Put The Word ‘Servant’ Back In Public Servant


ottawa city hall


Only the City of Ottawa could take four days to tell a journalist that no one is available for an interview.

I guess 78,000 page views a week here at the friendly neighbourhood Bulldog aren’t enough to get someone to lift up their phone.

Your agent remembers a regional CEO by the name of Merv Beckstead who would apologize if he didn’t get back to journalists within a couple of hours. But then Beckstead was one of the best public servants at any level of government to grace this city. He took the words ‘public servant’ seriously. But then he was a good public servant.

Beckstead should be brought back to city hall for a couple of seminars on open government.

You can see from the email below why communications and the media at city hall have a rocky relationship. One of the few words the city bureaucracy is concerned about is ‘gamesmanship.’

When you don’t co-operate with the media, it generally comes back to bite you. I know this from about four decades of experience.

Here is the response to The Bulldog’s request to speak with someone of authority to speak on the city not announcing the signing of a $180-million light-rail contract between Rideau Transit Group and Alstom for 30 years of maintenance.

The only way The Bulldog discovered the huge contract that taxpayers paid for was through a release from Alstom which had regulatory reasons for the disclosure. It was not like the City of Ottawa didn’t know about it.

His Worship Jim Watson was quoted in the Alstom release.

Anyway, here is the city response after four days:

Hi Ken,

No one is available for an interview. The following response is sent on behalf of Steve Cripps, Director, RIO:

All contracts contained within the $2.1 billion project are negotiated and managed through RTG.  



Open, caring and inclusive … that’s what the City of Ottawa once called itself. Now the slogan would be closed, uncaring and exclusive. Perhaps Mr. Cripps might be able to provide an argument as to why the residents of the City of Ottawa were not to be informed about how $180 million of their tax dollars were being used.

‘It’s not my job’ isn’t really good enough when the City of Ottawa was fully aware of the deal and the Alstom announcement. Sounds like the city didn’t want the public to know.

Perhaps 1.8-million Ottawa resident eyes aren’t good enough for a release.

Open, caring and inclusive. A good mantra for a public servant.

Wonder what else they aren’t telling us?



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6 thoughts on “Put The Word ‘Servant’ Back In Public Servant

  1. The City should have issued some form of press release regarding the award of the contract to Alstrom, notwithstanding it being a Friday before a long weekend. Having failed to do so, they now find themselves in a corner. Either they try to defend the indefensible, or as far too many politicians prefer, ignore the problem. Their fall back strategy is to hope that either the journalists will stop trying to pin the tail on the donkey, or that another fiasco will replace the current one in the minds of the public. Given the history of the Watson administrations, my money is on another fiasco, and it is likely already on the horizon.


  2. Report to Council, submitted by :Nancy Schepers, dated December 4, 2012
    – page 54:
    “To address the changing outreach dynamic, the RIO will undertake a COMMUNITY-ORIENTED communications approach similar to what was done for the Bank Street reconstruction and Lansdowne projects, including the following specific initiatives:”

    So there you have it Ken, you HAVE been COMMUNICATED with by RIO.
    What more could you possibly need to know?



    1. Lord save us if the city’s standard for communication is the fiasco that was, and is, Lansdowne.

      (Just an aside, does that mean that RTG will walk away owning part of the LRT and maybe get to build condos down there?)

      You have to admit it’s a pretty attractive set-up for the City. They take credit for all that goes well but, if there’s a screw-up resulting from any of these contracts, they can say “Wasn’t me! It was those guys over there!” Whether they still get the great privilege of using tax dollars to pay for those screw-ups (Lansdowne roof, anyone) remains to be seen.


  3. Just goes to show you, open and tranparent and on time on budget are currently two very popular City statements. Really, their phrase is ..Keep the public/taxpayers uninformed and they will not have anything to question.

    The monkeys are running the zoo and the City is running all over us. Remember all of this when the next election comes around. To this time, I have seen very few that I feel worthy of return to Council, be it Mayor or Councillor.

    Anne Marie


  4. I still remember Merv Beckstead and Bob Chiarelli out front and centre during the Ice Storm making sure we knew what was going on. Can you just imagine what would happen if we had a recurrence? It would be “Into the bunker and batten down the hatches! Speak to no-one!” Well, except for a brief tweet from Mayor Watson that there was a snow and ice situation and the streets would all be cleared by May at the latest.


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