Clamp Down On City Hall Mistakes: THE VOTER

 

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The building of generators to charge OC Transpo’s fleet of e-buses is a significant omission from the report Ottawa City Council approved in early 2023.

Any standing committee as well as council should have standard first questions that are asked of staff following a written report or a presentation whether it involves spending money or not. The questions would be along the lines of “Is there anything that you are aware of in relation to the subject matter of this report and presentation of which councillors have not been informed?” and “Have all members of council been provided with the same information?”. There would then need to be consequences for withholding or misrepresenting information.

The flip side of that is that councillors need to refuse to consider a report that is missing information. In that case, it would be referred back to staff and only put back on the agenda if the information was provided. The difficulty here is that councillors often don’t know what they don’t know so can’t always ask the questions that would bring out the missing information. In addition, staff often meets with councillors one-on-one or in small groups to answer questions or go more in-depth on subject matter. The result is that some councillors have information that others don’t and staff has the opportunity to cherry-pick the facts they will give to each questioner.


We know that, in the previous administration, the former mayor Jim Watson was in the habit of providing information and resources to his disciples which were deliberately withheld from others. The Christmas Miracle extra budget funds is just one example out of those we know about. Secret communications took place between the mayor, certain councillors and staff that gave some the inside track and allowed decisions to be made with information and influence available only to a select number. We know about the Whatsapp messages related to the LRT among senior people at city hall and would be extremely naive to think that was an isolated case of communications that a) were unethical and b) broke both municipal and provincial restrictions.

It’s past time to stop relying on people’s integrity and put in place stringent controls applying to both elected officials and staff with serious consequences that would bring a higher level of trust to the process of information sharing at city hall. Nobody down there believes that any wrongdoing will be caught or punished so they continue the practices of the past which have served both staff and politicians so well. That must stop.

The Voter is a respected community activist and long-time Bulldog commenter who prefers to keep her identity private.

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6 Responses

  1. sisco farraro says:

    We all know that people in politics at all levels are primarily concerned with power, money, and ego. As such they feel they are beyond reproach and know it all. At work I teach new and senior managers basic principles of management, one of which is “know what you know, but more importantly, know what you don’t know” so you can seek assistance. (I was happy to see you mention this concept in your article.) I use politicians as an example of people who don’t know what they don’t know. Thank you for reinforcing this valuable lesson.

  2. cliff says:

    Montreal’s E-bus infrastructure is budgeted at $671.4M, Ottawa’s was $214M for charging infrastructure. This is from a report from Jan 2023 below. It appears this has changed

  3. The Voter says:

    Sisco,

    I wish I didn’t have all the material that Ottawa city hall keeps providing to support these lessons! Imagine what it would be like down there if they embraced even half of the principles of good management! If they added a little humility to it, the sky’s the limit for what they could accomplish. Alas, I fear it’s not to be but we can always cling to hope, I suppose.

  4. Ken Gray says:

    A reminder to commenters.

    We can’t put in links or emojis in comments because they slow down the website.

    Thx for your help.

    cheers

    kgray

  5. John Langstone says:

    As an example of staff’s dealings with council, Ted Raymond, CTV News Nov. 25, 2023 wrote an article on a City auditor’s report flagging, “The city of Ottawa’s auditor general has found that city staff inappropriately endorsed a proposal for a development in Barrhaven and left city council out of the loop on key decisions.” Responsible staff were named in the report. Question is whether there was any accountability. Senior members of Windor’s corporate leadership team, including top engineer and solicitor were fired in the last year or so. Is there any evidence of accountability for misinforming council here in Ottawa?

  6. The Voter says:

    John,

    Easy answer to that question! The words “accountability”, “responsibility” and “consequences” have been removed from all the dictionaries at City Hall.

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