Council: Two Years, Nothing Done: BENN

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So little time. So much to do.

City council has about two years remaining in its term. It has spent the first almost two years focusing its attention on issues of limited consequence.  Issues that, in the fullness of time, might provide results in five or more councils from now. What it hasn’t made any meaningful progress on are the issues that need to be addressed now. As in right now.

Where should city council concentrate?

The city is required by provincial regulations to provide adequate ambulance service. The city continues to fail to meet the standards it set for ambulance response times. Why?  Well, according to city staff, the fault lies with someone else. The hospitals are not properly staffed to allow for optimal patient drop offs. I don’t challenge this assessment, but it is irrelevant. Staff took an innovative approach to ‘solving’ the problem. They proposed directing non-emergency calls for ambulance support to taxis, but the province shot this down as an ill-considered deflection of responsibility.


If the existing number of Emergency Medical Technicians cannot meet the demand, then a possible solution would be to increase the number of EMTs. Yes, that will cost more money. More money from an organization that has raided the operating reserves to the point of that cupboard being essentially empty. But the city has a quarter of a million dollars plus or minus, to fund the Night Life Commissioner’s function?  Is it too late to revisit that ‘highest’ of priorities?

Public transit is a ‘must do’ function for a municipality in Ontario. Must do, as in a requirement set by the province, the 100-per-cent shareholder of this all but insolvent municipal entity. City hall acknowledges that OC Transpo is not getting the job done. However, its members refuse to understand that it is a failure to meet their responsibility. It is important to understand that the public transit problems are not limited to the reliability and safety issues of the Confederation Line. Nor of the woefully behind schedule Stage 2 projects.  The problems start with local and commuter bus service. Routes that do not take people from where they are to where they want to go to.

Once upon a time, fare revenues covered about 50 per cent of OC Transpo’s operating budget. Not anymore. Not for the last several years. Way back then, the other half of OC Transpo’s operating budget was covered by city taxpayers. The shortfall continues to be covered by tax dollars. It is just that now the quantum that has grown.  A quick look at my recently paid property tax bill (you are welcome council) shows that a nudge under 20 per cent of the official tax bill (i.e. the part that does not include special charges such as solid waste disposal) is allocated to the account of public transit.  About one-fifth is a pretty healthy chunk of the property tax bill to backstop council’s failure to get the job done.

What are the possible solutions? Practical solutions. Solutions that can manifest themselves within the remaining term of council. How about we start with a study of why people don’t take OC Transpo. Maybe start with the people who work for the city but choose to drive to the office. Where does the money to fund this vital study come from? Too bad that the quarter of a million dollars, plus or minus, in funding for the Night Life Commissioner’s activities has already been committed.  Can’t spend that twice. At least not in the real world.

People without homes are a subset of the bigger picture social assistance mandate set by the province. The province has not asked the city to solve the issue of homelessness. The mandate is to deal with day-to-day challenges. Challenges such as having a warm, dry place to sleep. A private place to take care of matters biological. The city needs to provide those without homes with an actual choice that goes beyond sleeping in doorways. Extend the offering with a cup of coffee or tea and a couple slices of toast in the morning. The city should consider converting some of the under-used structures in the downtown area into dormitories. Why downtown? Because that is where most of the people without homes are. These warm dry places to sleep need to be located where the people are, not where you want them to relocate to.

How to fund that initiative? Too bad that the central library is more than $100 million dollars over budget. Can’t spend that money twice.

That’s it. A top three. Three responsibilities set by the province that the city is failing miserably at addressing. Everything else needs to be scaled back to the bare minimum. Why?

Because this council has already wasted the first couple of years of its term accomplishing nothing meaningful.

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association for the better part of three decades.

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3 Responses

  1. Been There says:

    Council is wandering aimlessly because the Mayor is not leading. There seems to be an overall lack of accountability and due diligence with everything being left to staff and kicked down the road to the next council or committee meeting.
    Ottawa is in trouble and unfortunately, if the present lack of leadership continues it is too late to turn the situation around.

  2. Annette Goldenberg says:

    First of all this Mayor is certainly not a leader of any kind. He never knows what to do, which is a priority. Also my belief is not one person on council has any clue on budgeting money. For some reason I believe that they do have money for everything but is afraid to use it accordingly. Until this Mayor and council are changed everything will remain the same with the same problems. I follow other cities and I do not hear complaints that they have no money. Yesterday I saw the story of Kitchener and Waterloo and their LRT, five year anniversary and so far no big problems. Maybe the city should hire the people who were in charge of building their LRT and see what those people can do to help. Oh I forgot our city has no money for anything. So sorry.

  3. Bruce says:

    Ronn You are far to harsh in saying Ottawa Council has accomplished nothing. You forget the naming of snowplows, capital of Shwarma, increased potholes, garbage diversion onto roadways, and most important of all keeping tax increase to a low percentage BUT still INCREASING for poor to inadequate services. Salary increases a constant and bonuses still a miracle to behold. YES!! Ottawa has accomplished something few if any other municipalities have. Top of the heap in incompetence!

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