOttawa. If we wanted Rock'em Sock'em robots we'd go to Toys 'r Us!"

"@LarryOBrien2010 could you please stop taking jabs at the other candidates and tell us what you'll be doing for the city instead?

"I think we are all tired of the Twitter between ...the two or three at the top for mayor...lets just focus on what are you going to do...and then do it best you can....."

And my favourite:

"nobody but politico hacks care which babies are being kissed at what location. How about some substance?"

Ouch. I think the tweeple have spoken.

Sign, signs, everywhere signs

Posted by Alistair Steele

There are some pretty strict guidelines about when and where candidates can post election signs. The city has its rules. So does the province. Candidates cannot, for example, attach their placards to road signs. Guess no one mentioned that to the O'Brien campaign team:



Hunt Club and Hwy. 416, earlier today. Any other examples of sign infractions? Let us know. 

Whose tweet is this anyway?

Posted by Alistair Steele

Do the mayoral candidates tweet for themselves, or do their tweeps tweet for them? A number of people were asking yesterday, after someone noticed @LarryOBrien2010 was live tweeting the BOMA debate. Only he wasn't. Here's what O'Brien's new media director Jasmine MacDonnell says about her boss:

"The mayor tweets whenever possible, but at times when he's tied up in events he asks his campaign team to keep followers up to date on his behalf."

@JimWatsonOttawa's media guy Bruce Graham also says his boss tweets for himself -- most of the time.

"Obviously during Jim's announcements a staff member might tweet the link to the news release. But Jim's Twitter is on his BlackBerry on his belt or at his computer on his desk. So, obviously not 100% but very close."

@VoteHaydon tweeted furiously after the BOMA debate. Like O'Brien and Watson, Andy occasionally relies on helpers:

"I tweet as many tweets as I can. I write all my blogs and send them to Facebook. I also do my own website. Everything that is posted is written by me. Sometimes, using what I have written, I use a helper to post some of my tweets." 

That leaves Clive Doucet. His communications director Brigid Janssen says tweets from @CliveForMayor come from the campaign team, but tweets from @CliveDoucet are strictly from the man himself. You follow? 

@CliveDoucet will be live on Twitter to answer voters' questions tomorrow, from noon until 1 p.m. And yes, the real Clive will be at the other end of those tweets.


General Patton's new command

Posted by Cory O'Kelly

Larry O'Brien's media guy Mike Patton is leaving the campaign as of this weekend. On
Monday he wouldn't say where, but we probed.

He has a new gig...director of communications for the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews

The reason he's rushing off from the election campaign? They need him to start Monday.

What ever happened to two weeks notice Mike?

Ring road ruckus

Posted by Alistair Steele

Jim Watson has a few issues with Larry O'Brien's traffic management plan. But it looks like the biggest bur under his saddle is the mayor's ring road proposal. According to O'Brien's plan:

"Ottawa has been debating a ring road since the 1950s when it was included in Jacques Gréber's plan for the national capital. Planning, reviewing and constructing a major highway such as this takes close to twenty years, so Mayor O'Brien will get that planning underway. This proposed road will reduce commute times for residents in outer communities as well as reduce traffic through the downtown core."

Watson has a different take on it. Here's some of what he had to say to a group of seniors this morning:

"Once you look at this you quickly realize that this transportation plan is a throw-back to the 1970's where highways ruled the day and urban sprawl was left unchecked. Mr. O'Brien's plan calls for a billion-dollar highway that would literally exiscerate the Greenbelt. Off-ramps would be added, we'd add to urban sprawl, and massive costs would be shouldered by the taxpayers. The plan is not really a plan at all, it is a wish list."

Following last night's Ecology Ottawa debate, O'Brien told me he wants to start working closely with the province and the NCC to start planning "Highway 418." He also said he's talked with Bob Chiarelli -- before Chiarelli became infrastructure minister -- about the ring road idea, and that Chiarelli "believed the ring road was something that should get back into the planning process."

