Stay Out Of The Swamp, Mark Sutcliffe: THE VOTER

 

Lansdowne issue could be a good lesson for city councillors who have long had a reputation that they are push-overs:

A negative Lansdowne vote might bode well for the future.

From where I sit, it looks like the yes-men and women around the Ottawa City Council table might finally be opening their eyes to what’s going on throughout city hall and might no longer be providing their votes unquestioningly to the Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.

If they’re not happy with Lansdowne, they might even pick up the LRT report and read it a little more carefully. They might also start to question what comes in front of them and actually exercise their fiduciary responsibilities. They might  actually pursue an auditor general’s report on every aspect of the LRT.

A councillor once told me that he wasn’t an expert on the subject of a particular report but they had hired staff who were experts to do the work of going through things and producing a report with their recommendations to council. Unless he had other information that challenged the staff position, his inclination was to follow the “expert advice” and approve the staff report. He felt it would somehow be insulting to the staff and all their hard work if he asked too many questions about their reports. All the more so if he did that in public, perish the thought.

A Bizarre Definition Of Greatness: WHOPPER WATCH


Since 2010, we’ve also had a crew of councillors who fell into step with the wishes of the mayor, again without question. On roll-call votes, it would have saved a lot of time if instead of the former mayor Jim Watson voting last, he had gone first. He could have just said “I and my minions vote Yes. The motion is carried.” or “I and my minions vote No. The motion is defeated.”

There was a time when actual debate occurred at both the committee level and at council. There was also lively participation from the community at committee meetings which was known to sway councillors’ final positions. The outcome of those discussions might be a vote divided along certain lines but there were, often enough, items that passed or failed unexpectedly or with individual councillors departing from their anticipated votes. It was sometimes messy but it was open, transparent and democratic and allowed you to hold your councillor to account.

Even if all councillors do with Lansdowne is send staff back to the drawing board, that will be a victory. If they ask the hard questions and expose some of the flaws of the project, that would be even better.

As for Sutcliffe, maybe this can be a lesson for him not to come out in favour of something he doesn’t have all the details on. He should also take from this that it’s not enough to just listen to the proponents and Jim Watson & Co. on a topic before taking a position. Do your homework and come to your own decision.

We call that due diligence and it helps you stay out of the swamp.

The Voter is a respected community activist and long-time Bulldog commenter who prefers to keep her identity private.

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