The biggest Ottawa stories of 2022
The biggest stories that affected our city and the people who shaped them.
And happy almost New Year. I thought we’d take a look back at some of the biggest stories in town in 2022.
Before we get to that, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for subscribing to the Lookout and to Capital Eats. It’s been quite the journey in the last 14 months — fourteen, wow — and this wouldn’t be a success without all of you. So, thank you. Truly.
Newswise, it’s been quite the year. One thing after another, after another, after another. And several others after that. It seemed non-stop, and probably was, looking back it’s all sort of a blur.
So let’s get to it. The five biggest stories and newsmakers of the year.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
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Friday: +8 🌡️ +6 | 🌧
Saturday: +8 🌡️ +1 | 🌧/❄️
Sunday: +1 🌡️ -5 | 🌧/❄️
Monday: +3 🌡️ -4 | ☁️
Tuesday: +7 🌡️ +7 | 🌧
NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR
Former mayor Jim Watson, and the LRT inquiry
A good start: The now-former mayor started the year off with what was likely a plan to ease out the year into retirement. Having announced at the end of 2021 he would not be running for mayor again. The previous year had two LRT derailments, and there was the prospect of an inquiry into the failures system on the horizon, but how bad could it really be?
The convoy: Then the convoy came (more on that whole thing later) and things really fell apart on the year. Weeks of occupation highlighted how much of a mess the police force was as the chief had to be shown the door. Then came a spectacle of a council meeting where Watson and his allies unceremoniously purged the Police Services Board. Finally the convoy was pushed out and the mayor could once again hit the streets.
The inquiries: Watson had tried last year to push for an auditor general report on the mess of the LRT, but the province stepped in with a public inquiry which would instead take place in the open. Watson’s performance was, perhaps, not ideal.
The inquiry’s commissioner wrote, “This evidence from mayor Watson, [and other city officials] does not withstand scrutiny, and the commission does not accept it as a truthful explanation of what motivated the failure to communicate with council.”
The commissioner went on to accuse some of Watson’s top officials of not being truthful to both council and the public. Watson had many opportunities to correct the record, but he never did. He also did everything he could to prevent a full public inquiry into the trains’ construction and operation.
What it means: Love him or not, Watson has left his mark on the city. He led the city for 12 years, and shaped the city administration and its direction. But more than anything the LRT is his legacy, both in the way the system has and will change the city’s geography, and in the rotten process that brought it about. Even now, it’s Watson’s town, we’re just living in it.
NEWS EVENT OF THE YEAR
The convoy occupation
Occupation: The Ottawa police were oddly calm about the several truck convoys heading to the city early last year. So sanguine was the force that they offered them parking downtown. What followed was weeks of occupation by rowdy, lawless, and menacing protestors.
Ugly party: A mood that could seem festive was anything but for the people of downtown. With the streets filled with trucks, none of whom were interested in leaving, the nights would become wild street parties with open air fires and fireworks at bedroom level. Not just the commercial core, but residential streets in the downtown were
Spreading elsewhere: The protests in Ottawa led to sympathetic protests elsewhere. Blockades of other downtowns fell flat when local police forces blocked streets and refused to let protestors make camp, but several border crossings, including the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, were shut down for several days.
Police clearing: To put an end to the protests, one of the largest police actions ever in the country took place. With officers from forces across the country, some with batons and others with rifles, the police painstakingly cleared the downtown and towed away the remaining trucks.
The aftershocks: Seeing the city paralyzed by determined protestors who used their large vehicles to stymie an indifferent police force altered the way many people see the city we live in. For more than three weeks, Ottawa was not our town. That’s not a lesson that is easily forgotten.
The biggest (and best) Ottawa food surprises in 2022
Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Our food editor Ralf Joneikies put together his favourite surprises from the past year in food. The pizza that made him change his mind about “Ottawa-style,” a Bistro where we held an event, a late-summer addition to the city’s ice cream lineups, a vegan restaurant that changed his worldview, and much more.
What follows is not a “Best of” list as I find such absolutist wording inaccurate and such a compilation is almost impossible to achieve in any case.
Instead, I will give you the biggest surprises of 2022. There are no categories and the list is in no particular order. Sometimes it may be an individual such as a chef, sometimes it was a pizza I was fully expecting to dislike or a destination that left a lasting impression.
CITIZENS OF THE YEAR
Zexi Li, Paul Champ, and the Battlers of Billings Bridge
Zexi Li: The face of Centretown residents terrorized by the noise, harassment, and fumes, Zexi Li put herself forward to be the name at the top of a class-action lawsuit against the protests. For it she got both praise from the city, and scorn from the protest’s supporters. But she did it with good cheer and grace.
Paul Champ: The lawyer who made the lawsuit happen, Champ not only filed the papers for the lawsuit, but acted as counsel for the citizens of Ottawa at the convoy inquiry. Champ has become a dogged defender of people who felt they were left helpless by their government and police.
The Battlers: Fed up with a city that seemed to be doing nothing, a small group of protestors one weekend decided to stop a small convoy joining the main protests downtown. What started as a handful quickly snowballed, and soon people from all over the neighbourhood were out blocking the dozen or so protestors from leaving Riverside at Billings Bridge. It gave some hope for people in town that there was something that could be done about the protests, and maybe even galvanized other levels of governments to make a move to clear the city.
The derecho: Not just a new word for the city to learn, the remarkably high winds left a mark on the city still felt to this day. Numerous hydro lines were dropped by the winds, leaving huge swathes of the city without power. Trees were knocked down in several of the city’s forests, many can still be found where they fell.
The Senators: A blockbuster summer of trades and signings led to a fall of hugely disappointing performances. But the team has finally started turning things around. And with a sale to several potentially exciting bidders, and the announcement the team had won the rights to build a new stadium at LeBreton Flats, the future is bright.
The municipal election: For the first time in more than a decade, the city has a new mayor. And for the first time in a long time, the election was a competitive one. Two distinct and credible visions were offered of the city, and the voters chose Mark Sutcliffe over Catherine McKenney. A new mayor and many other new faces around the council table give the city a chance at a fresh start.
48 hours to go
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