Criminal trial, transit and trees dominate Ottawa agenda

Post by Michael Collins in

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Ottawa's Mayor O'brien is on a leave of absence during his trial

Reflecting on Ottawa these days at the municipal level, one could not be faulted for thinking that most issues seem have the odd common thread of commencing with the letter "T". As a case in point, a number of recent news' headlines have centred on: the ongoing criminal Trial involving Mayor Larry O'Brien; ongoing Transit challenges that are a hang-over from the seemingly endless strike of the winter of '09; the routing of a Tunnel to go under downtown as part of the bus plan to be implemented for the next generation; and, suburban Trees given the recent uproar about clear-cutting on the edge of the city. Admittedly, all not nearly as "sexy" as cancer and finding new sources of isotopes.....but for goodness sakes, that is the federal level, which is perhaps the only 'real' game in this 'town'.

A loose stream of consciousness for a quick update:

The influence peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien - which centres on whether or not he swung a deal to offer up an appointment to a principal rival in the last municipal election in order that he withdraw thus consolidating votes on the right side of the political spectrum - has actually been rather underwhelming.

Proceedings commenced a number of weeks ago with myriad media sources covering every move and statement, daily splash headlines with citizens seemingly waiting for a 'bomb' to drop. Well, would seem like the key witness for the prosecution - Brian Kilrea has been less than fully reliable or credible with some significant memory challenges all of which have seemingly resulted in a situation where the outcome of the trial would seemingly be heading in a positive direction for O'Brien In the interim, some have argued that the interim mayor, Michel Bellemare has been doing a more effective job than O'Brien (or, all the councillors are on their best behaviour to make O'Brien look inept). I will reserve judgement here.

Transit - the only word that precipitates more profanities than the news that Ottawa Senator lead star player Dany Heatly wants out of Byetown to likely play in the Western Conference. There has been some progress with the transit folks.....with an agreement to avoid striking in the future and proceed via arbitration for prospective labour disputes.

Regrettable that Ottawa had to live through close to two months of strike action in the depths of the past winter to reach this outcome. Also discovered that a disproportionate number of buses are damaged going in an out of their overnight parking garages.....perhaps indicating that the bus drivers are fatigued from too much driving after long shifts which is what the city was arguing from day one!

The principal and capital-intensive transit plan for Ottawa's future centres on a tunnel being constructed under the downtown core which will remove the hundreds of buses which currently proceed at a pedestrian pace through two main arteries (Albert and Slater streets) at rush hour. The tunnel - which will be an eventual relief - is now coming under some criticism for where it will and will not proceed.

Of course, where the tunnel proceeds is business and where does not wind to, is opportunity cost. Seems like the city council is going to stick with its original routing - which given the myriad delays in this project to date is a positive development given that this issue will surely never please all.

Finally, turns our the City of Ottawa has little to no regulation on cutting down trees. The Ottawa Citizen had a 'brilliant' overhead photo recently of a BC-like clear-cut on the edge of the city of a mature forest in the name of "development". Council is moving quickly to put preventive measures in place hopefully by autumn 2009; in the meantime, one might wonder if chain-saws will be a common sound around neighbourhoods this summer prior to new environment-friendly legislation being passed.

OK, back to the more interesting world of isotopes!

Michael Collins lives in Ottawa and is an occasional guest editorialist with CityCaucus.com

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