…blogging has been light…

When I said that ‘blogging will be light’, I had not realized just HOW light it would be….

However, technical difficulties aside, I have started posting the replies to my questions which the Ottawa municipal candidates have been kind enough to send me.  I must admit I was pleasantly surprised just how many responses I received, as well as with how well many had answered…

I am still posting the answers (and ward by ward overviews of who’s running, their website (if I know it) and a link to the response to my questions), so more ‘stuff’ will be popping up, but if you’d like to check the site out, you can do so here.

In the meantime, I’ve been asked for the link to this interesting article by so many people I’ve mentioned it to, I’d better post it here for your entertainment!

Blogging will be light…

…as I am working to set up a new blog on which I will post the responses which I received from the Ottawa Municipal Elections 2010 candidates – responses to the questions I had sent them.

Why?

Because I have never seen this many people actively taking an active part in the democratic process of election – especially on the municipal level!  THIS IS AWESOME!

These people deserve all the help they can get in getting their message across:  especially the newcomers to the political world.

For those unfamiliar with the Ottawa municipal scene:  during the last election, the people of Ottawa had elected a maverick-of-a-mayor, a newcomer to the political scene, in order to ‘bring about change.  But, being the cautious folk we are, we had elected every single City Councilor who ran for re-election – the very crowd that had built the status quo and loved it!

Exactly….

This election, we are seeing a definite change:  at no time in my memory have so many ‘ordinary’ folk from all walks of life (read, not just ‘professional politicians’ and lawyers) and running both for the position of Mayor as well as for the City Council.

So many, in fact, they are getting ‘drowned out’!

With over a hundred people running, it is difficult for mainstream media to give us in-depth analysis of each candidate (provided their ‘impartial reporting’ would actually do more good than harm) – so, an pre-canned sound-bite here and there is about the best coverage most of the candidates are likely to get.  (CFRA is trying – but, there is only so much coverage one lone radio station can give.)

How is a three-second cookie-cutter sound-bite supposed to tell us who the different candidates are and what they stand for?

Well, if they were willing to put in the effort to run, the least I should do is to provide them an opportunity to differentiate themselves.  So, I emailed each and every one of the candidates which lists an email address my email interview questions.  Over 120 of them.

For those who do not, I posted the questions here – they are free to get them, fill out the questions and submit them to me.  Either, they can do so as a comment, or they can send me a comment with their email address and I’ll contact without publishing the comment with their private info.

Since the very first ‘full’ reply got most of the answers ‘perfectly right’, I fell uncomfortable about publishing the results as they come in:  the later- answerers would have the benefit of becoming ‘enlightened’ by this one particular set of answers (NOT from a front-runner – YET!).

So, instead, I will set up a page for the Mayoralty race and a separate page for each Ward, in which I’ll list all the candidates, their websites (provided they took less than 5 minutes on Google to find:  with 0ver 140 candidates….but if ANYONE knows a website link I missed, please let me know and I’ll add it), their response to my questions (I say ‘response’, because some of them are honest, well thought out answers while others range from very polite questions of their own to not so polite PFO’s from their underlings).

I may (or may not) also note official endorsements and ‘slates’.  But, as I am an Aspie (and therefore very slow at this because I tend to get sidetracked….I have the attention span of a gnat on antihistemines), I have already put well over a hundred hours to setting it up, so, as they say, we’ll see!

So, that is ‘coming soon’.

Until the construction is done, blogging here will be light…

Thank you for your patience.

Email interview for Ottawa Election Candidates 2010


The following set of questions will be emailed today to all the candidates who list an email – the rest can find it here, should they be interested.

If at least 10-15 of the candidates do respond, I will set up a separate blog at which I will post all the responses I receive (by Mayor/Ward#).

This election is likely to see many changes in the municipal political scene – and so it should be. Still, it can be confusing for the ‘regular voter’ to know who’s who and what their defining values are.

In order to help the voters identify which candidate stands for what, I have put together a few questions which I would appreciate if you would answer. In order to identify everyone’s stand on some of the issues which are important to the Ottawa taxpayers at this time, some of the questions are provocative, pointed and otherwise biased in order to highlight each candidate’s uniqueness.

