October 21, 2014

A political debate that may actually be fun: Ottawa City Idol, October 23

It's not often you get to put "fun" and "political debate" in the same sentence.  This Thursday may be just the opportunity. There's even beer. Here's some info about an event on Thursday night at Hooley's downtown.  It's a demonstration of how Ranked Choice Voting could work in an upcoming election.

Ottawa City Idol is a fun and educational event where prominent community leaders go head-to-head to share their best ideas for Ottawa in order to win the prestigious title of City Idol! Ottawa City Idol candidates will share their ideas and vision on how to make Ottawa a great city. Following a question period, participants, both online and in-person, will vote for their preferred candidates using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Ottawa City Idol is a fun and accessible way to demonstrate what our elections could look like using RCV in our future elections.

The event will take place at Hooley's in Downtown Ottawa, and will be live-streamed and live-tweated at #ottidol. If you can't make it to the party, don't forget to register to participate online so that we can send you link to the live-stream!

Your Candidates:

Manjit Basi, Citizens Academy

Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen

Suzanne Doerge, City for All Women's Initiative

Graham Saul, Ecology Ottawa

Brandon Wint, Poet

Come join Ottawa123 for a fun and interactive evening that will challenge residents to think more about creating a better democracy at the local level. Light refreshments will be served. Alcohol available for purchase.

Event Schedule:

7:00-7:30 - Doors Open and Welcoming Remarks by Ottawa123
7:30-8:30 - Debate Time
8:30-8:45 - Voting Period and Mingle
8:45-9:00 - Results Announced and Wrap-Up
9:00-9:30 - The Party Continues

TRASH TALK: Everything you need to know about the Carp Road Landfill Expansion

(This article originally appeared on on our sister site, StittsvilleCentral.ca.)

StittsvilleCentral.ca posted an article last month about Waste Management filing a compliance application for expanding the Carp Road landfill, and readers had quite a few questions about the facility.

We did some research and sent questions to both Waste Management and The Don’t Let Ottawa Go To Waste (DLOGTW) coalition to come with answers to many of those questions.

Where is the landfill?

The new landfill would be right next to the old one, northwest of where Carp Road crosses the Queensway. The old landfill is the large green hill.

Is the current landfill still accepting garbage?

It’s not, but there is a transfer station being operated on the site. Garbage and recycling material is trucked in, then transferred to larger vehicles and transported elsewhere for disposal.

How big will the landfill be?

The Environmental Assessment approved for the landfill is for a facility covering 6.5-million cubic metres covering 38 hectares. (A major league baseball field is about the size of one hectare.)

When will the landfill start accepting the material, and how long will the landfill operate?

There is no opening date set, says Ross Wallace, a spokesperson for Waste Management. “Most of our approvals are in place currently we are working thru our ECA (Environmental Compliance Approval) with the Ministry of Environment, also discussions/agreements with the City of Ottawa regarding Host Agreement and Community Compensation Plan.”

After those are completed, there are still site plans, building permits and other approvals that every business is subject to. It will be at least two or three years before it opens, he says.

Life expectancy for this type of facility is about 10 years.

What kind of material will go in the landfill?

According to Wallace, the landfill will accept solid non-hazardous waste, including residential, institutional, commercial and industrial waste. The site may receive additional solid non-hazardous waste (soil) that will be primarily used as landfill cover material.

Where will the garbage come from?

The waste received at the landfill will come predominantly from within the City of Ottawa and the surrounding communities, according to Wallace. However, he says the Environmental Assessment that was approved allows for an “Ontario-wide service area”.

Will it smell?
“Landfill gas odours will be controlled through a gas collection system and waste odours will be controlled through tip face management,” says Wallace.

“All landfills smell,” says Harold Moore with the DLOGTW group. “Past experience at the site was not good. Voluntary efforts by the company to control odours did not work. Odour was only controlled after government orders were issued and the landfill was finally closed in 2011.”

His group published a map of odour complaints from 2007 showing hundreds of reports of odours in Stittsville and surrounding areas.

