The word liar isn’t one journalists use easily. No one should. It’s a strong accusation and needs absolute proof. But yet, it is with absolute confidence and proof, I now am calling Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder a liar.
Really not sure what happened to the woman known as the mouth who roared, who didn’t give a hoot about political correctness or what others thought about her. She loved the reputation and it was well-deserved. She just called it as it was – detractors be damned. And her constituents loved her for it. How could they not?
But something has changed. She’s smelled power and she loves it. She’s finally on the inside of council after years of looking in from the outside. And for those of us who liked her better as the free-wheeling honest politician, it’s pretty sad. And hard to take. Harder made it clear she was going to support former broadcaster Carol Anne Meehan as a candidate if she entered the race. The two of us talked about it and we both hoped Meehan would enter the world of politics. And when she did, Harder was there as a supporter. Good on her. A lot of politicians shy away from public endorsements of candidates running against their council colleagues – but again – Harder doesn’t usually waste time on those niceties when she believes in something or someone.
And had she signed Meehan’s nomination papers? Yes, she said, she had. Again, good on her. Do what you believe in. But then, things turned ugly. In an interview with Harder the night before Meehan was to announce, I double checked she’d signed the nomination papers. Yes, she had, she confirmed again to me. But when she realized I was writing about it, she flipped out – insisting I keep that little nugget for later – when it would be more impactful. Say what? Not really a big deal in our world, but Harder was desperate that I not write it.
Then word came down she was going to take her name off of the nomination papers. Okay, that’s crazy. What was she hiding? Or maybe, more likely, who was she worried would find out? Couldn’t be Qaqish, but maybe Mayor Jim Watson? Watson doesn’t like Meehan, not at all. And of course, as is very clear if you watch council, Watson can control Qaqish, so he’s pretty crazy about him!
And then the message exchange went from bad to worse.
Told that I would write that she had put her name on and was now saying she was taking it off, here’s what she texted me: “My name was never there.” When I pointed out the obvious, that she had already told me it was there, here’s her texted response: “You will have to prove that. Certainly I will support her candidacy. My name is not on nomination.”
The problem here? Harder was somehow under the mistaken belief the nomination papers weren’t going to be public!
They are in fact, absolutely public. And yes, her name is there endorsing Meehan.
Another name on Meehan’s nomination papers is former city councillor Steve Desroches. But he too declined to talk about his reasons. Can it be Watson is behind his reticence as well, waiving future support or goodies in front of them?
What are these people afraid of? Watson is a bully. I have absolutely no proof he’s the reason behind their reticence, but as a columnist, I’m free to speculate about what I believe. That’s what I believe. And that’s the truth.
Carol Anne Meehan, the popular and much loved broadcaster who was beamed into our living rooms for years delivering the news beside Max Keeping, is entering politics.
Meehan told On the City, From the Burbs she will register this morning to
run for city councillor in Gloucester-South Nepean, taking on incumbent Michael Qaqish.
Rumours of Meehan’s entry into politics have been running rampant in recent days. She has decided to become a candidate, believing the ward needs stronger representation than it’s been getting.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
As the single mom of Evan and Elena Etue, 19 and 14 respectively, she needed to feel she could balance the demands of campaigning with being a mom.
“It was a difficult decision. They’re my number one priority. But I talked to them and they’re both behind me on this,” she said.
And of course there’s Gizmo, her 11-year old puppy.
Though perhaps best known for her years at the helm of the CJOH/CTV anchor desk, Meehan is more importantly – in terms of this municipal race – a longtime resident of the area who understands firsthand the issues facing the ward’s residents.
“We’re a really fast growing part of this city. And we have a very diverse population. And I want to be a more present city councillor. I don’t think we’ve been getting that. I see (incumbent Michael Qaqish) as an absentee councillor,” Meehan said.
And as a self-described fiscal conservative, Qaqish’s spending of around $90,000 on advertising and the like – including more than $6,000 of taxpayers’ money plastering his face on bus shelters – absolutely rubbed her the wrong way.
“I really found that a terribly frivolous use of our money,” Meehan said.
“I’m a long time resident of Ottawa and I’ve watched the city change in so many ways. There have been such great improvements, but we’re also seeing problems arise, like increased traffic congestion. And instead of sitting back and complaining about it, I realized I should just try to make a difference.”
