Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Battle of Vanier: Land use vs. Building Use

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Out of the most divisive issues comes unity.

Last week saw an unprecedented Planning Committee meeting, it lasted three days and on the third day the meeting it went late into the evening. At stake was either safe shelter for 350 or the future of Vanier and its financial growth. The heart of the matter revolved around the Salvation Army relocating to Montreal Rd in Vanier from their George Street location in the Byward Market.

In what has become a war of words over the future of Vanier, the Battle of Vanier is clearly between two ideals; land use versus building use. City staff is on the land use side while Rideau Vanier Mathieu Fleury is arguing the building use will have severe impacts on Vanier.

In the middle of summer the Salvation Army filed a proposal to build a new large 350 bed facility that would locate all its services in one location (the current Concord Hotel) on Montreal Rd, which is classified a “mainstreet” by the city’s official plan. Ottawa now prohibits shelters on its mainstreets. Mainstreets by definition are meant for commerce and community gathering and keeping people moving. For the Salvation Army, the official plan will need to be amended.

It gets confusing and bewildering because City staff support a proposal that clearly goes against the Official City Plan, which City Staff had a huge hand in writing. With its support, planning staff is saying that the needed amendment ‘won’t be a problem at all’.

If you have trouble understanding how the mainstreet argument works consider other Mainstreet and “Main” street locations across Ottawa as examples. How about a large shelter on Strandherd Drive in Barrhaven, or on Meadowlands Drive in Keith Egli’s ward. Try selling a huge 300-bed shelter to Stittsville residents on Hazeldean Drive and I doubt anyone would allow a shelter beside a shiny condo on Richmond Road or even putting a shelter at the corner of Bank and Somerset downtown instead of rebuilding Somerset House.

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Photos courtesy of Danno Saunt (Sideman Ottawa)

There was another aspect in the Battle of Vanier, one which could have been avoided – The Mayor. The ink on the proposal was barely dry when Mayor Jim Watson came out in support of the Salvation Army’s plans. He voiced his support before the proposal was looked at by staff, was debated at Planning Committee, before residents could have a say and before the full Council vote. The Mayor holds great sway in council. He’ll try to tell he is one of 24 votes, honestly though, his “yeah or nay” will sway about a quarter of council seats. Coming out early on this forced Councillor Fleury to publically fight against the Mayor and most of council.

Whether the Mayor intentionally or accidently played his cards, he should have stayed quiet. I expect that he will lose votes in the fall, as SOS Vanier will make sure Rideau Vanier voters don’t forget who supported them and that the Mayor did not. By stating his support early in the process, the Mayor muted Councillor Fleury and virtually snubbed the 100+ residents and businesses that went to committee and stated their reasons for objecting to the proposal.

Clearly the Salvation Army did not expect such uproar. They almost admitted it, but could not find the right words when the Salvation Army spokesperson appeared on CBC Radio Ottawa Morning after the Council vote of 23-7 (Rick Chiarelli claimed a conflict). They admitted they had a lot of fence mending to do, but could not commit to saying they did not know the community well enough to foresee the outrage against the plans.

It was clear from the moment that SOS Vanier was formed by Vanier business owner Drew Dobson that who ever came up short in the vote at council would be appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board. Depending on the OMB outcome there could a lawsuit, which all means that it could be years before the wrecking ball comes down on the Concord Motel, which sits on the proposed Salvation Army building.

Speaking of the Concord Motel, there is a complication. The City of Ottawa is very tight for space for families that need emergency shelter, for days weeks or months. Guess where some families are put up, paid for by the City of Ottawa? The Concord Motel. Where will the City find the rooms lost with the demo of the Concord for the families that need the space? Good Question. The City better home the new Federal National Housing Plan works, and fast!

There is some good that comes out of the Battle of Vanier. The community has come together, again. The last time that happened was with the proposed closure of the Montfort Hospital. The Ontario government stood down from that because the community banded together. The Salvation Army shelter plan was the spark that brought Vanier back to its feet; I hope they don’t underestimate the community as Mike Harris did. SOS Vanier is here for a while and plan on keeping this issue alive.

Secondly, Councillor Fleury stood on his head defended his residents; I have not seen a councillor do that in some time. It was an “All-Star Performance” in the defense of Vanier and preserving Montreal Road. At worst he has almost secured a re-election with his efforts to protect his community with something he saw as being a bad fit.

