Timely reflections upon the governance model that
got trampled in the Amalgamation stampede...



From the...

WEST CARLETON REVIEW


July 8, 2005

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 Hall.

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.

Jack MacLaren:

“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.

 

 

 Jack MacLaren

 
 
 
 
"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 mayor.

“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!”

Dwight Eastman

Carleton 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

 


Dwight Eastman
 

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 city’s citizens.

“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 for!”

Janne Campbell

“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.  


Janne Campbell

 
 
 
"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."

                                      - Janne Campbell, President of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton

 
 

“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 contingencies. 

“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 suggestions?

“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.

“To me 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.”

- West Carleton Review -

 

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