Dear Ottawa residents,
It seems Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson doesn’t have much regard for ‘process’. Judging by the Wildlife Strategy fiasco, he has even less respect for ‘public consultation’.
In February 2010, Ottawa City Council unanimously approved the development of a progressive Wildlife Strategy, based on wildlife-sensitive planning and public education. It came about due to public pressure from residents frustrated with the City’s approach to wildlife that included shooting moose, trapping coyotes and beavers and gassing groundhogs in neighbourhood parks.
Criticism of the secretive inter-agency group of City by-law, MNR and NCC staff that made all wildlife decisions prompted Council to appoint community stakeholders, along with others, to a Wildlife Strategy Working Group. The Strategy was to go to a joint meeting of the Planning and Environment and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees.
Instead, three years later, the mayor has turned the Wildlife Strategy over to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, in spite of the fact that these are urban wildlife issues, not agricultural ones. Even more incredible is the fact that community stakeholders had actually been ‘dismissed’ from the process back in December 2011, although someone had forgotten to tell them.
Correspondence obtained by the Ontario Wildlife Coalition through Freedom of Information shows this timing suspiciously corresponds to a proposal for an “alternative” Wildlife Strategy submitted by the Eastern Ontario Deer Advisory Committee, an advocacy group for hunting interests, through the City’s Rural Affairs Office. The proposal, according to one city staff member, is your “basic trappers’ manifesto”. It appears that the Rural Affairs Office is the tail that wags the dog at Ottawa City Hall.
As for the City’s newest draft Wildlife Strategy, it still intends to trap and kill beavers, all the while encroaching on important wetlands, transforming them into municipal ‘infrastructure’, it has a recommendation that opens the door for coyotes to be ‘removed’ and the few items under education are simply window dressing that will have little positive impact on the community’s interface with wildlife. And, oh yes, it proposes the creation of a Wildlife Biologist position at a cost of $100,000 a year to taxpayers. The position would report to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee whose chair has been an outspoken proponent for lethal control, hiring a trapper out of his office budget to kill coyotes and speaking out on CBC in support of a coyote cull.
When wildlife organizations like ours finally resigned last year, we were accused by the City of walking away from the table. Imagine, what kind of dupes from the community would have remained involved in such a sham?
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre