The City Of Ottawa Is A Sick Organization

Watson: he should resign
Watson: he should resign

The citizens of this municipality should be appalled.

In the case of the Hazeldean bridge, the city approved a design that could not support the weight of the span, let alone vehicles using it. Furthermore the people who should be in the know on this sort of problem only answer questions by email (so they say just what they want and are not burdened with tricky follow-up questions from journalists) and then are unavailable to comment when an embarrassing report is uncovered.

Journalist Glen Gower was told by the city no review existed on the problems at the Hazeldean bridge. So he tried municipal freedom of information and, sure enough, there was a damning report. The city (no let me correct that … OUR city, not the public servants’ nor the politicians’) denied there was a report most certainly because it would reveal horrible incompetence.

In other words, the City of Ottawa was withholding critical information from the public which pays for the City of Ottawa because the municipality screwed up. And not only was the information covered up, but information critical to the safety of the citizens of Ottawa was squelched. This from what is supposed to be a democracy. People could have been killed on the Hazeldean bridge had the bridge not done the right thing … sagged when no one was using it.

The safety of the people of Ottawa was taken into question.

So let’s review. The city made a horrible error and rather than reveal that mistake, it denied a report existed on the circumstances around that error. This is a gross abrogation of the responsibilities of public servants who knew about the error and the communications people who said the report did not exist.

The City of Ottawa was incompetent, hid that fact and tried to deceive the citizens of Ottawa.

Heads should roll.

It’s not so much the error, which is a pretty bad one, but the fact that the city lied about the fact that a report on that error did not exist. Such action shows why the people of Ottawa do not trust their municipal government.

We have seen bridges that don’t work and a light-rail project that costs three times as much as the cancelled plan at one-third the length. A plan that can’t afford to build the required number of light-rail stations downtown because these underground stations are too expensive to build. Rather than taking a train to their desired destination, riders will walk long distances to get to where they are going. A train with proper stations would be faster. A waste of $1.4 billion.

This is a city that did not conduct a ridership study of a $2.1-billion rail project. A government that plans a rail line where not one lives … the same line that is being tunnelled down a park.

And did we mention that the roof of the unnecessary light-rail tunnel collapsed during construction? Or that the roof leaked at the Lansdowne arena before millions of dollars of repairs were conducted on this showplace redevelopment and it leaks after millions of dollars of repairs. As well, the city spent tens of millions of dollars on Lansdowne with a contract that was supposed to have a top-end ceiling on cost but then the city ate the millions of dollars of repairs on the arena roof at Lansdowne … and it still leaks.

Now the taxpayers of Ottawa await money from the waterfall agreement at Lansdowne only to discover that the waterfall has dried up for the foreseeable future. The only successful civic waterfall is the liquid falling on the rink at Lansdowne Park.

What does the mayor of Ottawa do when bad news occurs? Does he lead? No, he turtles. Where was he when the roof collapsed on the light-rail project? Where was he when the roof leaked at Lansdowne?

The City of Ottawa lies, ignores, covers-up, patronizes and practices a kind of incompetence that is mind-wobbling. And it takes a journalist from a little newspaper in Stittsville to discover the Hazeldean mess.

The Bulldog website would call for the resignation of the two deputy city managers and the city manager but there aren’t any permanent executives in place in those roles.

Auditor general Ken Hughes must do a thorough audit of what occurred at Hazeldean bridge from the planning department to the procurement and the coverup. Who knew, who made mistakes and who denied the report existed.

The actions on the Hazeldean bridge should never be allowed to happen again. Was not the blistering incompetence at the Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge enough? In addition, we hope Hughes does the same thorough audit he plans on the Lansdowne project.

This is the corporate culture built by Mayor Jim Watson. The top guy is ultimately responsible and the Hazeldean incident is characteristic of that culture.

Despite the fear of being blacklisted by a mayor who didn’t like the message from this website in a previous instance, The Bulldog for a third time calls for the resignation of Mayor Jim Watson.

Incoming city manager Steve Kanellakos can’t get here soon enough.

