The Bad, the Ugly, the Really, Really Ugly – And the Just Plain Stupid

Maybe we can blame some of the ugliness witnessed at Ottawa City Hall last week on COVID grumpiness.

Hard to say.

But whatever the reason, none of it is okay and frankly, we’ve seen this kind of behaviour from Mayor Jim Watson and his band of loyal followers in the past. 

A quick status update before we get into the nitty gritty: Watson is still acting like a dictator, light rail still isn’t working, Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder is getting meaner by the minute and West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry is vying to seize her title. (Yes, I was shocked too!)

Here are some of the lowlights from this last week after about 19 hours of public consultation on the expansion of the urban boundary over two days, a city council meeting on Wednesday, followed on Thursday with yet another city committee.

For the record, while Harder thought they could get through the entire meeting in one day (with more than 100 delegates scheduled to speak) that was just never going to happen. In fact, the third day is happening today, with no guarantees they won’t need to take a fourth day sometime this week before the issue goes to city council at the end of May.

Here’s the real problem with roughly 24 hours of public consultation (by mid-Tuesday) on expanding the urban boundary. It’s sadly already a done deal, while there could no doubt be some minor changes to the gist of the staff recommendation, it’s going to happen.

The city will expand its boundaries.

And all the effort from the public didn’t change minds. Watson wants it to happen and what has now become his merry band of followers will vote as he wants. They’re too afraid not to. It’s sad, it’s wrong, but it’s going to happen.

What was equally as frustrating, if you listened in on the presentations and if you’re anything like me living in the suburbs, you would have heard very little about how it will effect your lifestyle. How will my public transit be effected? Will it it be stretched even further to accommodate for the next growth? It appears so.

REALLY, REALLY UGLY: When resident Sam Hersh addressed the committee, El-Chantiry asked him what he did for a living. Hersh replied he was unemployed, to which El-Chantiry then asked if he’d ever worked for a city councillor. Clearly, El-Chantiry knew he had. Hersh said he had, but didn’t understand the relevance.

Turns out that Hersh worked for a period of time for a couple of left-leaning city councillors. But when he questioned the relevance of the question, both El-Chantiry and Harder, (the chairs of the meeting) could be hear dissing his response and joined in with Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney who actually guffawed at the member of the public.

El-Chantiry sunk even lower, calling Hersh “a joke.” Apparently, El-Chantiry later sent Hersh a private apology to a public dissing. And while we’re at it, while Harder felt just fine ridiculing Hersh, she got her back up when a city councillor asked former city hall staff John Smit who he was representing at the committee. Harder questioned the relevance, yes the same Harder who laughed in the face of Hersh. The list of delegates had Smit down representing GBA Consulting Group, a real estate development company. Sadly, Smit tarnished his previously stellar reputation saying he was there on his own. 

SEE NO EVIL: Asked how he felt about El-Chantiry’s outburst last week, Watson said he hadn’t heard it, but added it wasn’t his role to discipline a councillor. Right. Watson has no problem disciplining councillors he despises. Proof in point, he quickly jumped on College Coun. Rick Chiarelli – without any proof of the allegations against him.

F-BOMB: The brightest point of last Wednesday’s council meeting was when a city staffer uttered an F-bomb just when Watson called on him to answer a question from council. The well-liked staffer was suggesting the online system wasn’t working well, and he used the Bomb to describe it. And yes, clearly, I get that using the F-bomb really shouldn’t be the brightest point of a meeting.

And while that might have been the most fun of the mishaps last Wednesday, there was of course some hideous behaviour yet again. from Watson. Having worked long and hard at finding alternative housing for the homeless, Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney was literally shoved aside when Watson took her ideas and moved a motion with Kanata Coun. Jenna Sudds to use McKenney’s own ideas and her hard work to take the credit for the idea moving forward. That wasn’t the end of Watson’s dictatorship. And really, there’s no other word for it.

Instead of working with McKenney and Capital Coun. Shawn Menard, our egotistical mayor drew up his own motion on providing street parking in the downtown core, without so much as an acknowledgement to the work his downtown councillors had done.

REALLY STUPID: When Ottawa Health posted a video with some light-hearted ideas to keep safe doing the pandemic, the full-of-herself Harder tweeted: “Very stupid.” Now it was a bit unclear whether Harder thought Ottawa Health was stupid for the post or that perhaps she was dissing the residents who might need such information. Either way, she’s last week’s biggest loser.

AND DID I MENTION?: The city’s light rail system still doesn’t work.

Please: No More Screen Kissing

Like most of us, I find it incredibly difficult to think of our seniors, having worked so long and hard all their lives, banned from seeing their families.

We have to do better than that. I have an elderly aunt, in her 90s, who lives in such a facility in Hamilton. Now confined to her room, she sometimes wonders if she’ll die cooped up in her room, never again seeing the outside world, and sometimes it sounds like she’s stopped caring about the answer to that. As part of her family, it’s incredibly difficult to hear the sadness and loneliness in her voice.

So I can easily imagine how families with loved ones in the long-term facilities must have felt when they heard Ottawa had decided there would be no more window-waving.

It’s hard to imagine a message more badly handled locally during these COVID19 times than the directive to stop waving hello to loved ones through the windows of the city’s long-term care homes. Imagine. The city runs the Garry J. Armstrong, Peter D. Clark, Carleton Lodge and Champlain homes. Our seniors, who’ve worked so hard and long in their lives, were being cut off from a small loving and welcome wave from friends and family at their window during this seemingly never-ending seclusion.

The story of this evil edict went viral, of course. It even made international news, and had Ontario Premier Doug Ford crapping all over Ottawa. (Perhaps our local MPP Lisa MacLeod was advising him!)

I’m not really a big fan of politicians lashing out when another one fails, and Ford would have been wise to check his facts before spouting off. But again, back to the horrendous messaging. Dean Lett, the city’s director of long-term care, told the media the ban on window waving wasn’t supposed to upset anyone, but it was felt the city needed to protect the approximate 700 who live in Ottawa’s long-term care homes. I’ve always had a bit of problem when people suggest they didn’t intend to be callous or hurtful. How about you consider your actions and think what the reaction might be.

For reasons that are still hard to understand, Lett didn’t talk to either our medical officer of health Vera Etches or Ottawa Public Health. It’s all really too bad, which makes me feel bad for Lett – who I’m sure was shocked at the visceral reaction from the seniors stuck in isolation and the people who love them.

It would seem Lett simply overreacted, no doubt after being in contact with management at the city’s long-term care facilities. Seems some family members were actually kissing their loved ones either on the window or actually trough the screen. Seriously? Even without a pandemic – and I’m not a germaphobe – but that should appear to all of us to obviously be a really bad idea.

And following the public announcement, of course, the public and many city councillors were all too willing to jump all over the decision.  Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has ordered staff running the long-term care facilities to find some better solutions which should allow seniors and their families to see each other once again.

Of course, the kissing through the screens or on the windows wasn’t the only issue.  When some family members people visited, and residents went outside, families weren’t social distancing. And that really should have been the message.

Keep your distance. It’s as simple as that.