Posted: Jul 25, 2008, 2:38 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Another coup at City Hall?
Ken Gray . Le coup d'état. C'est moi.
The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, July 25, 2008
Oh those wacky non-coup coupsters, they're at it again.
Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Diane Deans, who says she is part of an inner circle of council taking stewardship of important civic issues, says she wants to get the mayor on board with legislation she wants to bring forward.
In an e-mail leaked to me last week, Ms. Deans writes to the mayor's chief of staff Eric Lamoureux that: "It is my intention ... to bring forward a number of items for the fall agenda. ... I would welcome your advice at any time. By working co-operatively we can be strong and productive ... ."
Well, summer hasn't been exactly quiet. A group of councillors (though some deny it) has been meeting, sometimes with a quorum, sometimes not, informally horse-trading with their own agendas and those of others in an attempt to salvage something from the train wreck that has been the first couple of years of this council. Now they're trying to recruit Mayor Larry O'Brien.
"I am happy with your contention that the mayor sees members of council presenting city-wide proposals as a victory in his attempt to change the culture of council," says College Councillor Rick Chiarelli in an e-mail to Mr. Lamoureux. "I accept what you told me about co-operative spirit -- that the mayor wants these proposals to happen in a co-operative spirit." Added Mr. Chiarelli: "I also agree with you that it is best to encourage other councillors to do the same with proposals they will be bringing ..."
The existence of the non-coup coupsters came to light a few weeks ago when Mr. Chiarelli said a number of like-minded councillors have been meeting informally to plot a course for this fall's city hall agenda. That agenda is usually the purview of the mayor, but what with Mr. O'Brien's woes on Laurier Avenue, a number of councillors have decided to address city-wide issues. Thus the non-coup coup. There's a mayor but his agenda-setting territory is being trod upon by a number of councillors.
This wouldn't have happened under former mayor Bob Chiarelli. He would have had 14 votes in his pocket and councillors would have come to him to get his support. The ex-mayor, in turn, might help if in return he could get a vote or two on some issues he wanted. Muss with him and he'd turn your ward into a parking lot.
Councillor Chiarelli has been part of Nepean and city councils since the days of former Nepean mayor Ben Franklin. And he says he has never seen so much agenda-making among councillors in his time in politics. That includes during the administrations of Mr. Franklin, Peter Clark, Bob Chiarelli and Andy Haydon.
Councillor Chiarelli says his non-coup coup colleagues would prefer to say they are working together toward common goals, and deny they are a formal group. Kind of sounds like Ottawa politics, doesn't it? It's safe to say that there are no membership cards, club beanies or magic decoder rings. But are they working together on an agenda? Well, yes.
No need to be ashamed. This is what councillors do -- legislate and work to get that legislation passed. To paraphrase the great James Brown: "Say it loud. I'm a non-coup coupster and I'm proud."
But there is shyness. Councillor Chiarelli in a number of conversations with me has said that councillors Deans, Christine Leadman, Clive Doucet, Maria McRae, Eli El-Chantiry, a person whom he declined to name, and himself have been talking about city-wide issues. Councillors Marianne Wilkinson and Peter Hume have been hovering on the periphery, he says.
Ms. Wilkinson says Ms. Deans is part of the group, then says she hadn't heard of the coupsters until I told her. Odd that. Mr. Hume sounds wistful that he hadn't been asked. That said, he is such a wheeler-dealer, he probably doesn't need help. Ms. McRae says there isn't a formal group but there is a "sense of urgency" among councillors that they need to create proposals before their term ends. "People want to to get things done."
Mr. El-Chantiry says he is negotiating with like-minded councillors on city-wide issues but is not a part of a group. Rather sounds like a non-coup coup. Mr. Doucet, while parlaying with others about city-wide concerns, said he wouldn't want his name associated with such a group. Don't know why. Seems like good company to me. And when I reached Ms. Leadman, she responded with an "oh my god" and gave me a litany of things she was doing.
And what with Mulder and Scully reprising the X-Files this summer, it's appropriate to say of the composition of the non-coup coupsters that: "The truth is out there." And with a little initiative, you can find it.
Ken Gray is the city editorial page editor and a Citizen editorial board member. His column runs on
Fridays. E-mail: email@example.com
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
It seems that almost every councillor is working behind the mayor's back at one time or another.