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12 thoughts on “The City Of Ottawa Is A Sick Organization

  1. Engineers either as employees of the city or on contract/retainer to the city should be ultimately responsible and accountable for mistakes like these.


    1. Bruce, there are two City based problems here.

      Without knowing what the actual requirements are regarding approving detailed engineering submissions, I am reluctant to look for the heads of city staff to roll, but will point out that this is not the first instance of a failed bridge design, in Ottawa, and one of the common denominators is Genivar. Genivar, or whatever they choose to call themselves today or tomorrow, should be excluded from bidding on any project requiring engineering design work ACROSS CANADA, for five years. Failures should never be rewarded.

      The second problem is much more pervasive. The failure to disclose that a report exists, and that that report casts a negative shadow on the city, is a dangerous precedent in the context of a democratically accountable entity. As the Bulldog points out near the end of his column, the culture at the City is fundamentally flawed. An old saying comes to mind “the fish first rots from the head”.


  2. Ken,
    I just read the article by Glen Gower. This piece points out many problems and a definite cover-up. The background info shows that there was a cover-up. The pictures of the current condition on the bridge show a disturbing separation on the bridge. I certainly would not use this bridge.
    Heads should indeed roll.


      1. Ken,
        That is the biggest problem. Heads should roll. People should be fired.

        Things go unpunished and get forgotten. The people involved realize that they are immune.
        The existence of the report was not undisclosed by accident.


      2. There’s no way heads will roll. Heads never roll at City Hall because nobody ever does anything wrong. And if they do, they’ve already left the City’s employ by the time it sees the light of day (green bin) and can’t be held to account.


  3. The ‘Hazeldean Bridge’ is yet one more example of a project overdone and poorly done.

    Do people realize that this MASSIVE, inept structure was built to go over what certain people called the Carp River. It may have been a river at one point in time, not in the 40 years I have observed it, it is a creek! Now, we have people, many, many people, travelling along this bridge that, when it collapses, will not cause the drowning of many but will cause their deaths. Just go and look at the ‘drop’ and the many, many pounds of concrete that will fall upon them.

    Every day, I become more and more disgusted at what we call a Municipal Council…led by a Mayor who demonstrates that he does not give a toot about our City.


  4. Thanks for your post about this Ken!

    Your readers might be interested in learning a bit more about

    I launched the site in the fall of 2014 as an experiment in community journalism. The goal: get Stittsville citizens better informed, interested, and engaged with local issues.

    The response has been tremendous. We consistently reach over 15,000 readers per month. We have strong support from the local business community, and dozens of readers contribute via a $5/month voluntary subscription. We use the funds to hire young freelance reporters (from journalism programs at Carleton, Algonquin and Ryerson). We’re sharing stories about our community that you can’t find anywhere else, and many of them get picked up by mainstream media.

    A few other recent stories that might be of interest:


    Glen Gower


    1. Glen:

      Good luck with your project.

      A start-up is a daunting project … I know a bit about that.

      And hang tough on the Hazeldean bridge story. I think you have a good one there.

      Were I doing it, for what it’s worth, I would pursue the business about denying the report existed and what the city is doing about that. You need comment from the city on what it is doing about it and ask councillors how they feel. As well, bring the community associations in on it as well. Interest groups and maybe even national associations as well.

      It is unconscionable that the city cannot be truthful to the people of this community. It’s a democracy and we pay these public servants some of whom appear to think that the City of Ottawa is their own private preserve. People have a right to know. They expect their own government to be truthful, not going rogue.

      The City of Ottawa is OUR government, not their government. Public servants administer at the will of the public. They have been given a trust. Now we find we can’t trust them. The public needs to win back city hall.

      I have long said it is time for a reform mayor who will root this kind of thing out of municipal government. The City of Ottawa has lost touch with its citizens … in some cases deliberately.

      Were I the mayor, I would be looking for heads to chop. You can’t have lying or the government loses its legitimacy. Get a comment from the mayor.

      Shake the tree. More fruit will fall. Perhaps this is a systematic situation that has ties to other events. There are good people at city hall who won’t be happy about this situation. Cultivate them.

      That’s where the real story resides. Keep the pot boiling.

      Great work. Stay on it. It’s not over.




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