City Hall In Crisis: HERE’S THE CHAT TRANSCRIPT

We had a very successful live chat on Tuesday evening. Many thanks to all who participated or just tuned in to read the discussion.

Also many thanks to former Capital councillor Clive Doucet for participating all the way from Cape Breton. Stay well, Clive.

 

Here is the transcript of the discussion:

 

CITY HALL IN CRISIS: Bulldog Live Chat : Welcome to the Bulldog Live Chat
Ken Gray : Ottawa City Hall is in crisis. An oversight crisis. An ethics crisis. A competency crisis. A transit crisis. A paramedic crisis. A funding crisis. We have a public consultation crisis. We have an auditing crisis. We have a transportation crisis. We have a spending crisis. We have a conflict-of-interest crisis. We have a city council that doesn’t do its homework. We have a police force that when it does rollcall in the morning, they have to check the court docket to see who’s charged and won’t be at work on an operation that has gone rogue. We have an oversight body of the police that doesn’t want to hear criticism to the extent that there’s a court challenge to its actions. Join us and send a message to our politicians.
Ken Gray : I’m ready to go if you are.
Ken Gray : How did Ottawa City Hall get in the sorry state it is in now?
Ron Benn : How did it get to this sorry state of affairs? One step at a time. Slippery slopes. Ends justifying means. The list is so very very long.
Ron Benn : Let’s break it down into a few categories.
Ron Benn : Big projects. LRT, new central library, Lansdowne.
Ken Gray : Feel free. I’ll follow where you are going.
Ron Benn : For those the common theme is envy. I recall former Councillor Keith Egli citing the architectural wonders of the Halifax and Calgary central libraries as to why we needed a new “world class” structure to house the previous millenium’s books. A bit of artistic licence by me re the last phrase but you get my drift.
Ken Gray : And that would explain why we’re building a monument to concrete in the age of the internet.
Ron Benn : The LRT was three plus decades late arriving in Ottawa. Calgary has a functioning LRT. Ottawa needed to be one step better. A tunnel through downtown. “World class” stations.
Ken Gray : Everything is getting smaller but the city keeps getting bigger.
Ron Benn : Lansdowne was allowed to deteriorate to the point where it made mid ’70’s downtown Detroit look upscale.
Ken Gray : Politicians who use world class have something envy.
Ken Gray : Nobody says world class in New York because it just is world class.
Ron Benn : Why? Because council could not be bothered to look after the south stands. They demolished the lower section and left the upper section on display like it was some Roman colesium.
Ron Benn : Next up. Chasing distractions.
Ken Gray : Now we’re spending three-quarters of a billion dollars on a $5 million football team.
Ron Benn : The city has a set of responsibilities to fulfill on a daily basis. Things like timely emergency services like police, fire fighters and ambulances. Curbside pick up of garbage and recycling. Not particularly “sexy”, but necessary and mandatory.
Ken Gray : Yes but you don’t get elected picking up garbage. Makes a bad photo-op.
Ken Gray : Can’t cut a ribbon there in front of a dirty fleet of garbage trucks.
Ron Benn : Instead council chooses to chase unicorns over rainbows, hoping to find a pot of gold. Discretionary alternatives like bike lanes that are kept clear of snow and ice for the 10’s of daily users per winter day, while leaving the sidewalks, used in pre-pandemic times by 10’s of thousands of OC Transpo passengers to get to and from the bus, with a layer of compacted snow and ice.
Clive Doucet : Ottawa city council doesn’t function. This shouldn’t be news. Tewin isn’t about Indigenous Reconciliation. Lansdowne isn’t about cheap housing or bringing football back. Privatizing the farm isn’t about the best site for a new hospital site. The Western Parkway instead of Carling Avenue isn’t about the best route from the city centre west. Everyone knows this. They about very rich developers getting richer at the taxpayer’s expense. What people don’t know because it’s almost never reported on is that there’s never been a successful mayoralty candidate free of developer funding. The names and faces in the Mayor’s chair change but it’s always a developer’s guy. Voters think they they have a choice at election time but there’s no choice. This is the elephant in the room that no one in Ottawa’s media world wants to touch until this changes, Ottawa won’t change.
Ken Gray : Clive thanks for joining us. I invited him this morning. He is beaming in from Cape Breton.
Ron Benn : Is there any link between the silence of the main stream media and the amount of advertising for new homes, Clive?