We just talked to Chiarelli, and he recalls the conversation a bit differently. He says the province's funding priority remains public transit, and a ring road around Ottawa wouldn't be on his government's radar for at least 20 years.

Parks and recreation

Posted by Alistair Steele

The front-runners for City Hall's top job sparred over recreation fees this weekend. On Saturday, Jim Watson delivered this promise to freeze sport and facility fees, which he points out rose 40 per cent over the last two years in some cases. Watson says Ottawans pay far more for fields, court and ice time than folks in Toronto pay. He lays the blame -- where else -- at the feet of Larry O'Brien, who he says "doesn't get" that a healthy city is a more productive city.

Well, guess what? O'Brien shot back, calling Watson "off-side" (get it?) on the rec fee issue. Ottawans are paying more for recreation thanks to the dastardly HST. And let's not even get started on Watson's plan to raise municipal taxes 10 per cent over the next four year.

O'Brien's  tactic here is obvious, and I've mentioned it before: Associate Watson with the McGuinty Liberals at every twist and turn of the campaign. Remind people that Watson was at the cabinet table when these unpopular decisions were made. Maybe something will stick on October 25. Strangely, Watson doesn't appear to be picking up on the vibe. Just today, he tweeted: "Had a great visit to the Old Firehall on Sunnyside and a chance to tour the new addition. Good investment of provincial and city funds!" He might want to think about dropping those shout outs to Queen's Park.

For the record, Clive Doucet was first to champion lowering rec fees, with this announcement last Thursday. 


Doucet on parks, and a couple debates

Posted by Alistair Steele

Clive Doucet want to create more parks. Hard to argue with that. How's he going to pay for it? Watch for his financial platform next week. In the mean time, here's his "Community First" platform:

There are a couple mayoral debates on the horizon. Tomorrow, the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa will host an event at the Chateau Laurier. It's hosted by the CBC's own Adrian Harewood. You don't want to miss this one. 

On Sunday, Ecology Ottawa and a collection of other groups will host a debate with an environmental focus. I'm planning to be there, so watch for tweets @alistairsteele.

Terry's tally

Posted by Alistair Steele

And since everyone's showing off e-mails today...

I promised to post Terry Kilrea's response to my query about his costing of the city's bilingualism policy. Here it is:

Hi Alistair

City of Ottawa printing alone costs $Millions printing everything in French and English sending in to areas where not required. There are staff that work just to set planning and priorities and as we speak,a review is being done to improve and determine where more can be done ,etc.

Language training amongst other things and translation. I know French Language Services Budget is $2.4 Million for the record but affiliated costs are buried in other budgets.

Thanks for the inquiry? I am sure it exceeds $ my estimate but until in the tent,can't get exact costs. If elected, I will leave no stone unturned.

Grant School itself is costing $2 Million now.

I'm still not convinced, but I appreciate the reply nonetheless.

Watson and O'Brien's war of words

Posted by Alistair Steele

If the gloves weren't off already, they certainly are now. Jim Watson and Larry O'Brien went toe-to-toe in a classic political punch-up today, and it's hard to say who won the bout. It began when Watson released this open letter to Larry O'Brien. 

