Category Archives: Ottawa Politics

Watson turns the page, others haven’t

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Jim Watson has turned the page and has moved on from the fiasco that is all about the design of an addition that the owners of the Chateau Laurier what to pop on the site of the torn down parking garage.  Jim Watson has moved on, he’s moved onto to his LRT to the City of Ottawa gets the keys to the trains the middle of August from Rideau Transit Group.  He is getting the keys more than a year late and several missed deadlines later.

Jim Watson and 12 other councillors have moved on since Thursday July 11th when reconsideration of Councillor Fleury’s  motion to deny Larco, the owners of the Chateau Laurier their permit to build an addition.  Ten Ottawa City Councillors led by Mathieu Fleury, Heritage Ottawa and thousands of Ottawa voters that have signed petitions haven’t moved on, rather they’ve firmly planted themselves in a position that they hope will block backhoes from starting construction.

This story goes back years, the major sticking point is that City Council passed a heritage permit. The owners of the Chateau have presented five designs, all of which have been panned by the public, but have met the guidelines set out in the heritage permit.    The application has a few minor steps before ground can be broken and construction can begin on a design that has been called a car radiator.  City Council has the right to deny a permit to build if it doesn’t like the design, but in this case they didn’t, fearing a costly lawsuit.

It appears that a majority, maybe all of council does not like the design the owners are determined to build, but 14 voted to deny Fleury his opportunity, one last time, to have the permit revoked.  Mayor Watson must have let out a big sigh before he slid out the back door of council chambers to begin his vacation when the final vote tally was counted.
img_20180405_1541418638794165793251928.jpgI think the problem the public (and few public figures) has with the design is that the architects haven’t really veered far from design number one.  The fourth reiteration of the original drawing is still basically a box being stapled to a castle.  I’ve seen more imagination in the design of a building on a beach.

While Larco dreams of Bob the Builder, Councillors Fleury, Meehan, Deans, and others along with Heritage Ottawa and the Friends of the Chateau Laurier will be spending the time the Mayor is away looking to stop those dreams.  While all this planning takes place will the Mayor actually has a peaceful vacation with nothing on his mind?

 

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 on Twitter@robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook athttp://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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The Golden Rule of Social Media

Golen RuleThere are only weeks until the campaigning for the 43rd General Election in Canada starts. However the state of political discourse in Canada has never been as low as it is before an election as it is today. The language we’re speaking, the assumptions we’re making and the tone we’re using all are contributing to the discourse and really the anger in the conversations are at levels I have never heard before.

What are the origins of the new lows of our political discussions, where did we accept this behavior? Why do we accept this behavior? Have our leaders brought us to this point? Who do we hold responsible? Is all this because our new communication devices allow us, anyone to to have a personal soapbox? Our new communication freedom also brings millions of voices to us in a click.

There are voices that generate a lot of emotion, we all immediately think of @realDonaldTrump and his daily tweets – he generates strong reactions from supporters and opponents. In Canada our political leaders may not generate the same emotion, but Canadians are engaging. What concerns me is that we can’t engage without some people confusing opinion with information. As an example, this post and blog is based on my opinions and where ever possible I will insert information that support my opinion.

I cannot the only one concerned with this, I think that many Canadians share this with me, and now Parliamentarians must share this opinion as well; The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Parliament Hill is currently studying “Online Hate”. The committee has been hearing from witnesses since April. With Parliament approaching the summer recess the study will be wrapping up so that a report can be written and tabled before the House rises. The report will include recommendations that might be the basis for campaign promises during the upcoming election.

It is easy to compartmentalize hate as coming from one side of the political spectrum; one side claims to be on the side of good, automatically labeling the other as hateful. Online its easy, some people are faceless and nameless. Can you imagine if school playgrounds were treated the same as social media? If that were the case the principal’s office would have a line-up of combatants having to ‘explain themselves’ and their actions. If we never tolerated this type of activity in schoolyards, why do we allow it online?

I’ll wait for the report from the Justice and Human Rights Committee and read it with great interest. The committee heard from witnesses from many faiths, ethnic groups, LGBT groups, Gender groups, Human Rights, government departments and agencies and Individuals came and provided testimony. Will this provide an insight into how or if the government should regulate hate speech online.