It’s worth noting that there are more homes and businesses close to the landfill site now than in 2011.

On Waste Management’s web site, the facility is described as an “Environmental Centre” but opponents call it a “dump”. What is it?

“The project is the West Carleton Environmental Centre, including disposal, diversion and energy projects,” says Wallace.

“Nowhere in the thousands of pages submitted for environmental compliance approval and re-zoning has anything but a landfill been described,” says Moore.

The City of Ottawa refers to the document as a “landfill” in most reports and meeting minutes.

Why a landfill? Why not incineration or another alternative technology?

Waste Management says that alternatives were explored for this site, decided incineration wasn’t a viable option.

Moore says that his group recommended incineration and plasma-gasification as alternatives. He points to a waste-to-ethanol project in Edmonton as an example of a technology he believes could be used here. (Waste Management is an investor in Enerkem, the company behind that project.)

How many trucks per day are expected to deliver garbage to the site? What access roads will they use?

Wallace says the estimates 70 to 100 trucks per hour will service the site during operating hours. Trucks will enter via Carp Road, which will have four lanes including two turning lanes for access to the facility.

What measures will be in place to protect surrounding land from contamination.

Wallace says that an Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) will be in place, regulated and monitored by the Ministry of the Environment. “This program will include groundwater monitoring, surface water monitoring, leachate monitoring, ambient air quality monitoring including dust (TSP), VOCs – 10 component including vinyl chloride, odour (reduced sulphur compounds) and total hydrocarbons (THC).”

What if there are complaints about the landfill once it opens? What is the process and who investigates?
The public can file complaints and concerns through the City of Ottawa or the Ministry of Environment. All complaints will be directed to Waste Management’s landfill manager.

One of the conditions in the approved Environmental Assessment is that Waste Management set up a community liaison committee to “provide a forum for public concerns” and “for mitigation measures to be discussed where appropriate”. That committee is already in place. The conditions also call for a plan to monitor species at risk.

At this point is there anything that can be done that would stop the landfill from proceeding?

Although various City of Ottawa officials said they were opposed to the landfill, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment approved Waste Management’s application.

Moore says the cost of mounting a legal challenge is beyond the resources of the coalition.

“Our coalition is lobbying the (Ontario Minister of Environment) to put a moratorium on landfill approvals until the issue of poor IC&I (institutional, commercial and industrial) waste diversion is addressed with an updated regulatory framework that encourages energy recovery disposal,” says Moore.

Moore says that a Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) and Community Host Agreement, still awaiting approval, could be used to mitigate the impacts of the landfill.

The City of Ottawa is pushing for several conditions to be included in the facility’s certificate of operation. These conditions include:
Limiting landfill source material to the City of Ottawa and Lanark County (and not province-wide).
The ability to stop operations on the site if there are ongoing odour issues.
Ensuring property value protection is in place for nearby land.
A review of road design to ensure it can handle increased truck traffic.
Development of a program to protect against ground water and surface water contamination.

But it’s unclear what, if any, legal leverage the City has to enforce these conditions, other than if they are accepted through negotiation in the ECA and host agreement.

Aren’t all the complaints about this landfill just “NIMBY”? Nobody wants a landfill in their backyard but it has to go somewhere, doesn’t it?

“We have always advocated for waste reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery disposal technologies; not landfills,” says Moore. “The future of waste disposal should not include landfills in anyone’s backyard… Some of the garbage coming to our backyard will be not ours. Sometimes NIMBY is a good thing.”

For more information:

October 17, 2014

PODCAST: Lunch Out Loud Ottawa #91: Unshaven Mavens & Heavy Bedroom

Every week we publish a link to the Lunch Out Loud podcast, a weekly show produced by Nick Bachusky and co-hosted by Andrew Miller.

This week: We meet up with Amie and Malorie from the Unshaven Mavens to talk all things cancer awareness and their great charitable organization and how it is helping those in Ottawa. We also talk Movember which is coming up soon. As always Jenn from foodiePrints let's us know about some great food events this weekend. Music this week from Heavy Bedroom!

