Gower, Sutcliffe, Developers Slap Democracy In The Face


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Once your agent was at a Citizen editorial board meeting when a developer asked: “Why don’t people like developers?”

Now this wasn’t your garden-variety developer. This was a really big developer. It was during the time when the IKEA was just being completed at Pinecrest Mall across from the old Citizen building on Baxter Road.

At one point, the same developer said: “That must have been interesting watching that IKEA being built.” You could see a couple of board members (of which I was one) about to say something, then they thought discretion was the better part of valour. In fact, they drove piles so deep for that furniture store that the computers in the newsroom shook. The noise was incredible. Plus the dust and the inconvenience. Not fun at all.

But the developer was being serious. He thought we would all be enthralled by watching the IKEA go up. He didn’t get it.

So why don’t people like developers? Because they don’t get it.

They didn’t get it at Lansdowne. They didn’t get it on the route of the light-rail line where they picked spots with huge prices on condos like Westboro. That’s why they like Lansdowne except they can’t get transit there. And now they don’t get it on the new/old height guideline for building in the city.

You know, the guidelines the Ford government pulled back from but now the city is adopting them. The municipality is abandoning its own guidelines from the official plan and adopting the Ford ones that even Ford couldn’t stomach once he got caught on the Toronto-area greenbelt.

And now the developers are telling their minions on council (and there are many) to get those Ford guidelines through in the fastest, quietest way possible. Thus the Sutcliffe-Gower motion subtly brought forth at city council and which will be decided without a bit of public input … rather like the purchase of questionable e-buses for Ottawa only that was okay because the white-wine-and-wicker element of council thought that was great since it aligned with their unrealistic goals. That’s what ideology gets you.

From both the left and the right on council, we’re seeing participatory democracy being butchered in this city. And democracy should be foremost on their minds in a healthy society but at city hall, democracy is seen as a nuisance or a hindrance. And if city hall is not healthy, then it is sick.

The City of Ottawa is out-Fording Doug Ford … a dubious accomplishment. That’s how much power developers have in this city.

Merry Christmas From A Total Stranger

So why don’t people like developers? Because they don’t listen. Because they don’t care and they’re not even aware they don’t care. Because they are neighbourhood tone-deaf. They get what they want because that’s what they want and they have the money, power and influence to do it. Damn the rest. We want what we want and we get it because we can. And will do everything in their power to get what benefits them. Even undermining participatory democracy.

And that’s how you become ridiculously rich. You are single-minded in your quest to be successful … which in their world is making lots and lots of money. And you don’t let people get in your way. You are ruthless. They are Darwinian in a society where they should not and don’t need to be so uncaring.

So here are a couple of thoughts for our developer friends.

One from a person in the building industry who believes that you convince people to want something in their neighbourhood by making it so good that the residents will support it … because it’s good.

The other is from the brilliant politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis who said at a National Capital Commission urban planning meeting: “If you want to know what’s best for a neighbourhood, ask the people who live there.” The neighbours know the nuances of a neighbourhood and understand them. Unlike the almighty gods of planning on Laurier Avenue and their developer friends who tell you what you will get … like it or not.

That said, giving developers advice is like spitting into a hurricane. The spittle just flies back in your face. Developers don’t listen. They don’t care. They’re too busy looking out for No. 1 and they’re very good at that. That’s why quite a few politicians and the media in this town are scared of them. They have good reason to be scared.

So why don’t people like developers? Well maybe even a tone-deaf developer might understand the simple argument above.

The authors of this motion, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Stittsville Councillor Glen Gower, should know better. In fact, they do know better … they know this should be discussed by the people of this community extensively because the physical form of this community (and this community consists of the people who live in it, everyone) matters not just to Gower and Sutcliffe and their developer friends.

Gower and Sutcliffe, of course, know what they are doing because they took public school social studies. But more than that, they are both former journalists. Perhaps when you go over to the dark side, you don’t take your values with you.

If Gower and Sutcliffe were still journalists, they would be railing against their own motion but not now. Ethics are just situational.

So city council and their developer friends are fundamentally changing our city with no public discussion … quietly, rushed … to avoid an outcry like at Lansdowne. Simple, quick, easy and very lucratively.

So these two groups are avoiding participatory democracy which is the basis of our society.

But they don’t care or they wouldn’t do it.

Bulldog editor Ken Gray has been a journalist at five major Canadian newspapers over a career that has spanned four decades. Gray founded The Bulldog 14 years ago and it has grown to more than 100,000 reader page views a week.



Suburbanites Are People, Too: MULVIHILL

FCA Condemns Fast-Tracking Of Building Height Limits

A Move By Developers, Planning: THE VOTER

Gower, Sutcliffe Pull Fast One On Building Heights



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3 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    Trick question. What do you call a meeting hosted by Ottawa council for developers and including the planning department?

  2. John Langstone says:

    Where will Councilor Brockington and other supporters of this motion two years ago stand on Wednesday?

    Moved by Councillor Brockington

    WHEREAS the report for the New Official Plan (ACS2021-PIE-EDP-0036) presents the details of the new Official Plan Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Secondary Plans and Area-Specific Policies), as well as supporting documents and annexes, with the objective to guide planning for the city’s growth and redevelopment over the next 25 years; and

    WHEREAS the New Official Plan Section 6.2 introduces policies for the Corridor designation, that includes Mainstreet and Minor Corridors; and

    WHEREAS the Corridor designation applies to bands of land along specified streets whose planned function combines a higher density of development, a greater degree of mixed uses and a higher level of street transit service than abutting Neighbourhoods; and

    WHEREAS residents raised concerns over the density and height of Minor Corridors, which ranged up to 6-storeys in certain Transects, and the potential impact on their neighbourhoods; and

    WHEREAS Staff had intended for the possibility of 5- and 6-storey buildings to be only be considered under specific conditions and subject to a rezoning, rather than as-of-right, but understand the concerns expressed by many neighbourhoods about having this policy applied broadly, and

    WHEREAS Staff believe that corridor-specific studies could in the future revisit the notion if there is enough demand;

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Joint Committee recommend Council direct Staff to modify the New Official Plan to remove the policies that allow for consideration of 5- or 6-storey buildings on Minor Corridors without an Official Plan Amendment process.

  3. Ken Gray says:


    Does that mean the Gower-Sutcliffe motion can’t go forward without an official plan review?



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