The leaders of SOS Vanier have publically declared they will appeal the decision at the OMB, the Battle was won – the war wages on.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

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Book Review: Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings

 

LightfootI think I have spoiled myself. I have set a high bar for biographies after reading books on the lives of Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Robbie Robertson among others. I have written on this blog before the effect reading a great biography has on me. I end up spending days and weeks listening to the music of the book’s subject buying the music I am reading about. This has happened after reading about Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth) and Joni Mitchell (The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell even though the book was just okay) where I added CD’s from each of these artists and more. I would say that reading about the music maker is my greatest motive for adding to my music library.

Written on the Inside front flap of the cover of the book is “…Jennings (the author) had unlimited access to the reticent musician. Lightfoot takes us deep inside the artist’s world…” Note that Lightfoot is italicized; my perception was that Gordon Lightfoot himself was going to bring readers and his fans into his world, something that Lightfoot has protected tightly.

Make no mistake, Lightfoot is the most comprehensive book written about Canada’s original folk singer-songwriter troubadour. Jennings provides a view into the life of Lightfoot. There is just enough of Lightfoot in the book to know that Jennings had spent significant time with him. The early years in Orillia are very well documented and give us a look into the musical talent that Lightfoot’s mother stimulated and encouraged from kitchen table concerts to Church services to public performances and winning talent shows.

There are multiple voices heard throughout the book, wives, girlfriends, business partners and artists that Lightfoot has played and written with, including Bob Dylan. The most interesting chapters of the book involved the early years finding his voice in a sea of other performers, touring and recording. Sadly a lot of what is written in this period comes from those around him. There is just enough from Gordon himself to add credibility of the “unlimited access” talked about on the inside flap.

What is lacking is more of Gordon Lightfoot. The early years could have used more of his take on the music and performing and collaborations and his take on his success, or why it was taking so long. Lightfoot’s music is his legacy; we are familiar with it and long to know more about it. Lightfoot could have used some focus; perhaps leading to ending the book in the lead up to 1976 and the success of that years surprise hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Without that focus, Lightfoot seems needlessly stretched to include GL’s sporadic recording since after the 2002 hospitalization and the near death experience following a collapse before a hometown concert in Orillia.

If Jennings had been able to extract more from Lightfoot, there might a reason to write about Lightfoot’s music past 1980, without it the book struggles to keep its audience.

The true test of course to the success of Lightfoot is whether or not I spent a significant amount of time listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s music. I didn’t. There was nothing to spur me on to listen back and hear in the music what Lightfoot was thinking or feeling at any particular time during his best creative years.

Lightfoot’s fans will enjoy the book, but it is best to limit expectations. Lightfoot himself doesn’t have the voice that was promised; if he had, there would’ve been a depth I’ve found other books of the same genre.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Book Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Are you sleepingAfter reading several non-fiction books, I was more than ready for a good work of fiction. My selection from Simon and Schuster, Are you sleeping by Kathleen Barber had arrived a couple weeks earlier and was sitting atop of my must-reads

Are you sleeping is the story of Jo Borden, who has successfully kept a secret from her circle of friends including her boyfriend. Successfully that is until an Internet blogger starts to investigate her past, more specifically the death of her father who was shot years before by the son of the neighbour. Claims are made that the young man convicted 12 years previously was incorrectly jailed for a crime he did not commit. It is an explosive accusation that attracts attention through social media and chat rooms until the mainstream media picks up on story.

While the mystery of the murder of Jo’s father is creating waves, Jo makes waves herself with the unravelling of her made up life story for the past 10 years. The unravelling includes a name change, a family that had not been talked about and the death of a mother, a death that is complicated by a lie of a death that took place a decade earlier.

Jo, really Josie Buhrman, is confronted with her reality, a reality that contradicts her new comfortable life in New York. Back into her life is a twin sister, Lanie, a former boyfriend and her now dead, for real, mother Erin Buhrman. Add the family history of neighbours, students and the intrusion of Poppy Parnell and podcasts that bring the murder of Chuck Buhrman and the drama surrounding the Buhrman family in that tragic time more than a decade ago is back in the local spotlight.

Are you sleeping, Barber’s debut suspense novel, published August 2017, has combined different mediums in the story to tell the tale of the Buhrman’s, the murder of Josie and Lanie’s father and the sudden death of their mother Erin Buhrman. Barber’s use of social media, and a transcripted podcast in the novel allows the reader to learn the background of the Buhrman family without the family drama getting in the way – until that drama is needed to bring a resolution about a mothers disappearance and a father’s death.

