Rideau Ward (21) - Councillor Glen Brooks, comments...

Amalgamation benefits … fact or myth

(June, 2004)

     Last week I briefly raised the issue of the Safe Drinking Water Act and its potentially disastrous financial impact on rural businesses that provide potable water for their employees and clientele. Everyone should have access to safe drinking water!

     Local amalgamation was the brainchild of the Province. It was a shotgun marriage of eleven local municipalities and Regional Gov’t. The proponents of amalgamation promised considerable savings with no decrease in services and service levels. Those considerable savings were to offset the need for tax increases. Further, amalgamation promised fewer politicians, fewer local gov’t. employees, greater transparency; thus, greater accountability!

     Overall, amalgamation promised greater “value for money spent”.

     Repeatedly, senior Staff, Mayor Chiarelli, and some Councillors assure us that amalgamation although not perfect, is a success story here in the Ottawa. Indeed, if that were the case, the City of Ottawa is unique. Not one other provincially amalgamated city has achieved the level of success promised.

     There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction and distrust of government among residents across the land. Canadians have lost confidence in their elected officials to manage their tax dollars prudently. Judging from the local press/media Ottawains are not the exception.

     Taxpayers generally want to see the amalgamated city succeed. In order to replace this lack of confidence, Staff and Council need to clearly articulate those benefits achieved through amalgamation. These benefits need to be open to public scrutiny. That process will greatly assist in dispelling many of the naysayers of amalgamation.

     A good starting point would be to measure the level of dissatisfaction across the city. By determining the level of and the areas of dissatisfaction, adjustments can then be made. For all the above reasons, I have asked the City/Province to review the benefits of amalgamation by a politically independent third-party.

The following is my June 21/04 Notice of Motion for Council consideration:

     WHEREAS, the amalgamation of the City of Ottawa was forced upon the former 11 municipalities and the Region of Ottawa-Carleton;

     AND WHEREAS, some communities, including rural communities, still question the benefits of amalgamation;

     AND WHEREAS, although the City of Ottawa conducted a Universal Program Review, the benefits of amalgamation have never been clearly identified and quantified;

     AND WHEREAS, the Council of the City of Ottawa is morally obligated to demonstrate that the residents are receiving value for money;

     AND WHEREAS, the residents of the City of Ottawa deserve and require accurate information on the benefits of amalgamation;

     THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ottawa requests that the Province conduct an independent third party public review of the benefits of amalgamation, with the results to be released to the public no later than May 31, 2006.


To Glenn Brooks' - Article Archive                                                                                      Top of Page


Rural Council, is there a need

(May, 2004)

     Having a “rural voice” at City Hall is paramount! Many residents however, sense that their concerns are often over shadowed by the demands of their urban/suburban cousins. Quite frankly, they are right! Rural services and service levels have unquestionably decreased since 2000. Residents, citywide, are becoming increasingly concerned about rising costs of all levels of government. None, more so, than in the rural areas of this province!

     A Rural Council would strengthen not only the “rural voice” of its residents, but give greater credence to the voice of the rural councillors at City Hall. I personally, believe that a Rural Council of volunteers representative of the rural wards would benefit both rural residents and rural businesses. I see this council as a forum in which residents can voice their opinions and be heard without a day trip to City Hall.

     Initially, I see a rural council of 11 members: two members nominated from each of the 5 rural wards plus a chairperson nominated at large. Nominations need not follow the more formal election process. The respective ward councillors would be ex officio members without voting privileges. Further, there should be a proviso for the other rural areas to participate. Meetings would be held on a monthly basis and open to the public.

     Due to the large geographical area of the former rural municipalities, I could see a benefit of each ward having a smaller volunteer ward council component much like that presently in Osgoode Ward. These more local 5-member councils would include the 2 nominated members to the Rural Council. The advantage of these smaller councils would be their greater accessibility to their residents. Again, the respective ward councillors would be ex officio members without voting privileges. Concerns, opinions and comments raised would be presented at the monthly meeting of the Rural Council.

     I think the committee structure of the Rural Council should mirror with some modification, that of the City Council. I think too, that the various committee terms of reference could be modified and adopted. By mirroring City Council and city committee structures, would provide more meaningful interaction mechanisms between the City and Rural Councils and both committee structures. The Rural Council and its bureaucracy must be flexible and responsive to be effective in meeting the needs of rural residents.

     To create such a structure is not without its challenges. That said, I strongly believe that the effort is well worth the time and energy. If this Rural Council can be realized, I believe it will not only serve the interests of the rural residents, but that of the City as well. The aforementioned ideas are presented for discussion purposes only.

     Survey #3 will be sent out electronically on May 15th. Its main focus is pesticide use. If I have your email address, you should receive the survey. Survey will be accessible on my website. The database is designed to accept only one response per email address.

