As someone who lives and works in Centretown, I've always had difficulty trying to understand what I would have in common with someone from North Gower, Fitzroy Harbour, Manotick, Greely, Carp, Kars, Vars, or Mars. (Sorry, that last one isn't on the list.)
In his blog post titled A council that can't make up its mind, ostensibly on the transit strike, Citizen editor David Reevely writes: (my emphasis)
And once again, [Doucet is] getting right to the point:My first instinct was to post a comment on Reevely's blog that this isn't really "getting to the point." I mean, it doesn't really help the discussion on transit strike recovery measures to open up a side discussion on governance structure.“This is foolocracy, not democracy,” said Mr. Doucet. “The council is fundamentally divided. It’s not capable of having consensus. It’s unbelievable.”
He said the rancourous debate was a small taste of the bitter divisions on council during the in camera meetings that lasted entire days during the transit strike.
He said the divide is proof that the city is too big and that the interests of rural, suburban, and urban voters cannot be brought together.
But Reevely--like Doucet--is right.
At the recent public meeting on SCAN, the point was raised that you can't just create legislation to evict addicts (for example) without first addressing the root problems that cause the addiction. You evict addicts from one place, and they move to another one. Or they turn to a life of crime. Either way, it's going to be society's problem. But when the debate is framed in terms of eviction, this underlying problem never goes away.
Similarly, you can't really have a discussion on transit issues in this City, period. City Council has demonstrated this many times in recent memory. And I'm not just lamenting the cancellation of the North-South Light Rail Transit (N-S LRT) project, as Doucet often does. In fact, I don't lament its cancellation at all. The chaos led that project so far down the wrong track is the same chaos that is behind the governance void we see today. And that was with a Mayor who knew what he was doing.
But maybe some good will come from this Pyrrhic bus strike. The anger, tension, and polarization it has caused among councillors may be the catalyst that is needed to overhaul our municipal governance structure.
Now, I'm not sure if returning to Ottawa's pre-amalgamation structure would be a good idea, or even possible--a lot has changed since then. On the other hand, the borough system that Glen Brooks suggests in the article (albeit only for his ward!), which sounds like the proposal by Alex Munter in the 2006 election campaign, may not do enough to fix the problems that we are currently facing.
In the above-linked blog post, David Reevely makes another suggestion:
One mayor elected in a split race can represent too narrow a constituency, but if we took the top handful of vote-getters in a citywide election and added them to a council of ward representatives, we might find ourselves with a built-in bloc of centrists around whom productive coalitions could be built in the broad civic interest.I'm doubtful that this would significantly smooth out the balance of power.
Frankly, the thing that's wrong in this city is that "solutions" spill out from all directions before the problem is ever adequately defined. We have to properly describe where amalgamation has gone wrong, and agree on that definition, before we look for solutions that address those problems. And it has to be done together, not yelled from opposite sides of the room.
This isn't something that can be done overnight with a single blog post; it's something that takes lots of time, energy, and input from all affected parties. It's something that wasn't done during the transit strike and hasn't been done (collectively) by those who want and oppose SCAN.
Under the big top, City Council has a tendency to take one solution and run with it--frequently flaunting its benefits and occasionally acknowledging its flaws. The City's solution is often rammed down our throats without resolving the concerns of those opposed, and is at other times scrapped and sent back to square one, leaving us with nothing.
Unfortunately for us, City Council will likely do the same thing when it comes to governance reform. They won't look at the problems that amalgamation has created for different citizens, and then find a consensus solution to bring to the province and the electorate. Instead, they will focus on Doucet's proposal, and Brooks' proposal, and Joe the Plumber's proposal, and they will bicker and infight, and one of these incomplete proposals will go to "public consultations" and will not improve for having done so, leaving us with no viable option to vote for in a 2010 referendum.
Or as Doucet calls it, "Politics as usual."