Chiarelli on Life, Death and Public Shaming


In a wide-ranging interview, College Coun. Rick Chiarelli spoke exclusively with On the City, From the Burbs about family, his heart surgery and how he feels being shunned by his council colleagues.

Still recovering from an infection which developed after his sudden, life-saving heart surgery, Chiarelli has a hospital bed set up in his home, where he is on an antibiotic drip, while another tube continues to “suck away a lot of the infection.”

“They’re saying I’m making progress on the infection, and have a nurse visit everyday. It’s looking good so far,” he said on Monday night, just moments after his lawyers released a letter calling out what they believe to be a “patent and palatable bias” against Chiarelli. The lawyers are also calling on the city to end their own investigations and let a judicial process handle the situation.

Chiarelli still struggles with his council colleagues rejecting a doctor’s note calling for approved sick leave, the first time that has ever happened at Ottawa council.

“I thought it was not wise politically, and it was not wise administratively. Nobody wants to see council vote down medical leave. I was shocked by it. I just know that when you’re voting on these things, you always vote in favour of someone’s medical leave. It indicates a real bias in the whole process. A councillor’s responsibility as a member of council is to remain impartial,” he said of the investigation into several allegations of sexual impropriety.

Is there anyone out there who can dispute that Watson and his council have exhibited extreme bias against Chiarelli with regard to the allegations by former staffers about the College councillor?

Please believe me. This for me has nothing to do with the many allegations against Chiarelli –  including some made by women I know, trust and respect – it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to the many allegations.
But just because you don’t like the nature of the allegations, and I don’t, and just because you believe them to be true, and I do, it just doesn’t mean Chiarelli doesn’t deserve due process.

As I’ve suggested, people found with a smoking gun beside a dead body get due process in the form of a trial. Our country is not supposed to convict someone without a fair trial. 

Yet Watson and others thought it was absolutely fine to call for his resignation? Why? 

“The doctor was of the opinion I had to do whatever I could to avoid stress. He believed I had a major problem. And he was right, everyone else was wrong,” he said.

As any follower of city hall knows, there’s no love lost between Chiarelli and Watson. In fact, the relationship is downright acrimonious. Chiarelli never misses a beat to poke fun at Watson; the mayor does everything he can to exclude Chiarelli from the process.

During a budget presentation when the numbers appeared a bit sketchy, Chiarelli called the budget a “Christmas Miracle” and the media ate it up, with everyone tweeting about the description and used it in their stories. Watson looked like his head might explode.

“Look, I’ve just never seen anything like this, never seen someone on council be treated this way and council just followed him. But you know, there will be somebody else after me,” Chiarelli said.

That’s a certainty. When Watson stops beating up on Chiarelli, he’ll find someone else, little doubt there.

And the fact that Osgoode Coun. Georges Darouze was found guilty of bullying a female resident by the Integrity Commissioner – and no one said a bad word publicly – isn’t lost on Chiarelli.

He said the letter was sent on his lawyers’ advice “to give council the chance to correct itself, proceed through the court system.”

While he has not heard from anyone on council, he said his community has been supportive, calling to offer their help or dropping off food. That somehow helps as he knows he’s been followed by an investigator hired by the city.

Since his ordeal began, he’s lost more than 100 pounds. He has nothing but praise for the Ottawa Heart Institute, singing their praises consistently throughout the interview. “I’m feeling very tired all the time, my chest is sore all the time. The surgeons said that’s because they sawed me in half. But it’s a slow progress,” he said. 

Everyday, he has to walk for 16 minutes, no small task at this point. “I can and must walk for 16 minutes a day at this point, 16 minutes in a row. Believe it or not, it’s tiring. I remember right after the surgery, nurses took me for a walk, one at each shoulder, after about five minutes I fell asleep, but they just continued to carry me. There was this 85 -year-old guy who lapped me, he made fun of me! Another guy walked passed me and slapped me on the butt!

At today’s city council meeting, council accepted an interim report from Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau.

And for some reason, Capital Coun. Shawn Menard felt it necessary to point out a number of places Chiarelli has been seen publicly. And what exactly is his point? A double standard for sure, and somehow surprising since Menard himself spends much of his own time on council on the outside looking in. And should we now expect to hear a similar listing of public places Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, on sick leave for cancer treatment, has been seen publicly? 

