Oh, there was much jollity over the weekend at the news that Ottawa’s city administration is considering appointing a “night mayor” to help “grow and develop the capital's 'nightlife' economy and shake off the image as the 'town that fun forgot.'”
The general tone of reaction can be summed up a few ways. (1) Fun’s not going to be getting its memory back any time soon; (2) government sure can’t help; (3) Ottawa has real problems, and hiring a Commander of the Revels (proposed official slogan: “Here, Senator, let me tie some colourful ribbons to your walker”) doesn’t come close to fixing them.
My favourite curmudgeons were quick to curmudge:
Perhaps I may be permitted to dissent. Not having manufactured the new Ottawa Nightlife Economy Action Plan, I offer no warranty for it. Indeed it seems timid. But it strikes me as hardly wise for a city administration to ignore half the day, any more than it would ignore half the city’s surface area or half its population. Nighttime economic activity in Ottawa’s Centretown seems on the face of it to offer modest upside benefits and considerable downside risk. The downside risk is lately visible to anyone who ventures into the city centre at any hour, and resembles problems I’ve seen in several other Canadian cities in the last year including Edmonton, Winnipeg and London, ON. From what I hear it’s rough in St-Roch in Quebec City these days too, after that historic district had seemed to spend 25 years battling back. You probably have other local examples.
This is why I won’t be particularly impressed today by the reflex response offered by some readers when I write about Ottawa. BUT PAUL, WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT OTTAWA? IT’S NOT A REAL CITY, IT’S A BUNCH OF FAT CATS LIVING HIGH OFF THE BLAH BLAH BLAH You know what? Stow it. It’s a real city. Real people live here. Its problems resemble a hundred cities’ problems. And its particularities are interesting both in the abstract, as variations on the themes of modern urban life, and in the lived experience of my Ottawa readers, who are numerous.
Specifically, I probably need to point out that the government of Canada doesn’t run the city of Ottawa. So whatever you think about Justin Trudeau, put a pin in it because this isn’t that. Having said that, off we go.