Chris Schafer: 30th Anniversary of the Charter


Open Letter to Jan Harder and Lisa MacLeod

While this is a local issue, affecting the residents of Ottawa, the implications of the position of these two politicians is bigger than just the local issue involved.

In a nutshell, a school in Ottawa, Broadview Avenue Public School, is old and falling apart.  Not only is the environment becoming dangerous because of the floodings and the occasional fires that happen in the school, the school has also been found to be chock full of asbestos, have lead water pipes and to contain mercury – just what little kids need…

The school board had earmarked some money for repairing the school, but, following the latest little fire, the asbestos and all the other environmental hazards were discovered.  It is precisely because of these latest findings that the school board had decided that instead of repairing this building (and shaking all those asbestos fibres into the air, where little kiddies can better inhale them), the whole building ought to be condemned and a new school built in its place.

The full depth of the problems at Broadview was simply not known before now:  but, once it was revealed a few weeks ago, the school board rightly decided to act quickly to protect the kids and voted to rebuild the school instead of trying to fix this toxic dump.

Following this vote, two politicians (neither of whom is elected to the school board) have singled out one of the trustees who had voted for the rebuild and have demanded that she change her vote within two weeks or resign.

It is to these two politicians – Jan Harder, a career City of Ottawa Councillor, and Lisa MacLeod who is an opposition member in the Ontario Legislature, that I am addressing this open letter.

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Dear Ms. Harder and Ms. MacLeod:

One of the qualities which defines our human condition is the protectiveness we feel towards children.  It is therefore not surprising that politicians would choose this topic to try to cash-in on this commendable sentiment.

By writing the letter to Donna Blackburn, a duly elected trustee of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, and demanding that she either change her vote or resign, you have demonstrated your own unfitness to hold public office.  It is not just the inappropriateness of attempting to force an elected official to vote a certain way – something you, as elected officials yourselves, ought to know is deeply in appropriate, the way you have done it reveals that you are woefully uninformed about the underlying issues.

First, let’s focus on your motivation:  you are both on record as commenting that by rebuilding Broadview Avenue Public School, your constituents will suffer.  You have also both stated during interviews that you have targeted Donna Blackburn because she represents the same constituents as you do, confirming that your rhetoric is nothing more that short-sighted ‘NIMBY-ism’.  In other words, your actions have demonstrated that your concern is not for the education system in Ottawa but simply the fate of the people who vote directly for yourselves.   This shows that despite your pretensions, your actual motives are quite crass.

Ok – that is fine.  You want to get re-elected so you play to your voters.  That is understandable.  However, pretending to do otherwise – as you two have – is dishonest.

You have both criticized Ms. Blackburn, saying she does not know the facts and does not understand the underlying issues, implying that you, yourselves, know better.  You have both stated in interviews that rebuilding Broadview will harm your constituents.

Are you not even aware that children from within both your constituencies do indeed attend Broadview?

Yes, madams, Broadview does indeed serve your constituents!

Having long been a center of excellence in learning, Broadview offers unique educational programs in English and French for both gifted students and for exceptionally gifted students.  As such, gifted students from the whole western region of Ottawa are bused to Broadview.  Indeed, parents of bright children often start having them tested in grade 1 in order to have them identified as sufficiently gifted to begin attending Broadview’s most excellent program from grade 5.

Another factual error in your narrative is regarding the use of portable classrooms.  Ms. Harder especially has been vocal in demanding that schools that have portables ought to be the first to be improved and expanded.  Certainly, it is criticism-worthy that brand new schools are being built which have many portables:  but the problem there is in the planning stage and criticism ought to be directed there.  Why are new schools being built with inadequate capacity?

Is it perhaps because there is an expectation that as newly constructed neighbourhoods mature, the need for school spots will decline, making the portables in Barrhaven a responsible solution to a temporary problem?

Is it, perhaps, that it is precisely schools within ‘mature’ neighbourhoods, where the young-family ratio has stabilized, but which still require portable classrooms, that truly require expansion?

Broadview Avenue Public school is indeed in such a mature neighbourhood.  And, it also has a number of portables – and has for years.  So, saying that Broadview should not be rebuilt because schools with portables need it more demonstrates the depth of Ms. Harder’s ignorance.

Ms. Harder:  you have been elected to the Ottawa City Council – and not for the first time.  Yet, on your watch, the City of Ottawa continues to dump raw sewage into the Ottawa River.  Until you solve the problems you were actually elected to solve, please, do not delve into topics which are not within your jurisdictional scope and which you have clearly demonstrated you are not knowledgable about.

Ms. MacLeod:  You are the Education critic in our Provincial Legislature.  This should tell you something:  for the last two elections, your party failed to get elected – both times, the key issue on which you lost voter support was, indeed, education.

Under John Tory – whose election platform and, specifically, his proposed educational policy you have personally supported (and I did receive an email from you at that time specifically confirming this), your party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory solely on the issue of education.  Then, under Tim Hudak, it seemed impossible that you would lose to the unpopular McGuinty  Liberals.  Yet again, once Mr. Hudak revealed his education platform, your party began to lose votes – returning the detestable Mr. McGuinty to power.

Does this not tell you what the people of Ontario think of your views on education?

Ms. MacLeod, a politician who so callously exploits her own child as a political prop and whose educational policy has lost them not one, but two elections ought not tell duly elected officials whom the public actually trust to look after our education how to vote! 

Madams, you have overstepped your role in a most disturbing fashion which, in my never-humble-opinion, requires an investigation to determine if your attempts at influence-peddling have crossed the line into criminal.  Please, do the honourable thing and resign.


Sincerely yours,

Alexandra Belaire

P.S.  This letter – as well as any response you might wish to make to it, will be published at Xanthippa’s Chamberpot.  It is also being forwarded to some media.