To Glen Brooks' - Article Archive                                                                                                             Top of Page


Rural Council Voicing the Rural Voice

(April, 2004)

      I believe the proposed Rural Council will be a valued asset in getting the rural voice, voiced. Speaking with the organizers, it is their hope that the rural residents will find the Rural Council a forum to express rural concerns.

     Although I support the organizers’ efforts and have paid my $10, I see this Council as principally a non-political organization. As well, I have offered my assistance in creating an effective governance structure. That structure, I believe, must be responsive and responsible to those it represents. The Rural Council cannot be allowed to grow into rudderless bureaucracy.

     The following “draft” mission statement clearly enunciates the Rural Council’s mandate: “The Rural Council is a coalition of rural citizens and organizations representing communities, farmers and small businesses, dedicated to the preservation and protection of rural values, and freedom from unwarranted urban regulations. It is the intent of the Rural Council to achieve its purpose in harmony with our urban neighbours through education, advocacy and political leverage. Therefore, the Rural Council will seek the co-operation and support of all levels of government.

     This statement of purpose extends the hand of co-operation to City Council and our urban/suburban cousins. I also sense a very positive willingness to work with the City in developing a better understanding of rural concerns. If the Rural Council can achieve this, the growing tensions between rural and suburban/urban will be greatly alleviated.

     If, on the other hand, there is not a meeting of the minds, I can see some very difficult times ahead. Platitudes from either of the Councils will not suffice. It is time to set aside counterproductive power struggles that may exist and to resolve differences by building bridges of understanding founded on respect and trust. This approach, I have shared with my Council colleagues, our Mayor and senior Staff many times.

     A quantum step toward reducing increased tensions between the two solitudes would be a review of amalgamation. Both urban and rural residents were promised a broad range of benefits prior to amalgamation. Have those promises been achieved and have those benefits been measured?

     The only way to answer that pivotal query is to evaluate amalgamation. Just as Council, Staff and the general public evaluated all city programs and services, the City should now appoint a politically, independent third-party to do that evaluation. I think the discussion would be a healthy exercise for those who support amalgamation and for those who question the value of amalgamation.

     The proposed Rural Council’s success will be measured by its transparency and its willingness to discuss controversial issues. There must be a willingness to listen to all perspectives from all parties. Its decisions and/or recommendations must be founded on fact rather than emotion. It is of paramount importance that the Rural Council be representative of the rural areas and that it be accessible to the rural residents. Further, it must work closely with rural Councillors.

To Glen Brooks' Article Archive                                                                                    Top of Page


Going with the flow

(August, 2004)

     “Going with the flow”, is one of life’s principles that I treat most cautiously. In truth, “going with the flow” is less frustrating, more convenient, less demanding. “Going with the flow” is much like the old adage, “birds of a feather flock together”.

     That said, I admit that generally “going with the flow” for many is not for me. I prefer to know why I am going, where I am going, who are my travelling companions, and how and when I am going to get there. In short, I am not going anywhere unless it is the most appropriate course of action.

     As many are well aware, I have asked the City and the Province to review the benefits of amalgamation. As a taxpayer, I want to know if my hard-earned tax dollars are being well spent. Well spent, in ways that improve my community. To me that is plain every day common sense at work! However, I will be the first person to admit that common sense is not all that common!!

     The Rural Council of volunteers has just published their survey results. And although the results are not science-based, they are indicative of the level of the public’s dissatisfaction.

     On the question of governance: Are you satisfied with the governance being provided to you by the new City of Ottawa since amalgamation? Goulbourn indicated 95%; Rideau/Osgoode showed 90% and West Carleton voted 91% … “NO”!

     On the question of de-amalgamation: Would you support de-amalgamation as an option? Goulbourn indicated 84%; Rideau/Osgoode showed 91% and West Carleton voted 85% … “YES”!
     It is becoming even more urgent that the City clearly identifies the advantages of amalgamation ASAP. It is as important as well that the Province reconsider its objection to de-amalgamation via referendum. At the least, the Province ought to insist that all amalgamated areas clearly, unequivocally demonstrate that amalgamation is working socially, politically and economically.

     If the Province resists, I have predicted that the de-amalgamation issue will become a province-wide crusade by many yet-to-be-created grassroot movements. Let us be pro-active on this potentially explosive issue!!

     I am of the opinion; many of our residents want to see amalgamation work. It behoves City Council/Province to demonstrate that. And to be more convincing, I have asked for an independent third party review with access to all public documentation and senior staff. Further that this information be accessible for public scrutiny.

     Your thoughts are important.

Link to Councillor Glen Brooks' Website                                                                 Top of Page