Browsing the archives for the Ottawa Citizen tag.

Has the Ottawa Citizen Become a Blogspaper?

Economic Reality, Financial Crisis, Political Reality, South March Highlands, Virtual Reality

Today, Jan 12 2013,  there is no news article to be found anywhere on today’s front page of the Ottawa Citizen’s print edition.  The only article is a columnist’s opinion piece.

The Ottawa Citizen, which has recently been steadily displacing news with opinion on its front page, appears to have taken another step in a transition from being a reputable newspaper to being primarily a compendium of opinion articles – in effect a blogspaper.  Actual reporting of news appears to have become a scare commodity on the front page where opinion-based articles written by columnists appear to be increasingly crowding-out fact-based news.

The reason for this is probably economic as more and more people rely on Internet news sources than print sources.  I’ve been told by former Citizen reporters that fewer than half the reporters that worked at the Citizen in 2005 remain due to rounds of budget cutbacks.  Many of the columnists employed by the Citizen are syndicated across more than one newspaper to reduce costs.

The need to protect non-subscription revenue – i.e. advertising – appears to explain why news reporting over the past few years at the Citizen seemed to become skewed, by what appears to be selective editing, in favour of the interests of its largest sources of ad revenue: new home sales, real estate, car sales, and city notices.

Selective editing is invisible to those not intimately familiar with an issue being “reported”.  It wasn’t until I participated in the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands that I personally realized the extent of news that simply was not being reported in the Citizen.

  • For example, on more than one occasion I or someone else in the Coalition would be interviewed by a reporter, only to see the Coalition’s perspective omitted or under-represented in the subsequent article.
  • Other media (TV, radio) would report our perspective in a more balanced way, but compared to the print space allocated to support a developer’s or the City of Ottawa’s perspective, it appeared that an editorial slant was silently at work.
  • From discussions with spokespeople for other environmental groups in Ottawa, it appears that selective editing is widespread.  One can only wonder if it will naturally lead to selective reporting by reporters who will see the futility in reporting more than will ever be printed.

I also see the same signs of lack of depth & balance in the reporting of the Idle No More movement that I also have first-hand knowledge of.  For example, prior to running sensational headlines about the audit at Attawapiskat, did the Citizen bother to investigate the other side to the story?

  • How many qualified accountants even exist within a 1000-mile radius of a tiny, isolated, northern community in which few have any opportunity for post-secondary education?  Attawapiskat has an on-reserve population of less than 1,600 people and 1/3 of them are under the age of 19.  Most of its 1000 adults are unemployed, living in crowded, substandard, housing with no running water.
  • As for education, the state of deteriorating buildings caused the elementary school to be closed in 2000 and replaced by crowded portables which hardly promote a positive educational experience in the average -30 C weather during the school year. The space in those portables is only 50% of the standard that is supposed to be funded by the Federal Government.
  • So is it surprising that record-keeping is not to the standard expected by Certified Public Accountants?  There isn’t even a doctor in Attawapiskat, so why would anyone expect to find a professional accountant in a warm and comfy office diligently recording receipts?  The real story is that the Chief’s husband upgraded his accounting skills in a best-effort to try to improve financial accountability and, according to the audit, this resulted in fewer audit concerns.  Much has been made of the daily rate charged for this service, but has anyone inquired into how many days he billed?
  • More to the point, is there actually any evidence of misappropriation of funds?  Or is it possible that it was more expedient for the Citizen to run a story that required less investigative journalism?

The Federal government, who does not advertise much in the Citizen, appears to be the main target for investigative news which provides the illusion of continued balanced reporting to many.   But with fewer reporters on payroll, how long will even this continue?

Today may be remembered as a day of infamy for journalism as no news content at all was reported on the front page.  Headlines and a columnist’s article do not make much of a newspaper – especially for the advertising enriched weekend edition.

There once was a time when the Ottawa Citizen won awards for the high-quality of its investigative journalism.  Sadly those days appear to be gone, and so now I personally rely on the Globe and Mail for old-fashioned, real “news”.  Most bloggers like me are not trained journalists.  Some of us, like some of the columnists in the Citizen, try to present facts along with opinion but our primary service is to share our fair comment on the news – not report the news.

As the Internet inevitably eviscerates the Fourth Estate and replaces it with the Fifth Estate, I for one will miss its professionalism.  Meanwhile I still subscribe to the Citizen because my wife enjoys its extensive funny papers.