Transportation is high on her list of concerns, along with the rise in crime and violence throughout the city.
She knows she has a lot to learn.
“The one thing about being in journalism you always have to ask questions. I’m not going to be shy about it. And I’ll have help as I learn to navigate the process,” she said.
While her candidacy is new, she has some strong support from Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder, who encouraged her to run.
Harder’s support means a lot to her – and it’s very rare for a sitting city councillor to go against a fellow councillor.
Others already lending their support include former Gloucester-South Nepean councillor Steve Desroches, former senator Marjory LeBreton and former Ottawa city staffer Heather Tessier, along with several local business leaders in the ward.
Along with Qaqish, Zaff Ansari and Irene Mei are also registered in the race. And there’s talk of another entering the race today. Nominations close early this afternoon.
It’s amusingly pathetic to see city councillors react in horror and disbelief at the recent findings of an audit into the Springhill dump.
Their outrage is certainly misplaced.
In fact, it’s much more than that – it’s buckpassing at its very worst.
Certainly, there appears to been enough blame to go around. City staff, city politicians, Tomlinson, the Ministry of the Environment, at any time – any one of these could have stepped up and done something. There are any number of problems, lack of documentation, lack of clarity in their roles, bad bookkeeping, bad feelings – the list goes on about the problems with the contract between the city and Tomlinson.
Back in 2012, then auditor general Alain Lalonde was the first to release an audit of the Springhill dump.
That audit, which for some reason still remains ‘confidential’, was obtained by On the City, From the Burbs and reveals many of the same problems and similar recommendations to the one released this week.
Back then, members of the audit committee met on Nov. 29, 2012 – close enough to call it six years ago – to talk about the just-released Springhill dump audit. With legal issues swirling around them, committee members decided to defer the issue until the legal issues surrounding the relationship between the city and Tomlinson – which runs the dump – were resolved.
Who moved the motion to defer? That’s no other than Kanata Coun. Alan Hubley who did his blustery best this week – in his new role as audit chair – to huff and puff and insist he’s not going to take it anymore.
Just too bad it’s all false bravado and buck-passing.
Here’s the truth where Hubley is concerned.
Hubley was a member of the 2010 audit committee – charged with dealing with the 2011 audit, and more recently, became the new chair of the audit committee.
He’s known about the problems for years, has been in a unique position to address them, yet has done nothing. And now, he acts like a tough little man ready to rumble.
He’s not alone. West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry raised his serious concerns this week, in much the same way he did at the 2012 audit meeting. And Osgooge Coun. George Darouze? Where’s he been? This dump is in his ward and he is now a member of the audit committee.
City staff? As damning as some of AG Ken Hughes’ comments directed at the bureaucracy were, frankly, they got off lightly.
As it turns out, according to the audit released this week by Hughes, the problems surrounding the dump are almost as high as the dump itself – and sadly have been around for years. Here’s a little bit of what the 2011 recommended from the confidential report obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.
Recommendation No. 2 in the 2011 audit: That the City ensures that it is proactive in contract oversight and dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis. In their response, city management concurred, saying it is proactive in contact oversight in dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis.
In hindsight, with the full knowledge of the 2018 audit, the city’s response to recommendation number three on the 2011 audit is pretty much gobsmacking: “That when the city has won any aspects of an arbitration, it proceeds without delay in order to ensure that the benefits are achieved in a timely fashion.”
Sure, no problem replied the staff, agreeing with the recommendation – but then adding several caveats to that.
That clearly didn’t happen. And you have to begin questioning the value of audits if city staff simply provide lip service to the audit recommendations. Recommendation number four has the city manager regularly updating council on progress on outstanding issues between Tomlinson and the city. Not so much, but would have been very helpful.
All solid recommendations which appear, given the most recent audit, not to have been taken into consideration.
The dismal relationship between the city and Tomlinson Group over the operations of the Springhill landfill compelled Hughes to suggest city bosses consider freezing the company out of future contract opportunities.
“We’ve never taken a step like this and made a recommendation this severe, this important,” Hughes told the media on Thursday after tabling his damning audit of the Springhill contract. “But given the relationship that existed between the city and Tomlinson, we feel that it’s important that the city evaluate their relationship with Tomlinson based on the fact of their behaviour during the course of this contract.”
