Ottawa Can’t Attract Top Candidates For Senior Staff Posts

The reputation of the City of Ottawa public service is in tatters in North American municipal circles.

The light-rail fiasco and the odd goings-on surrounding Lansdowne have taken the city off the list of potential up-and-coming city staffers, a long-time city public servant said. The staffer declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to discuss city-hall matters.

Many are concerned that the city’s well-publicized problems could be career-enders for people hoping to climb the corporate ladder. Accordingly, many senior positions have been left open for a long time or are back-filled from within.

Another reason for hiring from within is, despite the damning results of the provincial light-rail inquiry, the political side of city hall does not want change. Former mayor Jim Watson’s office staff (many of whom are in Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s office) or Watson Club councillors liked the style and political orientation of the ex-mayor and still maintain loyalty to Watson despite his leaving city hall in disgrace due to the light-rail fiasco.

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Particularly concerning is the city auditor general and the audit committee letting the Trillium Line procurement slip off the AG’s workplan. The winning bidder failed the technical standards twice and the group overlooking the procurement at the time said the winning choice should not be given the contract. That was overruled by senior staff and top politicians. When the opportunity to probe the procurement arose, auditor general Nathalie Gougeon placed the Trillium Line procurement prominently in her workplan. But she downgraded its importance over time and recently it was dropped from her workplan. There are fears at city hall and on Parliament Hill about what could be found in such an audit.

Accordingly, good candidates for senior jobs are steering away from Ottawa for fear of having their careers ruined by the administrative chaos at Ottawa City Hall.

LRT and Lansdowne make Ottawa City Hall appear as a municipal dumpster fire. And after the results of the rail inquiry, potential candidates for top office fear what they might be told to do in an administration that is largely unchanged and follows the methods of Watson in its decision-making and public messaging.

Ken Gray


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4 Responses

  1. Kosmo says:

    The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

  2. Andrew says:

    The mayor needs to LEAD by commencing a review and get professional process audits done to start fixing things, as mentioned admitting a problem exists – is step 1.

  3. Ken Gray says:


    good point but I don’t think these people are prepared to do that



  4. Been There says:

    Right you are Ken. The Mayor’s leadership style of videos, blog posts and photo ops is proof that he is quite happy with the status quo. He has no interest in any kind of investigation into the previous administration. Probably a condition of his employment.

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