October 15, 2014

OttawaStart's Weekly Event Round-Up: October 16-22, 2014

cliché fall parliament.
Cliché Fall Parliament. By ssstevieb, from the OttawaStart Flickr Group

Here's our crowdsourced list of the best events in Ottawa this week.

Thursday-Sunday, October 16-19: Merrickville's Jazz Fest
It's the fourth year for the little-jazz-festival-that-could, which showcases a wide variety of local and imported jazz groups. New this year is long-time bebop drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve and his Jazz Message from Montreal, and swing and gypsy jazz vocalist Denielle Bassels from Toronto. And, for the first time, acclaimed Ottawa pianist Brian Browne will be artist-in-residence, appearing three times on the Sunday. The festival will close with a revival of A Tribute to Blossom Dearie, which was enthusiastically received at the NAC in 2010. Merrickville is less than an hour from Ottawa by car: passes are available for the whole festival, for individual days, and for individual concerts. Advance reservations are needed for some shows in local restaurants.
-- Alayne McGregorOttawaJazzScene.ca

Thursday-Saturday, October 16-18: The Ottawa Implosion Weekend
Ottawa Explosion organizers are bringing you the first ever Ottawa Implosion Weekend, 3 days of the best contemporary underground post-punk, psych, and dark disco from North America and Europe here in the Nation’s Capital.
-- Eliane Laberge, Eventful Capital

Thursday, October 16: An Evening of Food and Discussion
Hear about local food initiatives and enjoy soup and bannock at this event marking World Food Day. Organized by the Ottawa Good Food Box, a very cool program that provides monthly orders of fresh fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. The evening includes speakers from FoodShare Toronto and local farm Roots and Shoots, and takes place at the impressive Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, 7-9 p.m.
-- Denise DebyGreen Living Ottawa

Friday, October 17: Fevers at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
Sometimes it's easy to forget how good some Ottawa bands are because it's easier to catch them live. Fevers is one of those bands. If you haven't seen them live, now's your cvhance. If it's been a while, you should see how tight they've become. Head out to the Shenkman Arts Centre on Friday and they will surely be playing this fine ditty:http://youtu.be/TbM1K2or8pU
-- Ryan BreseeCKCU's Whatever's Cool With Me

Friday-Saturday, October 17-18: Theatre Wakefield presents Infinitheatre’s Kafka's Ape
Captured in Africa, the ape Redpeter's only escape route is to become a walking, talking, hard-drinking member of the war-making, mercenary Peace Industry. Adapted/directed by: Guy Sprung, starring Howard Rosenstein, with Alex Montagnese. Wakefield Community Centre, October 17/18 ... Tickets $20. “Disastrously entertaining!”
(Sponsored event)

Saturday-Sunday, October 18-19: The Ottawa Wedding Show
The {Fall} Ottawa Wedding show, veiled in "Vintage Chic", will exude romance and whimsical elegance. Attend and immerse yourself in a unique experience while discovering solutions for every element of your celebration. At EY Centre.
(Sponsored event)

Saturday, October 18: Ottawa Fury vs Edmonton FC
If you haven't had a chance to catch the new Ottawa professional soccer team you should definitely check it out this weekend - battle against another Canadian team with lots of fun rivalry! Great event for families, or if you're looking to take your experience up a notch, contact one of the Supporters Groups (Stony Monday RiotBytown Boys) for cheap seats in the Supporters Section for some chanting, drumming, and taunting of the Eddies!
-- Laura Gauthier

Saturday, October 18: Fall Family Sale in support of Ottawa Fur Kids
A sale for items from local businesses that go in support of neglected pets.
-- Nick Bachusky

Saturday, October 18: The Souljazz Orchestra
These Ottawa favourites will be giving a homecoming show at Babylon this Saturday night and for the occasion they'll be celebrating the reissue of their early catalogue on Do Right! Music, specially remastered for 180g high quality vinyl. A guaranteed good time!
-- Eliane Laberge, Eventful Capital