Interestingly, the week the Justice Committee was meeting, the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy was also meeting in Ottawa. The second Grand Council of the committee was in Ottawa to have the tech giants talk about data security, #fakenews and privacy. The meeting had the understated question if FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) should be required to do more that they are? The meeting was overshadowed by the decision by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg ignored a summons to appear in front of the committee.

Parents, teachers, principals, school administrators and others wouldn’t allow faceless and nameless bullies on school property during recess to harm the children, why do we tolerate them on social media where more harm can be done with words, images and videos – where people we don’t even know have access to influence others? Don’t we deserve a safe social media playground?

Isn’t it time we took into consideration the audiences, known and unknown, we have online and started to police our own words and actions and call out others who cross a line? Can’t we all use a better language online? Surely (mostly) everyone doesn’t use the same language in person that is used online. We all need to use the golden rule of social media, use the language you want used on your posts when you post and comment on others.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Affordable Climate Change action, for some

mckennaThis week Environment and Climate Change Minister (and my MP) Catherine McKenna made an announcement, a funding announcement.  Joining her were area MP Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West Nepean) and Mona Fortier (Ottawa Vanier).  The funding provided would allow a grocery store to replace refrigeration and lighting in the store.  What a great idea, there are several local grocery and food operations that are struggling due to the high cost of food transportation and new carbon taxes.

What a coup for that local store to get that funding and an announcement with the Minister!

The store was a Loblaws store and the amount was $12M from the Low Carbon Economy Fund and that money would equal the emissions of 50,000 cars coming off the roads.  This is good funding money, but really, Loblaws? Loblaws not only had huge profits, but in 2017 also was found guilty of a 14-year long bread price fixing scheme. Loblaws Companies Limited had a net profit of $3.4B in 2018.    Minister McKenna could not find a local operation that has maybe 2 or 3 locations?  A small chain of specialty health food stores?  Kardish Foods, for one, comes to mind they are Ottawa local and a good local success story

I think however the number the Minister really wants everyone to focus on is 50,000 – as in the emissions reduction of taking 50K cars off the road.  BUT I argue that we should be looking at numbers like $3.4B in profit and $12M.

On the face of it, this announcement slaps small local stores that struggle with the high cost of hydro to keep lights, freezers and fridges running.  The Liberals could have done themselves a huge favour (and everyone knows they could use it) by making the announcement at a small butcher shop, a local restaurant, a health food store or any other example of a company that doesn’t make a profit of $3.4B.  Bog box chain stores like Loblaws don’t need funding announcements that represent a mere 0.35% of annual profits.

Gifting $12M to Loblaws tells me that Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna has allowed the arrogance of Justin Trudeau and his Liberals to overtake any sense of normalcy she might have had. This announcement shows just how out of touch Trudeau and his team have become. It comes at a cost to Loblaws who have taken a social media hit and it will, if social media posts are to be believed, as many plan to never set foot in a Loblaws store again.

Liberals are saying that the LCEF is an application baesd program, but shouldn’t there be a financial aspect to this?  Should government funding to help those who can afford the type of retrofitting that Loblaws is going to get?  Any funding awarded from this program should benefit those who really wouldbenefit from it. In Ottawa Centre, the riding of Minister McKenna, is home to many small businesses; butcher shops, fish markets, fruit and vegtable stores, business that rely on refridgerators to stay in business.  I am sure that Minister McKenna shops in these stores that are close to her home in Ottawa.

While there’s huge role for the large comglomerates, climate action only works if the small businesses see that they get a buy in and are part of a solution.  In Question Period both the Conservatives and the NDP peppered the Liberals with questions why they were only helping companies that could afford the retrofits without money from the LCEF.

In what has become the Liberals achilles heel, where once they were seen as looking out for every Canadian, now they seem to be looking out for Canadians, but others get helped first.  Its actions like what took place this week that make Justin Trudeau and the Liberals as looking out for the 1% and those looking to stay in the 1%.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker& @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Remediation Obstruction Instruction?

There is something significant happening in Ottawa now and it is not insignificant and it could cost the Liberals the election. It is not insignificant because its happened before.  What occurred to Stephen Harper in 2015 seems likely to happen to Justin Trudeau in 2019.  Actions taken by the government of the day are going to play out in court and in social media and an election.

In 2015 it seemed the Harper government was on trial, though it was really Mike Duffy.  The trial was about what was said and approved for Senators appointed by the Harper government.  It played out during an election campaign and everyone attention to it.  Flash ahead to 2019, Justin Trudeau and his government are going to be dividing there time, as Harper did, between campaign communications and daily rebuttals about a potentially damaging court case.

