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AG takes issue with city staff’s advocacy for a developer

The city wants to give a tax break to developers who build affordable housing, plus progress on the LRT east extension.

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Good morning!

Well, Santa was a big success. The boy was all smiles with the big man, and didn’t mind the crowds at all. Turns out he loves taking the train, too. (Will be tough to break to him the news about the state of the LRT, but he’s still a bit young for that.)

Today we’ve got a deep dive into an auditor general report on how the city overstepped by advocating on behalf of a developer, plus a bunch of events for you to take advantage of this week.

Don’t forget, we’re doing our annual reader survey to find out more about what you’d like to see from the Lookout.

Let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

Consider forwarding this to your friends so they can discover the Lookout. New to the Lookout? Sign-up for free.


Monday: -2 🌡️ +4 | ☁️

Tuesday: -6 🌡️ +2 | ☁️

Wednesday: -8 🌡️ -1 | ☁️


City acted improperly in endorsing developer’s plan for Barrhaven subdivision


What happened: City staff inappropriately lobbied on behalf of a developer while at the same time kept council in the dark about the process to approve a new Barrhaven development, according to a new report from the city’s auditor general Nathalie Gougeon.

The development: After a tip to its fraud and waste hotline, the AG’s office investigated parts of a plan by the developer Caivan to build a subdivision along the Jock River in Barrhaven. Because the development was along the river, part of the project was in conservation land on a floodplain. 

  • Initially the city, along with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), planned to do a new floodplain study to see if the floodplain line would change to open up more of the land to development. After a consultant found the flow of the Jock River hadn’t changed since the 2005 study, city staff and the RVCA decided a new floodplain map was unnecessary. 

The mayor steps in: Despite this, then-mayor Jim Watson and another senior city staff wrote the RVCA to “reemphasize the importance of completing the Barrhaven community” and “reinforce the floodplain mapping update with priority,” according to the AG’s report.

Change of plans: Eventually, the developer Caivan decided to abandon the request for a new floodplain map, and instead proposed a plan to physically change the elevation of the land. To do so, they proposed an “unbalanced cut and fill” where 116,000 cubic metres of land would be excavated and 407,000 cubic metres would be filled in. 

  • This needed approval from the RVCA’s executive committee. At this point, the conservation authority asked the city for a letter of endorsement of the plan.

As part of the city’s endorsement, staff wrote “we want to reinforce the support council has

expressed for this file,” but council had only approved changing the zoning of the land from “commercial recreation” to “residential,” the AG said. Many on council were unaware of the developer’s cut-and-fill plan, the specific issue staff were endorsing.

  • “It is not the City’s role as part of the planning process to endorse, support or advocate for a developer’s application with another regulatory body, such as the RVCA. … It was confirmed that the issuance of this letter was a violation of departmental processes as this external communication was not signed off on by the general manager.”

Ultimately, the AG said the endorsement letter, “which was not appropriate for the City to have issued,” likely helped sway the conservation authority’s approval of the developer’s cut-and-fill plan.

Infrastructure plan: In another unusual step, the city brought in a third-party consultant to review an infrastructure study by the developer on how to bring services to the new development. Typically, this is done by the city itself because of the expertise of staff in how their infrastructure fits together. Instead, expert staff were informally consulted by the outside firm on whether the plan was feasible.

  • One of the problems with bringing in outside experts to do such a review is “staff tend to take a longer-term view as compared to an external consultant, who would have a short-term, technical perspective. This was even more critical for this particular file because the stormwater management approach being proposed by the developer was not the traditional approach the city was accustomed to,” the AG’s office wrote.

The conclusion: In the end, the auditor general recommended the city formalize the role of internal experts, make it policy that the city does not endorse developer plans to outside bodies like the RVCA, and communicate with city council when major changes are made to development plans.

  • “The work performed highlighted gaps in city processes that could have resulted in decisions that were not in the best interest of the city or its residents, such as issuing a letter of endorsement for the cut and fill application to the RVCA and excluding key city specialists from certain steps of the application review process,” the report said.

What we don’t know: There were other allegations made to the auditor general about the process to approve the development, but because the AG’s office either couldn’t fully prove them or because they were outside of the office’s scope, those allegations aren’t included in the report.

  • The AG investigated the floodplain mapping, the process surrounding the cut and fill, and the planning process from 2018 to 2021. The office stressed that this was an investigation, not a full audit and was “focused solely on the allegations raised to our attention.”

What it means: This auditor general’s report highlights how expediency was often a key consideration of the previous administration. Putting the weight of the city’s say so, with a dubious claim to council’s authority, all to push a developer’s plan ahead is not city government at its best.

  • Hopefully, the recommendations are not just implemented, but taken to heart by the city bureaucracy. City staff are there to serve the public’s interest, not that of developers.


Canada can build a stronger ocean economy through investments in a healthier planet

The future of the ocean is green with Ambition 2035. 

🌊Clean energy investments, 

🌊Sustainable seafood practices, and

🌊Decarbonization of marine transport all contribute to sustainable economic development for Canada’s ocean. 

Canadian ocean technologies and innovation is needed to support economic growth, create new jobs, meet aggressive climate targets, and protect Canada’s oceans.  

To mitigate the impacts of climate change in our planet, Ambition 2035 includes a focus on the accelerated development of renewable ocean energy.

Together, these efforts will build a healthier planet while growing Canada’s ocean economy to $220 billion by 2035. 

Learn how Ambition 2035 promotes Canadian solutions to global ocean challenges.


