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Live, from Pineview Golf Club:

We have just kicked off an exciting new phase of the campaign – literally handing our city councillors the right tools to meet the city’s needs. Starting today, May 4, members of the Ottawa community will be giving councillors cardboard cut-outs of the tune-up tools they’ll need to build a healthy, inclusive city. With each session of the Mayor’s “corporate visioning” process, councillors will receive tools to take with them onto the meeting room floor.

Today’s tool was a bright green wrench labelled “democracy”. It carried key messages, in French and English, on the back, including calls for more participatory processes and rejecting the Mayor’s idea for an “executive committee”.

Councillors were welcomed at the doors of the golf club with several of us holding a large, home-made banner of a tool kit and were handed their democratic wrench. Other tools include:

  • a vice, representing public services that hold our communities together
  • a hammer, for the “uploading” we need to push back onto the provinces and the feds for the years of downloading and funding cuts
  • a pair of pliers, representing the positive Ottawa 20/20 principles
  • a screwdriver, symbolizing the need for a better tax system and more equitable way to fund social services in Ontario (pun intended)
  • a saw, representing the need for truly internalizing environmental sustainability in our city planning and programs

The exciting part is the reception we received this morning from Councillors. Many of them thought our messages were right on. Several councillors, many from the right of the political spectrum, vigorously agreed with the call for “uploading” and virtually everyone we spoke to agreed with the call to reject the Mayor’s “executive committee”.

The theme of the tune-up was suggested by Councillors themselves, who last week voted overwhelmingly to undertake a “tune up” of the City, not a “transformation”. So at our organizing meeting earlier this week, we decided it would be helpful to give the Councillors the right tools. It’s a device that gets the message across, involves members of the community and is disarming enough to obtain broad political support – and marginalize the corporate extremist views of the bully in the Mayor’s office. Though it was a treat to see a bright green monkey wrench of democracy on the table in front of the Mayor today.

In short, we’re creating a good deal of political space to do an end-run around the Mayor’s privatization and P3 agenda. Our lofty goal is to re-frame the debate around the municipal budget – away from cuts and “gapping”, and towards getting the resources we need. It’s a revenue thing, not a spending thing. It’s time to push back – up.

Today, about 20 of us were on hand to watch the proceedings – mostly from CAWI, the City for All Women Initiative. We held a lively debrief during the break, including an impromptu teach-in on municipal legislation, one of the main subjects of this morning’s session. City staff presented on “governance issues” – including a briefing on the increased powers given to municipalities by the provincial Bill 130, which, among other things, increases the capacity of municipal governments to create new third-party boards; many consider this to a way to set up a new kind of bureaucracy whose primary function is the outsourcing of community services and programs. The bill also gives municipalities the power to create “executive committees” of select councillors; these would have the power to overturn decisions made at other standing committees. Historically, in order to change a decision made by an executive-type committee, one needs a two-thirds majority at council.

Members of the child care community will be on hand on Monday, May 7, to hand out the vice grips of public services (with the corresponding messages against privatization and P3s on the back) to councillors as they arrive at the next session.

Please contact me if you are interested in organizing in your sector or community to mobilize around a day to give the Councillors “the right tools for the job”. This generally will involve getting here before the session starts, holding up the banner and handing out the tool of the day, possibly doing some media interviews. Dates and times TBA.