Pretty damning stuff, if you believe that introducing party politics to City Hall is a bad thing. Then O'Brien swung back, with one of the feistiest media scrums of his mayoralty. O'Brien didn't deny authoring the e-mails, but said he doesn't recall the "context" of the exchange. O'Brien freely admitted he thought political parties at the municipal level were "valid" at one time, but says he's since changed his opinion on the matter. Then he said this:
"I do know during a lunch hour that I had with him, and it was probably around the same time, he clearly stated to me, clearly stated to me that he wanted to come back to city council because at the...provincial government you didn't have a pension, and he wasn't a rich man...And he wanted to come back because he enjoyed and liked the pensions that you see at the City of Ottawa. I would never think to bring something like that up during a campaign..."
Um, you just did Mr. Mayor. Oh sorry, you're not finished.
"I think the former McGuinty cabinet minister who said yes to everything that has gone wrong with the City of Ottawa for years and years and years, it's a little rich for him to bring something up...I like the guy, I like the guy very much, but for Jim Watson, a former McGuinty cabinet minister to start throwing these things around just shows you just exactly how panicked he is now that his history of HST, healthcare problems, all those scandals going on in Toronto, he must be starting to think that Ottawa might start getting as smart as Toronto. I never thought I'd say that, but Toronto, my goodness Toronto is getting it, and they don't want another McGuinty henchman running a city...the McGuinty lieutenant that was sent to take over that area is 24 points behind."
So there you have it, a nod to Rob Ford's success in Ontario's other city, and a sign of things to come here in Ottawa. O'Brien will take every opportunity from now until October 25 to link Watson to the McGuinty government's most unpopular policies. He wants voters to make that association too. So how will Watson handle it? So far, he's been unapologetic about his tenure at Queen's Park. He may have to come up with a new tactic.
For the record, Watson denies making the pension comment. And isn't it a bit strange that O'Brien forgets an e-mail exchange, but recalls a comment from the same period?

Meanwhile, O'Brien's camp delivered another blow today with this:
Jim Watson Gets Answer on Ottawa's Sewage Treatment Progress Under O'Brien's Watch

OTTAWA- Today, Ontario's Environment Commissioner Gord Miller tabled his Annual Report, Redefining Conservation, which among other items addressed the issue of sewage overflows into Ontario's rivers and lakes. Miller gave high praise to the City of Ottawa, calling it "... an Ontario leader in controlling overflows into its water."

"Overflows of raw sewage into our region's waterways are simply unacceptable, which is why I took this on as a top priority upon being elected in 2006," said Mayor Larry O'Brien. "With over $250M in combined funding for our Ottawa River Action Plan, we have already made significant progress, and I won't let up until the problem is completely eradicated."

While at Queen's Park, former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Watson called for Commissioner Miller to give Ottawa a dressing down for what he thought was mis-management of the sewage issue by the current Mayor and Council. Today, we learn that while Watson was making noise at the province, the City of Ottawa was getting results. In fact, Mayor O'Brien and Council were busy fixing a legacy problem that was around when Watson was Mayor of Ottawa.

Miller's report states that:

"The Environment Commissioner of Ontario was invited by the MPP for Ottawa Nepean-Carleton to review Ottawa's sewage problems in summer 2009. Even by this time, many improvements had been made to reduce overflows into the river."

The Ottawa River Action Plan not only addresses the problem of combined sewar overflows, but also broader issues affecting the city's waterways, making Ottawa's water cleaner, and its beaches safer.


Incidentally, both Watson and O'Brien will be on hand at Gord Hunter's roast tonight.

Cullen comes clean

Posted by Alistair Steele

When he was asked about this on August 31st, he called the question "unfair." But now Bay Ward councillor and candidate Alex Cullen says it's time to put the rumour to rest:

Cullen not to seek provincial nomination next year

Ottawa City Councillor and candidate for re-election in Bay Ward Alex Cullen today announced that he will not be seeking a provincial nomination as candidate in next year's provincial election, scheduled for October 6, 2011. Councillor Cullen, who had been elected as M.P.P. Ottawa West in 1997, had been rumoured as a potential candidate for the 2011 provincial election. Said Councillor Cullen: "While I had not decided to run provincially, the rumour of me considering this possibility has become an election issue in Bay Ward. The reality is that nominations for candidates for the October 2011 provincial election will likely occur early in 2011 when the new City Council would be dealing with the 2011 budget. In my view it would be impossible to do justice to the City budget while pursuing a provincial nomination at the same time. My priority is to ensure that the concerns of residents in Bay Ward regarding services and taxes are well-represented in the budget process. Therefore, to eliminate any uncertainty I am committing to doing my job as City Councillor for Bay Ward and therefore I will not pursue any provincial nomination for candidate for the 2011 Ontario provincial election."

