What happened at Planning Committee last Friday

What happened at Planning Committee last Friday
Posted on November 11, 2013 | Erwin Dreessen | Written on November 11, 2013
Letter type:


Ottawa Citizen

Dear Editor,

The special meeting of the City of Ottawa's Planning Committee last Friday was remarkable on two accounts, both pointing to a failure of our democratic system of government. First, for Agenda Item No. 1 -- approval of the Infrastructure Master Plan -- not a single public delegation had registered to speak. Nor was there a staff presentation or any discussion by Councillors except for one Councillor who did not understand some of the population projections.

Here is a Plan that identifies $1.5 billion in capital requirements over the next nine years alone. Nearly 900 pages of reports were released on September 24. Who can absorb that much information in so little time? But wait, perhaps there was hearty debate leading up to the final Plan? Alas, as one can infer from the draft consultation report that takes up nearly half of the main Master Plan document, there has been lots of talking-to, little listening-to. (And oh yes, a Twitter reach of 2 million -- now isn't that a grand achievement.) Little wonder there is little appetite for coming down to say your piece. And where are Councillors in this discussion? Apparently nowhere. They appear to be totally abdicating their responsibility in favour of staff.

For the second agenda item -- the Official Plan Amendment that is the culmination of this "Building a Liveable Ottawa" exercise -- the Committee heard from 25 delegations, following a brief staff presentation. At 2:30 p.m., the last speaker having been heard, no discussion among Councillors or questions to staff followed. Chair Hume intimated that he had sent a procedural memo to his colleagues the day before and had received confirmation from legal counsel that dispensing with debate did not reduce citizens' rights. He indicated further that 11 motions had already been received; others were verbally hinted at in the wake of some of the presentations.

The Chair instructed everyone to send any and all motions to staff by November 12. Staff also would evaluate anything else noted in the presentations and then, by the end of the day on November 21, release a document for consideration by Council on November 26. The document will comprise a consolidated motion containing all ideas that staff finds acceptable. Any motions that staff does not accept will be listed along with reasons why they were rejected.

So that's how our city government operates nowadays: Decision making in the dark and let's leave everything safely in the hands of staff. It's a formula for an increasingly hollowed-out democracy.

Erwin Dreessen

About The Author

Erwin Dreessen's picture

Retired economist (Ph.D., Berkeley, 1972) Co-founder (1997) and former chair of the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital.  Wrote an annotated bibliography on what sustainability means for businesses (2009) --... More


Donna DuBreuil

There is no better example than is outlined here about the City of Ottawa's contempt for the public and the fact that the public has long ago given up on this City's pretend consultation policies.