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Ottawa Citizen Declares Native Protest Horse Manure!

Canadian Politics, Civil Rights, Political Reality

The National Post chose to run a highly inflammatory opinion piece written by Christie Blatchford on Dec 27.  The next day the Ottawa Citizen’s editors decided to run the same article on the front page of their newspaper in a premier headline slot.  Most reputable newspapers reserve the front page for news and choose instead to publish commentary and opinion on the interior pages, usually near the editorial page or in a Comments section of the paper.

What is disturbing about the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial decision is that this offensive opinion piece denigrates the aboriginal spiritual practices of tobacco offerings and smudging ceremonies as “hideous puffery and horse manure”.   Why would the Citizen’s editors try to present such seemingly racist views as news?  Have they lost all journalistic professionalism?

The spiritual indigenous traditions of offering tobacco to show respect, smudging with sweetgrass & sage to purify and renew the spirit, and prayer at a Sacred Fire are no more “horse manure” than the Euro-Canadian traditions of offering gifts at Christmas, taking communion to renew the spirit, or praying at an altar in a Cathedral.  So how can Blatchford’s ridiculous pronouncement even remotely be considered newsworthy?

Incredibly, Blatchford also suggests that there isn’t enough aboriginal culture left to be worth recognizing First Nation treaty rights.   Presumably by Blatchford’s perverse reasoning, Jewish people should have abandoned their culture after the Holocaust, let alone dream of an Israeli nation.

Having abandoned both common sense and logic, Blatchford concludes her piece by insinuating that the peaceful protest by Chief Spence might somehow be perceived as  an act of “intimidation, if not terrorism”.  It would seem that Blatchford is easily frightened by democratic dissent.

This perspective marks a new low in missing the point of a situation.  First of all, the suffering of Canada’s indigenous communities has finally reached a breaking point where people at a grass-roots level simply are not going to take it any longer.  To suggest that their protests are some kind of a side-show requires an Orwellian perspective in which everything is the opposite of what it actually is.

Secondly, hunger strikes, blockades, marches onto Parliament hill appear to lead to madness (by those who fear democratic dissent) only because they are a symptom of a greater underlying madness that those protesters are trying to change.

It is a sign of governmental failure when people take to the streets in protest.  Something is broken in our social contract and the protesters are visibly calling attention to that problem by exercising their democratic freedom of expression.

When a person starts a hunger strike, willing to die rather than let the status quo continue, they are telling us that something is very seriously broken.  When that person is a leader, she is telling us that only the leaders can fix the underlying madness that is causing the problem.

So who is the terrorist?  Is it the Prime Minister for knowingly perpetuating a shameful system of colonial “governance” that promotes chronic poverty, substance abuse, abnormal youth suicide rates, and other suffering within indigenous communities? Or is it the woman sitting in a wigwam asking that Harper takes responsibility as a leader and engage in meaningful dialog to find ways to end these very serious problems?

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Is the City Engineering or Politicizing Public Safety?

Green Reality

According to the Ottawa Citizen, on Jan 13, 2012, the City of Ottawa issued the following public statement to the media:

“As indicated in the Phase 1 Aecom Study the City commissioned, the City shares the community’s concerns with regard to the further utilization of Kizell and Beaver Ponds from both a capacity and environmental impact perspective as a stormwater management outlet for future phases of the KNL subdivision.  There will be no further development on the KNL lands until a satisfactory stormwater management solution for the remaining phases of the draft approved subdivision is found.

Additional stormwater management ponds are a potential solution but further study of the area is required before that determination can be made. KNL does not dispute the need for a stormwater solution and have concurred with the findings of the Phase 1 Aecom report.

The City has conducted additional analysis of the existing water levels in Beaver and Kizell Ponds and confirmed that though they exceed peak flow and original design targets there is no risk of flooding to the existing community. As mentioned above, no further development flows  will be permitted to drain to these areas pending the additional study required and the determination of an overall stormwater management solution. The next phase of the Study will commence this month.” (emphasis added)

According to the definitions section of the Ontario Professional Engineers Act:

“practice of professional engineering” means any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or the managing of any such act;” (emphasis added)

To be compliant with the Ontario Professional Engineers Act, the “additional analysis” referred to above must have been performed by, or signed off by, a professional engineer – BEFORE it was released.  To do otherwise would be a violation of the Ontario Professional Engineers Act, Section 12:

12.  (1)  No person shall engage in the practice of professional engineering or hold himself, herself or itself out as engaging in the practice of professional engineering unless the person is the holder of a licence, a temporary licence, a provisional licence or a limited licence.

