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Jody Wilson-Raybould fallout detonates Real Change™ brand





There may or may not be a commission of inquiry into the grave allegation that PMO officials put heavy pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was Justice Minister and Attorney General to help Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin secure deferred prosecution; then, when she refused, she was demoted to Veterans Affairs. We don’t know. There may or may not be a shoe store of shoes yet to drop. We don’t know. Questions swirl in the vacuum of silence and absence of anything approaching clarity, their answers unknown. What we do know is this: the allegation involving Jody Wilson-Raybould and its aftermath has effectively kneed the Liberal government where it hurts the most—squarely in its Real Change™ optics.

Given Wilson-Raybould’s former central placement in Sunny Ways™ imagery—the optimistic, photogenic promise of Real Change™ in gender equality, reconciliation, climate change, governance and transparency, even how MPs are elected—this is a serious blow for the government, even a possible coup fatal.

Wilson-Raybould was B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations when recruited to run for office by Justin Trudeau in 2013. The former Crown prosecutor was a star candidate, a “get.” Her cabinet appointment acquired a political fairy-tale destiny after a 1983 video went viral featuring her father, then B.C. Chief Bill Wilson, and then prime minister Pierre Trudeau at a Constitutional conference. Wilson spoke proudly of his two girls wanting to become lawyers and, one day, prime minister. “Both of whom are women,” he said to laughter; after all, it was 1983; electing a Canadian woman prime minister was unimaginable. “Tell them I’ll stick around ‘til they’re ready,” Trudeau responded dryly, also to laughter.

Thirty-two years later, Trudeau’s son would be the prime minster appointing one of Wilson’s ambitious daughters to cabinet. (It was 2015; electing a Canadian woman prime minister remained unimaginable.) Wilson-Raybould wasn’t the first woman named to the post (that was Kim Campbell in 1990). But an Indigenous woman overseeing national justice sent out a powerful, emotionally charged, change-has-finally-come signal. It also dovetailed perfectly with the new government’s claim that Canada’s “most important” relationship is with Indigenous peoples and its vow to right myriad injustices: lifting the 2 percent cap on funding for First Nations; repealing the reviled Indian Act; building a new “nation to nation relationship”; completing an inquiry into the tragically unknown number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. As my colleague John Geddes writes in an insightful 2018 profile, “Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Vision to Save Canada,” she was an active, public player in the government’s reconciliation plan.

Yet not a year into the Liberal mandate was the government under fire for reconciliation symbolism being skin-deep, literally. Justin Trudeau’s prominent Haida raven tattoo, initially accepted by Haida leaders as a portent of a new government relationship, would be denounced as a symbol of cultural appropriation after Ottawa greenlit a LNG terminal in 2016 near the breeding grounds of one of B.C.’s biggest salmon runs.

Similarly, the Sunny Ways imagery infrastructure that buttressed the Liberal majority and telegraphed new hope would sag with time and controversies, among them an ethics violation, Trudeau’s optically disastrous trip to India, and the obtuse handling of an historical “groping” allegation. Even the thrill of strategic pics of a fun-socks-wearing or shirtless PM has dimmed.

It is revealing of the human need to construct pleasing narratives that the spectre of Wilson-Raybould as a politician acting with integrity, refusing to bend, has taken on such traction, even as details remain vague and Wilson-Raybould remains silent. Again, imagery is being dissected for clues: Wilson-Raybould’ body language during her swearing-in as Veteran Affairs Minister in January suggests she was mightily displeased, with none of the smiling or soulful eye-gazing with the PM seen in 2015. Her clothing, however, appeared to telegraph volumes: she wore a button blanket emblazoned with an eagle, her clan crest. Her replacement as Justice Minister and Attorney General, David Lametti, a white man, is a former law professor from Quebec.

Similarly, an usual statement issued by the former Justice Minister after her surprising demotion was destined to be avidly parsed. It now can be read as a defiant manifesto. Wilson-Raybould outlined “the dire social and economic realities that Indigenous peoples continue to face.” As Paul Wells points out, in the aftermath of SNC-Lavalin story, some lines read as damning, like this one: “It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference and uphold the highest levels of public confidence.”

