Why LeBreton Is Not A Senators Slam Dunk



You’ll remember that Mayor Jim Watson got Ottawa City Council to give himself and city manager Steve Kanellakos sole authority to negotiate a deal on LeBreton Flats.

Then whatever they negotiate can be brought back to the Stepford Council for automatic approval.

But wait a second … why are there negotiations? Isn’t that the role of the National Capital Commission as it deals with its own land? Isn’t the job of the NCC to simply put a proposal in front of planning committee and subsequently council? When did the city move from approvals to negotiator? When did the city become deal-maker or deal-breaker rather than legislator? Didn’t the NCC finish with that on federal public property?

Here’s why Watson wants to negotiate solely and get involved in the details of the deal.

The city has a profound conflict of interest. That’s because it is “partnered” (the city’s own words) with developers at Lansdowne. Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is the chief entertainment competition for Eugene Melnyk and the Ottawa Senators. To bring the Senators and the entertainment component of the current Canadian Tire Centre downtown further promotes competition with the city’s partnership at Lansdowne.

Furthermore, perhaps some of the development community (a part of Ottawa Watson firmly supports) wants a piece of the action at LeBreton. Watson is in a position now to give that to them.

So here are two reasons for Watson to want to negotiate. First, his development friends get a chance to make money off LeBreton. Second, Watson can stop the arena part of the project to protect the municipality’s interest at Lansdowne. That’s a lot of power and few like power more than Jim Watson.

Then Watson has personal reasons for wanting a big say in what occurs at LeBreton.

First, the mayor strongly dislikes the NCC. Watson has made a career of fighting the federal custodian of public lands. As well His Worship took a terrible loss when the Crown corporation forced the city to tunnel down the NCC’s Macdonald Parkway. Second, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk dislikes the mayor over his botched handling of a casino the club wanted a piece of. For Watson’s part, the dislike is mutual.

The stakes are very high at LeBreton.

The community can finally rid itself of land that has sat fallow within sight of the Parliament Buildings for decades. It can lose an eyesore and under-developed land.

As well, the new arena is critical to the survival of the National Hockey League club. Sagging attendance this year at the CTC shows exactly how fragile the small market in the national capital region is for major league hockey. The arena in Kanata over time will spell the end of the Senators. Connections to the Quebec and east-end market are very poor. That eliminates a great part of the NCR small market for the struggling club.

So what is at stake is the biggest undeveloped piece of land near downtown that will have a huge effect on the future of this community. So too is the future in jeopardy of the only real major league sports team in town … one of the great promoters of Ottawa inside and outside the city.

Watson has sole authority over this negotiation, approval and development with his control of a rubber-stamp council. Unfortunately, the city has a real interest in seeing the LeBreton project fail added to Watson’s dislike of the NCC and Melnyk.

The LeBreton project is now in Watson’s hands. He has real reasons to see LeBreton flop.

And if it does, the responsibility for that failure will be Watson’s alone.

That comes with sole authority.


Video above: The plans for LeBreton.

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6 thoughts on “Why LeBreton Is Not A Senators Slam Dunk

  1. Ken,
    I believe that you have made some valid points regarding multiple areas of conflict.

    I would hope that the NCC is aware of these things and that it will exercise its considerable authority.

  2. Here is a bit of correspondence that might bring some light:

    Dear Ann Landers,

    I am asking you to help me solve an ethical dilemma.

    A landlord has asked me to help him negotiate a contract between himself and a new tenant. The new tenant wants to open a hamburger joint. The problem is that I and a partner are already operating a hamburger joint in this same building. I also don’t like the guy who will be the new tenant.

    What should I do?

    Yours truly,

    Dear Addlebrained,

    Give your head a shake. What is wrong with you? You can’t be involved. Now go wash your mouth out with soap and say 10 Hail Marys. You are, indeed, a confused fool.

    Yours sincerely,

  3. The World According to Jim

    I am the king and you peons are my subjects.

    You pay me to govern you but this is because I let you live in my kingdom. My fellow governors (read councilors/developers) are here solely to do my bidding and to reap the vast riches from my lands (taxes) and to help make me look great (photo ops, envelope openings, muffin eating shows, bake sales)

    If any of you silly folk doubt my word I shall ostracize you and make your life difficult. Now repeat after me. Long live King James.

  4. The difficulty here is that whatever Watson gets up to in this ‘negotiating’ of his, by the time any of us lowly plebs find out, it will probably be too late to salvage things.

    I hope that the NCC has the guts to tell him that the negotiating with the Sens is their job and he should butt out. If that doesn’t happen, let’s hope that Melnyk tells him to stuff it or else makes the whole thing public from the get go.

    ‘Negotiating’ takes two parties and the NCC and Melnyk need to stay away from it entirely.

    I remain baffled as to why this piece of land and its zoning should be handled any differently from any other in the city. I also fail to understand what council was thinking going along with this nonsense. Unfortunately, I know the ‘answers’ to those two points – I’m still looking for good answers though that don’t defy logic and good sense.

    1. The Voter:

      Because of the Lansdowne partnership and the competition LeBreton provides, one fears that Watson might try to scuttle the NCC development.

      Remember that Lansdowne is not going well. Sometimes desperate times demand desperate measures.

      At any resistance from the city, Melnyk should go public with what the city is trying to do.

      There are a lot of Senators fans in the community. The threat of losing the Senators would be an unforgivable political sin for Watson. You don’t mess with the most media-conscious entity in Ottawa or where tens of thousands of people pay thousands of dollars just to watch.

      No one pays to watch Watson or city council. If Watson crosses the Senators, he loses mountains of votes in next year’s municipal election.

      But then Watson might be over-confident and think he can take on the popular Senators. He does so at his own electoral risk.




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