(2)  No person shall offer to the public or engage in the business of providing to the public services that are within the practice of professional engineering except under and in accordance with a certificate of authorization.

(3)  Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to prevent a person,

(b) from doing an act that is within the practice of professional engineering where a professional engineer assumes responsibility for the services within the practice of professional engineering to which the act is related;” (emphasis added)

In the interest of public safety, why won’t the City release to the public the “additional analysis” that was performed as well as disclose the Professional Engineer that signed off on it?

Is it because no professional engineer signed off on a statement concerning the public safety of engineering works?  Where is the Professional Engineers Society of Ontario?

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The Power of Goodwill

South March Highlands

Feb 1, 2011

Ms. Jarvis,

It is unfortunate that the decision to proceed with clear cutting, along with the remarks made by Mr. Sachs in the media, provoked a response by Algonquins and others.  Now that the situation is even more entrenched than before, we suggest that it is important to realize that greater sensitivity by Urbandale to the widespread community interest in this area is key to effective communication.  This includes greater sensitivity to the legitimate concerns of both native and non-native communities.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that Mr. Sachs wants to know why the Algonquin consider this land to be Sacred.  Prior to commenting on aboriginal religious beliefs in the media, don’t you think it would be more productive for him to first seek to understand those beliefs?

We believe that if Mr. Sachs truly wants an answer to this question he may wish to meet with the person who declared that the land is Sacred to all indigenous people of the Ottawa River watershed.  In his message to Ottawa City Council, Grandfather William Commanda, the principal Algonquin spiritual Elder of both Ontario and Quebec and beyond, Ancestral Carrier of the three Sacred Wampum Belts that pre-date the arrival of Europeans to this area, clearly sets out that the South March Highlands is a place of Manitou (Spirit).

We suggest that it would be very productive, and a gesture of significant goodwill, for Mr. Sachs to meet with Grandfather Commanda.  We would be willing to facilitate such a meeting should you wish to pursue one.

In the meantime, we strongly urge that KNL ceases  all tree clearing in the South March Highlands to improve the willingness of everyone to communicate instead of confronting one another.  We do not subscribe to the belief that it is possible to operate heavy equipment without disturbing underlying cultural resources, nor do we condone the mass killing of wildlife that winter time tree clearing inevitably causes.

By stopping tree clearing in favour of an independent archaeological review to be done on undisturbed land, you can enable us to work with you in asking the NCC to conduct such a review at no cost to KNL.    We already have a positive working relationship with the NCC and believe that a joint application will be successful because of the fact that it will come from both sides in this entrenched situation.

It is not too late to do the right thing and we would like to emphasize that our original letter is still on the table.

Sincerely,

Paul Renaud

South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

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The Citizen vs. The Big Picture

South March Highlands

To Randall Denley,

For someone who claims that it is important to look at the big picture, I’m astonished that you managed to miss it entirely in your article in today’s Citizen.

It is no secret that the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands have been working within the Greenbelt Master Plan process to engineer an outcome whereby the NCC acquires the balance of the property from Urbandale.  This process is ongoing and will take a few more months to conclude.  The NCC has previously acknowledged to the Greenbelt Coalition that preserving the SMH will be among the options that they will recommend for funding.

Meanwhile Urbandale’s subdivision is nowhere near ready for development.  There are several missing EAs, serious questions about storm water management in the aquifer that feeds north Kanata, and the archaeological situation screams for justice. 

Don’t you find it farcical that Urbandale suggests (as reported in the accompanying article in today’s Citizen) that their archaeologist walks across a snow covered forest again just to double check?  Is he equipped with x-ray vision to see through the snow? 

Given that this is the same archaeologist who was discredited for his first attempt to survey the area by one of the foremost archaeologists in Canada, don’t you think Urbandale or the city should hire a better one to do a proper field study in the spring?

Expecting that the Ottawa Citizen should report the whole story when it is contrary to the interests of the development community that advertizes so much in your paper is the only false hope in this story.

