Timely reflections upon the governance model that
got trampled in the
Carleton County –
Back to the Future?
By Sarah Trant
A flurry of meetings took place last
week all dealing with the Rural Summit. Ward Five Councillor Eli
El-Chantiry hosted one; as second was chaired by West Carleton Rural
Association President Janne Campbell. The third, organized by the
Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton, had an audience of about thirty
individuals who, in turn, represented a group or organization.
During the discussions at which
Moira Winch, appointed by the City to manage the up-coming Summit,
documented the many issues raised, a common theme emerged. Very
simply, many of the problems that have led to and compounded
dissatisfaction with the city result from the lack of knowledge and
expertize in rural or agricultural affairs among the staff at City
The obvious solution, proposed by
West Carleton resident farmer and Director of the Lanark Landowners
Association, Jack MacLaren at the first meeting, was to put the
management and governance of rural affairs back squarely into the
hands of rural residents with the creation of “Carleton County”
comprising the four municipalities of West Carleton, Goulborn,
Rideau and Osgoode.
MacLaren’s call for a show of hands
to indicate support received enthusiastic response.
So what is the case for Carleton
County? Following are comments from MacLaren, Dwight Eastman, Mayor
of West Carleton and its first Councillor after amalgamation, and
Janne Campbell, President of the West Carleton Rural Association and
also President of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton.
“The amalgamated City of Ottawa
hasn’t worked for a host of reasons which all come back to the lack
of effective rural representation. Rural wards have virtually no
voice at the Council table and are in no position to win any
issues. Furthermore, the little representation we had is going to
be further reduced by the new ward boundary decision.
The only way for us to get back any
effective rural governance with control over the issues is to have a
rural council drawn from the four townships – West Carleton,
Goulborn, Osgoode and Rideau – and form Carleton County along the
lines of every other county in Ontario.
"We’ve already proved that we’re good
fiscal managers. Until amalgamation we had a
reserve, we had a surplus. Issues were resolved
quickly because government - and appropriate expertise - were readily accessible."
- Jack MacLaren, West Carleton farmer
“With a population of eighty
thousand plus we have more than enough residents to justify such a
move. Taking the four townships on their own, their current
population justifies having representation by four councillors and a
“What this would do is to put rural
people back in charge of municipal government. We’ve already proved
that we’re good fiscal managers. Until amalgamation we had a
reserve, we had a surplus. Issues were resolved quickly because
government - and appropriate expertise - were readily accessible.
“It just makes sense. Effective,
accessible representation, proven fiscal responsibility. They say
you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, they say that
de-amalgamation isn’t an option. I say that it’s time to go back to
the future – the future being Carleton County!”
County? It’s a tremendous idea! It’s not a new one. As part of
the amalgamation process the rural townships of Osgoode, Rideau,
Goulborn and West Carleton, put a proposal forward to Glenn
Shortcliffe who was the Special Advisor appointed by the Province
which gave him a choice of three options. One of those was for the
four municipalities to work together in a county system with things
like social services being looked after by the county and local
issues being handled by the four municipalities.
“However, the Harris government,
which was the government of the day, wasn’t interested in
anything but going the amalgamation route so, effectively, the
deal was done before it even started! The other thing that
worked against the county option was the inclusion of
Stittsville, at the
insistence of Goulborn’s Mayor, because Stittsville, even then, was far more
suburban than it was rural.
"It’s not a question of turning the
clock back. It’s a question of doing the right
thing by all the city’s citizens."
- Dwight Eastman, former Mayor and Councillor of West Carleton
“There comes a point when you have
to face the music and accept that something just isn’t working. It
took someone of some vision – I’m thinking of President Gorbachev
here – that the Soviet Union simply wasn’t a workable entity.
Sooner or later people will realize that the City of Ottawa, as it’s
currently constructed, is not workable. I’m not sure that the Mayor,
who I have heard admit that the City is simply far too large,
doesn’t think that in his heart of hearts.
“It’s not a question of turning the
clock back. It’s a question of doing the right thing by all the
“I’m in favour of amalgamation. It
made real sense to me to see the urban and suburban entities – the
old City of Ottawa, Gloucester, Vanier, Kanata, Nepean, Barr Haven,
Stittsville – all pulled together under one umbrella. What made no
sense was to include all those vast rural areas. What has Burritt’s
Rapids have to do with Bank Street?
“Carleton County makes so much
sense. It did when we proposed it way back before amalgamation, and
it does now. But it’s going to be a fight and a half. And the only
thing that will bring it to a head and ever make it happen is the
involvement of the people. There need to be rallies not with
hundreds, but with thousands of people, in North Gower, in
Carp, in Metcalfe – all over. And that message is going to have to
be carried all the way to Queen’s Park. But the timing is pretty
good. We’ve got Municipal Elections just around the corner in ’06
and then provincial elections in ’07. It’ll be tough going but it
you don’t try you don’t get – and in my opinion it’s worth going
“I’ve been involved with trying to
explain the rural viewpoint for so long to staff at City Hall who
can only see life from the standpoint of urban reality. All the
difficulties and differences which have been time – not to mention
dollar – consuming could all have been settled quicker, and more
simply, had there been an iota of rural or agricultural knowledge
among the staff members who, to a great degree, are generating the
mound of bylaws, regulations and requirements that are only adding
flames to the fire of discontent out here in rural Ottawa.
would, in every way, put the governance of rural life
back into the hands of people who have the ability and
the knowledge to manage it best. The history
of the municipalities that would make up the new county
is one, in terms of governance, of which to be proud.
We were good stewards. We dealt with local issues
- Janne Campbell, President of the Rural Council of
“Carleton County would, in every
way, put the governance of rural life back into the hands of people
who have the ability and the knowledge to manage it best. The
history of the municipalities that would make up the new county is
one, in terms of governance, of which to be proud. We were good
stewards. We dealt with local issues promptly. We watched the
bottom line. We had built up savings; we had reserves to deal with
“Where are those funds now?
“In the issues that emerged from the
meetings I attended last week, a number of band aid solutions were
proposed to the lack of resident rural expertize in City Hall. For
example, there could be an ombudsman; there could be some sort of
advisory committee. But since the rural voice is effectively
stifled at the Council table, what good are these sorts of
“It’s been said that one of Harris’s
top aides admitted – after the fact of course – that amalgamation
was a mistake. However, it doesn’t look as if this government is
ready to reverse the process any time soon.
Carleton County is a viable, sensible option. It would put the
governance of rural life back into the hands of rural residents
which is where it rightfully belongs.”