Get It Done, and Get it Done Right

Okay, so this is it.

At 2 p.m. today, city council will meet for the second time in less than 24 hours to take yet another vote on a proposed and ugly redesign of the historic Chateau Laurier.
There’s much speculation that Mayor Jim Watson, having forced a down and dirty vote today will do everything he can to get a quick vote, without a rehashing of the issues.
Watson doesn’t like messy – and he doesn’t like losing. After city council voted on Wednesday to reconsider the Chateau Laurier decision, instead of holding the reconsideration vote at the end of next month as was expected – the mayor outmaneuvered Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans and College Coun. Rick Chiarelli by calling for a quick council meeting.
For those of us who care about this city, who love our nation’s capital – we can only hope this backfires on the mayor.

The vote to approve the present plans for the Chateau was 14-9. Orleans Coun. Stephen Blais was absent, and according to his Twitter account, is on holidays. College Coun. Rick Chiarelli voted in favour of the present plan, but only as a way to be able to move reconsideration, a technical process. He’s taking some heat for his vote, he shouldn’t be.

So to clarify some of the issues raised yesterday at the regularly scheduled council meeting.

Watson said it’s a privately-owned building and council can only do so much to force change. Wrong. Yes, it’s privately-owned, but council routinely forces change to privately owned establishments, notably heritage buildings.

Likewise, several councillors made it clear they don’t like the new design in front of them, but effectively threw up their hands saying it was time to move on from this issue because there’s really nothing they can do. Hogwash.

Some councillors said they didn’t want to drag council into a costly legal battle. Fair enough, I suppose, but this council and others before it often vote in favour of a development even though they know the project will be appealed at the Ontario Municipal Board and likely end up in court. And most everyone agrees if council confirms this project today, it will still almost certainly end up in the court system, with any number of people fighting it – and the city will have to defend their decision.

And can you think of any other issue where so many in the public, not just this city but across the country hate the design in front of us? This is an issue most feel passionately about. No one expects councillors to simply rubber stamp a project based solely on public feedback. Nor does the public expect their duly-elected councillors to turn their backs on what the majority of the public wants.

It’s not too late to fix this. Get it done, and get it done right.

Farewell to Democracy

Make absolutely no mistake about it, democracy at Ottawa City Hall is dying a rapid and ugly death.
Along with it, the rights of many Ottawa citizens are absolutely being denied as Mayor Jim Watson and his gang of bobbleheads turned clapping seals are shutting down the rights of duly-elected city councillors and their constituents.

On Wednesday, at the city’s finance and economic development committee, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans hoped to ask some questions about proposed changes to the city’s baseball stadium. Since she’s not a committee member, she needed one of her colleagues to lift the information item from the agenda.
Save for Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder barking out “no” Deans got nothing crickets from the rest of her colleagues, quashing her efforts to ask anything at all about the stadium.

Really shameful.
If a councillor can’t ask questions, where do they turn? Of course, Watson has frequently shown his disdain for debate. So no surprise his minions toed the line and didn’t show Deans any courtesy. Shameful, but not surprising.

I’ve been around city hall forever, and while it apparently has happened before, I’ve never witnessed it. Where’s the collegiality, where’s the support for Deans or the residents Deans represents?
Now it’s easy for me to blame Watson. So let’s just point out that the members of this committee are personally hand-picked by Watson and leave it at that.

Deans could barely contain her disappointment with the Watson-chaired committee and its members.

“I asked if a member of (the committee) would lift it, and not one of them would. I think it’s beyond a courtesy, it’s something we always do for our colleagues. It’s my right, my duty as a member of council to ask questions and they denied me my democratic right. They all just sat there,” Deans said.

Deans, not one of Watson’s favourites to put it mildly, sees a continuing erosion of democratic principles under the mayor’s reign. She’s not alone.

“It is getting worse, there’s no doubt we’re at the breaking point. He’s got his inner circle who he’s given plum appointments to and so they feel they owe him something in return, so they blindly support him. I don’t think it’s democracy,” she continued.

Well, of course, it’s not. It’s ugly, it’s horrendous and it’s the mayor on one of his frequent power trips.