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The Full News on 12 Acres in Beaver Pond Forest

South March Highlands

When the Ottawa Citizen printed “City of Ottawa, developers agree to preserve 12 acres of Beaver Pond Forest” (2010-11-12) , a cynic might believe that they only printed the part of the story that makes Urbandale and City staff look good.  That same cynic might observe that both the City and Urbandale advertise heavily in the Ottawa Citizen.

What the Citizen didn’t disclose is that the City and Urbandale are discussing acquisition of allof the Beaver Pond Forest and some people might believe that Urbandale is dragging its feet on reaching a deal in what might appear to be a tactic to get a higher price. 

Click on each of the tabs below to get the full news.

Swap Details

The Citizen didn’t disclose that City staff originally identified that roughly 1/2 of the 73 acre area could be obtained via land swaps if the City were to consider all available land for a swap – not just land within the South March Highlands. 

Some of the available City land, such as at the Kanata Town Centre, is already serviced and worth considerably more to a developer than unserviced land since the developer would not need to spend the extra time and cost to service it. 

However, according to Marianne Wilkinson, Urbandale declined these other swaps and agreed only to swap unserviced open space west of Goulbourn Forced Road (GFR) for the 12 acres of unserviced land east of GFR.

The implication of this is that acquiring the remaining land will need to financed through a future purchase at taxpayer expense.  Those who oppose protecting the forest are possibly hoping that the new City council will balk at the higher price.

Although swapping green land to protect green land is odious, the Citizen is accurate in reporting that this part of the swap is a good deal.  The land being swapped west of GFR is currently cleared farmland that is slated to be used as soccer fields if the Urbandale-Richcraft consortium (KNL) is allowed to proceed with development.  With the upcoming construction of the nearby Kanata North Recreation Centre, these playing fields would be unnecessary.  So swapping them to save old growth forest east of GFR is a no-brainer that even City staff can figure out.

Busby's Quote

The one line quote at the end of the article attributed to Chris Busby pales in comparison to what he actually said:

Does the Richcraft-Urbandale consortium think it is offering the citizens of Ottawa an early Christmas gift by agreeing to a land swap to save 12 acres of the Beaver Pond forest?

Seems more like a cruel Halloween trick.  

 There is an unprecedented level of community support for the protection of the Beaver Pond forest. And that energy has generated the Stewardship Plan, which was presented to City Council October 6 by Councillor Wilkinson.

The plan proposes to create, among other things, a centre for ecotourism for this environmentally highly significant old-growth Canadian Shield upland that will be responsibly managed by the community itself—if the land can be put into public ownership.

I have only one Christmas wish: for Urbandale to see the light, as did Ebenezer Scrooge, and join the effort to ensure that the Beaver Pond forest becomes the great gateway to the spectacular South March Highlands, Ottawa’s own Algonquin Park.

If Ottawa’s developers want us to believe in them, they should give us–and our children’s children–something significant to believe in.”

Fair Price

A previous blog posting has already questioned the fairness of Urbandale’s expectation of being paid $18 Million for 110 acres of land that has been only appraised at $5.9 M for tax purposes.

And another blog posting described how deducting the 40% allowance and other requirements for open space means that 110 acres contains only 74 acres of developable land.  Deducting the land swap of 12 acres leaves 62 acres of developable land in Beaver Pond Forest.

If, as the Citizen article suggests, Urbandale is paid $18 M for the 62 remaining acres, this will represent a $290 K price per acre!

According to an unpublished appraisal conducted for the City, a  fair market price for unserviced land inside the urban boundary is closer to $200 K per acre.  Hence the fair market price for buying the remainder of Beaver Pond Forest is approximately $12.4 M.

$12.4 M financed at 6% interest via a debenture which is paid off over 30 years works out to annual payments of less than $1 M per year.

What the Citizen didn’t tell you is that an $18 M price is barely justified even if the City were to expropriate the land in the scenario where negotiations with Urbandale cannot agree on a price. In a similar case, 747926 Ontario Ltd. v. Upper Grand District School Board, the developer received less than 1.5x market value as a result of an expropriation.

If Urbandale is dragging its feet on a sale price for the remainder of Beaver Pond Forest in expectation of triggering a much higher expropriation price, they are playing a risky hand.