Are you sleeping grabbed me from the start, and held onto me until the near end when truths are discovered and by that point there was no turning back. In the end, Barber smartly allows Poppy Parnell to provide the epilogue to Are you sleeping.

Are you sleeping is a smartly written suspense with well-composed twists in the plot. For suspense lovers this is a must read! For others I offer a strong recommendation to pick up this novel from Kathleen Barber, not only for you but your book loving family and friends.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

The new look of a newscast?

CBC unveiled its new look of its flagship newscast, The National this week. While it is being broadcast as the main change in how the Canada’s public TV network, but is one in a chain of changes that is meant to transform how Canadians view the news. It’s goal, ensure that we have our eyes glued to the CBC.

In the “New” National it is a “deliberate decision” to have fewer longer pieces of news as one of the new four hosts, Andrew Chang tweeted to me.

Personally I am a quantity person when it comes to news. Through a workday I can’t get to a newscast. I rely on social media to get the breaking stories of the day. The news I get, because of where I work is nearly all political, other news is not something I would catch. If something breaks I then tune to a news channel on TV to catch the story.

The CBC made some subtle changes (subtle in the grand scheme) to their news line up recently, but since the launch of the revamped National it has all come to me. The subtle changes were all part of the big plan. The CBC has worked to make it the place we will end up for financial news, political news, world news and breaking news – at the end of the day the source for the breakdown of the 5 or 6 major stories. They are counting on us getting our news in drabs through a day and then wanting to go deep behind the headlines.

On the second night of the new National, I watched at 9pm and then went to CTV National News at 10. The differences were expected and very noticeable and that is what the CBC was going for. Gone from the CBC are the traditional 10 stories in 22 minutes. No more top stories with 90 seconds to give you enough information to want to hear more. You’ll get the in-depth story from the very start of the broadcast.

As mentioned, this is one of several changes. First was the move of “On the Money” from 7pm to 4pm. I tweeted about the move, host Peter Armstrong replied that the show would be available in its entirety on the Facebook page, encouraging me to watch there, “whenever I was free to do so”. The second change replaced the Vancouver based early evening news, previously hosted by Ian Hanomansing, show from 8pm to 11pm with the standard host/presenter of CBC New Network. Carol MacNeil now hosts a 2 hour block from 7pm to 9pm.

Finally the new National is dropped into its place in the schedule. New for the National will be the flexibility of having live updates inserted into the taped broadcast. It will be like having breaking news and the previously recorded news all in one – seamless and not noticeable to those tuning in.

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What I get from this is that the CBC is expecting its viewers to get their ‘bits of news’ from new sources like Twitter, Facebook, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed (among others) while some old guard news watchers may have listened to the radio or had the TV on in the background for news.

It seems that the CBC wants to flip how the news is delivered. You might recall not too long ago when the internet was where you went to read/view the in-depth reporting and TV gave you the headlines and maybe a little bit more. Has the CBC been surveying how Canadians are receiving news and current events? Now they want you to go in deep on TV and only scratch the surface on the Internet. The CBC wants users of Facebook and Twitter as their news source to consider the National as a one hour fix for the deep coverage of top seven stories of the day.

I see the value of their theory, I understand the theory, I get the concept. I get it. Will other Canadians? Will Canadians have the energy for the attention at the end of long day needed for the one hour of the National whether it will be through the Cable/Satellite/Fibre TV provider or online? The CBC is counting on two things, one, that current viewers of the National will accept the challenge and two new viewers will flock to the challenge of fewer and longer reports.

Success will not be in only what the traditional TV ratings will reveal, but what traffic has gone to CBC’s online presence (website, Facebook etc.) Has the CBC driven people to watch where ever they might be?

The concept will grow on me. What will pull me away will be the longer world news stories. While I know what is happening in Syria and the Middle East is important to the world it is not enough to me to watch 7-9 minutes and wait for the next story.

The editors, directors and hosts will have to balance Canadian news watchers needs of Canadian, American, World and Financial news. Too much of one of the others and not enough Canadian could be what moves people to another channel for news in their country.

This first week will not reflect what the National will be like in 6 months, by the second or third week we’re told we’ll see the hosts out of the studio and in the field and gathering news. Then we’ll see how the new National will deliver on the “New” in the new National.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Is it too soon to talk Municipal Elections in Ottawa?

