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“Just Build It Already” Wonderfully Sums Up Ottawa’s Bureaucratic Culture

“Just Build It Already” Wonderfully Sums Up Ottawa’s Bureaucratic Culture


By Brian Clarke

Ottawa is certainly a bureaucratic town.  As much as we try to resist it, the traces of bureaucracy still permeate in much of our local politics and culture.

Lately the Ottawa Citizen has been publishing a column that I think perfect captures the effects of this bureaucratic culture: Just Build It Already.  This column takes case studies of not-yet-completed urban projects in Ottawa that have at one time looked promising but have since been marred in delays, budget issues and City Hall changing their stance.  The column does a fantastic job looking at the ‘why’ – the specific economic or political blockages that have delayed these projects. So far, I have read Just Build It Already articles on Lebreton Flats, the central library, O-train expansion and an interprovincial bridge.

As the intro to the articles states: “Ottawa’s never been short on big ideas, but we always seem to fall short when it comes to making them happen.”

I think this quote best exemplifies the effects of Ottawa’s bureaucratic nature.  Despite popular conceptions, I do not think Ottawans are boring, plain, bureaucratic robots but actually are quite exciting, creative and fun.  We are great thinkers.  But when it comes down to executing our ideas, we get bogged down by bureaucracy and its ugly cousins “delegation” and “analysis paralysis”.

Reading these case studies in the Ottawa Citizen has certainly been a bit discouraging, especially with some of the exciting projects that have been circulating in Ottawa city politics in the last year.  As much as I love engaging with these debates about a new casino in Ottawa or a parking structure under York Street, I agree with the Citizen’s position that when a decision is made to move forward with such projects, the City needs to just bite the bullet and build it already.

Because I certainly do not have the mental capacity or patience to debate these local issues for 15 years while they are caught in the web of bureaucracy.