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City Auditor Finds That Staff Is Soft On Developers

South March Highlands

Misquoted

The Ottawa Citizen completely mis-quoted my letter to the City of Ottawa’s Auditor General.

The Citizen’s headline “No audit for South March development” is inaccurate –development in the South March Highlands has already been audited as part of the AG’s review of the Development Review Process and the City’s performance has already been found questionable.  The real headline should have been the one I used for the title of this blog posting.

City Management in agreeing to pull up its socks has effectively admitted that City staff are soft on ensuring that developers meet the pre-conditions of subdivision development.

In my letter to the city Auditor General, I did not (as misquoted by the Citizen) “charge that the developer was refusing to meet a number of required conditions” even though that may be true with respect to conditions applicable prior to starting any phase of development or construction. 

I questioned why it took 1,567 signatures on a petition and a motion by City Council to require staff to do what they should already have been doing all along – enforce oversight on a developer meeting the pre-conditions of subdivision development.  I charged that planning staff were lax in the oversight, validation, and verification of conditions of subdivision.

I pointed out that the City’s Greenspace Master Plan identifies this area as one of the most significant natural areas of the City and that anything less than strict attention to the conditions of subdivision approval and applicable environmental studies would be irresponsible as well as in violation of the City’s Official Plan.

I stated that this situation was far from acceptable and questioned by the Mayor has not held the City Manager accountable for this incredible and ongoing failure.  The Auditor General replied that his audit of the Development Review Process had already turned up similar issues and that Management had agreed that these needed to be addressed.

In my follow up letter to the Auditor General I asked that the results of his audit and that the improvements being made by Management be made public.

The full text of my original letter and my follow-up letter can be found on the other tabs of this post.

July 28 Letter To AG

Mr. Lalonde,

The Planning Act requires municipalities to oversee development applications for subdivisions.  Yet 1,567 signatures on a petition were required to ensure that City Council passed a motion on July 14 to direct staff to do what they should already have been doing all along – enforce oversight on a developer meeting the pre-conditions of subdivision development.

At a public meeting held the following night, it was obvious that planning staff had not read in detail the preconditions of subdivision development, nor could they explain why so many conditions were unmet given that the developer has already developed prior phases.  Staff were unable to produce any details or copies of the documents that were supposed to be approved, nor were they able to identify which plans must have updates prior to each phase of subdivision, nor could they identify the approval status of the storm water management plan.

Furthermore, it appears that City staff have become so lax in the oversight, validation, and verification of conditions of subdivision, that the developer, KNL/Urbandale,  has become upset about the City starting to exercise their duties and has filed a complaint with the OMB.

In conversations with city staff and with city councilors I am told that this lack of practice is to commonplace as to be accepted as normal business as usual.   Yet it is far from normal, and it is even further from being acceptable.   It is a mystery why our Mayor has not held the City Manager accountable for this incredible and ongoing failure. 

The area where this subdivision development is occurring is identified in the City of Ottawa’s Greenspace Master Plan fieldwork study as containing 3 of the most significant natural areas in the City.  Anything less than strict attention to the conditions of subdivision approval and to the applicable environmental studies (such as the Special Study conducted by the City in 2004) and subwatershed management  plans would be irresponsible, as well as being in violation of the City’s Official Plan and the City’s statutory obligations.

The area is so sensitive, and residents are so opposed to its development, that this subdivision has a special condition (Condition 11) that requires the developer, prior to each phase of development,  to produce and maintain a communications strategy regarding development plans, schedule, and status.  This condition has NEVER been met and staff cannot explain why they have allowed any development to proceed to-date without it having been met to the City’s satisfaction.

Will you conduct an immediate operational audit of this situation?

Regards,

Paul Renaud

July 30 AG's Response

Good Afternoon Mr. Renaud

 Thank you for your email and your interest in this file.

I have reviewed your concerns.  In our audit of the Development Review Process, we have identified similar issues to yours.  My understanding is that Management is addressing them.  Finally, all my resources are currently assigned to complete my 2010 audit plan.

For these reasons, I do not plan do conduct an operational audit of the project.

Respectfully,

Alain Lalonde CIA, FCGA
Auditor General
City of Ottawa

July 30 Follow-up

Mr. Lalonde,

How may I obtain a copy of your findings and the steps that Management claims to be taking to address them?

We are obviously concerned about the possibility for gaps between the audit of the overall process and the failures of this project to-date.  Since you do not intend to conduct an operational review of this specific project, it is only by comparing the project issues that we have encountered to the results of your audit that we can be assured that further gaps do not exist.  For example, as they might arise in the handling of environmentally sensitive development projects.

Also, understanding the remediation plan proposed by Management is important to satisfying the concerns of citizens that the steps Management is taking will be sufficient as measured in terms of this environmentally sensitive project.

Regards,
Paul Renaud

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Why Denley Is Wrong About South March Highlands

South March Highlands

The Ottawa Citizen seems to consistently avoid publishing all the relevant facts about the environmental diaster unfolding in the South March Highlands.  Why?

Randall Denley’s commentary on “Wilkinson backs down in face of opposition” is off-the-mark and reflects two common misconceptions about the South March Highlands (SMH).

  1. The Kanata 40% Agreement was not a “generous” grant of land by developers that can be compared to a 5% allocation of open space elsewhere. 
     This misconception assumes that developers originally had any right to develop any of this land as they do elsewhere. 
     

    The reality is, since 1972, ALL of the SMH were protected from development.  The 40% Agreement was agreed to by Campeau in 1981 so that they could obtain the opportunity to develop 60% instead of 0%. 
     

    Many people believe that this was the worst planning decision made by the Regional Municipality during the 1980s.  This is hardly “one heck of a deal” as Mr. Denley asserts.

  2.  The SMH are not the same as any other property commonly slated for development.
     Studies done for Ottawa’s Greenspace Master Plan identifies these lands as having the same significance as Mer Bleu, Shirley’s Bay, and Stony Swamp.  It also specifically references the Trillium Wood subsection of the South March Highlands as particularly valuable to the City.
     

    This is confirmed by ecological surveys done by the National Capital Commission and by previous City studies.  

    Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has rated these lands as having provincially significant Areas of Natural Scientific Interest for Life Sciences as well as provincially significant, Class 1, wetlands.

Contrary to the impression created by Denley’s commentary,  Ms. Wilkinson is responding to the overwhelming demand from over 5000 residents to protect these lands from development. 

This may be seen by some as a change in posture, but it is nonetheless a sign of democracy in action.  It is unclear why Mr. Denley believes this to be a bad thing.

In the popular movie, V for Vendetta, the hero’s tagline is that “government should fear its people”. 

Any politician that does not respect and respond to the democratic will of the people that they represent should indeed fear them.

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Ottawa Citizen Continues to Whitewash TFD

South March Highlands

The Ottawa Citizen has put so much white wash over the Terry Fox Drive (TFD) extension project that it will soon be unsafe to drive.  Each article that they publish seems to add more white-wash than the last.

The article, “Councillor muses about Terry Fox land swap“, quotes Marianne Wilkinson as saying she wants a park, but “the road must go ahead“.

Click on each tab below to reveal why she is wrong.

Why?

There is no economic justification for spending $47.7 M on a road that will sever the eco-connectivity of the area that Councillor Wilkinson wants to create a park in.

The original justification for the road evaporated with the tech bubble in 2001.  The City’s Auditor General in 2007 found that the population projections used to justify it and several other projects were unrealistic since actual growth has been 80% less than forecasted. 

City Management agreed, yet the traffic study for the road has never been corrected, nor was Council approval obtained to continue to proceed with a project of this magnitude having no economic justification.

No wonder Council can’t balance the City budget.

Who?

According to the Census, only 26,000 people in Kanata live north of the Queensway and most of them live south of South March Highlands – Morgan’s Grant, Dunrobin, and North March being the only communities in the north end of Kanata.

Meanwhile there have been 4 roads built in Kanata to enhance north/south connectivity (in addition to the 4-land March Road) since TFD was planned in 2000:

  • Hertzberg road now connects to TFD,
  • Kanata Avenue links to Campeau and TFD,
  • CastleFrank now crosses the Queensway,
  • TFD links Centrum to Kanata south.

The City is also spending $18 M to upgrade Goulbourn Forced Road so that is will be a usable road. 

How many roads do 26,000 people need?

According to OCRI, high tech employment is lower now than it was in 2000 and is likely to be flat for the foreseeable future (click to enlarge):

Graph of OCRI: Knowledge Based Employment Showing Flat Trend

Negative to Flat 10-year Growth In High Tech Employment

With the demise of Nortel, causing its parts sold off to foreign investors, we are unlikely to see significant employment growth returning to Kanata.

Who does the Councillor expect to use this road?

How?

The Citizen chose not to challenge Councillor Wilkinson on how she expects to justify a park to the NCC when TFD extension will sever eco-connectivity to it.

Scientific studies have proven that the road severs both the existing park in Trilliam Wood and the future park that the Councillor wants to have south of the road.  The leading scientific expert on the area, Dan Brunton, has called the road a “Berlin Wall” because it creates an impassible obstacle that will kill any animal that tries to cross it.

The City’s own Forest and Greenspace Advisory Committee, consisting of an expert panel of ecological advisors, passed a unanimous resolution expressing “grave concerns about the ecological damage caused by the TFD extension”, denouncing the proposed mitigation measures as inadequate as well as the failure of the City to protect the area. 

The Ottawa Field Naturalists, Canadian Bio-Diversity Institute, Greenbelt Coalition, Riverkeeper, Ecology Ottawa, Sierra Club, Save Our Greenspace, and several other ecological and community groups have jointly issued a statement appealing that the road be abandoned.

In trying to promote a park and build a road, how does the Councillor expect to have her cake and eat it too?

When?

Councillor Wilkinson is right in asking that the NCC extend the Greenbelt to embrace the South March Highlands.  The entire area should be a park that is out of the reach of the developer-driven planning at City Hall.

However when will the Councillor drop her support for a road that is no longer needed?

When will she rescind delegation of authority to City staff that enables them to approve developer plans for this area without public review?

If the Councillor were actually opposed to development in the area she would be using every mechanism available to her to delay it. 

When will she act as she speaks?

Conflict of Interest?

One can only wonder about why the Councillor floated a $100 M price tag for the purchase of land that cost considerably less for the developers to purchase.

In 2012, the land will soon be close to worthless from a developers’ perspective when habitat protection automatically kicks in as a result of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. 

There are 17 species-at-risk identified with the South March Highlands, many of which currently reside in lands owned by developers.  With habitat protection, it will be very difficult and costly for developers to develop this area.

At some point, Ontario’s Ministry of the Enviornment will also get serious about dealing with the Radon gas that is embedded in the granite beneath the area.  This gas will be released by any blasting done for development and is already a health hazard for existing residents of North Kanata.

Environmental mitigation for radon gas emissions will make it harder for developers to sell homes in the area.

Without the road, developers will have to rework their draft plans for subdivisions, involving costly engineering work.  And even if the road is allowed to proceed, the environmental assessment process for development in such a sensistive area should be subject to lengthy public review.

Selling the land to the NCC at even cost plus 10% makes better business sense from a developer’s perspective because it creates more economic cash flow than tying up expensive capital for diminishing returns.

It appears that the Councillor is not experienced in the art of business negotiation, so why is she batting about high price tags?   Is it because the City is too accustomed to giving developers whatever they want?

Ecology Ottawa, Do_Developers_Run_City_Hall, examined campaign funding by developers for City Councillors in the last election.  It will be interesting to see how much funding from developers goes to Wilkinson and other candidates in this year’s election.

Ecology Ottawa also tracks the environmental voting record of all City Councillors and it will be very interesting to see if there is any inverse correlation between the declining environmental grades given to several councillors and any increased campaign contributions they receive from developers in the upcoming election. 

As an example you can see from page 2 of postcard-and-grades, the Councillor for North Kanata’s environmental record has deteriorated from a B to a C-D rating since the last election.

While we are looking at the long hand of developers, we should also ask why doesn’t the City’s editorial board ever allow its reporters to challenge the road? 

Could it have something to do with the significant amount of advertising revenue from the City of Ottawa each year? 

Or perhaps the massive amount of advertising revenue from advertising from developers.  This volume is enough to justify a whole section of the paper each week called “New Homes”.

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Citizen Article Whitewashes TFD

South March Highlands

On April 17, 2010,The Ottawa Citizen published an article called  ”Critter Patrol on Terry Fox“.

