Every Time People Come Out, It Changes Hearts: Alex Munter

It was a much different world for homosexuals back in 1993 when Alex Munter announced he was gay. Like Mayor Jim Watson did yesterday, Munter also made his public declaration in an op ed piece in the Citizen. 

I knew I was gay, my friends knew I was gay, I had a life as a gay person, my colleagues at work knew. So I was in this weird space after I was elected that I obviously didn’t deny it, but is was sort of don’t ask, don’t tell. It was a really dishonest place, so ironically I wrote an op ed in the Ottawa Citizen, which seems to the the place of choice! It was a scary thing to do, nobody had ever done it in Ottawa and just  eight or nine in the country. I remember the day before, driving around Kanata with copies of the op ed for folks I needed to see it. Some of them were folks who were either involved with religious communities. Without exception, the reaction was kind and affirmative and supporting form those folks. That was very touching affirmation and of a different time.

Asked what he thinks of Watson’s announcement, given that it’s taken him 40 years of keeping a secret to come out. As always, Munter handles his answers with both honesty and grace.

“I’m not super comfortable with the comparison. Everyone follows their own path. And I would say everyone follows the same process but in a different timeline. Some get there faster, people do it when they’re ready. It’s different for different people. I think everybody who is a gay, lesbian or any LGBT person, that for their own happiness should come out as soon as they’re ready, follow their own timeline but don’t wait 40 years.

And that’s pretty much what you can extrapolate from reading Watson’s piece. I think many of us hope that part of the push in the mayor’s timing is that he might be in love, and no longer wants to hide that. That is pure speculation on my part, but I don’t believe as some are suggesting that someone had something over him, questioning the rush to come out. Rush? A 40-year rush? Why can’t people just be happy for Watson who has chosen to love openly.

After a couple of negative blogs, Watson stopped returning my calls. Am I cynical enough to believe he wouldn’t have turned his back on me if I was still writing for a daily? Yes, absolutely. But while I may differ with him and differ often on his politics, I really am overwhelmed with the prospect of the happiness that he’s chosen to embrace.

“Every time people come out, it changes hearts,” Munter said.
Of course, when Munter came out, the world wasn’t as forgiving. And he acknowledges his parents had difficulty when he told them.

“I was a teenager, I was just barely a teenager. It was hard for them, it wasn’t what they expected or what they hoped for. Their first response was, “We love you” but it took a few years before they were comfortable with it, but I always knew their feelings were rooted in love and I never doubted that,” he said.

That doesn’t surprise me. Everything Munter has said to me about his parents has lead me to believe they are strong and supportive parents. I remember one story he told me about going to school, really not speaking English, (his parents spoke German at home) and his first teacher called him stupid. He had no idea what the word meant, but went home and asked his mother about the conversation and what the word stupid meant. She told him it meant she had to have a talk with his teacher!

“I absolutely believed my chances in life would be a limited because I was gay, that’s a painful thing to experience,” Munter said. But a quick look at his extensive resume makes that clear that on this one point, Munter was wrong. Doesn’t happen often. Of the changes made over the years in public acceptance of gays, and the success of openly gay people, these would have been “science fiction to my teenaged brain,” Munter said.

Now the president of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Munter first made his mark on this city as the 14-year-old whiz kid who started up the Kanata Kourier, publishing it out of his basement. Within four years, the paper had a staff of seven and a circulation of 10,000 in the town of 27,000 and he eventually sold it for somewhere around $300,000. He was a much-beloved Kanata councillor for years and ran a successful campaign for mayor of Ottawa, coming second to Larry O’Brien. And those are just a few highlights.

“I think it’s a whole other world. We’re still in the world of firsts. Jim Watson is still the first openly gay mayor of Ottawa. I think the legal protections that were absent in 1993 for gay and lesbian people have been secured, social attitudes have changed and have evolved. I remember talking to you years ago, it’s better than it was 10 years ago, not as good as it will be 10 years from now.” The virus of homophobia, it takes different forms. But there are still gay bashings, lots of horrible stuff online and  there’s still lots of people who just are not at a place where they feel comfortable enough to come out,” Munter said. “I think for Jim, first and foremost, this will change his own life for the better and for that reason alone, it’s an important thing to do. We’ve all been there and all understand what a difficult step it is, every time someone comes out, it changes the hearts and minds around you. When you’re the mayor, this will change other peoples lives for the positive.”

