Monthly Archives: May 2012

Developer wants; Community wishes; and Political Will


Within one week there were two meetings about the future of future development in Ottawa and Centretown.  A “Tall Buildings Summit” was organized by Ottawa DNA (Twitter: @OttawaDNA web: This meeting had developer input with Neil Mahotra of Claridge Homes and Alex Munter presenting a ‘healthy’ city point of view.  It was an interesting meeting and when talking about Tall buildings the popular view was that they have to be done right in order to have the positive effect they are meant to have.

On Wednesday night (May 30 2012) the community lent its collective ear and listened when the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA) hosted a public meeting on the Centretown Community Design Plan (CDP).

There was a distinct interest in the topic as over 150 people attended the meeting at the McNabb Community Centre; a few were turned away as the room had reached its capacity.

The meeting, organized by members of the CCCA Planning Development Review committee brought in CDP consultants George Dark and Eric Turcotte, Graeme Hussey of the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, Nancy Oakley from Heritage Ottawa, Brian Bourns and the CCCA’s Judy Forrest to speak about the CDP and their perspectives on the plan.  Some City staff was in attendance as was Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes.  Of the 150 about one-third had been involved in previous CDP meetings, clearly this meeting was of interest to many following the advertising done by the CCCA but also by a CDP issue of the “Centretown Buzz:” at the beginning of May. The articles are found at

Brian Bourns started the evening with a historical viewpoint and the original Centretown Plan from the 1970’s.  This was followed by a detailed presentation from George Dark.  Judy Forrest presented the CCCA’s three main concerns (after stating what was supported in the CDP):

  1. Drastic change in height of buildings
  2. Heavy emphasis on mixed use buildings with 50% mixed use too high
  3. Secondary Main Streets

Two presentations from Graeme Hussey and Nancy Oakley were followed by a very respectful question and answer for the panellists.

A few developers were spotted in the audience; they did not speak or ask any questions.

What really impressed me the most was the way the questions were asked and the comments that were made leading to the questions.  There was an understanding of the CDP by the community members.  The questions ranged from Greenspace to Green  Roofs, the OMB and current buildings that are either under construction or at planning committee.

I got the impression that like the OttawaDNA meeting, the residents were not against tall buildings and development the residents just want it to be done right.  Examples of the Tribeca building bordered by Lisgar/Metcalfe and Nepean and the proposed 68 Cooper Street were held up as buildings  that have negative effects.  Regarding the Tribeca building there are infrastructural issues (and being investigated) being faced by surrounding existing structures. AS proposed 18 story building at 68 Cooper plans have no set back or green space and in drawings provided by the builder show a neighbouring buildings’ green space as its own. Little or no visitor parking planned for 68 Cooper will have effects through the neighbouring streets.

Clearly there is concern from the community that developers will not abide by the CDP.  The crowd challenged the political will of City Council to abide by the CDP and listen to the concerns of the residents whether the Councillor represents voters outside the downtown and urban centres.

The CDP is planned to go to the Planning Committee in the fall followed by a full vote at City Council.  Comments are being accepted by the City through the summer

There are few links to read more about the CDP:

Via Twitter you can read about the two meetings by searching the #Ottdna and #CCCAcdp hashtags for the twitter conversations that took place those evenings.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.

Brian McGarry: A Life in Caring, Loving and Death

The Ottawa Citizen in a preview of Brian McGarry’s new book entitled “From Paupers to Prime Ministers: a Life in Death” suggested that the most interesting chapter was the 6th entitled “Quirky Stories”.  While the stories were certainly quirky and fun to read, I would recommend that when reading Brian’s book you start with Chapter 11, “Looking Back”.  It is there that by reading this chapter and then skipping back to the start you understand why and who Brian McGarry is and the importance he has in Ottawa.  Starting at the end with an understanding of why Brian is the type of person he is allows you as you read the book to enjoy the stories, anecdotes and personal trials that he shares from the 1st Chapter right through to the end.

The stories of his family, work and business are told in a personal home style that is as if Brian is telling you the story and you are there listening with great fascination.  You get a sense of how busy a life Brian has had just working with Charles Hulse and Keith Playfair to make Hulse, Playfair and McGarry what is it today while fending off the corporate funeral homes.   It is hard to see where the time was found to raise two families, give so much to the community and also be a successful municipal politician.

“From Paupers to Prime Ministers” is a tale of a changing National Capital Region, how being home to our Prime Ministers in life, in power and in death shapes Ottawa and the leaders in it.  The stories at times seem farfetched, but Brian tells the stories with his local charm and humility.  Even in written form, Brian does not dishonour anyone that has caused him any pain or financial hardships.  He keeps some names and identities private as if still after all these years that have passed Brian maintains a calm decorum that allows us to know what he has fought against, but that we don’t really need to know their real identity.  That being said I would still really like to know who ‘Tricky Dicky’ is!

