The Chateau Laurier fiasco exposes the idiocy of metropolis amalgamations


I stay a five-minute stroll from the Chateau Laurier, in Lowertown, a historic, charming, partially gentrified Ottawa neighbourhood with some tough edges.

One of many causes I stay right here—the place individuals are sometimes gunned down, and there are grim homelessness and dependancy issues—is that I would like to have the ability to stroll to get the place I’m going.

After I stroll to Parliament Hill, I can head via Main’s Hill Park, with the Chateau Laurier on one aspect of me and the Rideau Canal on the opposite, which I really like.

My metropolis authorities goes to wreck that.

Larco Investments, a British Columbia agency, has acquired municipal approval for an addition to the again of the Chateau that may destroy that stunning house, placing a seven-storey brutalist wall on the finish of the park, blocking the view of the romantic spires of the Chateau.

RELATED: The Chateau Laurier battle, and the risk of marring Ottawa’s historic core

After I take into consideration what that addition will do to the Chateau, the park and the town, it offers me a queasy feeling within the pit of my abdomen.

Nothing else the town authorities might do will ever have extra affect on me than this resolution, as a result of it hits so near dwelling.

Lots of people really feel the identical approach. Because it turned clear final month that the town’s planning committee was going to let the challenge go forward, folks in Ottawa have been urgent their representatives on council to withdraw Larco’s planning allow. Councillors have been besieged by public enter, the overwhelming majority against the addition as deliberate.

There’s something mysterious concerning the council’s refusal to bend within the face of the largest public outcry over a municipal problem in residing reminiscence.

When my councillor, Mathieu Fleury, managed to pressure a vote on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Watson and his supporters on council stated that there’s nothing to be completed, as a result of, in any case, the developer owns the resort, and if the town withdraws the planning allow, Larco might problem the town in court docket, after which get to construct the factor anyway, which, as Joanne Chianello defined, is nonsense.

I don’t know why Watson and his supporters gained’t bend, however I do know it’s not for the explanations they are saying. I don’t even care. I solely need to see their political careers finish in ignominy once they subsequent face the voters.

RELATED: Why Ottawa can’t have nice things

The issue that I’ve, and different voters who stay close to the Chateau have, is that I can’t vote towards the individuals who made this occur.

The 10 councillors who voted towards the addition stay nearest to it, amongst people who find themselves probably to be affected by it as a result of, for instance, they could see it once in a while.

The 13 who lined up behind Watson signify rural and suburban voters who seemingly produce other issues on their thoughts (one councillor was absent). Nothing tells the story extra clearly than a map of the town displaying the wards of councillors who needed to rethink the challenge.

A map rendering of Thursday’s vote on the Chateau Laurier addition: Councillors representing wards proven in pink voted to rethink the planning allow for the challenge. (The councillor for Ward 19 was absent.) (Graphic: Lauren Cattermole)

Because of former premier Mike Harris, who amalgamated Ottawa with close by municipalities in 1999, Ottawa is large, greater than 2,790 sq. kilometres. From my dwelling, it could take me about an hour to drive to the western, jap or southern boundary, the place I might discover myself in fields and woods, the place the folks stay in single-family indifferent houses and drive to work and the grocery retailer.

The councillors who gave earnest however deceptive speeches about how their arms have been tied—poor devils—signify individuals who have as a lot to do with the Chateau Laurier as folks in Nova Scotia.

It’s maddening.

I don’t have any want to play a task within the governance of Stittsville, for instance, a suburban city of 33,870 on the outskirts of the town. Neither do I would like the councillor from there deciding what ought to occur to the Chateau Laurier, in my yard, however that councillor voted for the addition.

By forcing the amalgamation of Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto as he did again in 1999, Harris gave the whip hand to suburban voters, which was seemingly his aim.

RELATED: Architect Peter Clewes on the Château Laurier expansion

Harris stated that he needed to do it to chop down on the variety of municipal politicians, which is identical justification Doug Ford used to muck round with Toronto’s ward system earlier than that metropolis’s current elections.

However amalgamation didn’t produce the promised price financial savings, and we’re left with unwieldy municipal governments, the place suburban voters train energy over the denser areas the place many of the taxes are collected and the place calls for for providers are greater.

In municipal energy struggles, suburban voters have completely different priorities than individuals who stay near downtown. They are usually extra concerned with highways than in transit, extra pro-development and fewer inclined to take measures towards the type of sprawl that produces short-term income however finally ends up imposing tax burdens on individuals who stay in denser areas. They’re much less inclined to assist the type of social spending that appears smart to individuals who stay in city areas, the place we stay each day with homelessness and avenue crime.

Suburban Toronto voters made Rob Ford mayor of Toronto. Suburban Ottawa voters elected councillors who’re letting a developer destroy an Ottawa landmark.

This isn’t how our cities ought to be organized.

Suburban voters ought to run their very own affairs and let metropolis folks do the identical.

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