If you would like to answer any or all of my questions (feel free to pick and choose), I will post each reply on a dedicated blog. It might not get a lot of traffic – but, then again, it might take off. All I ask is that the questions be answered by the candidate and not their political staff and that they be honest, direct and heartfelt.

(If some of the questions make you mad – please, say so: they are meant to! Which questions make you mad just may help voters identify with your core values! If none of the questions get you ‘hot under the collar’, then I have failed and I apologize.)

Part 1: tell us about yourself

1.1

Why did you decide to run for public office now – as opposed to another time?

1.2

Why did you decide to run for the Municipal level of government, as opposed to the Provincial or Federal?

1.3

What makes you the best candidate for this job?

1.4

What separates you from all the other candidates?

1.5

Whom do you admire and why?

Part 2: decision making

Each of the following questions will present you with 2 options: sometimes, these may be congruent, sometimes not. It does not matter. This section is meant to highlight, if elected, how much relative relevance you would give these considerations in YOUR decision making.

Dividing ten points between the two choices in each question, please indicate how many you would give to each of the two options presented (ensuring the sum adds up to 10).

Example: When considering a snack, how would you rate ‘healthy’ vs ‘convenient’?

Healthy __6___

Convenient __4___

(A snack can be both healthy and convenient – this just tells us, the voters, which quality you would consider more, and by how much.)

Please, feel free to comment as well.

2.1

To whom is the primary responsibility of the City Council?

City employees _______

Taxpayers _______

2.2

When introducing new initiatives (or evaluating existing ones), what should be the relative importance of these to each other?

‘Environmental good’ _____

Taxpayer burden _____

2.3

When introducing policies intended to change the behaviour of the citizens of Ottawa, how would you balance the following?

Advice of experts _____

Voter feedback _____

2.4

When motivating citizens to use public transit, how would you balance these two approaches?

Making it easier, more convenient and especially safer to use public transit _____

Introducing penalties/fees/traffic tie-ups to discourage the use of private vehicles _____

2.5

Who is responsible for the welfare of children?

Parents _____

Public officials (including all variety of school programs) _____

2.6

What is the relative importance of these?

Individual (including property) rights _____

‘Public good’ _____

2.7

What should be the relative focus of any government?

Providing services to citizens _____

Enabling citizens to provide for themselves _____

2.8

When implementing a policy that may not be popular, which is preferable?

Legislating behaviour _____

Permitting those citizens who wish to ‘opt in’ to do so, with no penalty to the rest _____

2.9

What is a better way to help people with ‘drug problems’?

Needle exchange/safe injection site programmes _____

0 tolerance of illegal drug users (including marijuana) _____

(I specify drug ‘users’, as opposed to ‘dealers’)

2.10

In policing, what is the relative importance of:

‘Public Good’ initiatives – such as ‘driver sobriety spot checks’ by police _____

Respecting the constitutional rights of citizens (random police checks illegal) _____

2.11

Who is entitled to decide the fate of trees?

The property owner (whose house may be getting damaged by the tree) _____

The community (as represented by City Officials) _____

2.12

Which is more harmful to the environment?

Raw Sewage _____

Carbon Dioxide _____

2.13

If ‘security’ and ‘freedom’ are in conflict, which should take precedence?

Security _____

Freedom _____

2.14

If a city official (such as a police officer or a by-law officer) is attempting to carry out an illegal order or to enforce an illegal law/by-law (one which contravenes the Canadian Constitution), what should be the reaction of the citizen?

Shut up and obey, like a good little slave _____

Place the city official under citizen’s arrest _____

2.15

Where do rights originate from (and thus reside with)?

Individual _____

Society _____

Part 3: Short and to the point

Please answer the following questions in 10 words or less.

3.1

What is the main purpose of government?

3.2

What is the main purpose of fines?

3.3

What is the proper role of by-laws?

3.4

Currently, the average salary (and benefits) of the City of Ottawa employee is roughly double the average salary (and benefits) of private sector employee (this average includes the high salaries of CEO’s and other executives – as shown in multiple studies). Under what conditions is this justifiable?