Bruce : As I see it the crisis has been building since amalgamation which is when a city (Ottawa) told Queens Park that Ottawa needed to encompass all the BURBS so as to capture the spare change held by Gloucester, Nepean, Goulbourn ETC. otherwise the faulty financial condition would result in a bankruptcy whic the province CAN not allow.
Ron Benn : Bruce, Ottawa was land locked by Nepean to the west, Gloucester to the south and east, and Cumberland to the east. There was no where for them to expand their perimeter.
Ron Benn : The expanding perimeter was where the new homes were being built. New homes equated to an ever growing property tax base.
Ken Gray : Yes and imagine how many politicians developers had to donate to at so many cities.
guest_253 : Agree with eveything you state so far. None of the planning, project management services of the CIty of Ottawa have produced expected results on so many fronts, just major shortcomings and overspending without good outcomes. Remeber the LRT inquiry report finds fault with Kanellakos, Watson, Manconi conduct. I look at such simple services like the online Library or other online City of Ottawa services and I am gobsmacked by the lack of integration and ease of use. The organization known as The City of Ottawa is completely disfunctional and needs major redirection. Problem is, how to correct this aggegious situation???
Ron Benn : Guest_253, the common theme in what you point out is that ideology trumped practicality. The results were the most likely outcome, because assuming away reality does not make reality disappear.
Ken Gray : Guest 253 if you could give yourself a name it makes the discussion easier. thank you in advance.
Ken Gray : What we’re missing so far is discussing the ethics at city hall. They spend a great deal of time covering up their mistakes. We saw this with the testimony at the LRT inquiry.
Ken Gray : I fail to understand how staff could trumpet the bizarre arguments in support of Lansdowne.
Ron Benn : Mayor Sutcliffe has stated on a number of occasions that he does not want to revisit past decisions. There are many rumors to this being a condition of the many people who set up and ran his campaign.
Ken Gray : Why is the Trillium Line procurement not being audited? Too many old Watson staffers still there?
Ron Benn : The consequence of Sutcliffe’s decision is that the city is not allowing itself to objectively review its decisions, in light of the obvious resulting shortfalls in stated expectations.
Ron Benn : Errors beget errors.
The Voter : It’s vital that something happen soon to halt this. The longer we continue, the harder it will become to get out of the morass we’re creating.
Ken Gray : You can see the effect the Jock River issue had on staff. Big-time contrition. That’s healthy.
Ron Benn : As Richard Nixon found out, it is not so much the initial transgression that dooms you. It is the failure to acknowledge it and the convoluted efforts to cover up those transgressions.
Clive Doucet : Everyone knows that Tewin had nothing to do with indigenous reconciliation or Lansdowne with cheap housing or football, or the choice of the Western Parkway instead of Carling for LRT or the farm with a hospital….but it doesn’t matter because the developers control the election for the Mayor’s chair. It doesn’t matter who is sitting in it. The name changes but the funding machine remains the same. Outside of social media this isn’t reported on and as the most recent mayor made clear on CBC social media doesn’t count.
Ken Gray : But I wonder if the Jock River issue was simply a smoke screen for losing the procurement audit.
Ron Benn : The Jock River issue is something that the AG could hang on staff. Trillium 2 was a political override.
Ken Gray : That’s why we need an independent commissioner and board to run the city. We need to clean up the many messes there right now and the city as is will continue to foul itself.
Ron Benn : It is much more palatable to throw an unnamed staff member under a bus (assuming the buses are on time) than it is to point at the political powers that be or were.
The Voter : The first step, of course, to dealing with a problem is to admit that you have one. That is a huge stumbling block for the Laurier Bunker crowd. It’s why Sutcliffe has put up the barrier to revisiting past decisions. As long as you don’t look behind you, you will never see the huge ball of trouble coming your way, gathering steam and collecting mass on its way.
Ken Gray : I talked to one person at city hall who said it will take a generation to change the culture created by Watson. We don’t have that kind of time.
Ron Benn : There are two key elements to effecting change. First, the organization needs to acknowledge that change is required.
Ron Benn : Second is that the tone from the top must be solidly behind the program of change.
Ken Gray : Developers, Clive, have far too much influence at city hall. That must change.
Ron Benn : Neither senior management nor the mayor want to acknowledge that change is required.
The Voter : The staff member has been named – it’s Lee Ann Sneddon who is now retired but was Director of Planning. Very convenient that she’s retired. I wonder if that happened before or after this came to light.
