Articles Tagged ‘Mark Bourrie’

SEPTEMBER 2014: Living in the Downtown Core


Cover image by Christian Laldone – Photolux Studio.

Gentrification is a loaded word. As Mark Bourrie writes in “Change Is Good?” (page 40), when a neighbourhood goes from gritty to trendy, there are some who do very well and others who lose out. But I’d say there is one thing it’s good for, and that’s opening our eyes to the corner stores, green spaces, and other hidden gems that give an area character. For some people — we’re calling them neo urbanites — those observations shape their lives in fascinating ways. 

It’s precisely this act of taking neighbourhood love to the next level that fuels our 40-page cover story, “Living in the Downtown Core.” From the voices speaking out about gentrification to the people who invited us into their stylish homes, we can’t talk about urban renewal without shining a spotlight on the folks who are behind the movement. That’s why we broke with tradition and featured people on our cover (you can read more about Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe, and their beautiful deck in Centretown, in “Family Values,” page 61). In fact, while the “Urban Study” series showcases stunning interiors, the stories are more about how a house works to accommodate the downtown lifestyle and why the inhabitants choose to live where they do. Because it’s people like Patrick and Erin — people who frequent mom-and-pop stores and loiter at the cash to shoot the breeze — who are helping to shape the downtown core. And these so-called neo urbanites are savvy: they know about the power of the purse, and they walk the downtown talk. That’s why they volunteer with community groups, frequent independently owned shops, and walk so much! 

Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.

Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.

For me, one of the most interesting projects to watch right now is the Bell Street Towers. Apparently it’s one of the city’s oldest apartment buildings, and it’s one of the first places I heard about when my sister moved to Ottawa in the late 1990s. She saw the sign from the highway and, with vacancy rates low and few ties to the city, took a chance. She told some nasty pigeon stories, but she also spoke of the diversity of her fellow tenants, of children playing wildly in the stairwells, of spontaneous clothing swaps in the laundry room. Years later, when I was living in the shadows of the Towers, I came to appreciate the street-level retail. Yes, the pizza at Calabria was pretty good, and that Polish grocer got us through some busy weeks, but it was the familiar faces that made us loyal customers. Like many neighbourhoods in transition, the future of the Bell Towers is unknown. Hopefully, the facelift will allow room for a few blemishes, for it is the gritty details that catch our attention and call us to take part in the act of shaping our city.

I would be remiss if I let this issue go by without noting a big change happening at Ottawa Magazine. Our veteran gossip columnist, the affable and hard-working Michael Prentice, has decided he would rather go on the occasional cruise and spend time with family than track the comings and goings of the upper crust. And because no one can replace Michael when it comes to this sensitive subject matter, we’re welcoming long-time journalist Chris Lackner, who will skewer all levels of government in a new column, “The Jester.” 

Dayanti Karunaratne, editor


Reason to Love: Lusk Cave
Chinatown Museum in FOUND

• Chris Lackner is The Jester
Sarah BrownDoubleSpace at MacOdrum Library

Ottawa Is a Place — the story behind the t-shirt and the city’s civic pride
by Tony Martins

In Tune With the Times at Ottawa Folk Fest
by Chris Lackner

Secrets to Tell
Author Frances Itani mines her family history in new novel
By Paul Gessell

Living in the Downtown Core:
Ottawa’s downtown is changing. It’s moving quickly from a big town
to a small city. These are the people, places, and spaces amid
the core’s changing landscape

Change is Good?
A look at the positives — and the pitfalls — of gentrification
By Mark Bourrie   Photography by Dwayne Brown 

My ’hood, Your ’hood
Newcomers and old-timers dish on favourite haunts
Photography by Tony Fouhse

My Story
Vanier’s orphaned landmark
By Mike Steinhauer

Family life in Little Italy
By Nichole McGill

My Guilt Trip
By David McDonald 

Urban Study
At home with four committed downtowners

A Day in the Life
Minute by minute, hour by hour — at work and play with four urbanites
Photography by Rémi Thériault and Jamie Kronick

Photo by Luther Caverly

Photo by Luther Caverly

Alpaca is the new cashmere. Find it at Magpie Hill.

MY LOOK Talking life + style with Matt Carson


Connecting farm to fork by Shawna Wagman

Quest for raspberries by Cindy Deachman

Plus City Bites — foodie gossip and other juicy bits


David Lawrason picks top Greek wines


Spotlight on Erling’s Variety

New reviews of Ginza Ramen, Mamma Teresa Chelsea Ristorante, and The Rex

Carp Fair, Folk Festival Favourites, plus See, Hear, Read with Paul Gessell


The Examined Space by rob mclennan

POLITICS CHATTER: Whipped: Documentary asks “Who comes first?” — a politician’s party or his constituents?

You’d think a film called Whipped would be the kind of thing that you’d watch after the kids are asleep. But Sean Holman’s new documentary didn’t come in the 21st century equivalent of a plain brown package. Still, it provokes certain emotions that might leave you a bit shaky.

Holman, founding editor of the pioneering British Columbia-based online investigative political news service Public Eye, made Whipped as his Master’s thesis at Carleton University. The film is about the bind that so many members of legislatures and parliament find themselves in: are they employed by their political party or their constituents?