3.5

In many City of Ottawa departments, the workers and managers are members of the same labour union. Is this proper?

3.6

Should the City of Ottawa have departments which duplicate the services (and often undermine the policies) of Provincial and/or Federal departments?

3.7

Many businesses in Ottawa claim the amount of ‘red tape’ they have to go through simply to exist is excessive. Is this a problem?

3.8

Under what conditions is it justifiable for a government to financially subsidize one business, but not another?

3.9

Is ‘reverse discrimination’ also a form of discrimination?

3.10

Under what conditions should governments be permitted to fund non-core, non-essential programmes/services?

3.11

Does accommodating sensitivities of ANY/ALL religious groups by the City of Ottawa a breech the separation of ‘government’ and ‘religion’?

3.12

Should elected city officials be subjected to a specific term limit? If so, how long?

3.13

Similarly, should city employees (perhaps with the exception of front-line police officers, firefighters and paramedics) face a similar cap of a maximum number of years in the civil service (say, 15 or so)? (This would help bridge the public/private sector gulf and enrich both, as well as slow the destructive trend of emerging ‘privileged class’ of civil servants we are seeing in our society.)

3.14

Why should the City of Ottawa permit the operation of businesses (such as clubs) which ban a citizen from becoming a member based on their gender (or which set aside hours of operation for members of a specific religion)?

3.15

Should the City of Ottawa tolerate the practice of gender discrimination in any form, including ‘gender segregation’ on City property? (In privacy/modesty situation, the existing measures such as ‘family changing rooms’ and ‘family rest-rooms’ are a perfect accommodation to all without implementing gender apartheid.)

3.16

Should City of Ottawa financially support public events (including sports competitions) which practice gender apartheid? Should it tolerate such intolerance in City owned facilities?

3.17

It is difficult for most non-communications specialists to be ‘perfectly bilingual’: still, it is even more difficult to be ‘perfectly trilingual’. As such, the current City of Ottawa language policy unfairly prevents non-linguist allophones, mostly from immigrant backgrounds (such as myself) from even seeking employment with The City. If elected, will you work towards a more inclusive, tolerant workplace which only requires ‘functional bilingualism’, and only in ‘front-line positions’ for personnel which is directly serving the public?

Part 4 – deeper questions

Please, answer the following questions.

4.1

The classical role of government is defined as protecting territorial integrity (not applicable to a municipal government), protecting the security of person and property of its citizens and providing an impartial and objective judiciary. This is a much narrower role than what the modern governments tend to play. Most citizens would likely agree that the role of municipal government also includes supplying clean water, proper sewage treatment/waste (garbage) disposal and road infrastructure.

Should a municipal government to provide any service other than listed above? (Please list.)

Why/why not?

4.2

This will be difficult to put in practice, but…

Do you support, in principle, the assertion that since civil servants are paid from the salaries of ‘regular citizens’, the average civil service salary should not be higher than the average salary in the private sector?

If elected, would you work towards implementing this principle into practice?

4.3

Multiple studies over decades have established that people who regularly use public transit suffer from many more infectious illnesses than people who don’t. If elected, what measures will you pursue to minimize this public health hazard?

4.4

Public transit is used by downtown commuters more than any other group. Yet, most of the people who work downtown are civil servants – whose salary is, on average, already roughly double that of people working in private industry. As such, concentrating on providing increased public transit service to downtown is an additional subsidy to already overpaid civil servants. When the property taxes are rising to unprecedented high levels, forcing people from their homes, how can such a blatant subsidy to already overpaid bureaucrats be justified?

4.5

Cities which have light rail public transit are increasingly converting their systems to uses buses. Since the accommodation to the unions states that no rail system which the City of Ottawa might implement would reduce the number of drivers/commuters had been made, there will not be any cost savings on the salary of operators if a rail-based transit system is brought in. Yet, the construction of rail-based transit systems is much higher than of bus-based systems while at the same time it lacks the flexibility inherent to a bus-based transit system. If there is a justification for a publicly run transit system (which is far from established), will you oppose all the hair-brained schemes involving rail-based system in favour of a reasonable, bus-based system?

City of Ottawa to English employees: “No Saturdays For You!”