Ron Benn : As such, there will be no tone from the top.
Ken Gray : You won’t see that from Sutcliffe. He’s running the city, Ron, like Watson. No doubt getting feedback from the ex-mayor and his staffers still at city hall.
Ken Gray : The MO at city hall appears to be screw up, then cover up. That can’t continue.
Ron Benn : Voter, retirement is sometimes a choice forced on someone who has made a big mistake. Encouraged by a top up on the pension calculations. Not just Sneddon. Think Kanellakos.
Ken Gray : No one is taking charge of stopping the mistakes that are occurring at city hall. It is a sick organization.
The Voter : The timing would support that, Ron.
Ron Benn : Stopping mistakes requires an acknowledgement that mistakes were made. Not oops, that was a typo. No, mistakes due to incompetence, political interference, favours being repaid or collected.
Ken Gray : City hall just can’t get things right. I heard the city is in such bad shape that the reason getting a new city manager took so long is because very few people wanted the job.
Ron Benn : Back to what Clive mentioned earlier. It takes north of $500,000 to run a mayoral campaign that has any chance of success.
Ken Gray : The problems are at the top and culture flows down to them.
Ron Benn : That is 500 people with $1,000 cheques.
Ken Gray : And who has that kind of money?
Ron Benn : Who has the combination of the available funds and the willingness to part with them.
Ron Benn : The owners, senior managers of organizations that do business with city hall. Either directly or indirectly.
Ken Gray : At least developers are getting their money’s worth unlike the rest of us from city hall. That’s a positive.
Ken Gray : If the city can do for us what it does for developers, we will all be very wealthy.
Ron Benn : One of the challenges in election finance regulations is enforcement. For example, the regulations preclude a business from reimbursing an employee for a campaign contribution. But who looks at the expense reports.
Ron Benn : Not the campaign expense reports. The expense reports submitted by the contributor to his/her/their employer.
Ken Gray : There are a million ways around the poorly enforcement and loophole riddled election laws.
Ken Gray : I just tremble at the lack of influence the general public has at city hall. Why planning chief Jeff Leiper blew of the FCA that represents all the community associations in town.
The Voter : Not only are they getting their money’s worth but they get our money as well since they have probably figured out how to deduct it. Plus they get a rebate from the city.
Bruce : This crisis started a long time ago with amalgamation. A city nearing bankruptcy asked Toronto to join all areas surrounding Ottawa into one city thus taking paid for by community structures and saved capital reserves into the spending realm of Ottawa. Kinda like borrowing from your parents or brother with no intention of mending your ways or repayment. Ottawa became so enamored with developer income and increasing debt that no one looked to the future of how to pay for except to ask the province or feds for more help. Now most functions of Ottawa are underfunded through waste and or mismanagement that they are in a crisis.No more funds to train new cops, a lack of money for hospitals and EMT folks. Buying a transit system because it “looks like a world class system”. Not because it has proven its worth! nor because it meets the threshold of the bid specs. So now the best minds in control have a problem. How to hide the multiple crisis situations. Invent Happy Towne News, tell the peo
Ron Benn : Leiper’s support for the resolution to change the Official Plan height limits on minor corridors reeked of a mind set that accepts that the end justifies the means.
Ken Gray : Look at all the things that don’t work. Planning, police, paramedics, transit. It goes on and on. This is a city in crisis.
Clive Doucet : They’re not ‘our politicians, that’s the problem. It doesn’t matter how many letters your write or delegations you send to City Hall, the whole place is rotten. I used to think a public inquiry might expose the problems. Well, we’ve had two. Both found secrecy, conflict of interest and colossal mismanagement, Nothing was ever done about it.
Ken Gray : Just like the railroading of ebuses through the legislative process.
Ron Benn : What new information came to light in the two years between the long and arduous Official Plan consultations and now? Nothing. But facts be damned. Full steam ahead.
Ken Gray : You’re right Clive. The players remain the same and the MO remains the same.
Ron Benn : The problem, Clive, is that there has been little to no follow up by the province on the LRT commissioner’s report.
Ron Benn : Just a “you won’t get more money from the province until you get your act together”. That plus 75 cents buys nothing from the Dollar Store.
Ken Gray : Perhaps Ron the province thought the city might right itself. That won’t happen. The culture and the ethics (or lack of them) remain the same.
