Browsing the archives for the Mayor Watson tag.

The City’s Failed Wildlife Strategy

Green Reality, Legislative Gaps

The City of Ottawa’s Wildlife Strategy is a disappointing response to the public and to environmental groups who have been highly critical of the reactive and negative way in which the City responded to wildlife conflicts.

The public has been routinely frustrated that wildlife-related decisions are handled by an inter-agency group that included the City’s by-law department, the NCC and the Ministry of Natural Resources – without any transparency or accountability.

So, without any transparency or accountability, it appears that Mayor Watson has done what he seems to do best, a backroom deal that puts the City’s Wildlife Strategy in the hands of the City’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee – even though this group has no mandate to do this and its chairman, Doug Thompson is an advocate for coyote culls.

Killing wildlife whenever there is conflict may be a strategy, but Mayor Watson is it a good one?

So after more than 3 years of deflection and delay and a 200-page report filled with a lot of empty platitudes, it will be ‘business as usual’ for beavers killed at the majority of conflict sites in Ottawa.  Neither will there be any real help for people experiencing a wildlife conflict.

As for the process, the City’s public consultation created a new low for public participation initiatives undertaken by the City because it was deliberately stalled and dragged out.  Several of the community stakeholder groups resigned because the working group had not met in over 16 months after the draft strategy was released. Nor were any community stakeholders involved in its development.

Meanwhile a parallel and secretive process was running in background between city staff and agency representatives, some of whom had obstructed the process on the working group from the very beginning.  This is the same inter-agency group that operates without transparency and accountability – take for example, the MNR’s arbitrary refusal to allow the Constance Creek Wildlife Centre to open.

According to the mayor, ARAC was given responsibility for City-wide wildlife management in 2011. If this is true it is another example of the secretive way that the Mayor runs the City because there is no public record of approval for it.  The wording in ARAC’s 2011 Terms of Reference with respect to wildlife is identical to that in its 2006 Terms of Reference and both documents explicitly state that its responsibilities do not extend outside the rural boundary.

So why is this committee now responsible for managing wildlife conflict within the urban boundary?

Mayor Watson’s abysmal record on the environment continues to reflect 18th century colonialist attitudes.  Maybe it’s time to

  • dispense with backroom deal-making
  • operate an inclusive decision-making process in the public sunlight
  • establish a balance between the needs of development and nature
  • look for creative 21st century solutions to age-old problems.

We can only hope for a new mayor in the near future actually cares for the environment, public participation, and for implementing democratic process.

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Is This Quality Decision-Making?

South March Highlands

Open Message to Mayor Watson and City Council,

Attached is a copy of a letter hand-delivered to Minister Chan as well as to the press gallery at Queen’s Park.  The provincial leader of the NDP rose in the Ontario Legislature to call attention to it.

As you read this letter, ask yourself whether this is indicative of the quality of decision making that the people of Ottawa expect from all of you.  On what expert authority is the decision to ignore important archaeological potential being based?

  • It isn’t the expertise of licensed archaeologists – the city has NONE on staff and none were contracted by the city to review the situation.  The two licensed experts who did review the new evidence have called for a new study.
  • It isn’t the Ministry of Tourism and Culture who have clearly stated that they only review reports presented to them and that they have downloaded the approval authority to the city when it comes to requiring new studies.  Only the City as the approval authority, or the Minister of Culture acting on an emergency basis, can order that a new study be done.
  • It isn’t the City Council’s advisory committee on Arts and Heritage that has unanimously recommended that a new study be done.
  • It isn’t the people whose direct heritage is being ignored.  ALL the Algonquin First Nations on both sides of the Ottawa River have expressed their concern and requested that a new review be done.  Furthermore the City Council’s new advisory subcommittee on Aboriginal Affairs has also unanimously recommended that a new study be done.

The answer according to the Mayor is that the decision has been made by a non-professional archaeologist (J. Moser) based on a legal opinion city counsel (T. Marc) – neither of whom have any training or expertise in archaeology.  This is the same legal counsel who recently stood against public interest groups at an OMB hearing and challenged the affidavits presented by the public because they were submitted by non-professionals in the subjects being reviewed!

Is this the quality of decision making that City Council wants to rely on?  Decisions made by those apparently blind to their consequences because they are untrained to evaluate the information required to make the right decision?

The legal opinion only confirms that it is apparently legal in Ontario to embarrass the City and its leadership by relying on an out-dated study when it comes to development approvals.  Doesn’t say much for the quality of legislation used to protect cultural heritage.  It is equally legal to require that a new study be done at any time prior to registration of subdivision.

The City Council of Ottawa does not have to rely on a decision-making process that is blind to the facts.  Nor should Council allow the City to be embarrassed by decisions made by staff in such a flawed manner. 

With Fortitude,

Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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Open Letter to Mayor Watson

South March Highlands

Dear Mayor Watson,

 According to the City of Ottawa Official Plan, the city is obligated to protect and acquire lands having significant natural heritage.  I am glad that city council is finally addressing its fiduciary obligation in this respect by referring to committee the problem of financing such acquisitions.  This is an important problem for you to solve.

A closely related problem is the urgent need to protect the South March Highlands.  The recent clear-cutting by Regional Group in the South March Highlands is a regrettable  environmental disaster in an area that has 20 documented species-at-risk.  Don’t allow another one by allowing the Beaver Pond Forest to be similarly destroyed.

Under the terms of the 1988 amendment to the 40% Agreement, the responsibilities assumed by Campeau flow on title to any new landowner such as KNL/Urbandale.  There is no violation of the agreement when the land is purchased, the responsibilities simply flow to the purchaser of whatever portion is sold.  Thus the city can and should acquire the Beaver Pond Forest without violating the agreement.  This also applies to a forced sale via expropriation – an option that I urge you to consider.

In recognition of the need to be fiscally prudent, the community has put forward an innovative development proposal which will generate significant economic benefits to all parts of the city.  Known as the Stewardship Plan, this proposal keeps the forest intact and delivers in perpetuity a much higher return to the city than Urbandale’s current development plan.  I urge you to fully explore the opportunities enabled by this proposal and to allow the community the opportunity to work with the city and council committees. 

It is evident that the Urbandale project is not ready for subdivision development – several environmental assessments are not done, the archaeological assessment has been discredited and serious concerns over flooding in Kanata have not been resolved (you should be aware that the South March Highlands is the aquifer for north Kanata and there is a long history of flooding caused by water management in Beaver Pond dating back to the 1960s).  In fact Urbandale’s recycled Campeau development plan may not even be sustainable by modern standards.  It would be irresponsible for the city to allow this bad plan to rush forward.

It’s never too late to do the right thing.  You have a well-earned reputation for doing the right thing.  Now is your chance.

If you support this letter, please copy/paste it and send it to jim.watson@ottawa.ca with your own name and address.

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