Category Archives: Ottawa Centre

The Grand Rebirth

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The grand ole lady has great bones, fabulous sight lines and is currently the most eligible address in the Parliamentary Precinct.

Last fall Liz and I took a tour of the old U.S. Embassy. It has been empty since the bunker on Sussex St opened in 1998 and US embassy staff moved in. Since then, there has been enough debate of what lies ahead for the 1932 constructed building. Over the course of a few weeks the doors were open and the people went through the stripped down main and second floors. Even though much had been removed and almost 20 years of neglect had done its damage, you could clearly see the potential and past beauty that once was in place.

Walking through the building you could feel the history and grandeur that once existed.  We lucked out, and our interest caught the attention of one of the Project Managers that day after asking some questions,  we were led behind the ropes into rooms that were not available for the open house.  In the rooms you sense that the walls are just waiting for the moment that restoration begins.  Filled with the natural light of the large windows the rooms require little in additional illumination.  The view of Parliament from what must have been the Ambassador`s office is breathtaking, and any weather, sun or snow would not diminish it.  For a Canadian catching the same views when the building is open again, it will be of the same magnitude of seeing the first fireworks that appear from behind the Peace Tower on Canada Day or making a turn and getting that first glimpse or spray of Niagara Falls or looking up from street level to view the CN Tower.  The significance of the view will not be lost.

The debate of what to do with the building was left to the fate of an online survey, completed after you finished touring the building on tablets on site or at home online. Walking through the building you could  imagine any number of events taking place in any of the rooms,  a wedding, an art show, a live art performance,  a public presentation or an special awards evening.

Fast forward a few months and the survey says…

…based on the responses from 6500 people, the top three suggested uses are:

  • Canada House, for a taste our our diversity
  • A gallery hosting art of national significance
  • An indigeneous centre, highlighting the culture, acheivements and the prominent role of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples

There were other options but these are the main contenders…or the building could house all three, rotating as needed.

The building,  valued in the ten’s of millions will likely require much more than that for the renovations and building upgrades to turn the building into whatever the government and its project managers decide. It is clear that Canadians have been waiting for the most eligible address in Ottawa to have a new tenant since the Americans moved out. Previous governments had seduced us with plans for a National portrait gallery until the Harper government shelved any plans plans for 100 Wellington.

An announcemnt is expected in “early” 2017. What early means to the government remains to be seen, though considering that it will likely require budget considerations we could hear by March what Trudeau’s plans are.

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 for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

129: Hospital Hopscotch?

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First there was the Central Experimental Farm after the Ottawa West Nepean Conservative MP granted the Ottawa Hospital’s request for the 60 acres across the road from their current site.

Then the 2015 election took place. Former NDP MP Paul Dewar was defeated and the Liberals were in charge. A group formed to save those 60 acres of the farm went straight to the new MP and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking to have the decision from Baird overturned.

McKenna asked the National Capital Commission (NCC) to conduct a review to find NCC property to offer to the Ottawa Hospital. Based on the approach she received from those wanting to “save the farm”, the NCC may have known that the Central Experimental farm was off the table.

While the farm was off the table, were there other sites that have been given a nudge to the frontline? We have learned that months ago, McKenna met with the NCC and asked that Tunney’s Pasture be given a good look as the new site for the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital.

Then an announcement, it was a decision that created ripples across the city and through four levels of government. The NCC decided it would make the Government hub of Tunney’s Pasture offered as a site for the Ottawa Hospital.

The reaction was swift from current Ottawa City Councillors and former Ottawa Mayors, Tunny’s Pasture was so far down the list of possible sites when the Ottawa Hospital did their own study it was not even talked about. Issues with traffic, access by EMS vehicles and the increased volume of people daily in the area was not sustainable without changes to roads and traffic flow plans – changes that were not anticipated for quite sometime by the City of Ottawa.

On the day of the announcement, Ottawa Centre Provincial Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi was non-committal about supporting or raising doubts about the selection. No Liberal MPP in Ottawa said a word. The only provincial MPP to raise the question of the selection was Nepean-Carleton PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, during Question Period in Queens Park, asking Health Minister Eric Hoskins to intervene and have the NCC reconsider the selection.

Within a week of the announcement last week, the tide against Tunney’s Pasture was becoming stronger. On Parliament Hill, Carleton Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre asked McKenna about the decision. It was the Heritage Minister Melanie Jolie that answered, she ‘would review the report and make a recommendation/offer to the hospital’.

Too late, the hospital board rejected the location siting along with the previous issues mentioned, the cost and the time to build the new hospital was greater than if another location was chosen. The relocation of 10,000 civil servants and demolishing of the buildings on the site now (including a 26 story tower) would cost more and take longer than the hospital was willing to accept. A next century healthcare facility was needed sooner not later.