Watson Comes Out as Gay and That’s a Great Thing

Having known Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for more than half my life, I have to believe his story openly acknowledging being gay was incredibly difficult for him to write. Watson is a control freak, something he absolutely acknowledges. And while the world has changed incredibly over the years, he knew when penning the piece, he couldn’t control people’s reaction.

Thankfully, the world has changed dramatically since Watson realized he was gay, and it seems through reading Twitter, the public is simply happy their mayor now has acknowledged something he has kept secret for a very long time. But yet, it makes me a little sad to know the turmoil he’s endured. 

I used to often say that everything I understood or knew about being gay I learned from talking to Alex Munter. Munter is now of course the president of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, but he was also the first openly gay local politician in Ottawa back in the early 90s. I was always incredibly curious about being gay and any question – no matter what it was or  even  how intrusive it was – Munter was happy and willing to respond. There were times I felt he was willing to educate one ignorant person at a time. It’s pretty impressive when you think about it, maybe even if you don’t.

I remember asking him once about the public reaction to his declaration, and he suggested that over the years, there was very little negative reaction. But when I would write about him in those days, I would get incredibly outrageous and ugly reactions to “that fag.” It made me sick to my stomach. Despite my ignorance about homosexuality, I never had any negative feelings towards those who were. And if you are lucky enough to know Munter, you wouldn’t either. I recall saying to him that I didn’t really understood the pressure to acknowledge being gay, that straight people were never pressured to declare their sexuality.

He cut me off quickly. “Susan,” he said, “you declare your sexuality with most everything you say, when you talk about being married, when you talk about your kids, you’re letting people know”

I’d never thought about it that way.

And now, Munter and his partner are the parents of a son, and I’d like to scream that from the rooftops. 

Today, Mayor Jim Watson wrote an oped piece in the Citizen acknowledging he was gay. I’ve known Watson, as I’ve written many times, since our days at Carleton University. He was the president of the Rideau River Residence Association (RRRA) and I was the news editor of The Charlatan. He claims that when I quoted him in a story in his role as the head of RRRA, it was the first time he’d been quoted in a paper. I’m paraphrasing, but the quote included the statement that he would never make a good politician! I’m going to leave that one alone today!

But as Watson suggested in his piece, he believes his friends and family always presumed he was gay. I was certainly one of those, and certainly, being at Carleton at the same time, I wasn’t alone. And during those days, it just wasn’t an issue for any of us. It certainly makes me sad that Watson has felt he needed or wanted to keep this private.

I remember a time, I believe it was a celebration for his 30th birthday at a bar on Elgin Street, that myself and another reporter at what was then the Ottawa Herald, dropped by for a drink. For whatever reason, his friend – who I won’t name – acknowledged Jim was gay. And he also thanked us for coming, saying Jim wanted celebrities there!
Well, neither of us were even close to being celebrities, but….if it made the Birthday Boy happy, what the heck! 
I’m happy for Jim Watson, and even happier to see the positive reaction to his pronouncement. You did a good thing today and I desperately hope that by day’s end, that’s what you’re feeling.

The Great Divide

So it seems Capital Coun. Shawn Menard thinks it would be a good thing, in fact, a much better and more democratic process, if the key issues of downtown planning were handled by downtown councillors.

Say what?

Misguided arrogance. Not necessarily surprising, but misguided nonetheless.

I’m not at all sure how old Menard was when the suburbs were brought kicking and screaming into an amalgamated City of Ottawa. But many of us never wanted to be part of this new city, and were quite happy living our lives in Nepean, in Gloucester and Kanata and determining our own fate. The rural parts of Ottawa were equally angry at being forced into being part of a mega-city.

But here we are, part of one big city and now Menard doesn’t feel we in the burbs should have any real influence in how the downtown core – part of our city – grows.

And it’s that kind of misguided thinking that in part prompted me to start this blog under the name On the City, From the Burbs. Too often the interests of the burbs are forgotten or ignored by the mainstream media, and councillors like Menard are able to capitalize on that.

