Why do people sometimes call it “the sh*tty of Ottawa”?
Well, for example, today at land division committee, city staff asked for a deferral of a routine severance application because they wanted the applicant to prepare a scoped EIS (environmental impact statement) before the matter was heard.
Lawyer Steve Sheppard and I argued that if an EIS is required, it can be done afterwards–as a condition of grant of severance. This saves our clients a significant expense; I mean why do an EIS if the committee of adjustment decides to turn the application down on other grounds?
Members of the COA (committee of adjustment) agreed (4-1) with our position–no deferral.
After this, Mr Sheppard, our clients, a second realtor (Sean Downey) and I sat for another 90 minutes waiting for our project to come up again in the normal sequence of events, ie, as provided for in their pre-set agenda.
When the committee was finally ready to hear the merits of our case, city staff asked for another deferral(!), stating this time that they were not prepared to deal with the matter of any conditions (like providing a hydro geological report proving there is decent well water in the area) that might be imposed on the severance, if granted.
The COA was then forced to grant staff’s request.
We acquiesced, but I could not resist noting publicly that staff had ASSUMED the committee would grant their first
request, which meant staff did not prepare to argue the merits of the application.
Basically, city staff decided that it was their job to decide in advance how the members of the COA should proceed. This is staff being badly prepared as well as abrogating power that should properly
in the hands of committee members to themselves or being lazy or both.
This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, and highlights in a really fundamental way for you why so many people fear dealing with the city of Ottawa as well as all civil servants, bureaucrats, planners, administration staff, regulators, city and government officials of any stripe because, clearly, they feel that clients, customers, members of the public, elected politicians and appointed members of committees like land division committee (who volunteer their time) are there to serve them not the other way round.
This is not just a city of Ottawa problem. At one of the universities I taught at, a number of run-ins with administration staff convinced me that they felt that teaching faculty and students were there to serve their purposes, not the other way round. I can tell you from my experiences at Harvard, McGill, the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales,
UCSC, University of Western Ontario, Laval University, Hyper Island (in Stockholm) and University of Ottawa, this is not the case at those institutions–their admin personnel revere their teaching staff and students, and can’t do enough for them.
I left one university off my list. Shame on them… and shame on the city of Ottawa.
@ profbruce @ quantum_entity
ps please read this as well if you are interested in this subject:
In the early 2000s, the province of
Ontario amalgamated dozens of regions to reduce the number of
administrative districts (municipalities, townships and counties) and
improve overall efficiency of local government. Did it work?
Noted urbanist Jane Jacobs would have predicted the answer would be “no” at least based on her notion of “subsidiarity”:
is the principle that government works best, most responsibly and
responsively when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it
addresses. Fiscal accountability is the principle that institutions
collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are
transparent to those providing the money.