Yes grandma, I’m the jerk

I know this won’t be popular but I read this article this afternoon and was curious if I’m the only one who thinks  it’s wrong that seniors are getting a further discount on OC Transpo fares.


City gives seniors transit fare break.

Under a change that had been recommended by the city’s seniors advisory committee, seniors would use one bus ticket — instead of two — per trip. Seniors can currently buy two tickets for $2.50.

Here’s the problem I have, why seniors?

Are seniors the only ones on fixed incomes? Are seniors the only ones who use the bus?

In general, I am not a fan of different rules for different demographic groups. Transit service is a public good and should be supported equally by all those who use it.

Will regular bus fares now be rising to support these seniors discounts? Do low-income Ottawa residents between the ages of 18-65 get a break too? How about single mothers? Recent immigrants? I can make a compelling case for many different groups of people.

The idea that society should subsidize one group at the expense of others means that someone is going to lose on the other end. Someone has to pay.

What about seniors who don’t need the help and are living off of generous pension plans? Plans that will in all likelihood bankrupt the system preventing those in future generations from enjoying them.

As our population ages, the proportion of citizens who are classified as seniors is only going to increase, how are we going to afford to subsidize all of them?

It’s bad enough that my generation and others will have to face increased future taxes to pay for the golden pension plans and health care obligations of past generations. Do we need to add insult to injury by expanding the seniors discount?

The Baby Boom Generation is going to force us to rethink our position on seniors. With so many of them about to hit their golden years, society simply cannot afford to rely on the stereotype of seniors as poor, old people.

OC Transpo fares have skyrocketed in recent years putting pressure on many low-income Ottawans, people raising children with no choice but to take the bus to work to pay the bills. Where is their fare break? Sorry 33-year-old single mom, you have to pay more so seniors can pay less.

This idea reeks of an election ploy for incumbent councillors, yet another reason why transit should be off-loaded to an arm’s-length commission to keep politics out of transit decisions.


Watson’s boroughs are a step backwards

Mayoral candidate Jim Watson recently released his plan for reform at city hall.

Too many municipal politicians and not enough community engagement is undermining confidence in City Hall. Mayoral candidate Jim Watson aims to take action to fix the growing sense of drift and detachment since amalgamation with a series of initiatives aimed at improving decision making at City Hall. Today, Watson announced that as Mayor he will work to reduce the size of Council and formalize community boroughs in a move to streamline and ensure prompt responses to local matters.


Watson’s proposal involves reducing the number of city councillors to somewhere between 14 and 17 while adding a series of local borough councils to discuss local issues.

These local borough councils would not have taxation powers and would have delegated authority to decide on local issues. Two to four local city councillors would sit on each borough council.

While the effectiveness of council is most definitely as major concern, I think Watson’s plan has too many major holes and doesn’t really address the core problem.

The biggest question surrounding Watson’s plan is, what constitutes a local issue?

Some have raised the example of adding a new stop sign, seems simple enough.

The problem of course is that a stop sign is not nearly as simple as it seems. Given the choice, most local councils would put up stop signs at every intersection because everyone fears their children are at risk from speeding cars.

So then what’s the harm?

Well there is a reason that we don’t put up stop signs at every intersection, they cause disruptions in traffic flow and have a multiplying effect throughout the system. Would a local borough council be concerned with the trickle-down effect on regional traffic from the placement of a community stop sign?

Everyone wants our roads and neighbourhoods to be safe but we need to balance that with a big picture look at how each decision affects the whole system.

If the reasoning for these councils is to reduce the amount of time elected councillors spend debating small local issues at full council meetings I simply don’t think it will have the desired effect.

Watson’s plan calls for these borough councils to not have taxation powers. While this is makes sense it also makes the entire system redundant. While a new stop sign may seem like a small issue it is important to remember that it still costs money.

How will the borough council get the money to put up the new stop sign? Will the issue then have to go to full council for approval? What is to prevent full council from debating the issue thus eliminating any efficiencies in the decision making process?

There are many issues that may seem “local” from one perspective but that have city-wide implications.

Was Lansdowne a local issue? Those in the Glebe thought so.