Of course, none of this has been easy, with his long-time colleagues turning their backs on him, siding with Watson, refusing to sit at council alongside him, instead standing during when he was at council; knowing he was being followed when he was fighting off death.

Through it all, Chiarelli’s family has stood by him. His wife Lida often stayed with him at the hospital, sleeping in a little cot by his his bed.
And his three daughters –  Natalia, 28, Carla, 25, and Veronica, 23,  have also been there for him, and Chiarelli says they’re doing well, despite the allegations against their father.

“It’s been pretty hard for them, oh yeah. They’ve grown up in politics. But nobody, none of them could believe any of this, and everything they’ve been put through. But there’s a certain amount of self preservation going on,” he said. His chatter is dotted with fatherly pride, pointing out his daughters accomplishments and successes. He is even able to manage a bit of a chuckle recounting that Carla’s longtime boyfriend Matt Mariani had to go to the hospital to get the approval to marry his middle child.

But he believes, through all of this, he’s being persecuted because Watson doesn’t like him.

“I remember when (former city councillor Jody) Mitic’s sick leave was  getting approval. Some didn’t want to give it, but I think they all knew they could be next. At the time, (their reticence was because of his drug dependency which  as an illegal act,) they thought they were somehow supporting that, but still council approved it.”

Former Osgoode councillor Doug Thompson has pitched in with his office work, dropping by now and then to do what he can. And Chiarelli himself has been signing what needs to be taken care of.

Chiarelli has been working with his doctors trying to figure out a modified work from home schedule.

“One of the main things I’ve learned from this is that stress has way more impact than you might realize. well, doctors say two to six months, so, what I’ve been trying to get them agree, a modified work form home schedule, main thing I’ve learned on this, stress has way more impact on you, so they want me to stay away from that.

He still has every intention of fighting the accusations made against him. “I can’t really comment on individual allegations, at this point,  all of this,” he said.

But despite everything, he has every plan to come back to council and hopes it will be a matter of a few short months. And yes, he says he will run again.

“I was told I had a two to five percent chance of dying. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, what would happen if I didn’t make it. It’s not what you want for your children to hear about as they’re growing up. For sure.  But again, they’ve grown up with this life and they know it can get nasty.”

Mayor Jim Turns His Back on Urban Residents

Okay Jim, enough.

It’s time to remember that you – as you often have pointed out yourself – received a mandate from the entire City of Ottawa.

And when you diss your urban city councillors, also duly elected, you’re also dissing those urban constituents. You’re absolutely ignoring them and their concerns. 

You’re a smart guy. You must get that. But you don’t seem to care.

So yes, enough. You’ve proved you’re powerful enough to squish your opposition like bugs. It’s not a good look for you. And it’s not good for the city, for the residents – and frankly – it makes you look like an insecure doofus. Quit the petty power play politics. You’re better than that. At least, you used to be. Stop pitting parts of the city against each other, stop with the Old Boys Club mentality and treat this city like you care about all of it.

If you don’t pay attention to the day-to-day minutia of all that is city hall, a quick recap:

With a leave of absence by Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais, taken to concentrate on wining the provincial riding for Orleans under the Liberal banner, a replacement for the chair of the transportation committee had to be found. And who is the vice-chair of the committee? None other than Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who often cycles to work, pays acute attention to transit – he knows his stuff. But apparently, being from the urban core meant he didn’t have a chance to become chair. He wasn’t Watson’s pick, and Watson’s band of merry councillors are always there to support the mayor. Watson’s pick was Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney.

And there you have it. In a near unanimous vote (only Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh voted again Tierney) the east-end councillor won the day. In truth, Tierney can do the job. But he got it over Leiper because he’s part of the Watson team, and awarding club members is how Watson keeps them in line. Leiper is outside looking in from the downtown core.

“I think we’re missing an opportunity to really signal to our transit, cycling and pedestrian constituencies that we mean what we say when we want to make a big shift in how people get around. And, there was an opportunity to put a downtown voice on (committee). Better policy-making happens when there’s a variety of voices at the table, even dissenting voices. The risk of being surrounded solely by supporters is of being blinkered. Debate can only lead to better outcomes,” Leiper responded to On the City, From the Burbs.