Not content to leave it there, Cullen continues:

"...municipal government has traditionally been a recruitment ground for both federal and provincial politics. At present three Ottawa-area M.P.P.s - Bob Chiarelli (Ottawa West-Nepean), Madeleine Meilleur (Ottawa Vanier), Phil McNeilly (Ottawa Orleans) - and one M.P. - Royal Gallipeau (Ottawa Orleans) - have previously held municipal office. On the current Ottawa City Council there are 9 members of City Council who have previously sought either federal or provincial nominations for candidates - Rainer Bloess (Innes), Glenn Brooks (Rideau-Goulbourn), Rick Chiarelli (College), Alex Cullen (Bay), Diane Deans (Gloucester-Southgate), Clive Doucet (Capital), Gord Hunter (Knoxdale-Merivale), Jacques Legendre (Rideau-Rockcliffe), Marianne Wilkinson (Kanata North)."

Cullen doesn't say what he'll do (or won't do) if he ISN'T elected.

Big thumbs down from small business

Posted by Alistair Steele

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says City Hall is "underperforming" in the eyes of small business owner. The CFIB has conducted surveys across the province, and released the results for this region today:

A total of 617 businesses in Ottawa took part in CFIB's face-to-face survey between July 2009 and June 2010. When asked, How do you rate the local government where your business is situated on the following issues?, here's how these business owners responded:

· Overall awareness of small business sector - 4% Good;19% Adequate; 77% Poor

· Reasonable property tax levels - 4% Good;26% Adequate; 70% Poor

· Fairness of by-laws and regulations - 4% Good;43% Adequate; 53% Poor

· Control of government wage levels -4% Good;19% Adequate; 77% Poor

· Value-for-money of public services - 3% Good;32% Adequate; 65% Poor

Compared to seven other municipalities (Barrie, Brockville, Collingwood, Kingston, Perth, Peterborough and Quinte West), Ottawa rated poorly in just about every area. Candidates, take note!

Kilrea says "non" to language policy

Posted by Alistair Steele

Bay Ward candidate Terry Kilrea has also been busy. He's on the bilingualism warpath again. Here's his latest:

Kilrea says if elected:

I will table a motion asking for an immediate review and to have this policy suspended IMMEDIATELY until clarification and interpretation is crystal clear.

The way this policy is being interpreted is a recipe for Bankruptcy and needless waste of Tens of $ Millions of Tax dollars or more. There seems to be a sense of entitlement.

...It has gotten to the point that if a resident was burning or being stabbed, they should be allowed to be rescued in their language of choice.

City has an obligation to help everybody regardless of language.

...The interpretation of City of Ottawa Language Policy is a recipe for divisiveness.

"Tens of millions of tax dollars or more?" Really? I've asked Kilrea how he arrived at that figure, but I haven't heard back. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, here's the city's bilingualism policy.

Taylor calls for spending cap

Posted by Alistair Steele

The ol' in-box was bursting at the seams this morning. Most of the correspondence is from candidates. Mayoral hopeful Charlie Taylor is charged up about the donation rebate. It's an issue that doesn't get a lot of attention, but Taylor thinks it's time it did. He wants to cap mayoral fundraising at $20,000, and limit ward candidates to $5,000. In Taylor's own words:

Most Ottawa residents aren't aware that campaign contributions are eligible for up to a 75 per cent refund from the City. That means a mayoral candidate who spends the limit on his campaign, around $400,000, is actually costing taxpayers as much as $300,000.

This puts taxpayers in the peculiar situation of being forced to pay for their own brainwashing, says mayoral candidate Charlie Taylor.

Spending limits for municipal elections need to be severely curbed in order to ease the taxpayer's burden, and make the election process more democratic, says Taylor.

The fact is very few candidates will come anywhere close to their limit. Most campaign expenditures will be measured in hundreds, not thousands. Those who do build up a war chest undoubtedly have an advantage over their opponents. But they've also worked harder to organize their campaigns and raise the money, so perhaps the advantage is deserved. Taylor continues:

Not only is it unethical to use such large sums of money from the public purse in order to inundate the electorate with propaganda, it is actually counter to the public good, says Taylor.