October 18-November 1: Montreal Artist Presents Exciting New Work in Ottawa
Danièle Lemieux will present a collection of recent paintings in a solo show Food for Thought, at Wallack Galleries, 203 Bank Street, October 18th to November 1. In this exhibition, Lemieux explores the duality concept of sustenance; the feeding of the body and, through art, the feeding of the soul.
(Sponsored event)

Saturday, October 18: Inner Peace is the Key for World Peace - Public talk by world-renowned humanitarian & peace-advocate, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. At the Canadian Museum of History, Grand Hall

Sunday, October 19: Meditation with the Master - Practical workshop with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. At Tudor Hall
(Sponsored event)

Sunday, October 19: YOW: Ottawa Writers Write About Ottawa
October 19 at 7:00 pm. Pressed, 750 Gladstone. zine launch-free admission; zines $3-5; surprise musical guest
-- Amanda Earl, Bywords

October 20-31: The Bat Hunt
There are bats hiding everywhere in the Children's Museum. Keep your eyes open, and see how many you can spot. Find them all to win a special Halloween treat!
-- Sara-Lynne Levine, Macaroni Kid Ottawa

Tuesday, October 21: Unveiling the Mask of Mental Illness Fundraiser
Come support the Causeway Work Centre’s employment programs at this annual event, which features a silent auction and the launch of Causeway’s holiday card program. Expect expert hosting by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld. At the Orange Art Gallery, 7-10 p.m.
-- Denise DebyGreen Living Ottawa

Have a great week!

October 12, 2014

Ottawa mascots, old and new

Two photos came up on my Twitter feed this week related to Ottawa mascots.

First, a throwback Thursday shot of some classic Ottawa mascots from 1992.

Can you help name them all?  From left to right:

  1. ?
  2. shopping centre?
  3. Sparky (Ottawa Fire Department)
  4. Slush Puppie?
  5. Yellow Pages
  6. OC Owl
  7. Bank of Montreal
  8. dog?
  9. ?
  10. ?
  11. red bird?

Second, the Ottawa Senators unveiled four new prime minister mascots who will be taking part in intermissions at some of the games this year.  They're inspired by the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents, one of baseball's most successful (and entertaining) promotions.

From left to right: Spartacat, King, Laurier, Macdonald, Borden.

See also: More blog posts about Ottawa mascots
If you liked this post, you should subscribe to etcetera, our free email newsletter. Featuring cool Ottawa events, interesting local news and contests and giveaways. Thanks!

October 10, 2014

PODCAST: Lunch Out Loud Ottawa #90: Craig Cardiff in Uber Ride

Every week we publish a link to the Lunch Out Loud podcast, a weekly show produced by Nick Bachusky and co-hosted by Andrew Miller.

This week: The episode was recorded in the back of an Uber car. We meet up with local singer/songwriter Craig Cardiff who continually tours across the country to discuss life of the road, Ottawa, Uber, Partick Artists and so much more! He plays songs on an Uber experience from his office to the market! We hope you enjoy!

See also: Ottawa Entertainment Guide
If you liked this post, you should subscribe to etcetera, our free email newsletter. Featuring cool Ottawa events, interesting local news and contests and giveaways. Thanks!

Grade 10 student by day, rock/punk impresario by night

Ryan Fitzpatrick. Photo by Glen Gower.

(This article originally appeared on our sister site, StittsvilleCentral.ca)

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a busy guy. He’s 15 years old, in Grade 10 at Sacred Heart High School, has a paper route, plays guitar and sings. And in his spare time, he also runs a music promotion company.

Fitzpatrick has been playing guitar for the past five years. He started The Indie Scene to promote local rock and punk bands in Ottawa.

He organizes shows downtown at venus like Pressed, Mavericks and Cafe Dekcuf, and he’s trying to get more of a scene going out in Stittsville.

This Saturday, he’s producing the Stittsville Punk Fest at the Stittsville Legion, featuring 10 rock bands from around Stittsville and Richmond, and as far away as Toronto.

