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February 04, 2014

Rose Simpson: Who needs the National Crapital Commission, anyway?

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina.

One of the great things about municipal governments is that, generally, they get things done smoothly and in consultation with the residents who elect them. It's not always the case, but if a decision has to be made it gets made or residents can walk up to the mayor and give him an earful at whatever meeting, ribbon cutting or celebration he is attending.

Not so in Ottawa where many of the decisions about the aesthetics of the place are made by people who don't even live here, have never lived here and will never lived here. That's because the National Crapital Commission has its ball in nearly every play. Its board of directors is made up of people you and I have never heard of, with the exception of former Mayor Jackie Holzman and Chairman Russ Mills who was dumped as publisher of the Ottawa Citizen a few years back.

There are 13 cogs in the NCC wheel who live elsewhere. That's nearly twice as many people on the Board who live in Vancouver or Montreal and come here to visit and decide things. Which is why the NCC is so ridiculous.

The NCC is an expensive, meddlesome throwback to the days when politicians were desperately trying to suck up to Quebec and the West for votes. And it's run by a bunch of handpicked snobs about as well as Downton Abbey is run by Lord Grantham.

The people on the NCC board don't just make big decisions, they make small ones, too, like choosing the kind of shrubbery that will line the tracks of Ottawa new transit sites. (Sounds like a Monty Python skit doesn't it?) Until recently, they were in charge of dog shit at my local dog park.

The NCC owns a lot of land and real estate in this burg, so it can hike up rents for poor merchants on Sussex Drive anytime it wants to forcing them to move to less pricey real estate. It can and does also obliterate businesses and recreation facilities, and shake down farmers who have been on their land for decades.

The NCC also has the say-so on monuments, too.

I've been party to two situations where the NCC got involved. The first time occurred while I was serving on the Board of the Rideau Tennis Club, the venerable lady on the Rideau, who lost her life to fire a few years back. The RTC had operated on NCC land for nearly a hundred years and was under the radar until the fire.

That's when the NCC got involved. All of a sudden the RTC was competing with condo developers to try to save its club. Fortunately, many of the members of the club were influential members of the community and convinced the RA Centre to take it over.

But that occurred only after the NCC made everybody's life miserable for about two years.

The second situation involved the construction of a monument to Canadian firefighters. For ten years, the volunteers working on behalf of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation locked horns with the NCC while raising more than a million of its own dollars to support the monument. After many years of nailbiting, the NCC agreed to let the CFFF have its monument which is now on a site across from the war museum. Too bad it's sitting in the middle of nowhere. Too bad it's in front of a damned condo building! The monument is beautiful; too bad the site is such an eyesore.

So much for the NCC's eye for aesthetics.

What was most galling about the monument process was that the CFFF monument project was taken over by posh people in Toronto and Vancouver. Not a drop of Ottawa creativity went into that project. Nor did Ottawans have a say in where it should be located. Strange, too, that there's also a monument to Ottawa firefighters a few kilometres away, in front of City Hall and ironic that the local monument organizers had no difficulty getting it built. The city even lent them the money.

The Ottawa monument was a terrific success owed in part to the fact it was built on CITY land, away from the NCC's grasp.

Nothing about the NCC is good for the City of Ottawa. It is an elitist and anachronistic entity that should be disbanded. Of course, that will never happen. Now that the whole Senate matter has blown up, the government needs more boards like the NCC to use for its patronage appointments.

That's a shame.

I don't believe any other town in Canada would put up with somebody from away calling the shots, particularly when you consider that Ottawa residents pay taxes twice, once to the city, once to the federal government and get the NCC for their money. What a crock.

Besides, the board of directors is appointed while our city councillors and mayor are elected. That's another slap in the face of democracy, in my view.

I say, take your shrubbery and shove them, NCC board.

Let's at least put more people from Ottawa on the board and get rid of the elitists who are currently running it. Let them go back home and construct their own monuments to beautify their own condos.

See also: Ottawa City Hall Guide
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  1. Fascinating - I didn't know most of the details here. Great post, Rose, and lots to think about.

  2. Totally agree with you. Here's a question, is the city of Ottawa responsible for plowing the NCC parkways? If so, we should be able to run OC Transpo on them. I'm all for one elected National Capital Region... like Washington D.C., this city has far too many self-absorbed, single issue politicos running around with their hands in my pocket.

  3. Don't get me started. But since that's too late. Let's just start with Measurables and Accountability 101. If they don't pass the test... (which I know they won't), then....Teeeeeeeeeya! BTW How many NCC Employees at a cost of Millions to the Taxpayer does it take to put on two events per year in Ottawa? And can the private sector offer far more value, a more awesome experience at a far cheaper price tag? Survey says!


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