As the new Veterans Affairs Minister, Wilson-Raybould visibly embraced the role, traveling the country, making headlines. Yet, as a round-up of speeches given before her demotion reveals, the minister had voiced defiance and frustration for months. Last September, Wilson-Raybould suggested nothing has changed: “three years as a minister of the Crown I still have to contend—both personally and professionally—with a colonial legacy that remains pervasive despite best intentions.” She intimated her government was posturing: “Words, in the work of reconciliation, are also cheap without real action…” She emphasized the role women play: “it is typically the women in our communities who are leading the charge to decolonize and rebuild our governance models as our nations move away from colonial systems.”

Female leadership was a theme echoed in the no-holds-barred interview Wilson-Raybould’s father recently gave to Maclean’s. Bill Wilson, a prop in the feel-good 2015 story, is shaping a new narrative. “We’re a matriarchal tribe,” Wilson said, speaking with pride of his “very strong-willed and determined” daughter’s integrity. Wilson has been outspoken against the government in which her daughter is, at time of writing, still a cabinet minister. (In 2017, he called the handling of the MMIW inquiry “a bloody farce.” ) “Reconciliation is more a farce than the Conservatives,” Wilson told Maclean’s, as he impugned the current PM’s father: “They’ve been dancing around the table, just as the old man did with me.”

Wilson hinted that his daughter may have received other marching orders from the PMO while asserting she never shared cabinet confidences with him: “if the PMO told her that she should shut up about Indian Affairs and reconciliation, now you’re really talking about the violation of one’s integrity.” He described his daughter’s treatment with the sort of imagery no self-proclaimed feminist government wants association: “I think she was kicked in the teeth.”

Wilson made a prediction about his daughter: “I believe she could lose her career as a white politician. You don’t cross SNC-Lavalin and get away with it.” That doesn’t mean her career is over. Anything but. The allegation that Wilson-Raybould refused PMO interference has given rise to a new chapter, and profile, for a politician now heralded by some as a portent of real change within a Real Change™ government. It has even been posited that the Liberals’ “only hope”  is replacing Trudeau with Wilson-Raybould.

For now, however, Wilson-Raybould is silent beyond a “no comment” due to solicitor-client privilege. Her denial of the story could end this, but no denial has been made, leaving the unfortunate optic of a muted cabinet minister within a government that has vocally championed transparency yet has also indicated it plans to block Opposition efforts to probe the allegation.

A previously unnoticed speech Wilson-Raybould gave last fall features foreshadowing of a new possible optic, this one based in action. She quoted a Chief Joe Mathias during constitutional talks in the 1980s (“Behold the turtle… he moves forward when he sticks his neck out”): “The question remains today, ‘Are we prepared to stick our necks out?,’ Wilson-Raybould said: “I say, let us stick our necks out. I am.”



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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa





Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa





In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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City eyes five big themes for Ottawa’s new official plan





As Ottawa maps out its future for the next 25-plus years, city staff propose focusing on five major areas, including the places we live and the ways we move around the capital.

A staff report to the city’s planning committee lays out five themes for future public consultations, before city council finalizes the plan.

1. Growth Management: City staff say Ottawa should focus on building up, rather than out. Staff also suggest the city provide direction on the type of new housing developments, rather than focusing on the number of units in a development, to encourage a wider variety of housing types.

2. Mobility: Staff say the city should encourage active transportation — like walking and cycling — and transit use by better co-ordinating land use and transportation planning. The report also encourages designing streets to better accomodate pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving connections to the O-Train and Transitway.

3.  Urban and Community Design: Because Ottawa is a major city and the nation’s capital, staff say the design of our city’s buildings and skyline should be a higher calibre to reflect that status. Staff also suggest the city provide high-level direction for better designed parks and public spaces.

4. Climate, Energy and Public Health: Staff say residents’ health must be foundational to the city’s new official plan, with policies contributing to creating more inclusive, walkable, and sustainable communities.

5. Economic Development: Because much of Ottawa’s employment is knowledge-based, the city suggests those employment spaces could be better integrated into neighbourhoods and along main streets and transit nodes, instead of being isolated in business parks. City staff also suggest the city encourage more business incubation and identify opportunities to increase local food production.

The city’s new official plan will map out the city’s growth to 2046. The five themes and the plan’s high-level policy direction will go before the city’s planning committee, next week.

Public consultation and fine-tuning is expected to happen before city council approves the final version of the new official plan in 2021.

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