Aside from blogging at Reinventing Ottawa, Kevin also writes and blogs for and Ottawa File Ottawa. Here are links to other article written by Kevin. 

Canada's political parties present urban agendas ahead of election

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Canada uses the web to fight urban gridlock

Ottawa, 19 April 2011: As social media and Web 2.0 play an increasingly integral role in political communications, it is no wonder that organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the national voice for municipal government in Canada, have followed suit. This week the Federation, which represents 2000 members, including 21 provincial and territorial municipal associations, launched their CutMyCommute social media campaign challenging all federal political parties to fix gridlock in Canada’s cities.

Aside from raising awareness during the current federal election, the ultimate objective of the campaign, supported by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and the Toronto Board of Trade, is to cut commute times nationally.

According to FCM, “Since the federal election was called [on 26 March 2011], long commute times have cost the economy $292 million and Canadians have wasted 2.7 million working days stuck in traffic.”

Carl Zehr, Mayor of the City of Kitchener and Chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors Caucus (BCMC), has also weighed in on the issue. “While their campaign buses are rolling across the country, party leaders need to take a good look out the window at the traffic gridlock chocking our cities. Reducing commute times must be a priority in this election and in the future, no matter which party forms the next government.”

As the average Canadian living in a big city spends an average of 75 minutes per day commuting, it is believed that long commute times are hurting Canada’s economic competitiveness with traffic delays costing more than $5 billion per year in 2006. In Toronto it is estimated that drivers spend roughly two working weeks a year stuck in traffic.

Zehr went on to say, “This is a national problem requiring a national solution. Every hour Canadians spend on the road is an hour they spend away from their families, their businesses, and their studies. That’s time none of us can afford to lose.”

Municipalities are calling on federal party leaders to set concrete targets to cap rising commute times; to reinvest more of the tax dollars Canadians send to the Federal Government in new buses, subways, and commuter rail; and to work with municipalities, provinces and territories to fill critical transportation gaps.

The campaign
website has a number of tools for visitors including a rolling counter of how much commute times have cost the economy and Canadians since the beginning of the election. The website is also equipped with an online calculator allowing visitors to find out what their daily commute costs the economy, their pocketbook, and time to spend with their family, friends and businesses. (Report by Kevin Bourne)

Ottawa's mayor and councillors publish monthly expenditure data 

Ottawa, 6 March 2011: Ottawa’s recently installed mayor Jim Watson promised during his election campaign to make City Hall politics more open and transparent. A major plank in his platform was to have the mayor and councillors make their expenses public on a monthly basis.  Watson went on to win the mayoral race last October and quickly after taking office in December, the city council voted in favour of the measure.

Last week the first round of expenses for January 2011 were posted on the city’s official website.  With Ottawa residents and the media watching closely due to an overwhelming focus on fiscal restraint, there were no big surprises.  As expected the largest expense for all councillors was staff costs, which includes salaries. Another other large items was constituent communications and web services as well as external costs, which includes office assistance and consulting services.

The mayor’s staff costs for January amounted to CAN$28,437, while staffing the office of an average councillor costs Ottawa’s residents approximately $11,500. The prize for the most peculiar expense should go to Councillor, Eli El-Chantiry, who purchased a fire station sign for his ward for more than $2,000.

Despite all this openness some commentators question whether City Hall has really become more open and transparent. The current budget was drafted and signed off on in private and only then presented for public consultation. (Report by Kevin Bourne for