The Voter : I’ve been suggesting since the LRT fiasco started that the province needs to step in and put in an administrator. I’m still surprised Lisa McLeod didn’t push that at queens Park when she was at the cabinet table. I don’t agree with her politics but she’s no dummy and could have done something.
Ken Gray : Somebody who has some pull with Ford needs to turn his head toward the mess that is the City of Ottawa. Who is that person?
Ron Benn : Lisa McLeod appears to be a spent force down at Queen’s Park. No one of consequence listens to her.
The Voter : Maybe Caroline Mulroney?
Ron Benn : Ken – let’s get Mike Patton off his stairs and on the phone.
Ken Gray : Doesn’t the federal Tory leader represent Carleton?
Ron Benn : Caroline Mulroney has clout. Does she care enough about Ottawa.
Ron Benn : The federal Tory leader has his eyes on a bigger prize.
Ken Gray : Yeah, where is Patton … the scoundrel. I’ll call him and see if he can explain himself.
The Voter : I know Lisa’s day has passed now but there was a time not long ago when she had influence and chose not to use it.
Ron Benn : Agreed Voter. There was a day.
RM : Back to city staff. City staff has far too much power and delegated authority especially to those who are under the influence. Just read the motions. Interestingly enough there are still three ‘ interim’ positions held that need confirmation with a competent professional: 1) city planner, 2) solicitor/lawyer & 3)Chief Financial Officer. Are these the carrots that are being held up bt our Mayor? Recruitment for competent individuals is what is sought after. How does one have influence knowing these they are not elected officials?
Ken Gray : Patton is running to his computer.
Ron Benn : The easiest way to walk all over someone is for that person to be lying down.
The Voter : Caroline brought us the inquiry. She hasn’t followed up on it but maybe could be persuaded that a “next step” is in order. The other thing I don’t understand is the Tories not taking action when a large part of the people at city hall are Liberals. Surely there are some political points to be scored there?
Ron Benn : Councillors lack the courage to stand up to staff. Ask probing questions like where is the underlying analysis that demonstrates that your recommended course of action is the best one?
Ken Gray : Yes, I’ve thought of that Voter. But Queen’s Park cares about Toronto. That’s where the votes are. Maybe Mulroney could be convinced. It sure would be helpful
Ken Gray : If councillors stand up to staff, staff will say getting a garbage can in their ward is impossible. I bet they didn’t say that to Diane Holmes or Gord Hunter. Those are folks you could respect.
Ron Benn : The Tories have a strong majority with but one seat in Ottawa. Maybe in a year or two, in advance of the next provincial election they may look the the north and east and decide that they need more seats here. Only then will they become proactive in helping solve Ottawa’s self inflicted problems.
Ken Gray : Well I’m afraid that the city will get itself in such financial trouble that it will not be able to function effectively. We’re bleeding LRT money.
Ron Benn : Ah yes, Ken. The extra garbage can that is available to the councillors who don’t ask embarrassing questions.
Ron Benn : At some point the city will have depleted all of its operating reserves (an accounting fiction unless the cash is in a separate bank account) and have to make choices.
Ken Gray : Where does the money come from for a new landfill?
Ken Gray : Maybe they can fill in the rail tunnel with garbage. Our new landfill.
RM : Many ensconced councillors have it so well off and may otherwise be unemployed, And, constituents are too complacently comfortable.
Ron Benn : What starts on the capital budget page moves to the operating budget in the following years. Debt service (interest and principal repayments) comes from the operating budget. The higher the debt service, the less money there is for basics.
Ken Gray : RM you got that right.
Ron Benn : For a number of the people who populate council chamber, being a city councillor is the acme of their career path.
Ken Gray : If you are a bright person, do you want to subject yourself to the crap at city council?
Mike Patton : Guys, sorry to jump in late, but the reality is when it comes to the Province and the Premier, they have no reason to believe that there is a problem. No one in Ottawa (with the exception of me from time to time) is expressing the slightest concern to them on how the City is being run.
Ken Gray : Mike, I knew we would find a person of influence here somewhere and apparently it’s you.
Ron Benn : Once upon a time, a person who was at the end of a successful career contemplated a term or two on city council. They brought with them the experience to know when they were being snowed. The experience to understand that first you take care of the basics, then you add the frills.
Ken Gray : Why would Ford want to help Ottawa? Ottawa certainly didn’t help him and that’s how politics works.
Ken Gray : Ron and those people aren’t there now because ….?
