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.
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.