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard is also one of those that’s been on the losing end of Watson’s games. Small wonder he sometimes lashes out on Twitter against the mayor. Unfortunately, that only seems to trigger the mayor further.

“It has been a Hallmark of the Watson regime to maintain absolute control over the past decade, but what is becoming very apparent is that he is losing his grip on council. We saw it with the ridiculous motion to remove the word “emergency” from the homelessness and affordable housing motion. We saw it on a motion to look into participatory budgeting. We are seeing it regularly with the LRT problems being highlighted daily. And his response to these things is to try and get more control over committees, even if it means excluding entire regions of the city. In my estimation, this mayor isn’t going to be around council too much longer,” Menard responded to this blog.

There’s still an infinitely small glimmer of hope that Watson could do the right thing. The decision to appoint Tierney still has to be approved by council and also provides an opportunity for further nominations from the floor. (And I feel I have to reiterate, Tierney has proven his ability chair big files.) This city needs both urban, suburban and urban reps taking leadership roles at the city. We’re not getting that.

“Nominating a colleague to chair a committee should not be a power play or a popularity contest. Residents deserve better. At the very least we need to have that discussion in a public forum about who is best to lead that conversation. The public is demanding openness and transparency not backroom decisions,” Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney wrote to On the City, From the Burbs.

Sadly, it’s doubtful much will change unless Watson himself does.

AND THE AWARDS (phase two) GO TO… DRUM ROLL PLEASE

At Thursday’s epic – and especially awful – transit commission meeting, the public saw the worst of the worst – certainly an event worthy of a few awards from On the City, From the Burbs. The first group of awards were announced earlier this week, here’s a handful that the blog is still handing out. 

BEST PUBLIC EVER AWARD: It can’t have been easy to sit through the mess of a five-hour transit meeting, what with Chair Allan Hubley shutting down questions on any technicality he’d been clearly told to make up, councillors muttering – and all of this headed to no real conclusion. But yet, a small handful of the dedicated public could be seen sticking the meeting out. Kudos to them.

MIC DROP AWARD: (Okay, it’s not really a mic drop, but love that phrase!) When councillors are addressing committee or council, their mics are turned on. When they’re done, their mics are turned off. But at Thursday’s meeting, Capital Coun. Shawn Menard ended his questions, and then presumed his mic was off after yet another crazy ruling by char Allan Hubley. “Pathetic,” Menard could be heard to say under his breath. Oops. Yes, councillor, pathetic is right.

BEST CITIZEN TRANSIT COMMISSIONER:  There’s no doubt Sarah Wright-Gilbert, one of the citizen transit commissioners, is making her mark. She’s dedicated, she’s committed, she’s a transit user who knows her stuff – and Watson has nothing over her. It’s perfect. Wright-Gilbert is also on social media much of the time, airing her concerns and her grievances on Twitter. All commissioners should be this committed. Of course, because she’s doing her job, and doesn’t have any vested interest save for a good transit system, Watson doesn’t seem to like her! That’s an endorsement if I ever heard one! She’s making waves, that’s for sure. As a result, she says the mayor has unfollowed her on Twitter! 

AND THE AWARD GOES TO… DRUM ROLL PLEASE

An epic five-hour OC Transpo meeting on Thursday is certainly worthy of its own set of awards.

So for the first time ever for this blog, here are a handful of awards stemming from that crazy meeting.

BEST HISTORICAL REENACTMENT: If you thought public lynchings were a thing of the past, think again. At Thursday’s transit commission meeting, it seemed to be fair ball to question the axing of OC Transpo general manager John Manconi.

Gross. Not especially the most eloquent of words, but it’s the right one.
There would seem to be good reason to examine the roles that senior staff, like Manconi, have played in the many mess ups of light rail. But a public airing of his role at a meeting should just not have happened. And given the number of times Chair Allan Hubley called something out of order, just can’t imagine why he didn’t shut down any discussion of the senior manager’s role at the city immediately. This simply should never happen.

BEST HYPERBOLE or THE BEST PRETEND REENACTMENT OF FALLING ON YOUR SWORD: Goes to general manager Steve Kanellakos’ speech to council in defending John Manconi, his man in charge of OC Transpo, it was full of passion and sadly – hyperbole.