Ron Benn : That time is long past. Now we have career politicians. Jan Harder, Rick Chiarelli, Jim Watson. Look at their resumes and find a position of importance that was not “gifted” to them.
Ken Gray : Who knew the most powerful person in Ottawa is Mike Patton.
Mike Patton : And the reality with the big announcement in Toronto this week, I suspect that the Mayor of Toronto agreed to back off on a couple of issues that were important to the Premier in exchange for taking back the Gardener and the DVP
Ron Benn : Why aren’t the older, more successful people running for office? It isn’t worth the pain and suffering. Of having to suffer fools gladly.
Ken Gray : Look at Poilievre. He was socialized at the House of Commons and never held a non-political job before his long tenure at the H of C.
The Voter : One reason is that it used to be a part time job that you did off the corner of your desk at work. I can remember a time when councillors didn’t even have an office at City Hall.
Ron Benn : Mike, one of the things that Mayor Chow gave up was the city’s resistance to the rehabilitation of Ontario Place, including moving the Science Centre from near the DVP to the lake front.
Ken Gray : I would ask Mike who would be in a position to convince Ford to appoint a commissioner and board to run Ottawa.?
Mike Patton : Ron, you are right. Politics is a transactional business. You do for me and I will do for you. What is the City of Ottawa offering to the province?
Mike Patton : Ken, I can assure you that unless there is a desire from the residents of Ottawa to step in, the Province wont even lean on the City. Right now, NO ONE is complaining about the City to the Province, thus they don’t see it as a real problem
Ken Gray : Well if the province doesn’t get involved soon, the city government will put itself in a terrible fiscal position. I see where Sutcliffe was asking the province for paramedics. Isn’t that the responsibility of the city? They can find money for Lansdowne but not paramedics?
Ron Benn : Toronto’s financial condition makes Ottawa’s look like a Sunday picnic. That Chow knows Ford personally, from their times on or near Toronto city council helps start the dialogue.
Ken Gray : So who could take up the cause?
Ron Benn : Who in Ottawa has the personal relationships with the powers that be in Queen’s Park? Who can place a call that is either picked up immediately or returned within a hour or so?
Ken Gray : Ron, that Toronto matters is also important to Ford. Ottawa, he doesn’t care.
Ron Benn : Not just politician to politician (the answer is no one), but also senior manager to Deputy Minister.
Ken Gray : Mike can you answer Ron’s question?
Ken Gray : I can’t think of anyone except perhaps Lisa. But I’m not so sure she has the pull down there now as The Voter says.
Mike Patton : Look, there are a few people in Ottawa who can pick up the phone and get Doug on the line (not me). But it is not about the VIP’s, they don’t see a problem because no one is complaining to them. It is like any business, once you have a critical mass of complaints, you know you have a problem. Right now no one is suggesting to Queens Park that people in Ottawa are concernedd
RM : Re the Province, and L 2.0. Is the Province not concerned about the compelling argument “direct conflict of interest” in which the City is both the proponent and a regulator in a deal of over $400 M. involving public funds? Is this not a most recent example where intervention is required?
Ken Gray : I’ll have to buy him a subscription to The Bulldog, Mike.
Ron Benn : … and no one at city hall perceives that there is a problem, so no one at city hall is calling the province.
The Voter : The paramedics the city is asking for are, in fact, a provincial responsibility. They are to receive patients at the hospital so that the unit can get back on the road. As such, they are part of the hospital structure and stand in place of the nursing staff in Emerg that doesn’t exist to do that job. If Ottawa-paid paramedics could hand their patients over to the hospital and get on the road again, we wouldn’t have the ambulance shortage that’s been going on for years. It’s just getting more acute now.
Ron Benn : Voter, is the problem province wide, or primarily in Ottawa?
Ken Gray : Ron and that speaks to the quality of people we have there. They think the way Watson ran the city (kind of) is the way it is done. They’re so badly wrong. Did none of them take social studies in public school?
Mike Patton : Seriously, if Goldie’s Office received 20 phone calls saying that the province should get involved to sort out the City of Ottawa, then it would be on the next Cabinet Agenda
Ron Benn : So, how do we get 20+ calls to Goldie, Mike?
Ken Gray : Voter and that’s because of the aging population.
Mike Patton : Ron, you have to ask people to do it
Ron Benn : Do they have to be card carrying members of the party? Would it be helpful if a few non-Conservatives with a profile are part of the program?
Ken Gray : It doesn’t seem hard to get 20 people to call.