The book comes in a set of two volumes, the first is the story and the second is the photo album that works as a great pictorial edition of his life and work in Ottawa along with that of the Hulse, Playfair and McGarry Funeral home.  The photo album has wonderful photos of the State funerals from William Lyon Mackenzie King (1950) to Jack Layton (2011).  It also traces McGarry’s life from his childhood to the present as a leader in our community.

The book gives a glimpse into the life of a man that has given so much to Ottawa and continues to do so today.  Those purchasing the book are asked to also contribute to the Queensway Carleton Hospital ‘care grows west’ campaign.  At the book launch, all the proceeds from the sale of the book went directly to the hospital.

“From Paupers to Prime Ministers” is now available in book stores across Ottawa and online.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings


Black, White and Read all over

I am trying to find out who has been putting my newspaper on a diet.

I LOVE to read the newspaper; maybe it stems from my days as a 12 year old delivering the old Scarborough Mirror with my wagon full and then going collecting for the papers every two weeks.  For those that remember, those collection cards with tear away tabs for weeks paid are now for history – but that is when you got to know your neighbours and when a payment was a click away it was because I punched a hole in a card.

I’m back from my youthful flashback – I do not usually get to read my paper until late at night.  If the headlines scream at me when I get my paper from the front door I’ll take a look at it, but I normally don’t have the luxury of sitting down for 30 minutes to scan the paper before getting the day underway.

Yesterday my Sunday Citizen has 32 pages (including the ads).  The Previous week’s edition had the same and today’s paper has 28 pages.

Are we now past the days where we would spend our Sundays (and Saturday mornings) taking an hour or two read the paper?  Is it tablet in bed instead of the New York Times?  I do have a tablet and use it to read news items found on Twitter or through the apps downloaded, but it doesn’t replace the paper and ink I look forward to reading each day.  I also depend on my computer for access to the news service websites. The tablet merely supplements my daily news fix and usually the apps I download come from papers I don’t get at my front door.  I have a number of friends that are slowly going 100% online or are already there.  I am not sure I am ready to make that leap.

I think that the National Post may have had it right when they did not publish on Mondays through the summer last year; they did maintain an online edition though for the latest news.  Is that where the print business is going?  Reversing a trend where more was key to readership?  Are less printed editions going to save the industry?

I long for the days of having more pictures of events, longer series of investigations.  Today we have links for photos, videos and longer and more detailed investigative stories.  I know they enhance the experience but rarely do I go to the links.  Yesterday gave in and I went online to see photos of the Ottawa Comicon at the CE Centre from Saturday hoping for many photos of attendees dressed up in costume, there were 15 plus one video.

I don’t know what the long term future of the newsprint business looks like, but please don’t deny me my 3 hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  To fill my weekend reading I now have to load up on The Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, Globe and Mail along with the National Post as I get my fill of the smell of newsprint and ink I so love.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.

Marriage of the Year

I am sure that this will not be the final word on the Ontario budget, but felt it was important to throw my thoughts into the mess hash tagged as #ONBudget2012.  The Liberals have now benefited from the NDP generousity of a new tax and what could be called ‘support’, so we can all move on, right?  I wish it would be that easy.

I do not think that anyone was surprised by the budget that was brought down my Dwight Duncan; it ignored everything that many thought was needed to save Ontario – including Don Drummond.  The McGuinty government ignored the bulk of the ideas submitted for cost cutting and ‘earning’ millions of dollars in savings from reduced government spending.  Instead the budgets of Ministries were increased and PS workers will bear the brunt of the austerity the McGuinty government has brought forth.

While a Tim Hudak budget would have frozen public service salaries, it would not have relied for all savings on the back the government workers.  A Hudak budget would have relied on a reduced Cabinet, 2% percent savings from each Ministry department along with the freeze of PS worker salaries.

Many accuse the PC Party of not negotiating with McGuinty over the budget, really what did everyone think?  McGuinty and Hudak would agree?  Really?  People thought that?  Through the fall election, we reminded the voters daily of what a PC government would do with its first budget.  What didn’t the Liberal Party team hear?

The biggest surprise and biggest non-surprise for me fell at the feet of the Ontario NDP and Andrea Horvath.  The NDP tax, which is how the Liberals will spin the Tax on Ontarians earning more than $500K/year, was easily accepted and avoided an election in Ontario.  The fact that the NDP Leader could not stand and vote ‘yea’ for the budget (or for that matter, whip a backbencher to do this) just as symbolic gesture is outrageous!  That the entire NDP caucus abstained from the vote after getting what they asked for is even more dubious than the NDP calling out Hudak for not putting proposals forward.  Even more dubious is that the McGuinty government fully expected the NDP to abstain.  Was that also part of the budget proposal – you have our support but we won’t vote for it?  It is akin to a marriage vow where “for now” replaces “I do”.  Lawyers are now lining up for the eventual divorce.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.