And then it got even worse. In the afternoon, city council met to discuss the fate of the Chateau Laurier. By now, you likely know council rejected Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury’s attempt to reject the recent offering by the building’s developers. He introduced his motion, read the entire thing, only to hear Watson suggest he’d used up most of his allotted five minutes. Yes, there is a five-minute rule, but it’s standard practice to allow the mover of the motion to use that time to ask questions of staff and to state their case. But Watson had every intention of shutting him down. Seriously, democracy is on the line and everyone within the city’s boundaries should be concerned.

In what was a little Christmas miracle, Watson’s ruling was challenged and in a mini-revolt, council agreed Fleury should get his five minutes. Shout it from the roof tops!

After rejecting changes to the really ugly design of the Chateau Laurier, Deans and College Coun. Rick Chiarelli had a plan in place. Chiarelli, who opposes the present design, voted in favour of it so he could move for reconsideration of the vote along with Deans. A motion for reconsideration requires at least one person who voted against the motion in question. If the motion passed, which it did, the pair had every right to presume the vote to reconsider the Chateau Laurier’s design would be revisited at the next council meeting in late August.

But Watson was ready for them, and when the vote passed, he moved a motion for a council meeting on Thursday. That should kill any change of heart by those who voted in favour of the present plan. And if I were a betting woman, which I’ve been known to be, Watson will call as quickly as he can for a vote.

No time or interest for another messy debate of the issues.

“Do you know who I am?”

That’s apparently what for-the-moment-cabinet-minister Lisa MacLeod demanded of Sens owner Eugene Melnyk at a recent public event.
Happily, he had no idea who she was!
Sweet.
Wish I’d been there to see that.
For those of us who know her, we certainly know who she is – a self-righteous bully with an over-inflated belief in her own self importance.

The story has been dominating the news, but just in case you haven’t read it, a quick recap.
At a recent Rolling Stones concert outside of Ottawa, the already-demoted MacLeod stomped over to Melnyk and allegedly gave him a piece of her small mind, according to a story in the Ottawa Citizen by respected journalist Blair Crawford.
“Do you know who I am? I am your minister and you’re a f—ing piece of s–t and you’re a f—ing loser’,” MacLeod apparently said.
Seriously?

You know things are bad when Premier Doug Ford finds your behaviour deplorable, twice phoning Melnyk in one night to try to soothe the stormy waters created by one of his ministers.

“Let me set the record straight,” MacLeod said in a tweet after the story appeared. “I gave @MelnykEugene some feedback at the Rolling Stones concert and I apologized to him for being so blunt. I have serious concerns about the state of our beloved Ottawa Senators! We need to get our team back on the road to winning the cup!”
Feedback? So that’s what we’re calling bullying these days? Good to know.

Melnyk was unimpressed, rightly pointing out that MacLeod didn’t really offer an apology about what she’d said and she certainly hadn’t owned up to what she’d said.

Many in the city pounced publicly and quickly on MacLeod, all no doubt part of a very large group that has felt her abusive wrath. Let’s face it. For anyone who has had contact with her, she’s not a sympathetic character. She’s just not a nice person in her working, political life.

The Twitter world had a field day, roasting her widely. Frankly, looks good on her. She was chastised on Twitter, with many pointing out her deplorable treatment of autism families, a group she courted in opposition, then quickly turned her back on them once in power, allegedly going so far as threatening what their future might mean if they kept up their attacks on her.

I recall being at a Nepean fundraising event when she started barking for help from volunteers. One person eventually got up to help, telling me they better help her in case she wins again! People are afraid of the repercussions if they don’t toe the line, not because they either like or respect her.
And others, like federal MP Pierre Poilievre, former cabinet minister John Baird and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson are most likely taking no small joy in her public humiliation.

There’s a chance that MacLeod entered politics to help.
Now, the only person she’s trying to help is herself.

Many months ago I ran into a city councillor who’d witnessed first-hand MacLeod’s out-of-control bullying tactics.
“What can I say,” the councillor said to me. “Lisa is a bitch.”

Exactly.