Ken Gray : I
Mike Patton : Right? but 20 people is an avalanche
Ken Gray : I’m surprised that Ford is not aware of how serious the situation is here in Ottawa.
RM : Was that not the case with the Greenbelt reversal? Calls to MPPs?
Ken Gray : Maybe we should have got Ford involved in this chat.
Mike Patton : lol
Ken Gray : Next time.
The Voter : I hear he’s available to all Ontarians …
Ken Gray : Voter I guess that stretches him pretty thin.
Ken Gray : So what do we do about the situation at the city?
Ron Benn : Back to what Bruce mentioned. Is it even possible to un-amalgamate the city?
Ken Gray : Are the people of Ottawa concerned about the situation at city hall? They’re certainly concerned about our terrible transit system.
Ron Benn : I think the people of Ottawa are caught up in the weeds. They are not seeing the big picture. The common theme of incompetence/negligence that is the city administration.
Ken Gray : Do we want to un-amalgamate the city? I don’t.
Ron Benn : If it is not possible, the question is moot.
The Voter : It’s happening in southern Ontario – I think Brampton and the neighbouring municipalities or is it Mississauga?
Ken Gray : The cabinet could de-amalgamate with the stroke of a pen.
Ken Gray : Just like they did to amalgamate.
Ken Gray : Voter is breaking up the city a good idea?
The Voter : It took legislation to amalgamate the city.
Ron Benn : One of the problems identified by then Premier Mike Harris was that there was something like 84 elected officials in the 11 municipalities + region to govern well under a million people. And they weren’t particularly good at their jobs.
Ken Gray : Sure, you think Ford could get that through the leg. Of course.
Ron Benn : As Mike Patton said, first we have to get the problems at Ottawa’s city hall on his radar.
Ron Benn : He has but one MPP from Ottawa, and he no longer listens to her.
Ken Gray : I’m sure Ford would listen to the developers but I think they like things just the way they are.
Ron Benn : No doubt about that Ken.
Ken Gray : Our city is failing from bad leadership, a bad culture with city staff and a populace that doesn’t care.
RM : What a sad comment, Ken which has so much truth in it!
Ron Benn : People tend to respond to immediate stimulus. The LRT is down – it inconveniences me. Lansdowne 2.0 is going to ruin my neighbourhood. My property taxes are already too high, and they want how much more?
Ken Gray : So the solution appears to be to get Ford’s attention. City hall will not repair itself. It doesn’t have the ability even if it wanted to … which it doesn’t.
Ron Benn : In short, the big picture doesn’t resonate with most of the public. And the incompetence and dysfunctional culture that is Ottawa’s city hall is big picture.
The Voter : I don’t think so, We would still need some kind of central government to look after the big files like social services and garbage. When amalgamation was being considered, there were several models on the table, some of which treated different areas of the whole in separate ways. One was the creation of a single city with boroughs that would look after certain files. We currently have different set-ups for transit depending on whether you are rural or suburban/urban. The same could be done for other services that are locality-based.
Ken Gray : It’s odd that we have come to the point that we think Ford is the solution because he’s not been the best premier but that’s how desperate the situation at city hall has become. It doesn’t work for the people. It works for itself.
Ron Benn : I agree Voter. De-amalgamation would result in two or three cities + the resurrection of the Regional Municipality. That over arching governing body would need to synchronize cross border services (water, sewer, police, …).
Ken Gray : Voter, I can’t see where more politicians is the answer. We’d have to reform a whole bunch of political entities because the same problems would be there just as they are now on Laurier Avenue.
The Voter : Ron, he has two Ottawa MPPs – Lisa and Goldie Ghamari who represents Carleton alongside Polievre at the federal level.
Ron Benn : Ken, my cynical view is that most governments work for themselves. Stay in office/keep my job. Then, and only then will I focus on shaping the city to meet my person preferences.
Ron Benn : Thank you for the clarification Voter.
Ken Gray : Certainly Jeff Leiper has lost touch of the people. I heard bike advocates saying they need better leadership at city hall after the Commanda Bridge fiasco. Wait a second, that leader is Leiper. He’s losing the cyclists and I’ve also heard that there’s a prominent person in Kitchissippi who is pondering unseating Leiper. The clock’s on Jeffy.
Ron Benn : Could the city keep the Commanda Bridge open for cross country skiers? I recall reading that the NCC trails that lead to the bridge are not plowed.