🏘️ $300,000: The amount the developer Katasa Group agreed to pay the city for improvements and affordable housing. Of that, $100,000 will go to the Capital Ward traffic calming budget, and $200,000 will go to affordable housing in the ward. The agreement goes to the planning committee on Wednesday. [City of Ottawa]

📋 24: Where Ottawa placed on The Globe and Mail’s inaugural — and a bit baffling — list of the country’s most livable cities. [The Globe and Mail]


Check out the new open positions in Ottawa.

  1. Communications manager at the ByWard Market District Authority

  2. Media public relations lead at Canadian Blood Services

  3. Branch manager at Parts for Trucks

  4. Senior technical writer at Gemini Industries

  5. Product designer at Fullscript

Local jobs are selected by the Lookout team and are not paid ads, unless specifically noted.


🏥 The emergency room at the Almonte General Hospital closed overnight Saturday because of a lack of nurses. It’s one of several times the hospital has had to close the department because of staff shortages. Typically, the ER is staffed by one doctor and two nurses. [CTV]

🔍 The investigation into the cause of the Eastway Tank explosion by the city’s fire marshall is complete. The final report won’t be shared by the Office of the Fire Marshall until all the court cases involving the blast are complete. Six people were killed in the explosion nearly two years ago. [CBC]

⚖️ A man was charged with one count of dangerous operation causing death and another of dangerous operation causing bodily harm after a pedestrian was struck and killed in Sandy Hill last month. One other pedestrian was sent to the hospital. [CBC]

📺 Longtime CJOH and CTV reporter Norman Fetterly died. Fetterly retired in 2013 after 45 years at the network. [CTV]

🌲 The city will revise a plan to build a French public school atop Little Italy’s Plouffe Park near the corner of Preston and Somerset. A new plan for the school will be presented at a public meeting in December. [CBC]

🗳️ Voting in the leadership race for the Ontario Liberal Party took place over the weekend. The results of the ranked-ballot vote will be announced Dec. 2. [CTV]

💸 Mastermind Toys filed for creditor protection Friday, hoping to restructure its business while facing severe financial difficulties. At a hearing this week, it will ask a court to close an unspecified number of stores. There are three locations in Ottawa. [CBC]

⬆️ The Royal mental health centre announced Cara Vaccarino as the permanent president and CEO of the hospital. The Royal had been operating with an interim head since the departure of the abrupt and unexplained departure of the previous CEO in December last year. [Ottawa Citizen]


Giving Tuesday is this week, and there is no better time to think locally

November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a time when—after all the frenzy of Black Friday—people all over the world rally together for the causes they care about.

Be part of this global day of giving by helping United Way East Ontario ensure people have access to timely, affordable, community-based mental health supports. Donations will be matched by TD—doubling your impact. 


What to do this weekend


🎼 uOttawa at the NAC, Tuesday 7:30 pm: Musicians from the uOttawa School of Music perform a variety of compositions, featuring Keren Xu on flute, Ember-Leah Reed on violin and more. At the NAC Fourth Stage, 50 Elgin St. Donation requested for tickets

🎶 Celebrating Romantic Masters, Friday 7 pm: The uOttawa Orchestra plays Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and Brahms Academic Festival Overture. At St. Joseph’s Church, 174 Wilbrod St. Free.

🎵 Come Sing Messiah, Friday 6:30 pm: The annual event where the public is invited to sing along to Handel’s Messiah with professionals, accompanied by an orchestra. There are two types of tickets for singers and spectators. For singers there are also optional rehearsals beforehand. At the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, 335 Cooper St. Tickets $27.

🎄 Welcome, Yule!, Saturday 7 pm: The Cantiamo Women's Choir presents their holiday concert of joy and celebration. At the Woodroffe United Church, 207 Woodroffe Ave. Tickets $28.


🍷 Ontario Gems - Taste the Region, Tuesday 5:30 pm: A four-course wine dinner with pairings from around the province. At Restaurant International, Building H, 1385 Woodroffe Ave. Tickets $96.

🍻 Beyond the Pale Birthday Bash 2023, Saturday 8 pm: The Beyond the Pale Brewing Company is celebrating its birthday with a bash featuring live music, DJ performances, a silent disco and more. Tickets $23


🪚 Christmas Tree Workshop, Tuesday 6 pm: Come build a wooden Christmas tree, while learning how to use big power tools. Learn how to take rough lumber into a finished product you can take home. At the Ottawa Tool Library, 877a Boyd Ave. Tickets $97.

🌵 Plant Nite - Make a Succulent Terrarium, Friday 7 pm: Enjoy a night of guided painting of your very own terrarium. At Mexicala Rosa’s, 540 West Hunt Club Rd. Tickets $48.

  • You won’t want to miss a display of Canadian photographers which have been set up along Preston Street for the SPAO Photo Walk. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Buses should be back on track on the western end of the Transitway today, after a weekend detour for bridge repairs. [Twitter]

  • Here’s an old family recipe for vegetable stock that’s like a warm hug as the weather gets cool.

  • Take a trip back to 1999 with this NewRO segment on the city’s rave scene. [YouTube]

  • If you’re looking to donate clothes and more to those in need, this is a good list of organizations that collect and distribute all sorts of items. [Reddit]

  • Looking for a new friend around the house? Maybe one of these sweet cats available for adoption is what you’re looking for. [Reddit]

  • What local restaurateurs need to survive a tough period for the food business.

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Learn how here.


Congrats to everyone who got last week’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was SANTA, as in Claus.

For today’s quiz we want to know how many cubic metres of fill a developer proposed to add along the Jock River for a new housing development. The first five people to write in with the correct answer will get their names mentioned in the next issue.

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