REPORT CARD: City Hall Has Failed Badly

When it comes to cutting back at Ottawa City Hall, often basic services suffer.

Why? Because they are not sexy. They don’t get you votes. They aren’t especially exciting for politicians or city staff.

Instead money goes to things where the mayor can cut a ribbon. Not much political capital unveiling an expanded Trail Road landfill. And on the sexy projects, city staff just screws it up.

Here are the city’s mandated basic services and a bit of a note on how they are performing:

Airports: fine;
Ambulance: troubled, response times are slow, units being held at hospitals, often ambulances are not available, tried to send non-emergency cases by taxis but that was stopped by Queen’s Park. Heroic staff, poor government support;
Animal Control; animal control seems fine except that the formulation of a wild animal plan is glacial;
By-law Enforcement: no huge problems but enforcing basketball net removal on streets is misguided. Enforcement of skating pond in Kanata left much to be desired;
Arts and Culture: Not exactly a city thriving in culture on a civic level. Federal money makes it punch above its weight in things such as museums, National Arts Centre, monuments, federal realm architecture. City could use to look at how Winnipeg, alive with culture at the municipal level, makes it work. That said, we don’t have families such as the Richardsons who took the Royal Winnipeg Ballet under its wing;
Child Care: A bigger challenge than all three levels of government can solve;
Economic Development: Embarrassing. Some of the city’s tax breaks and the like have been laughable;
Fire Services: fine;
Garbage Collection and Recycling: Often ignored until the problem becomes big. Trail Road Landfill has been 15 years from full for 30 years. Rather than dealing with the expensive job of treating this basic service as a basic service, it thrusts responsibility on its citizens, in new programs that won’t work. It has contributed to the rat problem in the city;
Electric Utilities: We are quickly approaching a capacity problem with the electrification of autos and the like. That OC Transpo has had to install two natural-gas generators to charge so-called green buses, the size of which would light the city of Brockville, shows how tenuous Ottawa’s supply is. The generators show how naive and incompetent council and city staff are. A green electric bus system that must use natural gas to be charged. That’s not a green program but a fool’s game;
Library Services: A wonderful service but is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new central library when the internet is readily available. A 20th-century project in the 21st century;
Long Term Care and Senior Housing: A problem bigger than all three levels of government;
Maintenance of Local Road Network: Terrible;
Parks and Recreation; Ottawa has lots of parkland courtesy of the federal government and the National Capital Commission. How at the municipal level, extremification is not being matched by new parks;
Public Transit: A disaster;
Planning New Community Developments and Enhancing Existing Neighbourhoods; The developers get what they want and our neighbourhoods are being destroyed with stumpies. Shameful;
Police Services: A disaster. The good officers are done a disservice by the rogue officers and terrible administration. The Ottawa Police Services Board practices noversight. I nice tight, convenient and cozy operation for the participants;
Property Assessment: An odd way to pay for basic services. Taxation according to income would be better but then with the greedy and selfish city staff, they would exploit that huge fund of money to the detriment of the economic stability of the city;
Provincial Offences Administration: Cash grab;
Public Health: Did an exemplary job during the Covid crisis. Many kudos;
Side Walks: The city spends millions on red brick sidewalks and repairs them with asphalt. Ridiculous;
Snow Removal: Depends on how close an election is. Near election time, outstanding. Any other time, cutbacks. Blame staff and the pols;
Social Services: A problem bigger than government;
Social Housing: A problem bigger than government;
Storm Sewers; Taxpayers paid $232 million for the sewage storage tunnel only to have it overflow, thus defeating its purpose. No word of other overflows but the public doesn’t know if that is because it works or city staff is simply not telling the public of the problems. The lack of trust of city hall among citizens is, rightly, very high;
Tax Collection: This gets done though how efficiently is impossible to gauge. The vacant unit tax is an outrage. Some costs are spun out of the tax bill so that politicians can say tax increases are low. Add in the spun-out services and it isn’t so;
Water and Sewage: This has been spun out of your tax bill and has been subject to huge increases that don’t show in two-per-cent or three-per-cent municipal tax hikes. The raids on reserve funds doesn’t show up either except when it came time to build a new landfill;
City Council: A very weak council with a few members appalling, most over their heads or lazy in dealing with civic issues (not so on projects that will get them re-elected), Your agent remembers high school student councils that were better. Some councillors are competent but no one shines. We could do better by choosing our representative at random from a broken-down OC Transpo bus;
City Staff: One-third of senior manager spots are being run by interim appointments. Good candidates are voting with their feet. Often has its own agenda. Provincial LRT Inquiry shows a city staff at its worst. Often takes council and the mayor and the public for a ride … not all that difficult. The verdict? Few job candidates are applying because the City of Ottawa is a mess. You don’t want to tie your career to this derailing train.

Report Card:

29 Categories, 4 Passing Grades


F (fail)

Just how long will it take before all these failure turn up on your tax bill? Multi-billion-dollar mistakes must be paid by taxpayers with little consequence for city staff.

Ken Gray


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1 Response

  1. Ron Benn says:

    As I recall the process, the parent needs to sign the report card. That would be Premier Doug Ford.

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