Ken Gray : A bit off topic but if the snow piles up on the bridge by grooming the trails, the railings are not very effective in keep people out of the river. The idea of rookie x-country skiers on the bridge is frightening.
Ron Benn : I think that turn over at city council is a good thing. Too many this past election (about half) means that the first year or three is spent learning who makes the actual decisions at city hall.
Ken Gray : The problem with turnover is that sometimes the new people are weaker than the old people. Who has replaced Deans and Meehan? There’s no one of their stature on council.
Ron Benn : Pre-pandemic a friend was telling me that he had a meeting downtown one winter morning (his office being in Bells Corners). He found the sidewalks unwalkable due to snow and ice. So he used the bike lanes on Laurier Avenue. Scraped down to the green paint.
The Voter : Ken, With the borough system, you don’t have more politicians. They would each work at the central level as well as at the borough . They only get one paycheque.
Ron Benn : I asked him if he saw any cyclists that morning. His answer was not one in sight. But the bike lanes were full of pedestrians. All of which is a long way to say that the number of cyclists that may use the Commanda Bridge in the dead of winter is not worth the cost of clearing the snow by hand (irrespective of the salt damage).
Ken Gray : Voter so how is that much different from what we have now. Just sounds like more bureaucracy to me.
RM : By the way, JL has stated he’s retiring after this term.
Ken Gray : Imagine building a bridge in Ottawa that you can’t use in winter. What was city hall thinking? What was Leiper thinking, if anything at all.
Ken Gray : RM … you just made my day. Wonder if he’ll find a better job than he has now?
Ron Benn : Jeff Leiper is now in his third term. Time for fresh ideas.
Ken Gray : Ron, time for any ideas.
Ken Gray : ideas not ideology
Ron Benn : Short term thinking is what city hall does best. Understanding that one needs to consider whether pulling on this string will cause that sleeve to fall off is of no concern to city hall. They will then study how to stitch the sleeve back on, or turn that sweater into a vest.
Ken Gray : lol Ron
Ken Gray : So we appear to have come to the conclusion that the solution to Ottawa’s failing government resides at Queen’s Park. The problem is how to convince QP. Any ideas.
Bruce : Ron A bit late with this retort but I ran on what you describe as a person with demonstrated experience (17 years on a city supporting group and the ear of the then city manager) retired, with no axe to grind and was beaten by a young part time salesman who was backed by the Torries full on. He had never volunteered in his community nor in the greater Ottawa area yet was elected because he knew people and was endorsed by some. To be electable in Ottawa is not what you have done or what your experience is but who “likes” you
Ken Gray : Bruce: ‘Likes’ don’t get the garbage picked up.
Ron Benn : Bruce, I understand where you are coming from. To win an election you need a strong, experienced support team. People who can raise money. Who can put feet on the ground (stuffing mailboxes). Who will ask “lob ball questions” at the all candidates meetings. In short, people who live and breathe politics.
Ron Benn : The successful candidate is now beholden to the back room that got him elected. Sound familiar?
Ken Gray : And you wonder why people don’t go into politics.
Ken Gray : I expect the province will step in when the city is on the cusp of not being able to carry out its responsibilities. Are we there now?
Ken Gray : I have a feeling the discussion is concluding. Do we have a show of hands on that?
Ron Benn : Based on what I have read about Toronto’s budget challenges, I suspect that Ottawa is but one of many cities in Ontario that are facing budgetary constraints. And therein the problem lies. Too many cities playing accounting leger du main with their budgets. If the province steps in here, what about … fill in the blank including the Centre of the Universe?
Ken Gray : That could decimate municipal government as we know it.
Ron Benn : My hand is reaching for the dinner plate. Talk to you later. Thank you to the other participants. Your insights and input are appreciated.
The Voter : Leiper’s not running again? How many times have we heard that? Tierney and Hubley, among others, said they would only stay for two terms and I see they’re still there. Steve Desroches kept his word and left after two terms but has come back. They all talk about how people have begged them to stay on or that they have things to complete so they “had” to run again. Will Leiper face an outpouring from constituents who can’t go on without him? If he wants to stay, they’ll be there for him and he’ll be there for them.
The Voter : What’s for dinner, Ron?
Ken Gray : Yes indeed. There are people who care about Ottawa and they live here. Many thanks to Clive Doucet chipping in and thank you for all your participation. The Bulldog is nothing without all of you. I hope we moved the discussion forward. Good night.


Ken Gray

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