City, Media Botch Response To Beckstead Death


Merv Beckstead was very important to this community.

He and former regional chairman Bob Chiarelli navigated Ottawa-Carleton through the Ice Storm of 1998, its biggest crisis since the Great Ottawa Fire of 1900. No doubt Chiarelli and the former regional CAO saved lives through their prompt and efficient action of getting the lights back on and furnaces running in the coldest days of January here.

Not to minimize the difficulties caused by our recent history of tornadoes, that damage was dwarfed by the ice storm in which some parts of eastern Ontario were without electricity for as long as 24 days. People’s lives were at stake. Yet of the major cities crippled by the storm (Montreal was on the cusp of being evacuated), Ottawa responded by far the best of the effected communities.

That’s because of, in part, Beckstead and Chiarelli. Prior to amalgamation in 2001, those two men were the equivalent of city manager and mayor. Beckstead was as important as recently familiar names such as Steve Kanellakos, Kent Kirkpatrick and Bruce Thom.

And yet, what coverage has Beckstead’s death received? Almost nothing. Apparently the Ottawa Citizen is not capable of reading its own obituaries because Beckstead’s death is there. The other media have ignored it.

Perhaps it’s cutbacks, rookie reporters and editors, short memories or just plain bad journalism that Beckstead’s death has received little attention. And it wasn’t that hard to find. The news broke in The Bulldog last Tuesday.

But worse than the media is the reaction of the City of Ottawa. Beckstead was among the best of the best in the history of the area’s municipal sphere and the city has mentioned nothing. No press release, no lowering of flags, no nothing.

This is shoddy, uncaring and incompetent. Beckstead could have managed rings around the crew of Keystone Cops we have on Laurier Avenue now. Beckstead is the gold standard. Current city staff is the tin standard.

And the municipal public service reinforces its poor performance by ignoring Beckstead’s death.

The City of Ottawa, in this instance and others, is woefully incompetent and brutally uncaring.

Ken Gray


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2 Responses

  1. The Voter says:

    I too am surprised at the silence from both the City Hall and the media. Maybe they’re afraid of people being reminded of his quiet, calm, confident competence because they might be reminded of what ‘public service’ really looks like and don’t think they’d survive a comparison with Merv’s work. Not a single one of the city managers that has followed him can hold a candle to Merv.

    They will, of course, be there with bells on at his memorial service to gladhand and bask in his reflection.

  2. Bob Gauvreau says:

    Merv Beckstead was an inspiration and a beacon of light for all who had the pleasure and benefit to serve while he was in charge. He guided me through many challenging situations and I will always be thankful. He was an excellent leader respected by all.
    RIP Merv et Merci Beaucoup
    Bob Gauvreau

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