In a nutshell, you have turned:
Anger into advocacy;
Irritation into information; and
Resignation into a resolve for recognition, respect and
However, these accomplishments are only the beginning. As
everyone in this room knows, the hard work truly lies ahead.
We are now just 735 days away from the next municipal election
scheduled for November 13, 2006.
And as you gear up to get your issues into the debate of the next
municipal election cycle, I think you are entering this debate from
a position of strength.
To start, your issues are not really unique.
By saying this, I do not discount the very local issues at
Fitzroy Harbour, the burst Richmond wastewater forcemain (again) or
the desires of the local de-amalgamation issue.
Instead, I view these issues through a larger media prism.
These are local Ottawa area issues, episodic issues, set against
the backdrop of a larger provincial and national debate, the
thematic frame, where rural communities across the country are
telling policy makers that one-size-fits-all city hall solutions
don’t work in rural environments.
Rural residents across the country are telling elected officials
and policy wonks that the cities agenda – while it is important and
real – cannot and must not become the sole preoccupation of
politicians to the detriment of real rural concerns.
And it is in this larger arena where you find common cause with
other rural communities. BSE, for example, is not an Alberta issue,
it’s a national issue … how many policy makers (or downtown citizens
for that matter) are aware that Eastern Ontario is home to a very
vibrant cattle farming industry?
Provincial water regulation 170/03 which reaches into to test
wells with no history of contamination what so-ever at great cost to
And issues of sprawl and growth impacting on the rural way of
life are as prevalent in communities like Ancaster, New Hamburgh,
and Bolton as they are in Kinburn, Osgoode, Vars and Sarsfield, to
name just a few.
And don’t even get me going on high fuel costs and what
skyrocketing gas and diesel prices are doing to rural communities.
I mentioned to a city official – and I’ll leave it to you to
guess whether this person is elected or a staff member – late last
week that I was looking forward to my speech this evening.
His response was terse: "Ah yes the rural whiners, regardless of
what we do, they’ll never be happy, all they do is complain and
criticize and on he went with his vitriol …"
To which I responded. You know, you’re absolutely right … they
are complaining a lot these days … its great isn’t it … where I come
from, we call it democracy.
So I did a little research and went surfing on the city website,
the OCRI website and the Ottawa.Com website and what I found was
very interesting. (Review results of searches)
For me, this points to a perception problem in the downtown
corridor and among the larger economic development community as a
The rural community is an important economic generator for this
region and this fact is still not recognized by the proverbial
powers that be.
Which brings me to the road ahead for rural residents as we move
to the 2006 municipal elections.
But before I wrap up, some of you may be wondering, why hasn’t he
touched on the colossal failures of amalgamation?
In the interests of transparency, I was a key proponent of
amalgamation and I co-chaired the former Board of Trade committee
that really pushed the issue onto the agenda back in the late
However, mistakes were made, huge mistakes were made … starting
with the enabling legislation that was brought in by the former Tory
government at Queen’s Park.
Mandated levels of alternate service delivery – which would have
saved taxpayers millions – were not written into the legislation.
Furthermore, when it comes to the so-called economies of scale
arguments, no one accounted for the size of the Ottawa region and
the complexities inherent in centralizing core service delivery in
one or two locations.
Even though rural residents – many of you in this room – told
anyone that would listen that the immense geography of our region
and loss of local administrative knowledge in service delivery were
And to make matters worse, some of the best, brightest and salt
of the earth municipal administrators that came from the former
townships and suburbs – who as professionals wanted to make the new
city work – were handed their golden parachutes and told to jump.
But this is a topic on which we could talk for hours and no doubt
some of you will share your views with me in comments and questions
in a few moments so I’ll leave the amalgamation debate on the
sideline for a few more moments.
So where do you go from here, as someone who has had success in
forging coalitions and getting governments to change taxation policy
and other pieces of legislation, I offer the following suggestions
and cautions as you move forward.
- Continue to use all forms of media to educate taxpayers
(rural, suburban and urban) about your issues, Ottawa’s
perilous financial position you’re your proposals for change
- Stay focused on unifying issues – a narrow range – where
you can speak (and vote) with one voice.
- Get political candidates on the record – through media
clippings, speech texts or Q&A sessions between elections.
- Seek innovative ways to bind politicians (pledges, policy
declarations) to action on your concerns.
- Work within the existing city, provincial, federal
structure to advocate for change … it is the only option.
- See down the field for an overarching goal that reaches
beyond the next budget or election … example of property
Thank you for your attention this evening.
I look forward to your questions.