Don’t Treat Residents Like They Are Morons



Ottawa has a lot of smart people within its boundaries.

To name just a few organizations with those kinds of folks: The Ottawa Heart Institute, the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, the National Research Council, The Experimental Farm, the federal public service, big media, the Kanata high-tech community … it goes on and on. This is one highly intelligent town.

So why does the City of Ottawa treat its residents as though they are morons? Given what has happened at Minto Field and numerous other screw ups, the secret of splitting the atom won’t be discovered by members of city staff.

Here’s how the city addressed its ridership decrease in a release to the public:

Today the City of Ottawa’s Transit Commission received the 2017 Operating and Capital Budget Q1- Transit Commission Status Report. The operating and capital financial results for 2017 report a $1.268 million surplus. The surplus is the result of savings related to unfilled job vacancies and lower fuel and facility costs.

Transit Commission unanimously approved a motion to recommend that Council direct staff to develop an equitable single-ride fare option for all OC Transpo services, based on the principles for the EquiPass and in compliance with existing commitments and policies regarding fare ratios, the Long Range Financial Plan and the Transit Affordability Plan for consideration as part of the 2018 budget process.

Transit Commission also received the Delegation of Authority report that identifies contracts awarded from July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. A copy of the report can be found at Service Ottawa.

Now you say the release doesn’t carry ridership statistics. Exactly. OC Transpo says a tiny decrease has occurred. But you won’t find it in this release or in the reports on Service Ottawa. One does discover however that OC Transpo had a surplus that’s spelled out quite well in the release.

In other words, print the good news but ignore the bad. Staffers think they’re pretty smart doing this. Ever hear of open government?

Nobody likes being patronized least of all people in this intelligent community who are fighting for the next big discover or trying to turn a high-tech profit in a difficult market. Smart people in particular, and residents in general, must be asking the question: “Just how stupid does city hall think we are?” Apparently very stupid.

In many large private organizations producing a report like this would result in a footprint on the posterior.

But not at city hall. No, this is called good public relations. And staffers think this is good governance.

It’s also stupid or deceptive. Or stupid and deceptive.

Perhaps it is time to shake the ivory towers in the little empires on Laurier Avenue. Residents don’t like being talked down to when they’re paying thousands of dollars to support the little mandarins who are patronizing them or deceiving them.

Just to put this in perspective, get an OC Transpo manager to pick up a scalpel at The Ottawa Hospital and perform a little brain surgery to see how it all works out. Probably not so well. Now send the brain surgeon to city hall and one can be quite confident that if he or she were running OC Transpo, they could produce down ridership figures just like we have now. Not a lot of brain surgery going on at city hall these days.

So let’s just say a little humility would be a nice break at the bylaw factory.

And give us the whole story as intelligent people should be given rather than the nice pablum dished out by OC Transpo this week.

After all, it’s our government, not the government of the challenged tall foreheads on Laurier Avenue.

We pay the freight. We are not morons.


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12 thoughts on “Don’t Treat Residents Like They Are Morons

    1. You know, Ron, I look at the screw-up page and I wonder how city staffers can patronize or ignore the public.

      A little humility is in order. And when you don’t include ridership figures in an update when you have them, well that’s just ridiculous.

      And by the person who is expert in talking down to reporters.

      Not good.



      1. Ken,
        You did it some more, using “ridiculous” was such a gracious word to use. You are, indeed, skilled in the historical use of rhetoric.
        Pathos, Ethos and Logos – of these three, sly wit is most effective.

      2. Ken, I have two separate comments to your response.

        The arrogance that eminates from Laurier Avenue knows no bounds. When one talks to staff in the planning, and traffic management departments (the two departments that I interact with on behalf of the Centrepointe Community Association), the general tone is one of deigning to entertain a discussion. They are there to lecture the supplicant on the merits of their conclusions, not to discuss whether the underlying assumptions that led to that conclusion are reasonable, or whether a minor variance in a key assumption might lead to a different conclusion. Their general tone is that we the people know nothing about anything.

        The other day, I read on Bulldog’s Full Local an article about whether OC Transpo has plans to be able to deploy, on short notice, alternative forms of public transit in the event that the LRT cannot provide service (e.g. power failure) along the full length of its routes. In that article, Councillor Leiper stated that he has asked Mr. Manconi what those plans are and that they be made public, as “trust us” is not an acceptable answer to give to the residents of Ottawa. So, my challenge to Councillor Leiper is why should we accept a “trust us” from OC Transpo on their estimation of what is a minor decline in ridership numbers?

  1. ” Just how stupid does city hall think we are?”

    There is an old “shaggy dog” poem that goes on and on. There are several variations to the poem, some have only a few stanzas and my favourite goes on for pages.

    All start with a variant of :

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    I come here before you to stand behind you,
    To tell you something I know nothing about.

    They all end with:
    If you don’t believe this lie is true,
    Just ask the blind man, he saw it too.

  2. I just started to go to the other features on the Bulldog and the first one I read was in “TheBest: The top stories in the world”
    The article is – ” Can Franken be a funny Senator”

    He is a great writer, in my opinion, and from what I have seen he is a perfect politician too.

    He uses the term ” sui generis” to describe Mr. Trump. That same thing could be said of most politicians, and their communications staff. A species of their own not fitting into a genus that includes other humans.

  3. “In many large private organizations producing a report like this would result in a footprint on the posterior.”

    I beg to differ. Try reading the first few pages of a financial report or a press release announcing quarterly or annual financial results put out by the company. When profits are up, the first page of the report will happily report this. When profits are down, the company will highlight every positive ratio they can find, but you won’t know profits are down until you get to the Income Statement. Even when there is no profit or a loss, companies will try to avoid clearly stating such a fact. The City is no different. Unless you read the detailed report, the inconvenient results are just buried but usually available if you look hard enough.

    1. Is the very small decline in ridership that is sort of reported by Mr. Manconi in absolute numbers, or as a percentage of an ever increasing population? Arithmetically, a very small decline in the absolute number of riders (the numerator in the equation), divided by an increasing population of Ottawa (the denominator in the equation) may lead one to the conclusion that the percentage decline in ridership is no longer “very small”.

      Of course, we would only know if the Mayor and his fellow councillors, the same ones that regularly tout how open, transparent and accountable their administration is, actually decided to share those absolute numbers with us.

      There is often more than a grain of truth in old adages, including the one cited by Fed-Up Voter.

      1. Ron:

        I’ve asked for the exact number and some other ridership numbers from city communications.

        I look forward to receiving them.




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