Monday, November 13, 2006

Larry O'Brien

Larry O'Brien is the new mayor of Ottawa. He has no political experience, and, I think it's fair to say, is politicaly conservative. Virtually all of the incumbents were re-elected, which is the norm for Ottawa. That means a rookie businessman-mayor will lead a left-of-centre council.
The mayor, who is the natural spokesman for the city, has one message. The majority of council has another.
I've seen this type of thing before, and it's not pretty.
O'Brien didn't have it together to run a slate. I get the impression his decision was made at the spur of the moment, after Brian McGarry and Terry Kilrea backed out. I bet they're both kicking themselves tonight.
I would have been much more comfortable with McGarry than any other contender. Alex Munter had almost all the Liberal and NDP elites in the city backing him. Chiarelli had a few die-hards. This is a grim night for heavy-hitters like John Manley and a lot of the old Liberal Hill staffers and lobbyists who supported Munter. It's also a message, made very clear by voters, that they're not happy with the leadership in this city and want less, not more, city government.
Ottawa has very high taxes, considering that so many things councils normally do are done by the feds here. Our transit system stinks. The light rail plan is not only incredibly expensive, it has all the makings of a white elephant, a train to nowhere used by no one. The city's bilingualism policy, which grossly favors francophones, irks English-speaking residents who already feel frozen out of the federal public service. Our police force needs a major overhaul, and has for years. There are many other problems, such as the fall-out from amalgamation, the lack of planning for a new garbage dump, wicked traffic congestion.
This is a fairly wealthy city, yet we have many homeless people and shelter-users in the downtown core. Most of them have liquor and/or drug addictions and/or serious psychiatric problems. It's not uncommon, on Elgin, Bank and other downtown streets, and in the Market, to see two or more pnahandlers on every block. These are people who, by and large, have no hope of getting a job, no chance of finding a reasonably-priced place to live, and who really have no options except to keep doing what they do. And, because of their corrosive effects on business, O'Brien and many merchants want them off the street.
Then there are non-issues that have become issues: assistance for drug addicts to prevent the spread of HIV (needle exchange programs) and Hepititis C (crack pipe exchange).
Should be an interesting four years.

1 comment:

Bill Royds said...

I don't agree that the old council was left-wing. Some were, but most councilors were really sitting there at the behest of developers who sponsored them.

Developers like the city to carry the cost of new developments rather than the developer. So instead of the developer paying their share of new infrastructure that allows to sell their houses, you and I are paying the shot.

The Development Charges Act allows cities to make developers pay up to 80% of the capital cost of new infrastructure. The City of Ottawa charges about 20% on average. The city is subsidizing developers to the tune of $80 million this year, with the city deficit ~ $75million.

That is where your taxes are going, not welfare. And newspapers won't say a word because the developers are some of their biggest advertisers (whole sections in Saturday Citizen, for example).