When they call this a government town, they kid you not. We’re the home of both the Canadian government and the Ontario premier.
Amalgamation at least peeled off the regional layer of government, but that still leaves us under the tangled and overlapping jurisdictions of our municipal, provincial and federal governments, as well as the National Capital Commission, which has just poured cold bureaucratic coffee on the city’s transit plan because it includes the use of Crown land for a western expansion of the Transitway. Not so fast, quoth the NCC.
These squabbles are part of the territory here.
When Tamil demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament Buildings to send a message to the federal government about the war in Sri Lanka, it was the City of Ottawa that picked up the costs of policing the protests — and immediately started demanding the feds pay some of the bill.
And then we have the recent pronouncements of former mayor Jim Watson, now provincial minister of municipal affairs. This week, for example, he pointed out potential security problems with the proposed downtown transit tunnel since it has to be dug near federal property, including the office of the prime minister. Our current mayor, Larry O’Brien, was most annoyed at the minister’s intervention.
Back in Toronto, they’re accusing Watson of conflict of interest because of rumours he’s interested in running for his old job as mayor back here.
Still with me? Well done.
During our last municipal election, it was the federal government, in the person of cabinet minister John Baird, who withheld federal funding for light rail, enabling O’Brien to campaign against the rail plan and into office. This year, Baird was dragged into testifying at O’Brien’s criminal trial, along with provincial Tory Lisa McLeod.
Things can get tricky enough around here even without significant involvement from other levels of government, as we’ve seen in the Lansdowne Live consultations. Here, the City of Ottawa is running the show, but its proposed public-private partnership with the Ottawa Sports Entertainment Group is muddying the waters.
Some think city staff are crossing the line between informing the public about the plan and trying to sell it. At the first of the open houses, OSEG reps were issued name tags bearing the City of Ottawa logo until someone pointed out the minor impropriety and the badges were replaced with more neutral versions.
It’s all part of the fun in Canada’s quintessential government town.