On the subject of amalgamation...

"This was an arranged marriage. We had difficulties. We're in marriage counselling right now."

                     - Dave Baxter, West Carleton resident appointed to the Rural Summit Task Force.


Rural Summit -November 15 and 19, 2005
CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO-ON-DEMAND: COMPLETE COVERAGE


 
 

From the...


 
Rural summit wins major convert
McKinley welcomes city's 'attitude change'
 
Patrick Dare
The Ottawa Citizen
CREDIT: Rod MacIvor, the Ottawa Citizen
Rural spokesman Bob McKinley, left, one of the most vocal critics of the amalgamated city, chats yesterday with Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli. Mr. McKinley signaled his intention to work with the mayor by joining the Rural Summit Task Force.

Ottawa's rural summit ended yesterday with a promise of better representation for rural people at Ottawa City Hall, $2 million worth of rural projects for 2006 and a cold beer.

Bob McKinley, one of the most vociferous critics of the new City of Ottawa, shook Mayor Bob Chiarelli's hand and climbed the stairs to the stage at Sir Robert Borden High School yesterday afternoon, signalling his intention to work with, rather than against, the city.

Mr. McKinley, chairman of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton, had agreed to join a new Rural Summit Task Force, designed to bridge the rural-urban divide.

Kent Kirkpatrick, the city's manager, admitted on the second day of the rural conference that the city -- created out of 11 former municipalities in 2001 -- had lost touch with the community, especially in the rural areas, earning much skepticism from citizens.

The new city was a merger forced by the former provincial government of Mike Harris.

 
   "This has been a great start. There's an attitude
   change now that is a welcome thing."


                                -
Bob McKinley, founder and former President of the Rural Council
                                               of Ottawa Carleton, appointed to the Rural Summit Task Force

 

"It took almost four years to finally get the attention that we finally did get," said Mr. McKinley. "Now that we've got their attention, we're quite happy to go forward. This has been a great start. There's an attitude change now that is a welcome thing."

The city called the summit after a 2004 survey of residents found low levels of satisfaction with services in rural neighbourhoods, compared with urban neighbourhoods. Mr. Chiarelli, who saw his vote support plummet in rural areas in the 2003 municipal vote, made the summit one his priorities for the year.

Yesterday, rural residents and city officials met to work through hundreds of complaints and suggestions gathered over several months. The ideas include opening city offices in villages on more days of the week, creating a rural affairs department, designating certain staff to deal with rural issues and appointing a senior manager to shepherd rural interests.

Issues include slow building approvals and eliminating long-distance charges across Ottawa, which is geographically the largest city in Canada. Rural residents said some of the pressing issues are simply dealt with, such as gravel roads that have to be graded and ditches that have to be cleared.

 
 
Mr. Kirkpatrick said the city has to learn to communicate to its rural residents better. City planning and development manager Ned Lathrop said that in the complex business of creating the new city government, residents' personal contacts with municipal staff were lost.

 
 

More complicated are issues such as how the small number of rural voters can avoid being swamped in the urban-dominated city council. One idea is to create a borough council for each rural ward in the city, so that rural councillors have a thorough sense of the impact of city decisions. One likely change is greater clout for the city's agriculture and rural affairs committee.

While the summit started out on Tuesday with some talk of rural Ottawa breaking away from the new city administration, there was little talk of rural separation yesterday.

"This was an arranged marriage. We had difficulties. We're in marriage counselling right now," said Dave Baxter, a West Carleton resident who has also agreed to be on the Rural Summit Task Force.

The members of the task force are: Dave Baxter of West Carleton; Glynn Chancey of Cumberland; Shirley Dolan of West Carleton; Susan Fleming of Cumberland; Richard Fraser of Goulbourn; Rich McDonald of Rideau; Bob McKinley of Manotick; Terry Otto of Osgoode; Anne Robinson of Rideau; and Nick Tilgner of Goulbourn.

 
 
Mr. Chiarelli said the broad message from the summit is that rural people are welcome in the City of Ottawa and will be heard.

 
 

Mr. Kirkpatrick said the city has to learn to communicate to its rural residents better. City planning and development manager Ned Lathrop said that in the complex business of creating the new city government, residents' personal contacts with municipal staff were lost.

Rideau Ward Councillor Glenn Brooks said the summit was the first time staff at the new city really acknowledged the importance of personal relationships with citizens.

Ken Gibson of Osgoode said rural residents know that living in sparsely populated parts of the city means they won't get the same levels of service for some things.

But he said that rural residents are entitled to essential services such as ambulance, police and fire protection and road maintenance.

"It's nice to have a forum. I sense that there is an appreciation for the rural problems," said Mr. Gibson.

Noel Norenius of Manotick said the summit was a positive sign but that he was skeptical about whether many of the vague motherhood ideas being floated in the workshops will result in real change.

"It's wait and see. Show me, I'm from Missouri," said Mr. Norenius.

Mr. Chiarelli said the broad message from the summit is that rural people are welcome in the City of Ottawa and will be heard.

"It's already much more than a paper summit," said Mr. Chiarelli.

The summit, which involved 400 citizens, was heavy on talk of local government process and it was a somewhat dry affair.

Things loosened up a little bit when the formal summit ended at 4 p.m. and relieved-looking members of the Rural Summit Task Force went off to a classroom in the school to hold their first meeting -- over a case of beer.


 

___________________________________________________________________________

HOME  |  ABOUT USSITE MAP  |  CLOSE PAGE  |  CONTACT US
 

www.RuralCouncil.ca