Like it or not, we are one big city.

For anyone to suggest that those of us living in the suburbs don’t care about what happens in the downtown core, poppycock. (That’s a word I love, but never use enough!)

Many of the planning issues in the downtown core aren’t simply neighbourhood issues. Did Menard not notice how passionate so many across the city feel about the changes being proposed for the Chateau Laurier? Bike lanes? The quality of the roads? Intensification? The list goes on. And regardless of whether we live in the downtown core or not, these are issues in our downtown core that most of us living in the burbs care about. Many of us work downtown, and planning issues are key in that regard.

Of course, decisions made by committees still go to council where everyone has a vote. But there’s usually very little debate – with the nuances of the issue being hammered out at committee.

Menard laid out his thoughts in an opinion piece which ran recently in the Citizen. And I can’t begin to explain how upset I get when I witness this kind of arrogance from a downtown councillor. We are one city, but Menard doesn’t want those of us who live outside of the downtown core having an important say in a key component of city planning.

When Menard won the right to represent his downtown ward in last year’s municipal election, he was widely expected to become a strong voice for the left on council, someone not afraid to take on the domineering personality of Mayor Jim Watson. He’s certainly succeeding in that role. But here’s the thing, Menard was elected to be both the rep for a downtown ward and as someone who represents the entire city.

Yet he seems to actually believe he can push aside the interests of the suburbs in favour of the downtown core politicians dominating the most important planning issues. Here’s some of what Menard wrote in his opinion piece.

“City Hall belongs to you. City Hall is your building. Council members work for the public and should be tasked with putting the needs of the people first over other demands. That’s democracy. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

But you live in Ottawa, so you know that too often, City Hall isn’t a place for people, at least not all people. Too often, City Hall is a place for developers.

We saw this last week when the planning committee completely ignored official plans, community agreements and past promises from developers, approving a large change to the secondary plan in Old Ottawa East. The committee didn’t simply rubber-stamp a developer’s desire to change the plans of a community, re-zone the lands of a university that objected and negate years of work; it once again reinforced the message to community members — many of whom showed up to defend our democratically derived plans — that City Hall is not a place for you.

We should not tolerate this disdain for residents.”

Disdain for residents? Seems that’s just what Menard his showing.

His solution is to break up the planning committee into two separate committee, one of which would essentially be composed of downtown politicians dealing with downtown issues, and another dominated by suburban councillors representing suburban planning issues. As Menard rightly points out, currently rural planning issues go to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC), while non-rural issues go to planning committee.

“Building off this model, rural issues would still go to ARAC, but we would have separate committees dealing with issues in the inner wards and those in the outer wards. They would be comprised predominantly of councillors from each committee’s respective area,” Menard wrote.

Well, two wrongs don’t make a right. And further dividing the interests of the city by treating them as separate entities is not at all helpful. And to suggest that suburban residents shouldn’t have a strong influence on their downtown core goes against the very principles of amalgamation.

As Menard and all of city councillors know full well, the reason the present planning committee is dominated by councillors from outside the downtown core is simply because Mayor Jim Watson – who despises debate and controversy – and is happy to punish his detractors by shutting them out of key committees – and he did just that. Don’t punish the ‘burbs for his arrogance.

Fingers crossed Watson won’t be in power forever. And councillors like Menard should be working on building bridges with their suburban and rural counterparts instead of trying to divide this city’s residents.

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!
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.

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.”


Bitchy Pants

With very few restrictions, city councillors can spend their office budgets on pretty much whatever they want.
It’s a practice I’ve harped on for years.

They can take their staff out for lunch, cozy up with constituents while breaking bread, make donations to charities their taxpayers don’t support, buy City of Ottawa paraphenalia and buy expensive tickets to charity events whether they attend or not.

And of course, let’s not forget about pricey Ottawa Senators tickets, just ask Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney about that one!
As an aside, the money can also be used on priciey advertising – and again I reference former city councillor Michael Qaqish’s huge vanity ads on Ottawa’s bus shelters.
And it’s all on our dime. And from my perspective, politicians get to use our money to help keep themselves elected.

I don’t agree with it.