The landfill is just one of the contracts Tomlinson has with the city, in fact, has more than $250 million in contracts with the city.
Tomlinson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Keep in mind the first audit was done in 2011. What does that tell you? Yes, there were arbitration issues going on, doesn’t mean the city couldn’t have attempted to forge ahead with developing a better relationship to protect the city.
Once again, your tax dollars at work – or not.
If you’ve been reading Twitter lately, you’ll see I messed up. Big time.
And as such, I’m being vilified on Twitter as a bully, as someone who doesn’t care about first responders and a big part of the reason people don’t feel comfortable opening up about their mental health.
In a tweet, I suggested Innes Coun. Jody Mitic might consider not taking a city paycheque given that he hasn’t been feeling up to the job.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time in recent weeks I’ve let Twitter get the better of me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote what I thought was a light-hearted tweet and ended up hurting someone I care a lot about. That’s all on me, though this time the repercussions are far more serious.
I can’t keep up with the tweets telling me what an insensitive idiot I am, so will try to address some of the issues here.
Here’s the thing. Mitic bravely came forward with his mental health issues and acknowledged he wasn’t going to seek re-election because he needed to take care of himself. And that is what I hope for him. So in my awkwardly worded tweet, I wasn’t trying to suggest in any way that people struggling with depression should lose their livelihood. That’s ridiculous.
But as anyone who has an illness, visible or silent, there are avenues to continue to get paid while acknowledging your health is your priority. It seemed to me Mitic shouldn’t be worried about his job as a city councillor because he clearly has acknowledged he needs time for himself and his family. His health is the priority here. And he could take care of himself and ensure there’s someone available to take care of Innes ward voters.
I wrote a tweet in haste – that didn’t at all convey how I feel. Now I know the haters will say I’m back-pedalling. I can live with that and don’t much care.
Actually, I don’t care at all.
(Think I feel a Taylor Swift song coming on.)
What I do care about are the accusations that I don’t care about first responders. That’s a lie. My late brother Bill Sherring was the proudest firefighter I have ever known. He saw things he couldn’t block from his mind or his heart. He had people die in his arms and couldn’t deal with the images, the guilt or the heartache.
And through him and my work as a reporter, I’ve met countless firefighters, police officers and paramedics who put their lives in danger on an almost daily basis and sometimes struggle with what’s out there. They do a job I could never perform and they have my undying respect and thanks.
Some people choose to go public with their mental health issues, like Mitic did. That’s not a route I’ve chosen. But again I won’t sit quietly by with people saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do.
Of course, the irony of my situation isn’t lost on me. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column directed at Mitic advising him that social media isn’t for the faint of heart.
When I write a tweet that many find offensive, I’m fair game. And Mitic and lots of his supporters let me have it. That’s how social media works. If you don’t like it, stay off of it.
But as I gave Mitic the opportunity to have his say about the negative comments written about him following his Facebook posting, I get mine.
“I like you. You’re white.”
That was just one of the ringing endorsements I received on the campaign trail!
The somewhat startling observation came from a lovely older woman at a local seniors’ residence. She was right of course, I am white.
In the 2014 municipal election, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.
It was a wonderful experience and I don’t regret a minute of it, save for losing, which as it turns out is a lot harder than I anticipated. I have to admit, despite my years of covering municipal politics, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
With Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches honouring his commitment to only serve two terms, (imagine that) and as such leaving the ward without an incumbent, I felt the timing was right. After observing city politics for a couple of decades, I thought it was time to put myself on the election line.
I’d seen enough craziness and plenty of reckless spending and I thought I could make a real difference.
And so with so many fabulous people offering their support to help me, I registered to run in a neighbourhood I’d spent much of my life in – volunteered in – raised my family in.
On Tuesday, candidates wanting to run in the 2018 municipal election ran register as well. And only then can they start raising money and spending it in their pursuit of elected office.
I have nothing but total respect for anyone willing to put their name on the line to be judged by the electorate. It’s much harder than I imagined and far more rewarding than I ever anticipated.
As the campaign heats up, I’ll be blogging from time to time about my own experiences. And yes, those stories you may have heard about people answering the door half-naked, all true! I will of course also be covering the campaign and some of the more interesting municipal candidates out there.
And while I can now empathize with the difficulties of being on the campaign trail, that doesn’t mean I won’t ask the hard questions of those seeking to represent us.