Ottawa’s Democracy In Jeopardy


Did Mayor Jim Watson or planning committee chairwoman Jan Harder run on a platform that included a concierge service for the city’s developers at Ottawa City Hall?

The short answer? No.

Was this method of speeding approvals through city hall (by way of a “client relationship councillor” appointed to each major developer) debated in a public forum during the election. No.

And this personal concierge actually has the power to overrule some planning department decisions. So for whom is the developer “ambassador” working. Well that’s obvious. It’s not you and me.

Strangely no one publicly declared during the campaign that developers were being denied their right to speedy project resolutions. Given the way zoning has been treated in Ottawa, it looks as though developers are getting not-a-few breaks already.

Why was the concierge system not discussed?

Because it would have cost the mayor and incumbent councillors votes. Few people support giving a segment of the community breaks other Ottawa residents don’t get. And if you believe, as Harder said, that community associations and individual residents might get concierges down the road … well … that will happen when it rains toasters over Blackburn Hamlet.

City staff has become so close to the development community that its employees have forgotten for whom they work. Developers are “clients.” What? Residents are a nuisance. Wait a second … isn’t there something wrong here. Shouldn’t residents be calling the shots at city hall? Maybe the folks on Laurier Avenue aren’t up on this concept … Google it … it’s called democracy.

Developers interests are much more important than the wishes of the general public, at least that’s how it looks through city eyes. Consultations on development with the public are but a formality to staff and result in little but to give a facade of democracy.

Harder dismissed the concierge criticism saying councillors represent the people. Except they represent developers a lot more. Why some members of planning committee take campaign donations from developers. If that isn’t a conflict of interest, your agent has never seen a conflict.

So we have a city council whose leader discourages debate and muzzles information to the press. We have a staff that can’t get projects such as Orgaworld and bridges and sinkholes right.

And now the City of Ottawa is giving developers, who are already specially treated, better treatment.

City government is taking on the characteristics of an oligarchy rather than a democracy. Residents should be deeply concerned.

Perhaps community associations should implore Premier Kathleen Wynne to send in provincial administrators to take a look at how Ottawa is run.

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