Ottawa VotesHere it is November, we are almost at the end of Ottawa’s run where all things #Canada150 overshadowed what was being talked at in City Hall. With the end of 2018 we’ll see the dismantling of the #Canada150 Flame at City Hall and business of the City come more into focus.

There are serious items that will linger through to the Municipal elections in Ottawa in 11 months.

Mayor Jim Watson has campaigned on 2% or less for property tax increases. The problem with 2% property tax increases is that everything else has increased almost triple the rate of property taxes. Water fees, sewage fees all increased and are budgeted for large increases through the next five years as the City looks for revenues it can’t raise with a 2% property tax rise.

Watson’s rationale is not that different from Provincial and Federal Liberals that are “lowering” income taxes, but increases other necessary costs, like Hydro negate any reduction in taxes because any gain in disposable incomes is lost on higher hydro rates and carbon taxes put on the cost of gas at the pumps.   But Jim Watson will campaign on low property taxes and avoid any talk of higher water, sewage and user fees.

What will dog Watson are his views on safe injection sites and funding illegal pop up site. The safe injection site in Sandy Hill was given the federal go ahead, but that did not stop an unauthorized pop up site from appearing in a Lowertown park. This prompted the Ottawa Health Officer to opening a ‘legal’ temporary site on Clarence Street.   The illegal pop up site continues to operate even though its original mandate was to have a permanent site available to prevent deaths by overdose.

The irony here is that ‘conservative’ Mayor John Tory in Toronto is looking more progressive that ‘liberal’ Mayor Jim Watson in Ottawa. There will be calls for the City and the Mayor to accept money from the Province the same money Kathleen Wynne gave Toronto for its pop up site to be able to operate in the cold.

I also expect to see Jim Watson try to ride the shiny sparkly new LRT to another 4 years at City Hall. He better hope that it goes as planned, that sinkholes don’t create any unseen drops in his popularity. He is no doubt still very popular, but with urban councillors like Catherine MacKenney (Somerset Ward) and Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward) pushing a more progressive agenda, those councillors and perhaps others that want to see the City spend more on social services will look past Jim Watson for support. Sadly we may not see just who will challenge Watson for a few more months.

There were changes to municipal election for 2018. In previous election cycles candidates could register to run in the early weeks of the year. New rules now put any registering for the election at May 1st, four full months before in previous elections. This rule puts incumbents in the fundraising driver seat, as there can be no fundraising for a campaign before the candidate in registered. With the delayed registration date, incumbents no longer have to stress about announcing early.

The change in registration date will have a serious impact on challengers hoping to put up a strong effort against an incumbent. Losing four months of fundraising will drive some away from the challenge. The biggest financial impact may be on those that want to run for the Mayor’s chair.

In play for what could be tight race for Mayor are Bay Ward Councillors Mark Taylor, Diane Deans and former Ottawa Centre MP, and son of former Mayor Marion Dewar, Pal Dewar. Mark Taylor campaigned in 2010 to being a two-term councillor will he keep that promise. He is currently one of two deputy Mayors. If his good friend Watson decides not to run, he’d expect to pick up all of the current Mayor’s support. If Watson seeks re-election, Taylor could be in a jam as he campaigned in 2010 to only be a councillor for two terms.

Diane Deans, a Councillor for the Southern ward of Gloucester Southgate is also conserved a sure thing to run for the Mayor’s chains. She has the needed experience, as she has been a sitting Councillor since 1994. She has had verbal jousts with the Mayor in the past, especially this current term. Deans may see 2018 as her last chance to run for the top job, it could be the run for the Mayor’s chair or retirement for her.

Mayor Jim Watson’s biggest challenge may come from outside council. If Justin Trudeau can fill the position his father did, why can’t Paul Dewar follow his mother? Marion Dewar was Ottawa Mayor from 1978 to 1985 and a councillor from 72 before becoming Mayor. Where Watson would in previous elections be seen as the ‘progressive’ candidate – he’d look like a Larry O’Brien Conservative, if he has to run against Paul Dewar. A successful NDP MP in Ottawa Centre, he would be a dream candidate for progressives seeking greater funding for housing, opioid life saving programs and reducing homelessness in Ottawa.

As the New Year comes we’ll have to wait longer than normal to see who will challenge, who will retire and who will seek another four years. While Mayor Watson has announced he will run again ( https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-first-shot-has-been-fired/) all eyes will be on him as the May 1st registration deadline approaches to see if he really meant it or not.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net