Kanellakos, playing his best leadership role, vowed to fall on his own sword if people wanted to get rid of Manconi.

Look, it was a disgrace for Manconi to be publicly shamed the way he was. Again, what happened to dealing with personnel issues behind closed doors? Apparently, when it appears you’ve wasted $2.1 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, you can throw just about anyone under the bus. (PUN INTENDED). Badoom, badoom. But when Kanellakos says if you want to take Manconi out, you’ll have to take him down first, well, that’s just HYPERBOLE. 

Kanellakos is in the enviable position of being great at his job and he knows that council – at least at this point in time – can’t run the city any better without him. So yes, he can throw himself under the bus and know the next day he’s driving that bus. No one is ready to throw him under the bus.
ALSO a runner-up for the next best – that sweet-talking Kanellakos for most disingenuous quote

NICE, BUT INCREDIBLY DISINGENUOUS QUOTE: “We’ve been pulling off miracles.” Steve Kanellakos, Ottawa city manager told members of the transit commission on Thursday.

What? Has someone’s God intervened in light rail? I’m all for that if it’s possible. But does Kanellakos really understand what a miracle is? And if he does, and he’s really able to make them happen, couldn’t he have asked the Big Guy to make the trains run on time? What sort of miracle does he believe he’s performed? And does he think he’s close enough to God to make the trains run on time?

“We’re very prepared to answer the difficult questions, with what we’ve been attempting to do, staff that have been working on this project for many years, and we’re very committed to this,” Kanellakos said on Thursday. Nice, but where’s the miracle you allegedly pulled off? Don’t see it. And again, if you’re close enough to empower miracles, make them happen. And seriously, if what we have now is a miracle, let’s just pack up our bags and ask for God’s forgiveness and hope we can get to work on time.

CRAZIEST QUOTE: “We don’t have trouble with winter operations,” stated Peter Lausch, with Rideau Transport Management. Still guffawing about this quote And I say guffawing because I just am crazy about that word.

BEST POLITICAL RESPONSE: “How can you say that with a straight face?” courtesy of Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais. (We’re going to miss him when he takes over his seat in provincial politics.)

WORST MOMENT EVER: I’ve never understood, when everyone knows a long meeting is about to take place, why they don’t give the public a chance to speak before politicians get the mike. Those aren’t the rules, but this group happily breaks rules when need be. You know how procedure can take precedence over everything else. So when citizen Miranda Gray finally had a chance to speak, she was totally disrespected. And I was incredibly embarrassed by the process. Having waited about five hours, Gray finally had her chance to speak and make her point.

What does Hubley say when she wrapped up? “Did you want to finish your talk, sorry I wasn’t following.”  She’d already finished. Disgraceful. Seriously, covered council a long time but this was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.

WORST CHAIRED MEETING EVER: The truth is, I quite like Allan Hubley. But he’s so far gone in finding a place on Watson’s team, he’s lost his independence. And his morality. Hubley was incredibly quick to shut down anyone who asked a question outside the purview of Thursday’s meeting’s mandate if it wasn’t about the present crisis with the system.

Yet he let others who had nothing to say in reference to light rail absolutely ramble on. He chastised those he disagreed with, yet he let others talk about issues which had nothing to do with the meeting. And he wasn’t at all worried about showing his bias toward certain councillors. Case in point, when Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper was looking for info, Hubley said, “Coun. Leiper, surprise, surprise.” Maybe a little bit of objectiveness would go a long way councillor.

MOST REFERENCED QUOTES: If only there was one winner! In no particular order, here’s a sampling of the most repeated phrases, mostly from staff:

“Sorry, I don’t know.”

“The root causes are still unknown.”

“I’ll have to get back to you.”

“Sorry.”

“I’m not making excuses.”

“I don’t know the answer to that.”

“Can you repeat the question?”

United They Stand, Divided They Fall

With controversy swirling around the city hall he’s supposed to be running, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has taken a couple of days off.

Good timing.

You know the saying, when the going gets tough, the faint of heart take a couple of days off. Perhaps just as well.