A candidate who accepts $400,000 worth of donations will likely owe more allegiance to his donors than the electorate making it impossible for him to govern objectively, says Taylor.

That's not an original idea, but it's one that seems to be gathering steam, particularly when Lansdowne Park comes up in debates. We won't get to see who donated to the candidates until they file their papers well after the election. Even then, donors sometimes appear as numbered companies, or filter donations through friends, family and employees. At any rate, most incumbents and serious candidates are against the idea of banning corporate donations. Even if they were for it, the rules governing municipal elections fall under provincial legislation. It's not going to happen. Taylor has more to say:

Also, because media outlets depend on advertising for revenue, there might be a tendency among the media to give preferential coverage to candidates with larger campaign funds in order to encourage political advertising. If the media bills certain candidates as front-runners and fails to cover others, the front-runner status eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are lots of things that may influence media coverage, but I can guarantee ad spending isn't one of them. Revenue from a 30-second ad spot isn't going to make or break CTV or CFRA. If we in the media are billing certain candidates as front-runners, it's because we've seen the polls. Of course, you can argue that public opinion polls are influenced by what respondents have read, seen and heard in the media. There's really no end to the debate, but if Taylor is suggesting candidates with deep pockets are buying favourable media coverage, he's way off base.

Fair Vote Canada tries to make it an issue

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's a note being distributed today by Bay Ward councillor and candidate Alex Cullen:

Banning Corporate and Union Campaign Contributions:

Let's Put This Issue on the Municipal Election Agenda!

Dear electoral reform supporter:

Campaign contributions from corporations and unions are now banned in federal elections, provincial elections in Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, all municipal elections in Quebec, and in Toronto municipal elections.

For details on why this ban should be extended to Ontario municipal and provincial elections, and throughout the country for all elections, see Fair Vote Canada's backgrounder: Why Ban Corporate and Union Contributions in Municipal Elections? and Professor Robert MacDermid's Funding City Politics study.

Professor MacDermid's study of the 2006 elections in 10 municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area found that the portion of candidate funding from corporations, mostly in the development industry, ranged from 12% to 77% of all reported campaign contributions. In the nine municipalities other than Toronto, the average was a shocking 52%.

Last week, Fair Vote Canada released the results of a survey we sent to 474 city councilors and mayors in Ontario's 42 largest municipalities (other than Toronto, where the ban is already in place).

We asked if they supported the ban - and only 35 councillors and two mayors said yes!

While a ban requires provincial legislation, the impending municipal elections across the province provide a tremendous opportunity to make this an issue that the provincial government cannot ignore.

Can you help turn up the heat? Here are two easy steps:

  1. Ask local candidates, particularly at public meetings, if they support the ban.
  2. Write a letter to your local paper and/or call a talk show and outline why we need the ban.

You can download the Why Ban? paper and use it as a handout.

If you have any questions or would like to report on your actions, contact us at or, even better yet, post your comments on our Facebook page.

So let's get out there in the next few weeks and turn up the heat!

Yours for a strong democracy,

Bronwen Bruch

President, Fair Vote Canada

A Park by Any Other Name

Posted by Alistair Steele

Capital Ward councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet is challenging his opponents to state their position on Sylvia Holden Park. To be clear, we're talking about the strip of grass and trees running from south-east corner of Bank and Holmwood to the general vicinity of the Horticulture Building. We are NOT talking about Lansdowne Community Park, the area adjacent to the Lansdowne parking lot (think ball diamonds, wading pool and dog park). It's being preserved in more or less its current state. There's been massive confusion about the names, and "Sylvia Holden Park" has been used by city staff, councillors, and residents alike to refer to both properties.

Last week the city's Planning and Environment Committee approved the re-zoning of Lansdowne Park, and lumped Sylvia Holden in with the rest of it. If council approves the changes (and it will, by the now-familiar vote of 15-9), then Sylvia Holden Park disappears.

