How The City Works In A Nutshell

Well, it’s like this.

Developers donate money (through their owners, executives, friends, relatives, pets) to pliant councillors who like having a well-paying job and the prestige (sorta).

The builders get enough compromised councillors elected so they can crack the whip when they need something.

Then the developers have the media in their pockets because these businesspeople (and car dealers) are really the last traditional media advertisers left standing. So builders crack the whip among their desperate media. It doesn’t take a lot of convincing. Most media stand behind the standard saw of what’s good for business is good for the city (and themselves). There’s an unwritten rule in media … don’t mess with the people who pay the bills.

Then the media support, in so many ways, the municipal candidates who’ve been compromised by the developers through comparatively small campaign donations. It’s amazing how little money it takes to turn the heads of tiny councillors. But then buying ethics has always been cheap. So you get: isn’t naming snow plows and declaring the great city of Shawarmatown cute? Media generally support and publicize incumbents because the status quo (or what’s left of it) is good for business (our business).

But, as an aside, isn’t it nice that some people (developers) still get good service for their money?


So the same old tired councillors keep the gravy-train operating.

And city staff supports the developers because that keeps that cushy tax money flowing in.

So let’s see if we can get this right. The developers support the pols and the staffers who support the developers. The media supports the developers because that’s where the money originates (particularly in a city where there’s not all that much industry beyond home-building). Then the media supports the candidates who support the developers because the developers support the media. Then the developers support the staff and the pols. I think I got that right.

And that’s how municipal Ottawa operates in a nutshell. Go beyond these basic rules at your peril.

Ken Gray

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3 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    At a national level these relationships are called “state capture.”

    There are indices for state capture. And Canada is ranked.

    Perhaps we should challenge Carleton’s FIPSI to look world-wide to find researchers and institutes who are working on state capture in order to develop indices for Ottawa that would track the capture of decision makers by economic elites and be comparable to other cities so we could rank the city with common indicators.

  2. Peter Karwacki says:

    No industry…maybe no factories but IT jobs are second only to the GOC.

  3. Brian Tansey says:

    Good point Liz: I can only imagine that the ‘ state capture ‘ concept works best at the very local level ie. municipal politics, simply because national institutions/governments do still get quite lot of decent scrutiny from the media ( Guardian / NYT / G&M etc etc. whereas ( and Ottawa is a perfect example of this) media cutbacks and die-offs at that same local level are happening everywhere on a wider scale , ie. before the national level ones ; but then again, our so called “National Post” … must be in deep financial doo doo, which seems to show in their overall product … and biases.

    The Bulldog has gained from this vacuum / media honesty – gap… ie. less than fullsome reporting and commenting, simply because the holes are so wide in what the Ott. Citizen does and doesn’t / won’t cover . All this was well layed out in this recent piece … ” How the City Works in a Nutshell “

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