This is just a tiny little example of the malaise which is crippling the City of Ottawa!

The ‘French Languages Services Branch’ decided that right now, when the City of Ottawa is so broke it cannot prevent raw sewage from flooding people’s basements, over and over… when the City of Ottawa is unable to pay the upkeep on municipal buildings so that some  have become safety hazards (like, say, the stands as the Landsdowne Park that had to be pulled down)…..when the City of Ottawa has no funds to maintain public housing, turning a deaf eat to senior citizens’ requests to have cockroaches and bed-bugs and, yes, rats (!) exterminated from their meager citty-run housing….

… when all this is happening, the French Languages Services Branch decided that it is time to celebrate the excellence with which they deliver French Language Services to the citizens of Ottawa!

And, to be honest – they are doing as bang-up job!

All the ‘keep out’ notices on condemned buildings are translated into flawless French and high-quality signs with it are posted all over!

And, all the letters requesting that the City bring the housing units it runs up to code are replied to in both English AND most elegant French, telling them that their concern is noted and once there are funds, someone will look into it.  May be…

And all the numerous glossy fliers we receive at our residence from the City of Ottawa, informing us of which services are no longer going to be provided by The City – well, those are also flawless in both their layout and excellent bilingual formulation of the esteem The City holds its  citizens in!

So, you see, they really DO deserve a little ‘pick-me-up’, a ‘pat on the back’, an unmistakable message that their dedication to excellence and best practices is appreciated..

This ‘appreciation’ took shape in a fancy glossy calendar.  Full colour picturesque pictures of scenic Ottawa may have brought the printing costs up a little – about $16,000 for the 2,500 calendars printed (somewhere near $6. 50 per calendar, if my math is not mistaken).  But, it was for the employees – to show appreciation – so it was worth it!

The calendars have arrived.  No, they do not provide any ‘City-of-Ottawa specific’ information – you know, like when seasonal event seasons start and end, or when The City delivers specific services (you know, like which is the 1-morning-a-month when the ‘hazardous materials’ depot (where we are supposed to bring used-up batteries, and so on) is open, and where (it moves around so it is hard to keep up with it) and so on).  It only lists the ‘usual’ information that any glossy, colourful $1.99- over-the-counter calendar does.

And, this 2010 calendar arrived and was handed out before the end of February 2010!  Big cheer for efficiency!!!  Yeeeeeay!

But, there was a tiny, itsy-bitsy mistake.

So tiny, it took days for anyone to notice it.

Well – there was no mistake in French, only in English, so you can understand how the French Services Delivery Branch would not really notice it.  After all, it is not the Bilingual Services Delivery Branch!  And, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t an English Services Delivery Branch to partner with in collaborative efforts!

So, the days of the week – all through the 12 months – go as:  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday.

Yes – there is no Saturday!  Not one!

Now, I do not believe it is a sign of systemic anti-Semitism within the French Services Delivery Branch, because I do not believe this was an attempt to expunge or hide or otherwise ‘get rid of’ the Sabbath.  (Still, a simple check of the French Services Delivery Branch’s hiring statistics, to ensure they are fully compliant with the multicultural hiring quotas, is probably warranted – just to make sure!)  ;0)

But, I do think this belies a cultural prejudice:  in Quebec, most calendars adhere to the ‘Mainland European’ standard of starting the week with Monday and ending it with Sunday.  In Ontario – both the English and the Franco-Ontarien adopt the ‘Anglo’ standard of starting the week with Sunday and ending it with Saturday!

Therefore, I suspect that far from being a language issue – this mistake is the fruit of a growing cultural  gap as Franco-Ontarien culture is systematically being eroded and replaced by Quebec culture… because it seems to me that the most likely way this ‘mistake’ would have happened is that a Quebec-culture person, at the last moment, noticed that the week is not ending in ‘Sunday’ and ordered the change!

I, for one, find that highly offensive!

‘Language’ and ‘culture’ may be related, but they are not the same thing!

And, too often – especially here in Canada – we confuse the two.

