No Ethics At Ottawa City Hall? Then No Jobs


Columnist Ron Benn has written below a fine column on the inability of Ottawa city staff to communicate.

It is a real problem. A good issue to discuss. In fact, your agent thinks it’s worse than Benn has described.

Media relations at Ottawa City Hall has a three-fold purpose.

First, to inform. It does this when no embarrassing problems are involved in this information.

Second, to bury the truth. Many reports from city hall have the point of the memo hidden somewhere deep in the opus so that the public and journalists miss it. Maybe staff sends out those reports because they are legally obligated to do so and must find a way through words to protect their jobs.

Third, to spin, lie and lie by omission. When an LRT car derailed in the repair yard, city officials said such a derailment was “normal.” It’s not normal in most LRT systems except Ottawa’s where passengers were deliberately put at risk by releasing a train too early and unsafely. Derailments are not “normal.” But that’s what city staff said.

There are numerous examples of this kind of spin. Here’s another. When the Transportation Safety Board released a report on an LRT derailment (“normal,” no doubt), the city attached a release to the report in response that said that the train was “safe.” The TSB did not say that and city staff was stupid enough to put the two releases together so that anyone with half a brain could tell the city was lying.

It would be easy to go on and on and on about these spins, lies and lies of omission.

This is the culture of public relations developed by mayor Jim Watson and his staff, some of whom work in Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s office today and is still carried on among staff and politicians.

It is wrong.

It is not the job of city media relations to cover staff and politician posteriors. Hard to say if these precious press releases are “on-time and on-budget” in much the same way that the Confederation Line was. Sutcliffe, as a journalist, should know better and he should demand truth, not spin and lies, in city communications.

And if city staff cannot tell the people who pay the taxes and own the asset the truth, then council and the mayor should demand it. And if council and the mayor cannot get the truth, then it’s time to get a new council and mayor which can.

The City of Ottawa runs abysmally poorly. One of the reasons for that is that the inhabitants of Ottawa City Hall can’s admit that or come to terms with the truth so that they can correct the problems before them. If staffers and pols spent as much time doing their jobs well as they do covering up, the public relations would be much easier.

The public should demand, yes demand, that it gets the truth.

No truth, no jobs. If the current crop of pols can’t get the truth or tell the truth, then we need a reform mayor and council who will get the truth.

Ethics must be a part of working at Ottawa City Hall. Laurier Avenue has turned public service into self-service.

No ethics, no job.

Ken Gray


Ottawa City Staff Has A Failure To Communicate: BENN

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1 Response

  1. sisco farraro says:

    Ken. Thank you for not using the term “transparent” in your article. In today’s jargon this term is meant to convey honesty and openness. I use the term to convey my ability to see through the bulsh that is shoveled in our direction on a daily basis. In addition to being old, I’m old fashioned in some ways. I prefer a term that never had to be modernized; truthful.

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