Isn’t it their job to keep themselves elected – by working hard and serving their constituents?

On the weekend, I noticed two tweets – one from Tierney, another from River Coun. Riley Brockington – advertising free movies nights in their communities.
And yes, my journalistic/taxpayer back went up immediately.
Whatever you think of councillors using our money, these evenings are not free. We the taxpayer are picking up the tab.
And that was the point I was trying to make.
By the end of the night, I was being accused of wanting to deprive children from low-income families of a little bit of free popcorn.

But that’s twitter. And I’m fine with it.

Even a handle of Bitter Better Bitchy Pants, who must wake up on the wrong side of the bed everyday thought I was horrid. That says a lot!

Another under the twitter handle @clazerbeam13 wrote to me, “You seem to be inferring that it is wrong to use taxpayer’s $ for this. Can you pls explain why it would be bad for taxpayer $ to fund a movie night for kids in an disadvantaged neighbourhood?”

Not at all what I wrote, so sorry, @clazerbeam13, don’t feel I owe you an explanation.

The Carlington Community Association tweeted that they really appreciate the movie night and thanked Brockington for his generosity.
Say what?
He’s not being generous. He’s using your money and mine for the night.

The association also took the opportunity to take a dig at former city councillor Maria McRae, suggesting the movie night was far more worthwhile than the vanity park benches McRrae bought with our money with her name on a brass plaque. Can’t argue there.

I believe that regardless of how you feel about councillors spending our money, those same politicians should at the very least be upfront about where the money is coming form.
And the movie nights are not free.

To his great credit, Brockington addressed the issue head on, acknowledging on twitter he would prefer to find an outside sponsor for those movie nights – but didn’t hide behind the fact that his office budget picks up the tab. Tierney on the other hand, went into hiding.That says a lot.

When it comes to twitter, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I get that.
I almost always love the exchange of such divergent opinions.

Bring it on.

Watson and his Bullying Ways

Mayor Jim Watson has used his considerable power to force well-known Conservative Mike Patton out of city hall.

Patton was recently let go from the office of Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan.

“Carol Anne felt I was doing more harm in her office than helping her, that I had become a lightning rod attracting attention from the mayor,” Patton told On the City, From the Burbs.

Patton made it clear he has absolutely no bad feelings toward his former boss and understands she felt she had no real alternative but to let him go, given the extraordinary pressure from Watson and his office.

So what exactly did Patton do to deserve the mayor’s wrath?

“Well, I don’t know of another person he dislikes more than me,” Patton said.
And sadly, it’s as simple as that.
Watson despises Patton and forced him out by putting undue pressure on Meehan.

“I feel terrible for Carol Anne. She’s trying to do the best for her community. That’s all she’s trying to do. She just wants to work in the best interests of her community. And I admire that,” Patton said. “She did the right thing and I don’t think there was any real alternative.”

He said Watson was just making Meehan’s life too difficult, putting up roadblocks at every turn, making it clear to her Patton had to go if things were ever going to go in her favour.
“Jim Watson wants to be totally in control. It’s very much his vision and his vision alone. And that’s what’s being enacted at city hall right now. And it will remain that way and most of council is willing to go along with him most of the time,” Patton said.
“He believes I was giving her advice that was causing her to be willingly defiant.”

This story might be difficult for city hall outsiders to understand. Clearly, the mayor isn’t Meehan’s boss. But at city hall, he wields a tremendous amount of power – and being the absolute control freak he is – he abuses it. He essentially controls the bureaucracy and controls the budget. Yes, he’s just one vote, but with the support of council – what he wants wins out.

This isn’t the first time Watson has worked against Patton. In 2010, Watson worked against Patton when he was running in River ward against then newcomer Riley Brockington.

Patton isn’t new to city hall. He worked for College Coun. Rick Chiarelli and also for former mayor Larry O’Brien.
He said under O’Brien, great and vigorous debate was encouraged.
“That’s not the way Jim Watson approaches the word,” Patton said.
“In his business model, he’s like a classic bully, he’s very much a bully. He held me responsible for any opposition to his agenda.”