But that is a grave mistake!  Just look at the rich cultural diversity among different countries that are, say, Spanish-speaking!  The culture of the Dominican Republic is not the same as the culture of, say, Argentina, is it? Yet they share a common language…

Similarly, Franco-Ontariens may speak French, but,they have a very different culture than Quebec does!  Let’s not forget this – ‘French’ and ‘Quebec’ are not synonymous!  Listening to people, it sounds like Franco-Ontariens are as deeply frustrated (if not more) by the Quebec French-language militants who are exporting their discord into Ontario as the rest of us are!

So, I present to you:  this little typo is not a ‘language’ mistake – it is a ‘culture-gap symptom’!

It shows that many of our City of Ottawa employees are less interested in delivering services to us, the citizens, then they are about playing politics with our money!  Spending our tax dollars in sowing cultural discord within the city and building their own bureaucratic empires, funding ‘perks’ for the employees – till there is none left to provide even the most core services!

…all the while The City can’t afford to fix the tons of raw sewage still spilling into the Ottawa River.

How fitting!

Ottawa City Council gives my son a bloody nose!

All right – a warning:  this is a rant!

A bit of an angry rant!

Why?

Because our most esteemed City Council gave my 10-year-old a nosebleed!  LITERALLY! (And I use that term accurately.)

How?

Well, just read on…

The Ottawa City Council has so lost sight of what their role is – quite a while ago. I do not know if there is any hope of shaking them out of their fuzzy dreamworld and back into reality.  You know, where we, the taxpayers without expense accounts have to live!

The only member of this Council who actually wanted to focus the City on its core tasks was the Mayor – and he has been effectively neutralized through lawfare.  In the meantime, the rest of our elected officials are planning to spend hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars on a new Central Library – which will be a legacy to their brilliance and importance… a tourist attraction, they tell us… while they are also building another new library building on Woodroffe avenue – less than a 10-minute walk from an existing huge library in the former Nepean City Hall!

They are busy banning kids from playing street hockey, banning people from having nice gardens – or, at least gardens that look like the people want them to, banning people from selling their property – because they went there for a movie once, banning people from just about anything they can think of that is none of their (insert expletive of your own choice here) business, while wasting time doing anything they can think of – except their real jobs!

In the meantime, our most esteemed councilors do nothing to stop

  • duping huge amounts of raw sewage into the Ottawa river…
  • unruly crowds which illegally block our streets
  • endless pet projects, which lack vision for the city as a whole
  • neglect in maintaining city-owned buildings, so that they are condemned
  • AND  our roads from getting so pot-hole riddled that, today, on the ride home, my son said his school-bus went over some bumps on the road that were so big, he got a nosebleed!

YES!

The school-bus ride on Ottawa City roads was SO ROUGH, my son was jostled so hard inside his school-bus, he started to bleed from his nose!

No, his head did not hit the window, or another seat, or anything like that.  It was simply the force of the jostle – from the neglected, decaying and increasingly un-navigable Ottawa City streets – that triggered his nosebleed!

And, no – he does not get nosebleeds easily.

Yes, he has had some in the past – but they tended to result from expected causes:  a sudden impact into a wall he did not see in time while running, or a ball whose trajectory he did not triangulate properly, and so on…  all ‘normal’ and understandable reasons for an active kid to get a nosebleed from.  And, no, he has not had any such ‘close encounters’ with walls or balls or related things – or any nosebleeds – in the last few days or weeks…so this is not a case of a ‘scab coming off’ or any such thing.

He said he was lucky that a lot of the kids sitting near him had kleenexes, so he did not get his blood all over the bus or any of the other kids.  Still, his own shirt bore the marks of it…

In other words, through their failure to maintain the roads – one of their primary roles as our elected officials – the Ottawa City Council, in no uncertain terms, gave my son a bloody nose!

I could not make this stuff up if I tried… and I am so angry now, that if a Councillor showed his or her face to me now, I would give them such a tongue-lashing, their EARS would hurt!  May be not bleed, but – man – when kids end up bleeding, because our politicians are not doing their jobs…

Oh, I had better end this and go calm down a bit…  I wonder if our politicians will fix the roads leading up to their Taj Mahal of a new library….you know, so the ‘tourists’ don’t get blood on the books!