“There used to be quite a few shows around here, but the guy who ran them moved to Kingston,” he says. “Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of venues to perform at so that is why I am trying to book shows in town every two to three months at places like the Legion and the Lions Hall.”

When I talked to Fitzpatrick on Sunday, about 60 advance tickets had already been sold for Saturday’s show, which has a capacity of around 100 people. The audience at his events tends to be mostly students from 14-18 years old, but they draw adults from the wider area as well.

Fitzpatrick plays guitar and does vocals for his band City Limits, one of the local acts at this weekend’s show. Some of the other local groups include Atticus (“a Stittsville power rock band, one of the members is Hugh Harrington who’s in Grade 12 at Sacred Heart”),Rydell (“pop-punk, with members from Stittsville and Richmond”),Safekeeping (“Richmond and Stittsville emo”), and The Stringers(“from all over Ottawa but the frontman is from here”).

Stittsville Punk Fest is on Saturday, October 11 at the Legion on Stittsville Main Street. Doors open at 5:30pm and the show starts at 6:00pm. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more info click here…

See also: Ottawa Music Guide
If you liked this post, you should subscribe to etcetera, our free email newsletter. Featuring cool Ottawa events, interesting local news and contests and giveaways. Thanks!

October 08, 2014

OttawaStart's Weekly Event Round-Up: October 9-15, 2014

Ottawa Sunset
Ottawa Sunset by David Johnson, from the OttawaStart Flickr Group

Here's our crowdsourced list of the best events in Ottawa this week.

See also: What's open and closed in Ottawa for Thanksgiving 2014

Until Monday, October 13: Carleton University Biology Butterfly Show
1,300 real live butterflies and 41 different species from around the world. Open daily from 9:00am-4:00pm. Admission is free, donations welcome.
-- Glen Gower

Thursday, October 9: Surfacing II Vernissage
Studio Sixty Six presents the opening of Surfacing II, a University of Ottawa Group Exhibition curated by Michael Orsini this Thursday at 6 pm. This exhibition, which runs until November 16, will feature works that challenge us to think with and beyond the surface: art as the practice of working with surfaces, and art as a process of meaning-making.
-- Eliane Laberge, Eventful Capital

Thursday, October 9: CPEP Open House and Documentary Screening
CPEP is a collective of students, researchers, community activists, and individuals affected by criminalization and punishment who work together on public education initiatives. Join this event to find out more and see a screening of the season premiere of CBC-TV's DocZone, entitled "State of Incarceration." Starting at 9:00pm, this documentary examines the recent changes to and controversial future of Canada's criminal justice system.
-- Laura Gauthier

Friday, October 10: D.O.A. at Zaphods
These Canadian punk legends have been touring the country since the late 70s. Not only are they bringing the rock to Zaphods on Friday, but they will be launching the D.O.A.-inspired Hardcore 8.1 beer. Booze and tunes! What could go wrong?
-- Ryan BreseeCKCU's Whatever's Cool With Me

Friday, October 10: The Rob Frayne Quartet at GigSpace
Rob Frayne has been a powerhouse in Ottawa's jazz scene for more than two decades: composer, arranger, teacher, and instrumentalist. But a nasty collision with a truck 10 years had robbed him of his ability to play the tenor sax. Until now - after a lot of thought and practice, he's figured out how to play the sax again. Friday at GigSpace will be the first public concert in which he shows off his new horn and his restored playing. The show will also feature his longtime musical friends Roddy Ellias on guitar and Garry Elliott and Alvaro de Minaya on percussion. Rob says to expect fun music with lots of groove.
-- Alayne McGregorOttawaJazzScene.ca

Saturday-Sunday, October 11-12: Ottawa African Festival
The Ottawa African Festival is being held this coming weekend at St. Anthony’s Hall. Offering free admission, the 2-day event will feature live performances by artists such as Rita Carter, drummers, and include a Namibian fashion show, african food and more.
-- Eliane Laberge, Eventful Capital