McKenna praised the decision and issued a press release, (https://cmckenna.liberal.ca/news-nouvelles/statement-on-ottawa-hospital-site-recommendation/). In her release she praised the NCC for their selection for the location for a new state of art health facility.

Eventually the 5 Ottawa Provincial Liberals got on the same page as the area Federal and Provincial conservatives and supported the Hospital’s decision to reject the decision of the NCC, though a joint press releases and Ottawa South MPP John Fraser making the media rounds.

Mayor Jim Watson came out trying act as the voice of reason for the decision, but aware of the challenges it presented. Watson as the top ranking municipal elected official aimed to play the role of peacemaker seeking a solution that meets the needs of the Ottawa Hospital.

While the sideshow of backlash was happening Minister Joly had not yet made her decision known, she was likely waiting this out to determine if a consensus on an alternative sire could be made, it was.

After some inward reflection everyone agreed, the former site of the Sir John Carling building of Agriculture Canada could and would fit what the hospital was seeking. It was across the street, just a little further east than originally planned.

In a joint press conference with the City of Ottawa, the NCC along with Provincial and Federal members of parliament all were happy with the new site proposal, even McKenna who it seems always liked Tunney’s Pasture. When asked about her previous praise for Tunney’s, McKenna preferred to be “forward thinking” about the new site.

What remains to be known is what influence did Minister McKenna think she had with the NCC? How could she be so out of touch with what the hospital AND the City needed for healthcare? How has this tarnished McKenna? How has McKenna playing Hospital Hopscotch damaged the NCC and if she had just let the NCC do its study what site would have the NCC and Minister Joly offered to the Ottawa Hospital?

Photo Source: Library and Archives Canada

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

 

122: Ottawa Centre Election Reform

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Julien Lamarche is the President of the NCR Chapter of Fair Vote Canada. I met Julian via Twitter through several online discussions. Julien attended the Ottawa West-Nepean election reform meeting as I did (you can read my post on that meeting here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/120-owns-electoral-reform-town-hall/ ). Julien works as a software developer in the private sector. He is also an advocate for safe cycling. You can follow Julien on Twitter at @cyclingzealot.

I was unable to attend the Ottawa Centre Election Reform meeting this month so I have asked Julien to be a (the first) guest contributor to #RedHeartBlueSign and present his observations of the meeting. I have not edited or changed his words some changes were made for formating purposes only.

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The town hall for Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa-Centre, followed the recommended format set out by the Ministry of Democratic Institutions. That is, invite the crowd to break down into groups of 5 to 10 people, discuss the following questions and have someone report back. The questions were:

  1. What is your opinion of our current electoral system? What do you think are its flaws? What do you think are its strengths? Do you feel though your vote is fairly translated through our current First-Past-The-Post system?
  1. What specific features are important to you in our electoral system? Local representation, proportionality, simplicity, legitimacy, inclusiveness, effectiveness?
  1. Many Canadians choose not to participate in our democratic process. What do you think can be done to encourage greater participation?
  1. Should it be mandatory to cast a ballot (choosing “none of the above” or spoiling the ballot would be allowed under mandatory voting)?
  1. Should online voting be an option? If so, do you have any specific concerns and do you think there are ways those concerns could be addressed?

There were 10 tables of about 9-10 people for an approximate count of 150 people, though there are some reports of 200 people. The breakdown into subgroups has many advantages over the town hall format where people line up at an open mic:

  1. It allows for many conversations to happen, sharing knowledge & opinions
  1. It encourages more civility in conversation

The only advantage the open mic format has: it permits clarification to be brought to the entire assembly. But that advantage is quickly lost by the vitriol it also brings. I love giving a passionate speech for voter equality, but any format which diminishes the advantage of the loudest person and encourage knowledge sharing gets my vote.

Question 4 & 5 were the quickest to deal with. Along with question 1, they also make for easy straw polls (who wants change? who doesn’t?). Question 3 and 2 were harder to summarize as the reporter of my group. I discuss how question 2 could be further broken down into subquestions here: https://jlam.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/question-2-of-town-halls/

Opponents of reform or of the Liberal party have reported that Catherine McKenna ended the evening “promoting” ranked ballots. This is a gross misrepresentation. She simply asked the crowd if there was a preference for “ranked ballots” to which I and others quickly requested clarification if she meant Alternative Vote (majoritarian, single member ridings) or Single Transferable Vote (proportional, multi member ridings). The difference *really* matters and it’s one that gets lost with the term “ranked ballot”.

If it matters to you though, she did mean Alternative Vote. This voting system also gets called “Preferential Voting”, “Instant Runoff” and unfortunately, “ranked ballots”.

Most importantly, the question was preceded by questions about voting reform and proportionality. In the context of various straw polls on the crowds preference, to call it “promotion” is an exaggeration.

For more information on proportional voting systems, see http://fairvote.ca/proportional-representation/

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