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We are one city

 The Ottawa Citizen - EDITORIAL

July 27, 2004

Amalgamation hasn't caused the City of Ottawa's budget problems any more than being independent led the old Osgoode Township to create its hated Tag-a-Bag garbage-fee program.

City councillors should remember this when they're faced with de-amalgamation activists, such as the nascent "Rural Council." The council has a "poll" showing about 85 per cent of respondents might want their old townships back.

It's not a scientific survey, of course, only a questionnaire that samples people who want to be sampled, and its numbers are bolstered by an online version that samples only people who visit the council's website. That said, the council and its survey speak to the real frustration many rural Ottawans feel; their new city doesn't get them. Most famously, no rural township would have even considered the restrictions on open-air fires that city council debated last winter.

But rural Ottawa is inextricable from the rest of the city. A growing number of "rural" folk work in the urban core, so zoning decisions in Greely affect traffic on Bronson Avenue. If Manotick residents want municipal water, they need to be part of the political entity that supplies it. City-funded social services downtown serve the teenagers of Kinburn.

Lots of people aren't happy with city council. Some of the blame isn't fair -- thanks to the Ontario government, city property taxes are paying for services better suited to provincial income taxes, straining the city budget -- but some of it is. Where rural Ottawans have genuine beefs (and there's no shortage), they should be making noise the politicians can't ignore, and the politicians, along with city staff, have a duty to listen. But waving the township flags and shouting about the old days won't solve anything.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2004

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Letters to the Editor


Yes, we are one city -- a very unhappy one  

The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Re: We are one city, July 27.

As your editorial notes, we are indeed one city -- one very unhappy city! Amalgamation was supposed to save us money. It has failed to do so. Our taxes are rising but our services are declining.

It is not only the "rurals" who are complaining. Comments sent in to our rural council website (www.ruralcouncil.ca) indicate that our urban and suburban neighbours are unhappy, too. In fact, I don't believe there is a community anywhere in Ottawa that has benefited from amalgamation.

Ottawans aren't alone in their misery, however. From Sudbury to Hamilton, throughout Ontario the people are unhappy with their new, unmanageable municipal structures. Michael Prue, the MPP for East York, told the audience at the Ontario Local Democracy Conference in May that the amalgamation of Toronto was still the topic that most people wanted to talk about at their doors during the last provincial election campaign. They felt it wasn't working. A recent poll by a TV station in Sudbury covering all six former cities amalgamated into the City of Greater Sudbury showed that 93 per cent of the respondents were in favour of de-amalgamation there.

The editorial suggested that our online survey samples "only people who visit our website." However, on July 28 alone, the site, which is not restricted to members, received more than 1,000 hits. That's a lot of interest shown in just one day.

Adele Muldoon,
Director, Rural Council

 The Ottawa Citizen 2004

Democratic deficit

The Ottawa Citizen

August 4, 2004

Your editorial is correct: "Amalgamation hasn't caused the City of Ottawa's budget problems."

What amalgamation has done is take away rural residents' democratic right to have any meaningful influence in stemming the political and bureaucratic excesses that are the real cause of the budget problems.

A worsened "democratic deficit" is the true legacy of amalgamation for rural residents. The regional-government governance model we had before was far more responsive to all of its component parts. That is why, as wasteful as the region was with our tax dollars at times, it was far less wasteful than the abomination we have now.

If de-amalgamation is not the ultimate way this will be solved, then there will have to be a brand new deal struck, similar to the former model, where rural representation is brought back to where it was before ... both within each community and at the council table.

Richard Bendall,

 The Ottawa Citizen 2004