We know where the mayor stands on the issue. Larry O'Brien even sat in on that Planning Committee meeting to avoid an embarrassing loss (it would have risen to council anyway). Jim Watson has said the Lansdowne deal "isn't perfect," but he says he won't reverse council's decision because he's afraid doing so will cost taxpayers millions. He complicated things though when he pledged to stamp out sole-sourcing. Watson's opponents may start asking how he can take the ethical high road during the campaign, then stand on the shoulder after he's elected. O'Brien cancelled light rail because he didn't think is was a suitable plan. Will Watson make good on his integrity pledge and cancel Lansdowne?

Here's Doucet's challenge:

City Council is scheduled to vote on an extremely important motion, attached below, this Wednesday, September 22nd. The motion pertains to the future of a well-loved community park at the corner of Bank Street and Holmwood Avenue, with a street address of 945 Bank Street. The park stretches east to the Horticulture Building on Holmwood and is not to be confused with "Lansdowne Community Park" which was protected by a motion of council on June 28, 2010. 

To date, 15 members of Council, including the mayor, have been supporting the plan to decommission this community park so that the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) can build a 17-story commercial / condo tower and townhomes along the length of Holmwood, with 10-story buildings immediately behind them. This parkland will be lost forever and dozens of mature trees will be destroyed or relocated in the process.

On January 19, 1994, the Council of the old City of Ottawa adopted a policy on the decommissioning of parkland. The policy requires a 2/3 weighted vote of Council to decommission a park and applies to all parks listed in the City's parks inventory, which includes Sylvia Holden Park.

Mayoral candidate, Jim Watson, who represented Capital Ward when Sylvia Holden Park was officially named by Council on December 21, 1994 later wrote in the summer of 1995, in The Glebe Report: "This beautiful park which features three acres of green space and offers a spectacular view of the restored Aberdeen Pavilion is a fitting honour to Sylvia [Holden] and her dedication to the Glebe."

My question today to those running for mayor is this:

Do you support the decommissioning of Sylvia Holden Park at 945 Bank Street against the wishes of the local community and which is contrary to a 1994 policy designed to protect the very parks that we all cherish?

If you support the decommissioning of Sylvia Holden Park, would you also support decommissioning parks in other parts of the City?

Good questions. Will Doucet get any answers?

Arch Rivals

Posted by Alistair Steele

After months of tireless work by skilled craftsmen from China, Ottawa's Chinatown Gateway is almost ready. A lavish ceremony featuring mayor Larry O'Brien is being planned for October 7th, just two and a half weeks before the election. Earlier this year O'Brien embarked on a successful trade mission to China, and is enthusiastic about tightening business ties with that country.

So what do you do if you're O'Brien's chief rival for the mayor's job? Why, you beat him to the punch of course. Timing is everything on the campaign trail, and there's no greater joy for a politician than stealing the other guy's thunder.

Here's the announcement:

On Monday, September 20th Jim Watson will be meeting with leaders from the Chinese community to discuss concerns and ideas. Following the meeting they will pose for pictures releasing the new sign for the campaign written in Chinese characters.

The new sign will be unveiled at 11:45 a.m. in front of the new Archway at the Yangtze Restaurant located at 700 Somerset Street West.



Voting Green

Posted by Alistair Steele

I had originally planned to cover this Friday morning, but a series of unfortunate events on Thursday evening took precedence (a fatal bike accident in New Brunswick, followed by that horrific car crash at a bus stop on Albert Street). Anyway, better late than never.

Ecology Ottawa and EnviroCentre have released the results of what it's calling "the city's first green poll" to coincide with the election. The poll offers an interesting look at where voters stand on environmental issues. Among the key findings:

  • Sixty-nine per cent of Ottawa residents would support charging lower fees for greener buildings, and higher fees for those that fall below industry standards.
  • Four out of every five residents believe the City of Ottawa should implement a more aggressive energy efficiency program for its buildings and services, and use more green energy and fuel.
  • Almost two-thirds of residents think the City of Ottawa should invest its annual dividends from Hydro Ottawa in energy efficiency programs instead of parking the money in general revenues.
  • More than half believe the City should provide interest-free loans to residents and businesses for energy-efficiency and renewable upgrades.