Friday-Monday, October 10-13: Thanksgiving Weekend at the Farm
To celebrate the harvest, visit the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum to learn how simple and easy it is to prepare cranberry sauce and make good use of Thanksgiving leftovers. Participate in special demonstrations and activities, and make apple cider! At the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.
-- Sara-Lynne Levine, Macaroni Kid Ottawa

Tuesday, October 14: Tree Ottawa Launch
Tree Ottawa is an ambitious new program created by community volunteers and Ecology Ottawa to protect, plant and promote Ottawa’s trees and their habitats. It includes an Adopt-A-Tree initiative, guides to tree care and native species, and a plan to plant 1 million trees by 2017. Fittingly, the program launches 9:30-10:30 a.m. with the planting of a bur oak sapling in Champlain Park, where a group of residents has been working to preserve the neighbourhood’s 150-year-old bur oaks.
-- Denise DebyGreen Living Ottawa

Have a great week!

See also: Ottawa Guide
If you liked this post, you should subscribe to etcetera, our free email newsletter. Featuring cool Ottawa events, interesting local news and contests and giveaways. Thanks!

October 07, 2014

Rose Simpson: A cheap alternative to taxis? What an Uber idea!

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina. You can read her previous columns here.

A few years back, when I was single, I was out on the town and waved down an Ottawa taxi.

Like a lot of people who use taxis, I'd had a few too many to drink so I was happy just to roll into a car and get home as soon as possible. It wasn't three in the morning or anything, it was maybe about eight o'clock, after I'd met some friends in the mid-afternoon at the press club.

The taxi driver was friendly enough, and I was perhaps oversharing. as I get when I've had a few. He seemed like a nice guy, and even flirted with me a little bit.

I got home, paid him and thanked him for the chat. I opened my door and was just about to go in when he appeared right behind me. He obviously had more things on his mind than retrieving a lost purse or scarf.

He became aggressive and actually tried to push through the door over my objections.

Fortunately, I lived with a very big black Lab at the time who was also at the door to meet me. I managed to get into my condo and close the door. Maggie was doing her job, and made sure he knew that there would be two dogs in this fight and her teeth were bigger than his balls.

He left, and I sat there shaking for a few minutes while Maggie continued to throw herself at the door, God bless 'er.

I didn't report this incident because I was frankly ashamed that I'd let it get that far. Besides, I'd flagged him down; I had no idea who he was or what cab he drove.

Lesson learned.

I made sure I never, again, flagged down a taxi in this city. Even now, I am very reticent to take cabs alone after a night on the town. I'd rather take my chances on the bus.

I was reminded of that incident this week after the City of Ottawa started, as the former mayor used to say, swinging its big dick around in an attempt to quash a start up taxi alternative. Uber, for those not aware, is a high tech company that allows people to call a driver from an application on their smart phones instead of through a dispatcher. The company operates in 40 different countries and offers a low cost (nearly half the cost) fee to customers who want a ride home.

Uber started just last week and two drivers have already been ticketed and face steep fines for driving without a taxi licence.

The city's argument is that taxis must be regulated for the safety of passengers. This means that a cab driver must go to school, pass a test and fork out $40,000 for a licence. Most cabbies can't afford that kind of scratch so they work for greedy people who keep their cars running all night and that -- not health and safety -- is why it now costs more to take a cab back and forth to the Canadian Tire Centre than it does for a medium priced hockey ticket.

Now I'm all for health and safety, but this is the service industry.

It's not the transportation of dangerous goods industry. To drive a cab, a person needs to be (or should be) knowledgeable about the city, courteous to passengers and understand the rules of the road. He should not be a rapist like the guy who drove me home that night who probably didn't have a criminal record.


All the regulation in the world isn't going to stop bad behavior and we don't need bylaw officers wagging their fingers at cab drivers. That's what the police are for, and they're already paid for in a separate budget.

What a driver needs is a clean driver's abstract, a clean criminal record, and a safe car.

What's ironic is that a school bus driver, making less than minimum wage, isn't set to the city's same high standards even though she has taken charge of the safety of our children. So why are taxis so stringently regulated and why must there be a monopoly on ferrying folks from A to B?

