The Pain of Losing a Life


When you find out you’re having a baby, your whole world seems to change instantly.

At least, it did for me.

You start looking ahead at the world with your child in it. When you think of the days and months in front of you — you think of your child with you, summer holidays, Christmas, family get-togethers, life with your child becomes very real long before your child enters this world.

I was covering a mayoral election at the time of my first pregnancy, Nancy Smith versus Jacquelin Holzman in the early 90s. I was working long hours at the Sun and loving it. The day immediately following the election, after being up half the night, I went to what I thought was going to be a routine appointment with my obstetrician. I was about four months along and was so nonchalant about the appointment, it never even occurred to me to even ask my then-husband to attend. But I was beyond excited (though feeling a little guilty I hadn’t thought to ask my husband to attend) when the doctor said we were going to listen to the heartbeat.

And then there was silence.
Horrible, horrible silence.

At 58 years of age, there’s lots of things I’ve forgotten. That morning isn’t one of them. I can still remember the doctor telling me that there were parts of his job that were very difficult. And this was one of them. Then he told me the harsh reality that I could barely comprehend, that I heard through the confusing fog around me.

My baby had died.
My baby had died inside of me without me even having any idea there was something wrong.

The guilt was tremendous, fearing my long hours of work had hurt the child I was carrying. The doctor called it a missed abortion, a term I hated then and still do now. It’s described as the fetus dying, but a miscarriage hasn’t occurred.

I’m in no way suggesting my pain is the same as the Karlssons. Everyone’s experiences are different and you can’t compare pain. But I do know that losing a child can be devastating. And when I lost the baby inside me, there was nothing anyone could say that was the least bit comforting to me, some of it in many ways was hurtful – though I knew the love and caring was true.

It’s God’s way, it was meant to be, you’ll have another child.

Just words. I’d lost a child who was very real to me. And though just a few months old inside my body, my child had taken on a life. And my life had started revolving around this unborn child.

Like the rest of this city and surely much farther geographically than that, my heart is breaking for Erik and Melinda Karlsson.
And this special couple is having to deal with their grief so very publicly, in a way I can’t even begin to imagine. That they understand the love of this city, so much so that they shared the picture of their stillborn son Axel’s tiny feet — amazing.

Ottawa can be such a caring society, we embrace the Karlssons, a couple most of us don’t even know. And we embrace them in their good times and in this very incredibly sad time.

Their pain is very personal, very private and there’s nothing anyone can say that will help at this point. It’s a grieving period that not all the sage words in the world can help.


Using Our Money For Re-election


So it seems Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish was so proud of saving taxpayers almost $7,000 by returning his allowed gas allowance, he just had to record his goodness by having a photo taken with a giant-sized cheque.
Sure would be too bad to save the taxpayers’ money and not have them notice, now wouldn’t it?
Qaqish has a bit of reputation for being a photo op hog.
This is just another example.
But here’s the thing. Qaqish spent $35 on the giant cheque!
Now of course, in the scheme of Qaqish’s spending, the $35 is just a drop in the taxpayers’ bucket.
But the optics are just all wrong. Using our money to promote himself is simply distasteful – and wrong.
And it’s bound to make taxpayers wonder if he’s returning the gas allowance because he believes it’s the right thing to do or if he’s just trying to curry favour with his residents.
(And as I always do, need to point out I ran against Qaqish in the last 2014 election, he won, I lost.)
Qaqish’s crazy spending of our tax dollars is outlined in a story by the CBCs municipal analyst Joanne Chianello.
Only thing wrong with the article is that I didn’t write it first!

I’ve long paid attention to excessive spending of our money by city councillors. And I’ve written about it often.
“As the city’s sports commissioner, (Innes Coun. Jody) Mitic ordered up a four-year supply of vitamins worth more than $1,000 — maybe to be used with the $300-plus protein he bought to make shakes for any visitor dropping by his office,” I wrote while working for the Sun.

City staff took issue with the purchasing and the money for the vitamins was reimbursed to taxpayers.

Mitic also spruced the office up by buying a new refrigerator, two televisions and a $200 Cuisinart coffee machine.
He also charged a night at the Sheraton Hotel, just minutes away from Ottawa City Hall — then reimbursed the city for the $237 bill he’d put on his city credit card.
Mitic said the entire thing was a misunderstanding, that he’d had a busy day, had an evening event — and so asked hotel staff for a quiet place to take off his prosthetic legs and rest for half an hour — but didn’t realize he was getting charged for the night. He reimbursed the amount.
Mitic isn’t the only city councillor whose expenses have been questioned by city staff.
And councillors’ ability to make charitable donations with our money makes me absolutely crazy.

