OSEG Plays Ottawa Councillors For Fools

The people of Ottawa are hearing their city councillors talk about compromise on Lansdowne.

What’s to compromise? There’s nothing in the deal for the City of Ottawa. Oh yes, pay $419 million for half a new stadium with no roof that is maintained by the city but operated by a private consortium, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, that hasn’t paid any rent but takes revenue from the events there.

And as for the arena, ask yourself … how can Gatineau build an arena for major junior hockey plus three other related ice pads for $80 million while the Lansdowne event centre for major junior hockey costs more than three times the amount of the Gatineau example. Yes, $250 million for 5,500 seats while Gatineau’s rink seats 4,000. The proportions are a tad off. Check to see if the new Lansdowne rink has diamond-encrusted amenities … the extra $170 million must be going somewhere.

So does the new Lansdowne address the old problems at this new Glebe concrete shopping mausoleum? Well … no. Does it deal with the parking woes, the transit woes, the traffic woes, the wrong retail woes (given Amazon’s success, any bricks-and-mortar retail is dicey), the alienation of its walk-up traffic in the Glebe and the fact that save for a few sports games, nobody goes there? As in why go there … there’s nothing to do. Why drive to a shopping mall in the Glebe when you can park for free at Kanata Centrum and get the same stuff plus save a little gas?

Nevertheless, credit where credit is due. You have to admire OSEG’s ability to baffle with bullfeathers. Make the deal as complicated as possible, a minefield of detail and try to make a money-grab sound like sophisticated business to a bunch of financial rubes. The outrageously successful entrepreneurs behind OSEG can spot a novice a mile off let alone 25 of them around a council chamber being advised by a bunch of pliant compromised city staffers.

Around the council chamber and the rabbit warren of staff offices, no one is in the same league as the owners of OSEG. And oddly, councillors are being advised by a bunch of so-called public servants who desperately want Lansdowne to pass because they’re tighter than lint to a sheep with these businessmen.

So a small bit of advice for the novices of city council. Don’t believe a word staff tells you about Lansdowne because they are compromised. They want Lansdowne so they can rub shoulders with the big guys and for that privilege they are prepared to give OSEG two-thirds of a billion dollars of your tax money to do it. Damn generous of them.

Don’t believe city staff would do that? We refer you to the principles behind the findings of the provincial LRT inquiry. The conclusions don’t exactly scream civic ethics-are-us. And don’t forget, many of the same players behind LRT still have a lot of influence around city hall. Keep your right near your chin.

The Basic Unanswered Questions From Lansdowne (1)

Furthermore remember, councillors. The next time you must rule on a development for the developers behind OSEG at committee and council, you’re compromised too because you are OSEG’s partners. Try to round the square on that one.

Anyone who tells you they understood the waterfall of money from Lansdowne The First is a liar. There was no waterfall. There was no money. And answer this if you would be so kind … does a waterfall equal air rights? How much are air rights going for these days in Ottawa? The same price as water from a waterfall? What’s the market price of air? And is air’s value diminishing as high interest rates slow construction for high-rises?

Why do we not have business-astute councillors around a compromised staff? Because Ottawans are apathetic. You get the governance you deserve. You could put three gerbils in councillors’ chairs and 40 per cent of Ottawans wouldn’t know and wouldn’t care. And of the 60 per cent who do know about Gerbilgate, half would say that gerbils are a step up from politicians.

Don’t believe these poll numbers? Why these figures are as authentic as the last-minute Lansdowne poll ordered by OSEG that overwhelmingly supports free money for rich guys … so they must be right. Who would not want to give free money to rich guys?

OSEG wants you to put the city into more debt to the tune of $419 million during a period of high interest rates. And OSEG and its apologists say NOW is the time to renovate the recently renovated Lansdowne when the city has too many critical priorities and not enough money. They want a shiny new stadium without a roof and a gold-plated Trumpian event centre for free. Meanwhile, the elderly in Ottawa are having a tough time getting a warm meal from government programs. Something’s not right there.

And oh yes … OSEG wants you to let them build more retail and luxury towers to deal with the distressing rental shortage among the wildly rich. In return, taxpayers get the same property taxes that someone building a hideous tower in Little Italy pays (but that property-tax money is earmarked for Lansdowne debt, not pipes and wires that everyone else pays).

Look councillors, and your agent is being ridiculously serious here, OSEG and city staff are playing you for fools. It might be a good idea to not be a fool. That would be the option your agent would choose.

There is no need for more fools at Ottawa City Hall. We already have a glut of court jesters on Laurier Avenue. And quite a bit of free air, too.

Ken Gray 



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4 Responses

  1. Frank Zarboni says:

    Most voters in Ottawa are mediocre citizens at best. They are too uninterested in city politics and policies to understand the lies that contractors and consortiums Spout. These partnership deals are only how much they can get away with and have the public pay for their projects. I am incensed by the stupidity of councillors believing that this monstrous waste of taxpayer monies is good for us. Let the private interests pay for their own devices and tax the living crap out of them instead of us.

  2. James Russell says:

    I sent this piece along to 50 or so acquaintances urging them to take the issue up with their own councillors. Three at least have done so as a direct result. Thanks, Ken!

  3. Ken Gray says:


    Thank you for the support.



  4. Andrew says:

    Ken, as usual you are the champion of “public Interest”. This is not in the public interest, it solves only OSEG’s profit interest.

    Selling our parkland as revealed Friday night is mind blowing! No council member should find it acceptable to sell parkland in an under-serviced area. City staff promise they could buy it back, with a future council’s approval. (to sell it it has to be declared surplus). With our current debt, that is impossible. As well Possession of land has certain rights. OSEG would be able to legally refuse the sale back to the city since it previously declared it surplus. In other words, once it is gone, it is gone!

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