Mike Duffy walked into court everyday, hounded by reporters but never answering a question, he was the face of everyone who was looking for a reason to vote against Stephen Harper (there were other reasons of course). Now,  just weeks before the federal election starts Vice Admiral Mark Norman will walk in to a courtroom everyday.  Wearing his uniform he will be the face many believe is the victim of a government’s interference.

Cabinet Ministers will be testifying, the former President of the Treasury Board, Scott Brison will likely be called when the case goes to trial.  Right now the case for the defense of Mark Norman is playing out with a battle for documents.  Brian Platt, a reporter for the National Post, has been laying out just how far the defence believes the government has gone to prevent key documents from being made available.  Platt’s twitter feed is full of the defence vs the prosecution in a case of breach of trust that involves military shipbuilding against the Vice-Admiral.

So far the case has been intriguing to the opposition and people who thrive in a political bubble.  The bubble will burst in late July and August when the case is expected to be heard.  You just know the opposition parties, especially the Conservatives will be playing up the angle of  “interference of the government”.

While a singlular but not insignificant situation can be enough for a government to handle in an election, a second leaves the election war room wishing days had an extra 6 hours.  While the Liberals have to worry about what is perceived by the voters in the Norman case, there is another worry for them.

It’s only been five days, but seems like an eternity since Globe and Mail reporter Robert Fife broke the news on February 7th of alleged influence being applied to former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to allow a plea deal and fine to SNC Lavalin rather that go to court.  For most Canadians this will all be new – the US and the UK have laws that permit applications for remediation.  Canada only adopted such a law this year in Bill C-74, a Budget Bill.  Liberals buried an “out” in the criminal code to address corporate crime in a bill that was meant to implement government spending.  It’s allegations are not before the courts…but will be examined by the Ethics Commissioner and the Justice Committee, which is controlled by a majority of Liberal MPs, which will be discussing the need for the public inquiry to investigate the allegation.

Significant events shape how voters respond in the fall election.  These are not insignificant events.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker &  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

 

Meehan vs. The Mayor

  jim watson

A couple of weeks back Carol Anne Meehan, the rookie Gloucester – South Nepean Councillor made waves because she questioned the Mayor’s decision NOT to allow her to bring a staff person into a one-on-one budget discussion that Mayor Watson was having with her as part of his pre-budget discussions. These are, I imagine, largely informal discussions where the Mayor expects to hear the 3 or so budget concerns from each ward.

Ms. Meehan is a new councillor and very likely she’s still getting up to speed on the many ways Ottawa City Council operates, the committees, procedures and governance as the ward representative.

I don’t know how long these meetings are meant to last, what expectations the councillor should have of the Mayor in the meetings.  There might even be a bit of confidentiality to the meetings.  One person that might know is Mike Patton,  he worked in the Mayors’s office when Larry O’Brien was Mayor of Ottawa and now Mike is working for Councillor Meahan.  Patton is going to be of great assistance to Meahan as he’ll be able guide her through the machinery of City Hall.  But does that make her more comfortable in her role? 

Councillor Meehan had a request, have a staff person join her in the meeting to take notes.  Meehan will not be the elected official to have a staff person take notes in meeting but this is not one meeting she will be able to. Ottawa, a city that has 338 elected officials around the corner on Parliament Hill is all about notes being taken in a meeting by staff.  An elected official bringing a staff person to take notes in a meeting is not a strange occurance, it happens all the time, everyday.

There could be more than meets the eye on this; the Mayor may be posturing a bit.  I doubt that the Mayor and Mike Patton get along that well.  Patton, who worked for the previous Mayor of Ottawa is now working for a new Councillor. Patton up until the Ottawa elections posted a daily video challenging the mayor on issues facing City Hall.  If it would be Patton coming into the meetings, Jim Watson would not be so happy.

A few people have commented online that if Meehan doesn’t know the top three issues from her ward she doesn’t deserve to be there.  Meehan has not had the smoothest start of the rookie Councillors, but her calling out the Mayor for not allowing her to have someone take notes for her seems fair. Next year she may not need that staff person there but this is her first budget in her first year of her four year term. I find nothing wrong with her making sure she has the information she needs to do her job however she needs to get it.

If this is any indication, this could be first of a few flaming arrows that Meehan will be firing in the direction of the Mayor.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net