I'd like to suggest that the high costs of taxis are contributing to danger on our roads.

Our society doesn't want people to drink and drive and so the government runs all kinds of television ads all about Arriving Alive, Drive Sober. The ads suggest getting a designated driver, taking the bus or using a convenient app for a cab company.

But a lot of people, particularly young people, want to drink together, so it's hard to find that stellar young citizen who is willing to drink soda water all evening (nerd, alert!).

With no designated driver, kids often stagger out of bars still scraping the Jagermeister off their lips. Oh, geez, they think, they're too drunk to walk to the bus stop and don't have an extra fifty bucks in their pockets. But they might be able to scrape together twenty between them.

And there might be one kid still sober enough to be able to use an app on his phone.

A lot of people still drive drunk because cabs are too expensive. Don't tell me different or I'll have to out some of my old friends. People pour out of bars into their cars, of course they do.

But maybe, maybe if they had a reasonable, affordable alternative to that kind of bad behavior, they would leave the keys at the bar.

That alone is a reason to applaud Uber and invite it into the marketplace.

I'm not convinced the current taxis are any safer. The Uber drivers are screened and background checked. They use their own cars and pay the appropriate amount of insurance.

They are certainly better than the ghost cabs my kids used to take.

And I'd take my chances with Uber over a night time trip on OC Transpo any day.

Or the chance that I might be raped and left for dead on my stoop if not for a giant Black Lab with a healthy set of choppers.

A cheap alternative to taxis... what an Uber idea!

-- Rose Simpson

See also: Ottawa Taxi & Limo Guide
If you liked this post, you should subscribe to etcetera, our free email newsletter. Featuring cool Ottawa events, interesting local news and contests and giveaways. Thanks!

October 06, 2014

Guest Blog: Pretty Much Everything You Need To Know About Uber In Ottawa

Today's guest post comes from Brian Alkerton, and originally appeared on his blog.  What do you think about Uber and our city's response to it?  Add your comments below or email us at feedback@ottawastart.com

Uber is now in Ottawa... which is for the most part a good thing. There's a number of things they do way better than the current taxi system:

  1. They're reviewed, and they're accountable to the outcome of those reviews. I once was ejected from a cab from having the temerity to ask my driver not to text while driving at full speed down Slater St. one evening. I was told he was disciplined, and Bylaw charged him, but he fought it in court and won since there was no conclusive evidence that he was texting while driving. Which really makes you wonder about the in-car cameras the taxi companies keep pointing to as the reason why they're better than other options.
  2. You know who your driver is. I don't mean their life story, just that I get their name, picture, make of car and license plate when they confirm the pickup. I've called a cab in the past, been told to wait 15-20 minutes, then seen a vacant cab drive by 5 minutes later. Should I have flagged that one? I'd feel terrible if someone drove out of their way to get me only to have me already gone in another car. You can book a cab with an app and see it on GPS, but what if my cab sees a fare on their way to pick me up and takes them, meaning they're now going in a complete other direction? Where's the accountability to show up on time? It's too much ambiguity, and it sucks for both cabbies and passengers.
  3. You can actually get a ride. Some people hate surge pricing, and I completely understand that complaint. But when it's 2:15am, -30 degrees, and every cab is full (or worse, turning down fares that aren't going far enough), I really don't mind paying a multiple if it means I get a ride ASAP. What if there's another transit strike in the middle of winter?
  4. Being able to pay with a credit card without the driver giving you hell, where said payment happens securely behind the scenes without the risk of your data being stolen, and you get a receipt emailed to you... is pretty nice.

All of these are things the existing taxi companies could implement pretty easily, but they haven't. It would cost money, and without any competition since all the dispatch goes through one company, there's no alternative to lose business to, so there's really no incentive to improve.