Unfortunately this article presents a one-sided and whitewashed description of what is really going on.    Here is some important errata:

  1. It presents information from “The experts….”, creating the impression that there is no expertise among the hundreds who oppose this road. In fact, there are many experts in opposition including well-known botanists, biologists, turtle experts, civil engineers, etc.  All of the expert scientific information about this area, conveniently suppressed by City, raises signficant concerns about any development in this area has been compiled by eminent regional experts. The article is an insult to all of those experts.
  2. It fails to highlight that there are in fact 17 Species-at-Risk identified as being impacted by this road and nowhere in the article is the environmentally sensitive nature of this area discussed. 
    • The City’s own South March Conservation Plan states that this is the most densely bio-diverse area in the City of Ottawa and that  ”The Conservation Forest represents one of the most important reservoirs of ecological potential in the City of Ottawa, providing resources for the renewal of depleted natural areas elsewhere as well as encouraging diversification within established habitats.”
    • In addition to providing habitat for 17 Species-at-Risk, it is home to 423 native species of vascular plants, including 41 Regionally Significant species, 134 bird species, over 50 fish & mammal species, and uncounted reptiles and insects.  These “critters” depend on over 30 differentiated ecotypes of vegetation that comprise 10 distinct habitats – all packed into an area less than 6 square Km – and all within City limits. 
    • The bio-diversity of this area has been designated as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
  3. It quotes the project manager, Mr. Mike Flainek, whitewashing history by stating “The City of Ottawa from Day 1 has made some very conscious decisions to make sure that environmental impacts have been, first of all, managed, and second of all, reduced.”. 
    • The Citizen did not question how this statement could be true when at the outset of planning the road the City selected the worst possible routing for it as measured by environmental impact (based on the City’s own evaluation of alternatives).   The route chosen is in fact 5x worse than the environmentally best alternative which is simply to fix up Goulbourn Forced Road.  Using GFR instead of bulldozing a Conservation Forest for TFD will save $47 M in taxpayer’s money since the upgrade work for GFR is already scheduled at a cost of $18 M. 
    • The Citizen also did not question why the City is building a 4-lane road when a 2-lane road will suffice (assuming that the current routing).  According to the planning assumptions used for this road, employment growth for the West area was to more than double between 2001 and 2011. 
    • In reality, the employment numbers available in North Kanata between the 2001 and 2006 censuses reveal employment growth has been less than 20%. With the recession and troubles in the high-tech sector, there would have been no where near the anticipated employment growth since 2006.  The extra $10 M in cost and environmental impact of a 4-lane road is not necessary.
  4. The “experts” are quoted as saying, “When the turtles come out of hibernation over the next two weeks …”.  How can these “experts” not know that the turtles are already out of hibernation and have been seen basking in the sun for several weeks?  Perhaps these photos taken on the Easter weekend in the South March Highlands should be added to the identification wall of their trailer.  There is a photo of a Blanding’s in the photoset.
  5. Evidently we are to believe that “The fencing around the construction site … should keep the Blanding’s turtule out during road work.”  A visual inspection of the area readily identifies many gaps in this Maginot Line that turtles will never cross.
  6. A more serious inaccuracy is the assertion that “To help protect the turtles in the longer term, a permenant fence will line both sides of the roadway throughout the forested area.“  In reality, the CEAA Screening Study states that the fence is only on one side of the road because the forest will be destroyed by development on the other side.  The Citizen also did not question how this fencing will be used to prevent turtles from crossing at intersections or on the transecting collectors such as GFR and 2nd Line where there are no fences planned.  Perhaps the City is planning to train the turtles to use the culverts, but I doubt it.
  7. The article states “…they’re a threatened species protected by provincial law” but fails to mention that both the turtles and their nesting sites are protected by both provincial and federal law.  The Citizen did not question how the City will avoid destroying nesting sites when they have not taken the time to do a turtle study to determine where those sites are. 
  8. One has to wonder about how the City has chosen the location for the environmental crossings discussed in the article when, according to minutes of the City transportation committeee, the only wildlife movement study done by the City was a 3-month long winter study.  Those “experts” must be really smart to be able to use a study done when both frogs and turtles are hibernating.
  9. The article observes that the City may be chasing $32 M in federal funding.  It is too bad that the Citizen didn’t note that federal funding still comes out of the same taxpayer’s pockets as municipal.  Left pocket or right pocket, the buck stops with the taxpayer.

Notwithstanding the whitewash, it’s time to stop this madness and revisit the real question of (a) is this road still needed at all, and (b) if so is it in the right place?

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