Very important to point out that Qaqish does, from time to time, bill taxpayers for gas when he’s using someone else’s car.
Transparency, all important.
No photo op to go with that little piece of news.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper also decided not to take the car allowance, but sure don’t remember him posing for a photo op to publicize that.

Certainly, I was but one of Qaqish’s residents who would drive by the enormous bus shelter ads plastered with a ‘ginormous’ picture of the councillor. The Gloucester-South Nepean councillor has spent more than $6,500 to decorate the shelter with his face.
And in fact, he spent more than $90,000 on advertising and promotional items – more than three times the median of any other councillor according to the CBC, even more than the mayor who has a far greater budget and represents the entire city.

Qaqish isn’t stupid. He wants to get re-elected. He’s already out canvassing. And he’s able to use our money in pursuit of re-election.
How crazy is that?
In explaining his spending habits to Chianello, Qaqish is quoted as saying “as a new councillor, not everybody knows who I am.”
And that’s our fault?
Sadly, instead of finding ways to acquaint himself with his residents, Qaqish is simply throwing our money about in a blatant attempt at self-promotion.
Shameful, really.

Doug Thompson Working Hard to Reclaim Osgoode


Having gone door-to-door with George Darouze to help him win the right to represent Osgoode ward in 2014, former Osgoode mayor and city councillor Doug Thompson is now poised to try to take the ward back.

“I’m not going to officially say yes, but yes, I’m very close to that, to saying yes that I’m going to do it,” Thompson told On the City, From the Burbs in a recent interview.

While Thompson can’t spend any money campaigning until he registers, which this year is May 1, the longtime politician has been on the meet-and-greet circuit.

“People are very supportive. I’ve been to more tea parties over the last three months than I can count. I can’t spend money, but you can talk to people. And residents are saying to me that if I want to run, they’re supportive,” he said. “I’ve been very encouraged by the response. I’m just taking some time, dropping into people’s homes, seven or eight a day and just talking to people.”

But how does Thompson explain his support of Darouze and then running against him?

“I just don’t think he’s a strong advocate for the rural areas. I don’t think he’s done the job. I thought he had more strengths, but the substance isn’t there. It’s really interesting, he’s starting to throw a few darts out there, he’s starting to blame me and others for issues in the ward. And the way he approaches things, he blocks people from Facebook and twitter,” Thompson told On the City, From the Burbs.
(Perhaps that’s a trick he learned from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.)
“He’s a nice person, but I really don’t think he’s a good politician.
“I guess he’s a good salesman and he hoodwinked me.

There is one wrinkle in Thompson’s plans. He’s also being encouraged to consider running for the Tories in Carleton, should that nomination process be overturned. Thompson had entered the nomination race there, but dropped out when it was clear to him the system was rigged to elect Goldie Ghamari. Ghamari won, but there are still calls to overturn that decision and hold another nomination meeting.
(As a testament to his popularity in Osgoode, when he left the PC nomination race, the provincial Liberals tried to woo him to their side. Frankly, I wish he’d taken the bait. Would have served the Tories right.)

“Honestly, my mind is more focused on the city right now. If (the PCs) do decide they’re going to start the nomination process all over again, I’d have to take a look at it, but right now, I’m focusing on the next term of city council,” Thompson said.
“I just don’t think George is really a rural politician.”




Is Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson hoping for a more Watson-friendly city council after this fall’s election?

In the City, From the Burbs has been talking to a number of concerned politicians and citizens in Ottawa who say Watson is gunning to oust several city councillors who often oppose him around the council table.

At the top of his hit list appears to be College Coun. Rick Chiarelli. Chiarelli told this blog he’s heard from a number of people in his ward who have told him associates of the mayor have been badmouthing the long-time councillor in their search for someone to take him on.

Being on the outs with Watson certainly isn’t new ground for Chiarelli. But Watson was particularly angry with Chiarelli recently following the release of this year’s budget, going so far as to lash out at reporters who were quoting the College ward council.


Chiarelli told the media he felt it was a fake  budget and the media ate it up. Chiarelli has been in the dog house ever since.

“The stuff he’s being saying about me, it’s just grimy, just stuff you wouldn’t say,” Chiarelli said, adding he doesn’t understand why Watson is so thin-skinned.
“Sure, I find it all offensive. If he’s picking people and everybody is just going to be a bobblehead, then why have councillors?” the councillor asked.

Oh, please don’t tempt the mayor with that idea!

“Honestly, I find it kind of an arrogant use of his time. He should be being the mayor, not going off on these tangents.
“My job is actually to consider all the things in front of us and to ask the questions. That’s my job. If I can’t support it, I don’t.”

