Harder’s Contempt For Ottawans: Part 3


Third of three parts:


The $600,000 environmental assessment only gives the impression of progress in Barrhaven. In fact, it is wasted money.

There are no plans to get LRT to Kanata or Barrhaven past 2031. Environmental assessments expire in five years. In these cases, they are worthless except to the re-election aspirations of Harder and Mayor Jim Watson. That $600,000 could buy a lot of things. Maybe some work on solving the vandalism problem in Barrhaven. Instead Watson and Harder are throwing that money out the window.

Furthermore, very disappointing is that the city has not even produced a promised grade-separation study on the horrific OC Transpo-Via rail crash north of Barrhaven which claimed six lives in 2013. All this time, millions of car trips have travelled this deadly level crossing not waiting for construction, but a study which might point to when construction might begin.

The chairwoman of planning committee not only can’t get LRT to Barrhaven, she can’t produce a study on fixing a deadly level crossing that tens of thousands of her constituents use daily.

In journalism we have a term for when reporters have been on a beat too long and identify with their sources more than the media organization and readers they represent. It’s called “going native”.

Not a politically correct term but that’s the name. That’s what has happened to Jan Harder and city staff. They identify more with the development community than with the public they are supposed to serve.

The mayor knows what Harder is doing and he could change that if he didn’t approve. He approves. All Harder represents is the wishes of the mayor who just wants to stay above the dirty work and maintain his lovely and voteable persona of good ole Uncle Jim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The situation has become so serious that when one staffer was asked why 900 Albert was rushed through at city hall, the person said the city didn’t want to offend the developer. Destroy participatory democracy, make a joke of the rule of law, ruin the inclusiveness of municipal process, don’t represent the wishes of the public and curb free expression on municipal projects, but god forbid you offend a developer.

Harder and city staff have lost their way.

So too Watson. The mayor knows what Harder is doing and he could change that if he didn’t approve. He approves. All Harder represents is the wishes of the mayor who just wants to stay above the dirty work and maintain his lovely and voteable persona of good ole Uncle Jim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Harder is the business end of the club Watson uses to back the development community..

Our municipal political system is at its lowest ebb. It’s what you get when the public doesn’t care, the media gets smaller and public servants and politicians think they can get away with anything.

This sad crew at city hall must be turfed out in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Ken Gray is the editor of The Bulldog and spent seven years covering Ottawa City Hall for the Ottawa Citizen. He was also a member of the Citizen editorial board and worked for five major Canadian newspapers over a 40-year journalism career.


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11 thoughts on “Harder’s Contempt For Ottawans: Part 3

  1. Mr. Gray,
    You said a mouthful.
    All 3 parts need to be printed out and hung on your readers’ refrigerators.

  2. I find intriguing the concept that the mayor and a local councillor can decide, without reference to city council, to spend $600K of found money on whatever pleases them. To be absolutely clear, that $600K was not allocated to an environmental study in the budget. No one on council said a word about it. Not one councillor piped up and asked whether the $600K might, just might have been better directed at social housing, infrastructure repairs, reserve fund replenishment … the list goes on. Not one councillor pointed out, as former councillor Alex Cullen did, that an environmental assessment has a shelf life of only five years, and thus the $600K being spent on this environmental assessment was not going to provide any lasting benefit to the residents of Ottawa, given that there is no mention in any official plan of light rail making it as far as Barrhaven within the next five years.

    Under what form of representative democracy is this even possible?

    1. Ron:

      I don’t know if this has any bearing on your argument, but the money was taken from development charges.

      I don’t know if that has a different standard than other funds.



      1. Ken, the source of the “found” money may indeed limit where it can be spent. Funds “found” in the development charge fund may need to be spent on items in the development fund budget. Having said that, was there any discussion around the council chamber on what the best use of the $600K of “found” money was? Were all of the councillors, as in every one of them, rather than just Mayor Watson’s insider group a la the $10 million Christmas Miracle (trademark pending to the benefit of Councillor Chiarelli) notified of the $600K of “found” money and given the opportunity to identify appropriate uses?

        What we do know is that, with a five year window on environmental assessments, the $600K of “found” money is being squandered, unless one thinks that the current re-election campaigns of Mr. Watson and Ms. Harder are a good and valid use of city funds.

    2. They do this all the time. And yes, many need to be turfed, staring with Harder. Many thanks for the article.

      There has always been a tension between the urban and suburban/rural wards, but it’s getting really ridiculous now and the public is paying for it.

      The community has also been ignored over the:

      1. Mooney’s Bay fiasco, where the city negotiated a deal with a TV production company, without telling anyone. Sinking Ships then ran out of money to complete playground equipment and landscaping. Did we pick up that cost?
      2. Carlington bike park. Unlike what everyone is being told, it’s not for kids; it’s for adults who want to destroy a pollinator meadow and an environmentally protected zone in the same area. The city has been working with this bike association for more than six years, but the community has only known about it for two years; the “design” consultations that were held had no detailed design; one board was even printed upside down. The bike association has zero knowledge of the area. The city has given them a matching grant of $153,000. Likely we’ll be on the hook for more.
      3. Convent on Richmond Road. Promise to retain convent building intact and to provide “community space” were lies; despite early knowledge of the state of the building, developer says it can’t be done on its budget and is now applying for only residential and restaurant space (in a building that still isn’t anywhere near to being rented out). Promise broken by developer. City silos the issues by not allowing discussion within the context of the entire development.
      4. Loblaws Westboro. Completely new plan for senior residences over original townhome plan, again a promise to the community broken by a developer. The Loblaws development merely continues a 20-year-long fight.
      5. Rochester Field. Bye bye meadow, bees, butterflies, cut through to the river; bye-bye breath of air after you get out of what is now an increasingly crowded Westboro Village.

      I’m too tired to add more right now.

  3. Ken,

    I have often wondered how an environmental study now could be of any use for the hypothetical date of 2031.

    Now I know it is useless. That information is now available and I will ask the rhetorical question: Why has no member of council or the mayor ever given that information to us, their employers?

    Excellent presentation of information, thank you.

  4. It would be nice to see some viable competition for her position come the municipal election, but more likely scenario is she does one or two more terms and bows out on her own.

    There hasn’t been anyone close in what … 15 or 20 years? She has given many years of service, which is laudable, but it could be based more out of inertia and convenience than a burning desire to help community or effect change.

    Since you raised the matter at front of column, on the Barrhaven vandalism, what would hiring more police do at the event if once you arrest them, you simply release them without so much as community service to do. I would love to know whose teenager that was to receive the nice treatment. That was very quietly dealt with, no? As Jan used to be on the board, she should have some clout to look into why the kid who needed to be tasered was let off hook. Worth noting that the incident could have gone a lot worse for authorities and the event.

    You are bang on re: the transit file and the grade-separated rail. Hard to know if a different person could make a dent in these matters, but I suppose we’ll never have luxury of knowing.


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