Comparing O’Brien to Watson, Patton said major projects like Lansdowne Park wouldn’t have happened without the maverick mayor.
“But Jim Watson isn’t naturally a creative person. He doesn’t have new ideas and really is only interested in managing,” Patton continued.

Understandably, Meehan isn’t talking about the dismissal. She’s in the proverbial rock and a hard place.
But if you think she had a choice, you’re being naive.
She was elected to represent the residents of Gloucester-South Nepean – and with Watson fighting her at each and every turn – that simply wasn’t going to happen.

The mayor should be ashamed of himself. He won’t be.
And for the record, Watson does not return requests for interviews from this blog – and has made it clear there’s just no point in asking.

So Much Loss, So Many Questions

As he prepared for Monday morning, a veteran OC Transpo driver – who didn’t want to be identified – admitted he was dreading the day.
At the helm of a double decker bus, he said he expected the reaction from passengers would be mixed.
And he wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Some will be sympathetic, for sure, but others will also just give me the finger,” he told On the City, From the Burbs in an interview on Sunday night.
And he, like so many other drivers and many other OC Transpo employees – is very concerned about the state of training at the transit company.

The driver has been identified by the Ottawa Sun as Aissatou Diallo, who apparently had been on the job for less than a year and remains on probation.
According to the paper, she was driving OC Transpo bus 269 en route to Kanata’s Bridlewood neighbourhood from downtown on Friday when the bus crashed into the overhang of the bus shelter at Westboro station just before 4 p.m. The overhang cut through the upper level of the double-decker bus.

Three people were killed and 23 were injured.

And now, our entire city mourns the loss of these lives.

Terrible. Deaths so random. But today, questions are being raised about the driver. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?

The veteran driver told this blog the driver in question had been in two accidents previous to Friday’s tragic crash, the last one just in December.
That’s hard to comprehend.
And further to that, he said some employees in the training department didn’t want the woman to be allowed to continue driving – but that decision was overruled.

We all know this investigation will take what will seem like eons to complete. And surely, the driver’s record on the road will eventually become public knowledge.

Sadly, no amount of investigation will help the families who’ve forever lost people they loved.

The lives lost are Bruce Thomlinson, 56 years old, Judy Booth, 57 years old, and Anja Van Beek, 65 years old.

It’s impossible to imagine what their loved ones are going through now.

We may feel like we’re grieving alongside them, but we can’t truly know what they’re going through.

It’s all just so sad.

Boxing Day Goodies for City Council – Part One

If you’re going to give out gifts to city councillors, even just online ones, you still want to do your shopping during those Boxing Day sales!

Let’s start the goodies off with River Coun. Riley Brockington, who was shut out of any special treats when Mayor Jim Watson handed out spots on important city committees and much-sought after committee chairs. Brockington apparently didn’t want to play Watson’s game and made that clear. So under the tree, Brockington gets some newfound respect and the hope that he continues to find the strength to publicly speak his mind.

Frankly, College Coun. Rick Chiarelli just doesn’t need anything under the tree. He’s already got a wicked sense of humour that gets under Watson’s skin, he won the support of his ward despite Watson’s best efforts to replace him. Best yet, having also been shut out of the important committees, he has lots of time this term to work on both city-wide issues and local affairs.

Not everyone thinks Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley was the perfect fit for the all-important job of chairing transit. Let’s face it. He didn’t do himself any favours by remarking he’d have to brush up on all the issues. But in the spirt of the holidays – for Hubley – we offer up a light rail system that actually opens when it’s scheduled to!

Whatever the politics behind Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Dianes Deans becoming the first female chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, she is certainly the perfect fit. It’s going to be tough going, but Deans has years of experience behind her and a good understanding of what the immediate problems are. The gift? She won’t have to butt heads with Watson at each and every turn. Who could want more?

When she was sworn in yet again to represent Barrhaven, Coun. Jan Harder said this was definitely her last term. Not the first time she’s said that. So for Harder, the will to do what is right for her and her family – or at the very least – the ability to stop talking about.

There are seven new councillors sitting around council following the recent municipal election. Seems they already have their gifts, congrats to all.

For Beacon Hill-Cyrille Coun. Tim Tierney, what he wants is something not even Santa and certainly not this blog can even pretend to give him.