And while Watson takes his time off, one of his councillors is apparently fighting for his life at the Ottawa Heart Institute, having undergone quadruple bypass heart surgery. So, yes, College Coun. Rick Chiarelli is also taking some time off.

Perhaps Watson is overtired from the stress of pretending he’s perfect and believing he’s a perfect being, he’s in the enviable position of being able to judge his enemies.

This is clearly one of the darkest moments in municipal politics.

Chiarelli has been accused by more than a dozen women of inappropriate behaviour, of late night visits to nightclubs with staffers, of commenting on his female employees’ clothing, accused of going so far as to ask them to take their bras off for a better look. At this point, all accusations.

As I’ve written in this spot previously, I believe these women. In my mind, there’s absolutely no way such a large group of women – many of whom don’t know one another – colluded on such a story. But believing in these allegations simply doesn’t end the story. And it certainly doesn’t make the allegations true. I’ve spoken to some of these women, people I know, people I like, people I believe. I didn’t write the story because it was clear I couldn’t tell their stories without using information that would ultimately identify them. And I would never fudge my commitment to them by doing that.

 I covered court for several years for the Ottawa Sun, and came across cases where it was clear the accused was a murderer, was a sexual predator, was a robber or a cheater, had beaten their young children until they were black and blue. But even with the smoking gun beside the crime, none of those accused have been treated as horribly and as unfairly as Chiarelli has. And that begins with the man at the top, Watson – who’s supposed to be the leader of this fabulous city. Sadly, it appears he’s leading a flock of whipped sheep, who do as he says.

And frankly, it matters absolutely nothing at all that I might think Chiarelli is guilty of what he’s been accused of. I’m neither the judge nor jury, and I don’t pretend to be. Sadly, Watson and his city councillors apparently don’t believe in due process; don’t believe in one of the most important foundations of our society. 

They’ve treated Chiarelli as a pariah, this same group of civic leaders who wear ribbons every year protesting bullying. Guess bullying is okay if they’re doing it. This is incredibly difficult for me. I like many of them a great deal on a personal level, but this entire council has failed not just Chiarelli – but all of us. 

And while as a feminist basically from the point I came out of the womb, it does make me worry this is the ugly side of the #MeToo movement. 

Should we be believing women? Yes, we sure as hell should be. Should we form into lynching mobs before someone has an opportunity to prove his innocence?  Never. And this council will have to reflect on what their actions have cost Chiarelli. And has cost our city.

This of course leads us to the refusal of many city councillors to sit at council alongside Chiarelli at last Wednesday’s meeting. Meaningless. And a good woman like Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh – who has done more for this city than most of us can ever hope to do – refused to join the lynching. And people jumped all over her. Seemed it just didn’t matter all the good work she has done, people were out to get her over a simple symbolic act. Again, shameful.

And why anyone thinks the incredible symbolic act of standing means anything at all, well, it boggles the mind. In that council, Osgoode Coun. George Darouze has been found guilty by the city’s Integrity Commissioner of bullying a female constituent, and if that wasn’t enough, Darouze actually contacted the Ottawa Police over the matter. The mind boggles.

Then of course, there’s Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, so obsessed with an acclamation, he phoned his only rival just before the close of nominations last election and waved goodies in front of him.  I could go on. 

I recently was tweeted by a former Ottawa Sun boss of mine Mike Therien, who wondered online about what he saw as my visceral hatred of Watson. Coming from someone who guided my career and encouraged me to speak my truth, I have to admit I was surprised. I don’t hate Jim Watson.

He’s just not a good leader.

United they stand, divided they fall.

Democracy Turning Into a Dictatorship and Taxpayers Are Footing the Bill

And it’s another Christmas miracle.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson dipped into the bag of taxpayer-funded goodies on Friday and has found millions of unspent dollars to help the mess that is the city’s light rail system.

Just add the costs onto the – is it too early to call it – a $2.1 billion boondoggle?

And now the promise of fewer buses on our roads isn’t to be, at least not in the immediate future. Not only aren’t we getting what we were promised, and what we’ve paid for, but we’re now having to pay more for who knows what.

What an absolute mess. 

And what does council think of Watson’s announcement of another $3.5 million being pumped into putting back buses that have just been recently removed?  Well, they weren’t asked or consulted. Just another blow to the concept of democracy at Ottawa City Hall.

