Ottawa residents got a chance to voice their concerns Monday night on the implications of the Fewer Politicians Act, which resulted in 11 municipalities and regions reduced to one amalgamated government in 1996.
“Bigger means, in political terms means de-humanization,” said Ottawa resident Henry Beissel.
“It means that the distance between the citizen and the one who governs becomes wider and wider. It spells trouble.”
Those who attended the city hall meeting hosted by Capital Ward Coun. Clive Doucet were treated to a panel discussion outlining why the amalgamation has not succeeded both inside and outside the Greenbelt, and what a potential move towards de-amalgamation might mean for Ottawa citizens.
Jim McKenzie, director of the Carleton Landowners Association, highlighted the inherently different issues faced by residents of rural and urban populations and spoke of the financial implications faced by those who are forced to pay for services that will have no direct impact on their communities.
“Rural/urban differences are clear, they’re profound and they’re even legally recognized,” said McKenzie.
“But the Fewer Politicians Act brought us to this point in time, just ignored these. And we want to restore democracy to both rural people and the urban people through de-amalgamation”.
Panel member Adam Found, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Toronto, pointed to his own studies which showed that city amalgamation generally failed to deliver its promise of cost savings and proceeded to discuss several alternative municipal structures that Ottawa could adopt in its place.
Coun. Doucet concluded that the de-amalgamation of Ottawa would not come about without the eventual agreement of city council and the approval of the provincial government, but added that he was encouraged by the beginnings of dialogue on the matter.
“We have to define what we want and we have to ask for it”, said Doucet. ”It takes us together figuring out what we want and articulating it clearly, and I think we know that we can do that”.