Democracy Don’t Come Easy: WHOPPER WATCH .12.26


“It’s not fair to the developers. It’s not fair to the community that we have this discussion over and over again.”

River Councillor Riley Brockington about tall buildings around the Central Experimental Farm


This whopper might be a bit catty but it does reflect an attitude at Ottawa City Hall.

What comes front of mind to Brockington? Developers. What comes second? The community.

At Ottawa City Hall, the prime directive is to make developers happy. The community is a place to put big buildings and residents are seen as NIMBYs or just a plain nuisance or worse. Many planners hold your garden-variety homeowner in contempt.

Take our planning committee chairman Jeff Leiper. The Federation of Citizens Associations (the umbrella group of the city’s community associations) said that changing the building height limits for the whole city, and thus its built structure, needed community input. Leiper said the votes on council already supported the measure so consultations weren’t necessary. An infantile view of democracy to be sure. Apparently, Leiper is too damn smart and important to be told a thing. He knows.

You see Leiper is part of the club of councillors (many of whom receive round-about campaign donations from the building industry) and developers who don’t want to be disturbed by the public in planning the residents’ city. Leiper’s statement shows that very plainly. He blew off the largest representative of residents in this city, namely the FCA.

Brockington said the uncertainty about building around the farm was not fair to developers. Well there’s a first-world problem if you ever heard one. A privileged rich group which almost always gets its way is being treated unfairly. The horror. Cry me a river.

No Trillium Line Probe In Our Best Interests

Here’s an idea. If the community had more input into planning decisions, that might force developers to build more innovative projects. Build projects that taxpayers want in their community rather than dread. Maybe councillors could hold developers’ feet to the fire to demand better design.

This has appeared repeatedly in The Bulldog (which is feeling very much like the patron saint of lost causes lately) but it bears saying again. Brilliant speaker, politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis said at a National Capital Commission urban forum meeting years ago that if you want to know what is best for the community, ask the community. They know, Jeff Leiper. When did challenged councillors and developers get the right to bulldoze the opinions of the best educated major city in the country? This isn’t a left-wing argument or a right-wing argument. It is a basic tenet of democracy. And most of us support democracy, save Q-Anon, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and some tall foreheads on Laurier Avenue.

At public meetings you get doctors, lawyers, academics, scientists, senior public servants (many, if not most, much better educated and accomplished than councillors, planners and developers) patronized by developers, planners and councillors. When they listen at all.

The attitude of council and the planning department on development is that the public just gets in the way (and that’s the nicest way of putting it). This ain’t no way to run no railroad (and Ottawans can most certainly attest to the fact that the city can’t run no railroad).

The attitude among many at Ottawa City Hall is “shuddup, pay your taxes and don’t bother us. We know best.” Well, no they don’t. Perhaps our anointed ones on Laurier Avenue should take a remedial course in public school social studies to discover that democracy is supposed to happen more often than one day every four years.

Democracy don’t come easy. It’s slow, arduous, difficult, tiring, annoying, wrong, right, boring, exhilarating, participatory and the best form of governance and public policy we’ve got. Someone tell the Ottawa Police Services Board that.

The attitude on Laurier Avenue is just one of a multitude of critical reasons that a provincially appointed commissioner and board should run this hopelessly abysmal municipal government until the next election, clean house of the ethically and ability challenged, and get us back to city government of which residents can be proud.

You know that did happen once a long time ago when Marion Dewar, Jackie Holzman, Merv Beckstead and Bob Chiarelli held sway. And councillors with names like Munter, Hunter, Deans, Holmes, Doucet and Cullen knew how to be councillors unlike the bunch of rubes we have down there now.

Ken Gray

Ringo Starr: It Don't Come Easy (Starr, 1971)

Maybe Ringo was singing about democracy … it don’t come easy.



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2 Responses

  1. Val Swinton says:

    For the record, no developer donations in the 2018 or 2022 elections were traced to Jeff Leiper. His policy is not to accept donations from developer-related individuals.

  2. Miranda Gray says:

    1. The Brockington comment has context. This is one of a series of planning apps adjacent to farm. It is possible to define a perimeter beyond the farm where tall buildings may start. It means neither Friends of the Farm or developers have to keep returning to make the same argument about another lot a few meters farther down the road. Have folks delegate once on the topic of a zone to protect the farm.

    2. There was community consultation over several years about the height of buildings on arterials and other types of roads. It has been less than 2 years since the council voted on the matter. I don’t see good value in rehashing recent discussions. I doubt any large portion of commenters have drastically changed their minds. Do I think another quick reconsult could have been done? Maybe. Perhaps all who spoke last time could have been invited to speak again? Maybe. But that isn’t fair or likely to bring new information to light. So I am relatively fine with this fast track. It is much better than some major walk-on motions at council which never got discussed at all.

    If we are serious about our housing crisis / housing emergency, we need to move quickly. This includes consolidating farm perimeter motions into one master plan for the farm’s perimeter. It also means we don’t restart 3 years on consultation when all the prior discussion is on video to be watched.

    We need to be moving ahead towards the vision of a liveable affordable Ottawa for all and the future.

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