It doesn't hurt that Uber's significantly cheaper, too. So I'm glad to see them coming to Ottawa. But to hear some of the rhetoric about whether or not they should be operating here you'd think they were liberating Holland or... well, occupying Holland. So let's take a look at some of the complaints:

  1. Safety: Uber claims their background checks are more robust than Ottawa cabs, and that their insurance coverage is significantly higher. This really needs to be verified by the city as a precondition to them operating, not least because there's more than a few examples of those background checks not actually being that thorough, and their insurance leaving drivers high and dry. However, there's no reason to believe an Uber driver is any more likely to hurt a passenger than a current Ottawa cab driver. I think it's possible to hold drivers to a higher standard than they're currently held to, and when you look at the stories about some of the horrible things drivers (both cab and Uber) have done to passengers, it's clear that we should make that a priority. But the evidence is clear that this is an issue faced both by rideshare drivers and conventional cabbies.
  2. Uber will slash driver pay in a heartbeat if it means undercutting their competition. However they don't (or at least shouldn't) operate in a vacuum. If a driver can make more renting a taxi plate and charging the city-regulated fares, they should be able to do so. If other rideshare companies like Lyft or Sidecar come to Ottawa, competition for drivers would be fierce, and the likely winner would be whoever offers the best balance of caring for drivers and providing value to passengers.
  3. Uber drivers aren't licensed, so they don't have to prove they know their way around the city. GPS built into the app means they don't have to. In fact, since smartphones pull live traffic data, they can consistently dodge slowdowns better than a cab driver who doesn't have that knowledge and is just driving the most direct route.
  4. Uber works great if you have a credit card and a smartphone with a data plan, but without those things in your possession, it may as well not exist. And I get it - those restrictions dramatically reduce overhead and make it easy for the business to scale. But there's significant obstacles to accessing Uber for a lot of people. They don't, for example, offer accessible cars for people with disabilities (though they've said they'd like to in the future). So when I see things in my feed like "Blueline can burn" or "I can’t wait to see Blue Line destroyed" I'm not sure if you're serious in thinking that Uber can completely replace cabs, but if that is your sincerely held belief you're a sociopath.

We've got a new service, the pluses are undeniable, the negatives are largely overstated, and yet Uber finds itself the potential target of fines, while candidates for the upcoming municipal election are being told things like "You get my vote if you let Uber stay in Ottawa, restriction free" which is frankly, kinda scary. We should require background checks for people who want to drive the public around. We should ensure that they have adequate insurance in the event that something goes wrong.

What option does the city have but to enforce the current bylaws? We have a company that was told they could operate in the city only if they met certain conditions. Those conditions tilt the playing field so far in the favour of incumbents that it's more of a playing wall, and are completely ridiculous, but rather than find a compromise, Uber's plan is to just ignore the rules. If you let that slide, you open the door to other companies ignoring regulations they don't like, including ones that are a lot more vital than our current taxi regs.

I may make an incredibly good Thai Chicken, but all the customer demand in the world shouldn't exempt me from a health inspection. City council should extend a provisional license for Uber to operate while the process of reforming taxi regulations is carried out, but in the absence of that they really have no choice but to enforce the laws on the books.

The most fascinating aspect of this, at least to me, is the certainty bylaw officers have that they'll be able to successfully sting Uber drivers at any kind of scale. It's one thing to call a gypsy cab from a pay phone and bust them when they pick you up (and is bylaw even doing that? Because while it's much less in your face, it's a way bigger safety risk to the general public than Uber drivers are).

To request an Uber, you're sending them information on your smartphone, your phone number, your credit card, your name/address, and probably a bunch of other data points (certainly if you sign up using Facebook). There's an easily accessible directory of everyone who works for the city online that would probably be pretty easy to cross-reference. If your hail results in a driver getting fined, everything associated with your account is getting instabanned - are they going to have the resources to generate enough new identities/accounts to make it worthwhile and still handle all the other work they have to do on a day-to-day basis?

In any case, the municipal election that was supposed to be a cakewalk for Jim Watson, and let's face it, is still going to be a cakewalk for him, just got quite a bit more interesting.

--Brian Alkerton

See also: Ottawa Taxi & Limo Guide
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