And let’s not forget councillors like Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan were anxious to have a meeting to discuss the never-ending LRT problems. So too were Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and River Coun. Riley Brockington, but that idea was quickly dismissed by Watson, though he sent Hubley, his good soldier to deliver the news.

Well, it seems even more obvious now that a meeting should have been held to discuss the problems of LRT and together talk about a way forward. This is a city-wide issue and a city-wide problem. Councillors were duly elected by their constituents across the city. And those same councillors should have had a say on behalf of their constituents.

It’s been a long time since Watson cared much about consultation. And now, it’s just not part of his repertoire. On Friday, another mess of an LRT day, Watson took matters into his own hands. Our mayor isn’t even pretending to head up a democratic process. Just because he can do something doesn’t mean he should.

This has become something far more akin to a dictatorship where Watson feels empowered to ignore his council. And that’s just what he does, while doling out little goodies to his band of yes men and women. He likes to say he’s the one who represents the entire city, essentially that he knows best.

I like to say he doesn’t.

Collectively, he and his council know best.

Watson implied he and transit chair Allan Hubley made the decision together to add $3.5 million worth of buses.

That’s hard to believe. While it’s impossible to blame the horrendous problems of the present LRT system directly on Watson, he is certainly to blame for putting Hubley in as transit chair – a role that is well over the Kanata councillor’s abilities. Everyone knew it at the time and that’s even more abundantly clear now.

 Pretty sure any discussion between Watson and Hubley – if there really was one – went something like this. Watson: “This is what we’re doing. And this is just a courtesy call.” 

And while you can’t lay all the blame on Watson for this mess, he does own much of it – if only because he insists on ignoring his council. Surely I wasn’t the only one who worried whether the testing done was solid enough to take over the system. And for sure, I know I’m not the only one who is concerned about whether this system will ever actually work. Adding the buses back on is a serious – albeit necessary – step backward.

So here’s where we’re at. As taxpayers, we’re paying for a $2.1 billion transit system that doesn’t work. And we’re now paying millions more to put back the buses we took off the streets to help that pricey but flawed system. And there’s more spending to come. Is there any real chance that a transit user will use LRT when they can get on a reliable bus? Will transit riders give LRT another chance? 

Adding insult to injury, we’re now working on phase two of light rail. 

Equally egregious – the councillors who you elected to take your interests directly to city hall – are being ignored. 

And so are you.

Bus Drivers Aren’t Robots

OC Transpo drivers shouldn’t feel pressured to accommodate the scheduling mess created by OC Transpo, according to an internal memo obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.

“We will not stand by and allow our members to be treated like robots. We deserve better than this and the fall booking schedules are unacceptable,” Crabtree, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 279 representing the drivers, wrote in a memo to drivers.

Crabtree makes it clear the mess wasn’t created by the drivers, and nor should they feel they have to make up for OC Transpo’s problems.
“We need to be united and tackle this scheduling issue head on. If you need to use the facilities and are running late due to insufficient run times and lack of recovery time, please do not hesitate to do so. I would like to clarify. It is not the members of this Local who create scheduling it is your employer. ATU Local 279 will hold the employer accountable and demand a better schedule for our members,” Crabtree writes.

“I would like to inform everyone that ATU Local 279 is addressing the lack of run time and poor scheduling. We are in the process of gathering information and would appreciate input from our members as well.”
Small wonder transit users are upset. Their $2.1 billion investment which was supposed to be a system for the future just isn’t working with any sort of reliability.

Good on Crabtree, he’s absolutely right. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by bus drivers, nor should it be their responsibility. Do they need to do their jobs? Of course. But they shouldn’t be blamed for its problems, not should they be expected to make up for its dismal performance.

The dismal rollout of the much anticipated light rail system has everyone in Ottawa talking.

Recently, an Ottawa transit commissioner asked people frustrated by the system to protest to OC Transpo.

“Send your feedback to OC Transpo!” Sarah Wright-Gilbert told Twitter followers on Friday. 

Seems everyone is equally as frustrated with what’s happening. In her weekly newsletter, Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan weighed in on the woes of the system. Like Crabtree, she didn’t pull any punches.