On the surface, it's probably not very surprising that residents support the notion of greener buildings, energy efficiency and help for green businesses. What is significant is that they're also willing to make the financial commitment that goes along with it. However when asked whether the city should "spend less on new roads and instead spend more on improving public transportation, cycling infrastructure and other ways ro reduce traffic," 52 per cent said no. Barely one third said yes. That means that as much as folks say they want to go green, they're not ready to cut spending on roads.

So far the environment hasn't figured very prominently in the mayoral campaign. Yes, public transit has been front and centre at all the debates, but it's usually framed as a city-building initiative rather than an environmental solution. Clive Doucet is so far the only front-runner who's making the environment a focus of his campaign. We've yet to see Jim Watson's environmental platform, and Larry O'Brien -- while he has been a constant champion of the current light rail plan -- is also pushing for a ring road, and is careful in debates to avoid alienating the car-commuting voter.

Ecology Ottawa is also organizing a mayoral debate next Sunday.

What Watson Said

Posted by Alistair Steele

There's been a lot of ink spilled over Jim Watson's big transit announcement Wednesday morning. In fact, Watson's been leaning towards light rail all week. At Monday's OTAG debate, he clearly indicated he was onside with the tunnel plan, provided it can be managed and completed for $2.1-billion. Here's what he said to reporters afterwards:

"I've been very consistent. All I have said is that we've got to keep the costs under control, because a slight variation on the 2.1-billion dollars will put in jeopardy future, other capital projects. I want to see the project go ahead, I want to make sure we don't push another reset button because we did that once under Mr. O'Brien, it cost us over a hundred million dollars. So let's get on with it. We've wasted eight years, over a hundred million dollars, we've studied this now. It should be east-west, it should be with a tunnel, and it should be light rail."

Asked what he'll do if the tenders come in at over $2.1-billion: "I agree with what the mayor said, we need to cut the suit to fit the cloth, because any cost overruns are going to be solely the responsibility of the municipal government, they're not going to be shared by the provincial or federal governments. So it's in our best collective interest that we get our act together on this project, do it right, and make sure that we get this project off the ground."

Watson's claim that he's been consistent on the issue is a bit of a stretch. Just a few months ago, Watson was warning us the city's $900-million share of the project would balloon to $1.4-billion due to cost overruns. Now he says with proper, arm's length management, he'll get it done on budget. The O'Brien team is loving this.

And by the way, I think Watson meant to say "under the ground," but that ship has flown.

Packing the Room

Posted by Alistair Steele

Getting your supporters out to mayoral debates is nothing new. It's a time-honoured tradition at every level of office. But at last night's event, hosted by the Kanata Chamber of Commerce and the Kanata Kourier-Standard, one candidate made especially good use of the home crowd.

As with the OTAG debate, audience members were asked to submit questions and declare which two candidates they wanted to answer them. Larry O'Brien supporters may have a lot of great attributes, but subtlety isn't one of them. Many, if not most of the audience questions last night were aimed squarely at the mayor's main rival, and designed to give O'Brien a leg up. Where do O'Brien and Watson stand on the question of a ring road? We already know the answer: It was one of O'Brien's marquee campaign promises last week. The burning question on another resident's mind: What will the candidates do about the paucity of public washrooms in the vicinity of the War Memorial? Watson didn't really know how to handle that one. O'Brien did. He had an answer all ready, including an account of a meeting with the NCC on that very subject. What are the odds? And what was with all the questions about Watson's ties to the McGuinty Liberals? Everyone's aware of Watson's CV, but forcing him to publicly explain his support for the loathed ecotax and HST is clearly designed to benefit the incumbent. O'Brien's sister even asked a question.