One person considering taking Chiarelli on is Ryan Kennery, a former city staffer who worked in the mayor’s office. He hasn’t made up his mind yet, but says the idea of running was his own and no one else’s. As to whether Watson would support him, he said that question should be addressed to Watson. Would love to, but Watson – who once told me he knew that as a journalist I was always willing to listen and consider all sides – has apparently changed his mind. The mayor no longer takes my calls!

I need to make something perfectly clear here. While there are those at city hall who believe Kennery has been urged to run by Watson to try to oust Chiarelli, I have no hard and fast evidence of that. In a recent get-together with Kennery, we discussed a wide range of issues, with Kennery proving himself to be both informed and engaged.

Taking on an incumbent is difficult to do, often near impossible – especially against a hardworking, ward-centric councillor like Chiarelli.
The two do have something in common, both Chiarelli and Kennery spoke well of the other – both describing the other as nice.

“He’s a nice guy, but he’s going to get thrown under the bus,” Chiarelli said.

Nor do I have any evidence Watson is behind the recently announced bid by former Ottawa Champions president David Gourlay, who earlier announced he is running in Kanata North. That ward is now up for grabs with the official announcement on Tuesday from Marianne Wilkinson that she is retiring.

Gourlay certainly does have strong connections to Watson. Aside from the baseball connection, Gourlay’s wife Danielle McGee works in the mayor’s office. It wasn’t particularly classy of Gourlay to announce his intention to run before Wilkinson announced her retirement, which everyone knew was coming. For now, enough said on that.

Several people have also confirmed that they were approached directly by the mayor enquiring about a possible candidate to run against Deans.
Deans, who is often on the outs with Watson, very uncharacterisally refused to discuss the matter. That of course is somewhat telling on its own.
She didn’t deny it, just said she wouldn’t talk about it.

And Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, another who is rumoured to be on the hit list, also refused to directly answer whether he’d heard rumblings in his ward about Watson looking for someone to take him on. The silence is odd. Asked whether he’d heard about Watson meddling in his ward, Nussbaum would only say that he would be running again.

“I plan to run and my independence on council is something I will run on,” Nussbaum said.

Pretty telling.



Hey Mr. Mayor, It’s 2018


Honestly, there’s something incredibly depressing about the suggestion the city develop a bureau to increase the representation of women at the city – depressing on a number of levels.

In fact, it’s both depressing and shocking that after all this time, some believe we need to incorporate a government body to deal with this. And it’s worrisome of course to see the potential for our taxpayer dollars used to address the situation.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a problem at city hall. And thankfully, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans is attempting to address it. Deans has always been a strong voice for women, never wavering in demanding women get the fair shake they deserve. Thank goodness for that.

At last Wednesday’s council meeting, Deans suggested the city was “not women-friendly.” That’s obvious for anyone who follows city hall. And as such, she filed a notice of motion calling for the city to create a women’s bureau at city hall and consider gender balance in municipal government decisions.

“You feel the momentum building in the last few years and then there’s city hall,” Deans said. “If we don’t move ahead, we fall behind.”

Absolutely and sadly true, of course.

Deans said that she wanted the city’s support to have the mayor and staff consider a women’s bureau and a women’s liaison position . To put it in context, Deans called for the city changes following the release of the federal Liberals budget.

But like some others, I bristle at the thought of creating a bureaucracy that would hog our city dollars. I see the need, not sure about the solution. And frankly, like many others, I’m incredibly frustrated we’re still dealing with this issue. And I fear setting up a bureaucracy, even a small bureau, will just bog us all down instead of moving us ahead.

Not surprisingly, Mayor Jim Watson doesn’t like Deans’ ideas.

Can you remember the last time Watson liked anything Deans had to say?

Watson was quick to suggest that he had all sort of ideas for making women more equal at city hall.  He added that if he is re-elected in the fall, he’d like to make sure all city advisory boards and commissions are gender balanced. Really? Not a lot of power there.

If Watson believed in equality, why aren’t the four women on council in more leadership roles? Why aren’t the advisory boards already equally represented? Why aren’t there more women at the senior staff level? Just take a look around the horseshoe at city hall and see where the real power rests at city hall.

It’s with men.

If there was any real concern from our mayor, why has he only made suggestions to improve the situation after his nemesis, aka Deans, raised the issue? Was he saving this little nugget to form part of his election platform? Sure, Mr. Mayor, let equality wait!

Change starts at the top.
Watson has never shown any desire to change the status of women at city hall
So let’s put Deans in as the women’s liaison and insist Watson recognize it’s 2018.