Don’t Change A Winning Game Josh Kardish



Josh Kardish, Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association president and developer, took on the issue of city planning czar John Moser’s retirement party and statements made about the gathering.

However Moser’s retirement party is much less interesting than his statement in the Citizen this week.

By Kardish’s own words:

  • he admits he has unfettered access to city staff;
  • Kardish points out that developer fees pay for the planning department;
  • he indicates that developers create good relationships with their regulators that community members cannot achieve;
  • that developers over time with all their dealings at city hall become friendly with officials there;
  • that developers have a healthy working relationship with their regulators.

But in addition to Kardish’s words, other things occur:

  • developers and their officials donate large amounts of money to councillors’ election campaigns. Councillors have direct regulatory powers over development decisions. That is an unprecedented amount of influence over their regulators;
  • that the chairwoman of the planning committee is an unabashed fan of developers;
  • that they are repeatedly getting height and zoning exemptions from elected officials;
  • that developers can hire the best lawyers and experts to defend their decisions while community associations often must go to hearings themselves because they don’t have the money that the building industry has to hire lawyers;
  • that the City of Ottawa actually created a concierge program to whisk developers through the planning process.

Now Kardish and presumably his lobby group want to be above criticism. When a Citizen staffer writes a couple of critical paragraphs about the development industry, Kardish fires off an op-ed to the Citizen.

We defend Kardish’s right to free speech as much as the Citizen’s or The Bulldog’s for that matter.

But criticize the Citizen? The newspaper publishes two homes sections on Saturday that are so sweet, one has to floss after reading … yards of puff pieces about buying a home. Other industries would kill for that kind of coverage.

“It is time for the Citizen to cover the actual – often contentious – planning policy issues,” Kardish said. Well that was what the Citizen was doing the contentious story while flipping softballs to the industry in the two homes sections.

The development industry has never had it so good … at least since 1998 when your agent came on the municipal scene: the city eating out of developers’ hands; relentlessly favourable decisions at planning committee and council; a city staff that bends over backwards to serve the industry; the ability to give campaign donations to their regulators; fawning press coverage while staff creates and council approves the concierge program.

So here’s some advice for developers. Take your journalism criticism with a smile … the same smile that works so well with city staff and politicians. You will be criticized (rarely in Ottawa) so take it in good cheer. Keep the lines of communications open with journalists. They might start to like you.

Most of all, don’t draw attention to the fantastic relations you have at city hall that earn you millions.

It’s like a miner coming out of the hills to town yelling “I’ve got bags of gold.” Maybe someone will try to take the gold from him.

Furthermore the provincial government is playing footsie with you on campaign donation limits and transit-oriented development which allows incredible heights in neighbourhoods with light rail and the like. What more do you want? Someone should throw a flag for piling on.

In other words if you’ve got the city and the media eating out of your hands, don’t tell people or they might want to take that power away from you. Never change a winning game.

Everybody likes gold.


Video above: A new home in three minutes

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Change A Winning Game Josh Kardish

  1. Why YES, we get what we want, when we want it, and YES, we get to know the city staff, and YES, the city hires outside planning consultants who work for us to work at City Hall on development files and then lets them go back to their outside practice. Is that a problem?

  2. The Ottawa Citizen called it ” a rebuttal “.

    I would say that Mr. Kardish wrote an unmasking; a letting the cat out of the bag; perhaps an expose.

    “We live in a system that necessitates this reality” sums up exactly where the problems come from.

    Maybe his next rebuttal will explain the underbelly of the beast.

  3. How about we don’t call it a rebuttal but instead name it – Confessions of a Homebuilder

    “Life would be a lot easier if conversations were rewindable and erasable, like videos. Or if you could instruct people to disregard what you just said, like in a courtroom.” Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

  4. I doubt Mr. Kardish was being altruistic when making these statements. These are not new revelations. With so many controversial developments, I think we are finally seeing a backlash by Ottawans against the unfettered access that developers have at City Hall. Ottawans are saying enough is enough. Maybe our voice can be loud enough in 2018 so that the tide of developer dominance at City Hall will be shifted.


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