Who needs another bridge? Not Ottawa

Posted 08.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The reaction in Ottawa to proposals for a new bridge between Gatineau, QC and Ottawa has been disturbing. Most people quoted in the media opposed any new bridge anywhere.

It's understandable, even if unacceptable, that homeowners fear the noise and tumult of a big bridge in their back yards. If those homeowners had to drive to Gatineau for their work, they might be as incensed as are many of us here at having their civic services curtailed and being forced into the too-few, too-crowded, and antiquated bridges now in use.

But they don't drive to Gatineau -- the federal government still has not fulfilled its promise to move 25 percent of Ottawa federal jobs over here in Quebec. Ottawa has only to be concerned with its decks and lawns, and can disregard the thousands of commuters stuck in cars and buses out of hearing and sight. They don't care about the air pollution and physical distress caused by this congestion. It isn't in their back yards.

The attitudes of some Ottawa political leaders ('leaders' by definition, not by fact) is more distressing.

Ottawa's mayor claims he is against another bridge because it will allow more people to move to Gatineau's cheaper housing and better family services, and Ottawa will lose even more tax base. Is Mayor Watson considering a wall around Ottawa to keep his ratepayers paying their taxes only to Ottawa?

Aren't Canadians free to move wherever we wish, and not be penalized for our choice? Not in Mayor Watson's view, apparently.

Ottawa MNAs are hiding behind the skirts of the Not-In-Our-Back-Yard groups, instead of leading. Our region is growing, and leaders should be making sure that growth is well-defined and serviced. But not some Ottawa MNAs, apparently.

These opponents of change use the old Harper argument of "it's too expensive," no matter their real objections. The nation is in rough financial shape. Ottawa can afford a new and massive underground bus system for its downtown core -- at a huge public expense -- but can't afford a new bridge.

This may be one more example of why Ottawa is considered such a provincial capital city. And it may be an example of the oft-observed phenomenon within Ottawa, that the city's vision extends no further than its river shoreline.

It's pretty rare to find references to 'Ottawa-Gatineau' or any sort of 'national capital region' in Ottawa and its municipal government. Gatineau is inevitably an afterthought.

This contains an important warning for federalists here who put all their trust in the ROC. Don't count on the ROC.

So, no bridge. Gatineau either doesn't exist -- or shouldn't -- in the eyes of Ottawa and its 'leaders.' We'll have to wait for the next sovereignty vote. Then Ottawa's navel-gazers will suddenly recall they share a country with Quebecers; they'll rush over to thump their chests and show their great love for Quebec. Unless they get stuck on a bridge.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/08.12