There is a lot of discontent these days about the
amalgamated city of Ottawa, with many references to the "good old
days" when there were 12 municipal entities serving the people of
the Ottawa-Carleton area.
And, indeed, much is made
of the loss of political representation. The Ontario Municipal Board
even had to rule on a proposal to alter ward boundaries which would
have affected political representation in the rural areas of the
Political representation now is much less than
it was when there were 11 mayors, 11 municipal councils and one
regional council with a regional chair.
believe that much of the discontent prevalent today in the new city
of Ottawa stems as much, or perhaps even more, from the loss of
bureaucratic and administrative representation than residents have
suffered with amalgamation than from the decline in political
In that past life, when there were
11 separate municipalities, residents were able to pick up the phone
and easily contact a staff person in the roads department or the
bylaw department or the tax department or the planning department or
the recreation department. If a resident had a concern about a
municipal service, there was ready and easy access to a bureaucrat
who knew the area and who responded quickly. You could actually talk
to someone about your problem with the expectation that some action
would be taken.
And then you always had the
political route if not satisfied with the bureaucratic response.
But now, you phone and get recordings. You phone and get the answer
that someone will get back to you - and you never hear again. You
phone and no one seems to want to take the responsibility for
something being done.
And, of course now, councilors
are so much more concerned about vision and Go-trains and
budgeting that the little complaints and
concerns of people
rarely find an immediate response. Even a councilor, we suspect,
has to go through layers of officialdom before getting anywhere
near an answer to a problem.
So, the new city has taken away not only
the local political representation and decision-making that
residents in all parts of the new city enjoyed, but it has also
removed the "customer service" that was being provided by the staffs
of all of the local municipalities prior to the amalgamation. Now,
it is a massive bureaucracy, more concerned, it appears, with
hierarchy and policy than with serving the tax-paying customers of
the municipality. So, that is why there is and why there should be
discontent with the new city.
It has not only
removed local political representation but it has also removed local
access to the bureaucracy, those who are delivering the municipal
services to the city's hundreds of thousands of residents. No wonder
everyone is getting to feel alienated. No wonder everyone is
starting to question the amalgamation.
time that the city realizes that the "one size fits all"
approach that has been taken to date with regard to the new
city, may not be the appropriate approach to take and that more
customer service and more diversity in delivery models might be
keys to get the city back onto track where it will gain the
respect rather than the contempt of its residents.