The problem with Watson’s plan is that it doesn’t really improve the decision making process or significantly reduce costs. While reducing the number of councillors sounds like a money-saving proposition, there is no guarantee that adding an extra layer of approvals will actually save any money long-term.

Assuming that these borough councils will be filled out with unpaid volunteers, do they not still have administrative costs, overhead and expenses?

And what happens when a borough council makes a decision that full council can’t live with, cries of “failed democracy” will become even louder once a local decision is overturned by full council. How does this strengthen our city?

The problem isn’t the size of council, it is the people we elect.

Councillors need to have the ability to see the big picture and not just respond to the minority of residents who call and email their office. Electing councillors who have the courage to say no to their own ward is the first step to a more effective municipal government.

Devolving power to local boroughs adds layers of approvals that amalgamation was supposed to eliminate. Ottawa needs councillors more devoted to the big picture, not a fractured system of boroughs that have no interest in how their decisions affect the city as a whole.


There goes the Sun

‘Old hippie’ discovers he has no right to light

The city is undergoing an infill explosion. Old neighbours are waking up to new dust, and a dark truth.

There is no such thing as “the right to light.”

Those favoured spots — in the garden, on the patio, at the breakfast table — can fall to newly tall shadows, without much recourse. Your sunlight, essentially, can be stolen.

It has struck Paul Couvrette quite profoundly.

Talk about a culture of entitlement, this “old hippie” believes he has a right to the sun.

One would presume that a self-admitted “hippie” would value the environment.

Valuing the environment means promoting smart growth in order to reduce the expansion of urban boundaries, preserve natural spaces and lower air pollution by reducing commuting times.

Doing this requires infill housing, multi-unit, multi-use developments and using height as a way to reduce a development’s footprint.

Yet Mr. Couvrette thinks he is entitled to his sunlight.

I have seen this hypocrisy before, most recently at Lansdowne, those who would typically self-identify as being socially conscious and environmentally aware ignoring those beliefs once it directly impacts them.

Smart growth is great, in someone else’s neighbourhood, seems to be the theory.

I think we need to remind everyone of the nature of property rights.

When you purchase your home, you purchase the land is sits on and the structure that occupies the land…that’s it.

You don’t purchase the sunlight on your back deck, the view of the Gatineau Hills, the empty lot next door or the quiet streets that surround it.

Certainly these things are factored in during the initial purchase but they are not included in the deed.

Property owners absolutely have the right — through their elected officials and public consultations — to attempt to influence developments around their home but in no way do they have a veto over the neighbourhood.

I am deeply concerned with the future of our environment but development is not just going to stop. We need to encourage smart growth, infill housing and mixed-use developments if we are going to begin to have any meaningful impact on the environment.

If we all believe we are entitled to our sunlight, our view and our giant backyard, how are we ever going develop more sustainable communities?

If hippies can’t even understand that, what hope do the rest of us have?


The NCC asks for a favour

You have to admire the nerve of the NCC.

The same organization that consistently says “no” to Ottawa whenever it needs a little help making the city better is asking for a favour.

NCC wants to help design Ottawa’s LRT stations

The National Capital Commission wants to team up with the city on some of the creative design for Ottawa’s light-rail transit stations.

NCC chief executive Marie Lemay has asked Mayor Larry O’Brien if the city would be interested. Lemay is still coming up with the possibilities, but mentioned a potential design competition or showcase involving each of the country’s provinces and territories.

Look, it may be a great idea but this is the same organization that has obstructed city council on every major recent file, from the LRT route to Lansdowne.

Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

This offer comes with no additional funds, only additional layers of approval.

Mayor O’Brien would be wise to reject this offer of “help” unless it is accompanied by a renewed, two-way commitment to cooperation from the NCC.


Step Up to the Soapbox

As introductions go, this will be a brief one.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things, things that consume an unhealthy amount of my REM cycles to the point where I felt like writing them down might help.

How did we get to a place where disagreeing became so disagreeable?

Why is hyperbole and polarization the norm? How do we return to the Canadian way of reasonable debate and discussion?

When did democracy become about getting your way?

Some will suggest I’m a right wing fascist, others a left wing nutcase, the truth lies somewhere in between, something we seem to be losing as a country.

The Manifesto will be a forum to express this frustration, call out hypocrisy, and deal in facts, not farce.