Saturday, 20 October 2012


We returned to Ottawa from Rome after a 7 year absence in August 2011 to discover that Jim Watson had become Mayor, a man of many achievements. He describes himself as a careful prudent man and having met him a couple of times at public events I can also say that he is a nice, decent person, quite affable and easy to speak to. Jim is a home owner and you can sense that he understands the concerns of other citizens since he has the same concerns about living here. Under his mild manner though I suspect a strong will and a man with a plan for our Capital. I see someone with a vision for what Ottawa can become as a Capital. He has brought order to the city management and has made with the help of Council changes beneficial to the Citizens of our City.

Ottawa can be a difficult city to govern, given that it is the National Capital, saddled with several layers of governments, Provincial, Federal and the National Capital Commission. Then the many neighbourhood groups and various other special interest urban groups concerned with architecture, design, etc... Groups love to be consulted at lenght and in details many would prefer if the City Council simply implemented their recommendations as is, in other words our wishes become our command. They wish to govern forgetting that we elected a City Council to do just that.

I remember several projects in the past which generated endless consultations and town hall meetings where every one expressed ideas and concerns but few solutions and often advocated for the status quo. I always came away thinking that we would never see any progress. In any such discussions or consultations there is always resistance, some groups appear against every new idea or project. I am against it and am not offering any solutions, goes the tired refrain.

Years ago, there were consultation on replacing the building on the corner of Rideau and Sussex drive, it had been a department store, architecturally said to be of the Chicago school style, it was finally demolished and replaced by a post-modern condo tower after years of debate. Then there was the Rideau street mall idea which went through several incarnations and consultations. Rideau street still requires work and an extension of the Rideau Shopping Centre has been announced, developer Cadillac Fairview appears to have new tenants and a clear idea of what will happen. However already concerns have been raised about the old Ogilvie store now closed and derelict, will it be restored or pulled down? This is also tied to the LRT Station to be located near this mall extension, already the Ottawa Citizen (OC) is speculating which is not helpful.

Lansdowne Park and the new Casino project or the Light Rail Train (LRT) all produce lots of consultation and endless debate. Hopefully the idea of a new water treatment plant put forward by the Mayor will receive wide support, simply for its positive environmental impact.

Finally, Lansdowne is now going forward and construction has begun. Many opposed the project for a host of reasons, but what do they offer as an other option? The Mayor rightly pointed out that we had to move, Lansdowne had become derelict and an eyesore in one of the nicest neighbourhoods of the Capital. People should look at other World Capitals where similar sites have been transformed through urban renewal, think of Les Halles in Paris.

Each time the media in this case the OC will take sides often against a project on the reason as one reporter puts it; obsessed with process and planning. Does that imply that our elected officials and Mayor will not follow due process, the City cannot plan? Has the media assumed the role of unelected Opposition or Guardian of Public discourse replacing the Citizens? It would seem so.
Some reporters wish to question every word or phrase, looking for hidden meanings or messages, when careful reading of City Council minutes or the Mayor's statements already provide clarity. I see this as a search for controversy where none exist. Twitter encourages this as we saw recently between one OC reporter and the Mayor.

Same for the idea of intensification of the downtown or central core, if we are to make Ottawa a vibrant city after 5PM, we need to bring people to live in the centre and lots of them, to re-invent the old neighbourhoods and give them a new lease on life. It will also save the city money, suburbs call for lots of infrastructure and roads which are costly and required years of financing. It is easier to re-develop a built up area inside the city centre than some far away suburb. A pattern so many cities in Europe and Asia have followed to positive results.

Ottawa is on the cusp of great change, much change has already happened in the last 7 years and much more is coming and far more rapidly. We all need to get into our collective head that we live in a National Capital of a great country and as such we need to think along those lines. Ottawa is not some inconsequential small town in Ontario.

Jim Watson is good for Ottawa and he is a Mayor with vision and we need it. We are on the count down to 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada an important milestone, Ottawa needs to reflect the country as a whole. Leave behind your view of my street, my neighbourhood first against everyone else. Whenever you oppose a project based on narrow blinkered interests you damage the interests of every community in the city. It also has to be understood once and for all, that we cannot achieve anything if private interests are not brought in or if we refuse to pay for a project. We cannot as a Capital stand still forever until the perfect solution materialize.

The Mayor has promised to hold up on taxes and he has been good to his word. So let's trust his prudent and bold management and go for it.


  1. Some day I want to see Ottawa, if only for the museums.
    And of course, you!!!

  2. Dr. Spo you are most welcome to visit Ottawa, we would be happy to see you all.

    1. Winter would be interesting - I suspect there are less tourists then.
      After reading a history on 1812, I want to see 'upper canada' and Quebec.

    2. Come on up you are welcome to visit. Bring the sexy Mr. Someone with you.

  3. Keeping a city dynamic in the face of countless interest groups, there's the difficulty. I hope Ottawa, which does sound rather beautiful, finds a way.