It should be clear to everyone by now that the Bus System in Ottawa is broken. Riders have lost confidence in the buses that are the backbone of our transportation network. City brass say they are hearing the complaints and are acting. I am a frustrated Councillor trying to find answers and solutions for commuters in the south end. Thursday, I sat down with Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Systems and Planning for OC Transpo. I was armed with a list of your complaints about bussing and LRT. “Frustrated riders giving up and taking their cars.

Of course, that’s the concern isn’t it? What if we’ve paid $2.1 billion for a system that creates bigger traffic woes for the city the we had?. And while I say we’ve paid $2.1 billion, we’ll be paying for it for a long, long time.
And now we’re starting on the Second Phase of a project that’s supposed to work with Phase One. And we’re paying for that too.

The mind boggles.

Mob Mentality Sinks Chiarelli – Who’s Next?

Hey Councillor Shawn Menard, be afraid, be very afraid.

On Wednesday, you and your colleagues decided to punish a fellow councillor without any sort of due process.

Even a killer, found with a smoking gun in his hand standing over his dead victim, gets a fair trial.

But College Coun. Rick Chiarelli has received none of that.

And let’s face it Coun. Menard, it would seem Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson dislikes you only marginally less than he despises Chiarelli.

You could be next. And when the mob mentality sets it, with Watson in charge, there might not be anything you can do about it. So remember how quickly you joined the mob.

In case you missed it, council unanimously rejected giving Chiarelli time off from council, though he had a doctor’s note saying he needed the time off.

This has never happened before. Ever.

Do I believe the dozen plus women who’ve come forward with allegations of inappropriateness of Chiarelli’s alleged actions, sexual or otherwise?

Absolutely. There is no doubt in mind. Like other journalists in the city, I’ve spoken with some of these women, I know them, I like  them – and I not just believe in them, but I never doubted them.

If you haven’t paid any attention, Chiarelli has been accused of making  inappropriate sexual references towards many of his young female employees, everything from suggesting what they should wear, to late night stops together in the city or outside of it.

It’s gross, not a terribly sophisticated word, but it’s appropriate. And it breaks my heart to think of these very young women feeling they had to deal with grossness because they needed a job. 

But if council can censor a colleague who hasn’t been found to be guilty of untying, what’s to stop Watson and his gang of targeting other councillors they don’t like?

So where does city council get off refusing a doctor’s note, which should have excused Chiarelli from attending council for at least three months.
This has never happened before. Never. Ever.

And frankly, I don’t believe for a minute that if Chiarelli was in Watson’s inner circle before this news came out, this just wouldn’t be happening now.

No way, no how. Watson protects his friends. What can you remember about Watson criticizing his buddy Tim Tierney, after Tierney alluded to a food bank donation as an apparent hope his opponent might reconsider running? Doesn’t take too long thinking about that, does it? Osgoode Coun. George Darouze was found guilty of breaching council’s code of conduct. Not only didn’t Watson utter a word, but Darouze is still one of Watson’s deputy mayors.

What does that mean to Chiarelli? Well, before he’s been off for three months in a row, if he wants to keep his job, he’ll have to show up at some point, make an appearance during roll call. Watson knows this experience will be humiliating, and the media will be chasing him for a comment. It doesn’t bother me that Chiarelli might be embarrassed. But it won’t take away Chiarelli’s pay cheque and it won’t change a thing – accept humiliate the College councillor. Is that Watson doing a happy dance?

Former Bay councillor Alex Cullen is the only politician that I know of to call council out.And if your municipal memory isn’t as long as mine, Cullen and Chiarelli are not friends. And they don’t like each other. In fact, Cullen believes that years ago, Chiarelli stabbed him in his political back. So don’t think for a moment that Cullen is just backing up a friend. In fact, Cullen is too principled to back up anyone he didn’t agree with.

“It’s politics pilling over good judgment. In any other employment situation, a doctor’s note would be sufficient to get you any leave doctor recommends. This is a health professional saying someone can’t do their job. That should have been valid enough. Unfortunately, there are politics at play here. And that’s spoiled over to making a judgment on this very valid request. There was no debate and that really bugs me.There was no discussion on why this should be, (council’s) decision over that of a health professional. I suspect what happened is that there was a herd mentality,” Cullen said to On the City, From the Burbs.”This has been very badly handled, ” Cullen added. “And someone has to call out council. If it could happen to one person, it could happen to anyone.”
Exactly.