The question that really left people scratching their heads had to do with Capital X-tra, the free newspaper that caters to Ottawa's gay and lesbien community. A woman wanted to know what candidates Watson and Maguire would do to prevent children from seeing such "inappropriate material" in public places. Where did that come from? Yes, there was a story concerning a mother who was upset her child had stumbled upon an ad she deemed obscene in a city-owned building. But that was a year ago. Forgotten until last night. What point was the questioner trying to make, exactly? To Watson's, and especially Maguire's credit, they handled the question smartly and with tact.

On another subject: My CBC colleague Maggie Padlewska is taking on the mammoth task of speaking with every single nominated candidate for mayor and council. That's right, every single one. Watch for her mini-profiles here on our election website, starting with the 20 folks who want the city's top job.

OTAG's Take

Posted by Alistair Steele

For the record, the good people at OTAG think their event went quite well, thank you very much. Here's part of an e-mail they sent around the next day:

The rules communicated to the candidates before the debate include; the audience could only ask a question to 2 people, if approached we would have increased the number to 4 people. There is absolutely no way you can have a meaningful debate if people are allowed to direct questions to all 20 candidates. One Mayoral candidate told us that this was the "best debate they have attended in the history of Ottawa" and some "other debates are only allowing the front runners to participate".

This debate was a win for taxpayers as it means that whoever is elected has committed to implement ideas that will drive change. A lot of effort went into the organization of the debate and we appreciate all the emails of appreciation that we have received from members and the public. We look forward to continuing to speak for the silent majority on the issues of taxes and spending.

I'll go out on a limb and guess the candidate who told OTAG it was the best debate ever was NOT Andy Haydon!

The Debate Debate

Posted by Alistair Steele

One mayoral debate into it, and the perennial conundrum's already dominating the discussion. No, it's not taxes. It's not the tunnel. It's the question of how to run a debate, and everybody's got an opinion.

On Monday night, the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group hosted the first mayoral throw-down of 2010. It's hard to fault anyone who goes to the extraordinary effort of booking a room, rounding up candidates, and getting bums in seats. Yes there were flaws with the format, prompting a cranky Andy Haydon to get up and leave before the final bell (it hasn't been reported anywhere, as far as I know, that Haydon had a prior engagement and was itching to split anyway...he said so to the audience). He felt he hadn't been included, and he was right: Organizers decreed members of the audience must direct their questions to two candidates only. It should have come as a surprise to no one that nearly all the questions went to O'Brien and Watson, leaving the other seven to twiddle their thumbs. (At one point Joseph Furtenbacher asked, "Can I go sit in the audience?") 

So should organizers have trimmed the debate down to the perceived front-runners? I used to think I knew the answer to that question. Of course they shouldn't. The fringers only molder in the electoral gulag because we in the media aren't giving them a fair chance to air their views. Then, in 2006, the CBC aired a live mayoral debate where we did include all the candidates. We begged the network for the air time, and we got it. All participants agreed to the ground rules. But a few minutes in, one of them objected to the format, which she felt favoured the front-runners. She torpedoed the broadcast for what seemed like 15 minutes (what was that Warhol said again?), ruining it for everyone. She wanted to be dragged from the stage, so she could show the world she was being oppressed.

It's difficult to condemn OTAG for trying to be inclusive. But by inviting nine candidates to Monday's party, and organizing it the way they did, the result was inevitable. The front-runners dominated. When the "fringers" did get a chance to speak, some seemed very reasonable. But others didn't. One, Robin Lawrance, clearly has some personal issues he needs to overcome before he should be allowed to participate in another public debate. Should he, along with other candidates who have no campaign organization, no website, and -- let's be frank -- few good ideas, be given the same air time as the three or four individuals who are working very hard to be your mayor? I'm not so sure anymore.

Walter Robinson has an interesting take related to all this here

Organizers will always have to deal with the problem of balancing inclusiveness and practicality. No one seems to have struck the perfect balance yet, but there's lots of time between now and October 25th to experiment.

Incidentally, Round 2 is tonight. They're expecting 10 or 11 candidates, last I heard.