By DEREK PUDDICOMBE,
The rural voice of discontent just got much
louder. A group of rural residents, unhappy with the way they
and thousands of rural taxpayers are being treated by the
city, have formed the Rural Council to tackle a broad range of
issues across rural Ottawa.
"This group may not be radically different
from other groups that grow out of the seeds of dissension,
but one of the concepts of the Rural Council is it will be a
place where people can be heard and express their concerns,"
said retired lawyer Bob McKinley, who is leading the charge
against the city.
"By speaking with a single voice the
expression of those concerns may be more forceful," he said.
But before the group goes full steam ahead
against Chiarelli and council, the group wants to conduct a
formal poll of rural residents and businesses to determine
their level of satisfaction with the city since amalgamation
four years ago.
McKinley wants residents to compare how they
feel today with how they felt prior to amalgamation in 2000.
"We are actually going to be asking them how
they feel about it, unlike the city approach, which tells
rural residents they should feel good and be grateful about
what we get," said McKinley.
Adele Muldoon, who lost to West-Carleton
councillor Eli El-Chantiry by only 29 votes in last November's
municipal election, said there is a definite need for the
"All the rural wards should become united,"
said Muldoon who, along with her husband, operates a cattle
farm in the rural ward. "I have a strong concern our voice is
going unheard. There is power in numbers. We have never lived
in fear of having our services being taken away before."
Unlike similar groups that are politically
motivated, McKinley said the group has no political ties or
affiliations and is simply a group fighting for the rural
voice to be taken seriously by council.
"The organization that we're building upon is
the same organization that fought the city's ward boundary
changes, which was a deliberate attempt to compromise
democracy in rural Ottawa," McKinley said.
"The sentiments expressed in last November's
mayoralty race came as a direct result of the ill will that
council's decision created in the rural wards in that the last
election was not an endorsement of Terry Kilrea as much as it
was an expression of disapproval for Mayor Chiarelli."
North Gower business owner Bev Millar moved
from Sandy Hill in 1992 and is encouraged by the formation of
the Rural Council.
"I hope we can work
towards a new governance model that meets the needs of the
rurals," she said.