“It’s the political piling on, Jim has continued to twist the knife. He’s entitled to his opinion, but we know his motives. There’s been no debate, no justification, yet we do have due process.You can’t skip steps. No law has been broke,” Cullen rightly pointed out.”Politics is a blood sort and the herd will turn on someone who’s weak.”

Yes, politics at Ottawa City Hall, it’s ugly

Egli Threatens Legal Action For Doing My Job

As a journalist, albeit one that doesn’t get paid, I chase down stories simply because I love doing it. I love local politics and I love getting scoops and I love getting the truth away from the spin.

Earlier today, I got a tip about Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli. Now I’ve been in this business a long time and tips aren’t always truth. I know that. And so, as any good journalist would, I got in touch with some of the people that I thought might be able to help me confirm or deny the story. That’s just how the game works. No one I contacted was aware of the story, so I went to Egli himself.

He absolutely denied it. I then refined the question. He promised to get back to me right away. It took more than two hours for him to get back to me.
But when he did, it packed a wallop! Here’s what he wrote to me and, interesting to note, it wasn’t sent from his City of Ottawa email.

Sue


I was utterly shocked to hear of the defamatory allegation of criminal activity that you have repeated with respect to me.

There is absolutely no truth to this allegation.

I am asking you to confirm to me forthwith that you have either not repeated these defamatory comments to anyone or, if you have repeated it to anyone, I want you to advise me of the name and contact information of each person (including co-workers, friends and family members- as each of them could have repeated or might repeat) the defamatory statement , as well as provide me with proof that you have contacted each person to let them know that the defamatory allegation that you shared with him or her was totally unfounded and that it was wrong of you to do what you did  and to advise them that if they have shared that defamatory comment with anyone, they should be contacting that person to advise that the defamatory comment is unfounded.

I will stop at nothing to take any and all measures to either repair what would likely be considerable damage to my reputation, and/or to obtain damages, to the full extent that any damages can be awarded in law.

I am asking you to provide me with the information I have requested before 8 PM today.

Egli of course used to be practice law, hence the word forthwith! 

Really not sure why Egli thinks chasing a story is wrong. And absolutely dumbfounded why he thinks I can be sued for damages by asking questions. That being said, sort of wish I’d completed my Journalism and the Law course!

Again, for the record, I found no truth to the tip I’d been given, though it won’t stop me from pursuing it further. And again, for the record, I advised the councillor to go for it. I will not be offering up any information to him about who I talked to. Nor will I be bullied by fear of legal action. Sort of shocked Egli would try to threaten a journalist. But there you have it.

Deans Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, a long-serving city councillor and leader on council, is suffering from ovarian cancer.

Deans will be taking a leave of absence from city council as she begins treatment for the cancer on Tuesday. The councillor made the sudden announcement in an email to her colleagues and the media Monday afternoon. “After a summer of not feeling well and a myriad of medical tests, I received the devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer,” Deans wrote.

As she wrote, she will be away from council for an undetermined length of time as she battles with all of her energy on this “insidious disease.” While her time away isn’t determined, she does refer to returning to council next year. Deans, a left-leaning Liberal, has been as a strong opponent to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on council. And while he appointed her to serve as the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, she doesn’t sit on the key and powerful finance and economic development committee, essentially the cabinet of council.

Her absence from council will be missed. One of a few city councillors who isn’t afraid of taking on Watson, the long-serving council provides a strong voice for women, minorities and the disadvantaged around the council table.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney spoke to Deans just before the news release went out.”It was absolutely unexpected. Knowing Diane for a long time, I consider her a friend and colleague. This is devastating news. You never expect to hear that someone has serious health issues. But she’s got a lot of friends and lot of support and we’ll do whatever we can,” McKenney said.

First elected to council in 1994, Deans has also ventured into party politics. She sought the Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa South, but lost to David McGuinty, and she’s also mused several times about running for mayor.She also attempted to secure the provincial nomination in Ottawa Centre back in 2007, she lost to Yasir Naqvi.