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POLITICS CHATTER (U.S. election edition): You’d have to be crazy to want this job

By Mark Bourrie

I pity the fool who wins Tuesday’s presidential election.

Not only because I enjoy stealing Mr. T’s favorite line, but also because I think I understand the place that’s already been carved in history for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Because no one can get through the next four years and come out looking good unless they have the intellectual caliber of Franklin Roosevelt, the arm-twisting skills of Lyndon Johnson, and the focus of Abraham Lincoln. Unless I am very mistaken about Romney, neither candidate meets those qualifications.

The US is not only mired in an economic Depression, it has serious structural and systemic problems. The Great Depression of the 1930s was worse but, although the banks failed, the factories still existed. When the economy began to turn around, the factories re-opened. Small businesses saw an influx of cash from workers’ pay envelopes. And all this happened before World War II put the economy into over-drive.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Time to stop messing around and give the NCC a firm mandate

“Why do you hate the NCC?” a radio host once asked me.

I was taken aback. Hate the NCC? It seemed like such a bizarre question. (The rest of the interview was just as strange. By the end of it, I was carefully examining the radio host’s hairline, marveling at how well the surgeons hid the lobotomy scar.)

Why would anyone hate the NCC?  It’s sort of like a local Santa, bringing us canal skating and beaches at Meech Lake, Lac Philippe and Lac La Pêche. It makes us snow slides and provides a venue for every drunk in eastern Ontario and west Quebec to show their stuff on Canada Day.

I don’t hate it. But I think the NCC needs work, or could be radically pruned without any harm at all to the National Capital region and the country.

Let me count the reasons.

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POLITICS CHATTER: The Harper government’s War on Brains

Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie ponders the direction of the federal public service cuts and wonders whether the stupid will inherit the earth.

A year into the Harper government’s majority, we’re at war. Not just in Afghanistan, where, it seems, our troop pull-out failed to be bellum interruptus. Or in the Arctic, where, yet again and with much fanfare, we’ve unleashed our Inuit militiamen to intimidate the Russians.

We’re at war right here in Ottawa. The battles are being fought in government labs, in libraries, on the floors of slaughterhouses. We’re engaged in a War on Brains and, so far, brains are losing.

The War on Brains was first identified by American social satirist Jim Earl, formerly of the Daily Show and more recently with the now-defunct  Air America radio network. In the States, the War on Brains was fought by the Bush administration against academics who questioned the war in Iraq, studied climate, and challenged the administration’s economic policy.

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INSIDER: Dishing on last night’s Politics and the Pen dinner. Hint: Barbara Amiel rocked it

Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie (author of The Fog of War, hence the invite) dishes on his first visit to last night’s star-studded Politics & the Pen dinner.

I was not the star of the show. Short, fat, bald, middle-aged, unfamous married men rarely are.

Nor were the MCs: David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, and Gary Doer, Canada’s man in Washington.

Lots of TV recognizables — the lovely Amanda Lang, the owlish Craig Oliver, the stern Chantal Hébert. But they weren’t the stars.

Nor was Cohen Prize winner Richard Gwyn or the three other brilliant writers who competed for the prize and actually showed up.

No. It was Her.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Why the Alberta vote should strike fear into the heart of the Harper government

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie explains the surprise Alberta election result — and why it bodes badly for the federal Tories.

The web is being scrubbed clean of all the commentary about the new Wild Rose majority government and how it signals a sea-change in Canada’s political system. But unfortunately newspapers still come out on paper.

The edition of the Globe and Mail that was sold in Ottawa this morning has “Alberta prepares for change but challenges remain the same” as its main headline. The National Post is even more chock-a-block with “Dewey Defeats Truman” talk. “Unless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta,” Andrew Coyne blusters on the front page, under the headline “Wildrose changed political game.” Says Coyne: “All that remained at time of writing, assuming the polls were not completely off, was whether it would be a minority or majority.”

Inside, under the headline “Tories’ big tent torn open in campaign,” newly-minted kid pundit Jen Gerson is a little more careful and, being on the ground in Alberta, understands that this election was a battle between two very different kinds of conservatism. Her last quote is a guy saying “I’m baffled by it.”

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POLITICS CHATTER: Offering up a cost-cutting suggestion for Tony Clement — time to scrap the NCC

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie offers up a cost-cutting suggestion to Tony Clement: Ditch the NCC!

I have an idea for Tony Clement and his budget cutters that will not only save federal taxpayers millions of dollars a year but will also recover hundreds of millions more that are locked up in federal real estate holdings. Let’s get rid of the NCC.

It’s a relic of the 1950s, an unwieldy, undemocratic, unresponsive, and expensive bureaucracy that replicates services and has no obvious public benefit. Lots of other NCC operations should either be handed to the city — with grants, if warranted — or to agencies of the federal and provincial governments.

Why, for instance, are small parks like Confederation Park across from City Hall and Brébeuf Park on the Ottawa River in the west end of Hull run by the NCC? Those parks serve no national purpose. They’re city parks. Let the cities pay for them.

The NCC also runs a network of small conservation areas. This allows the NCC to maintain yet another set of employees and bureaucrats, while letting the local conservations authorities off the hook.

Same with roads owned by the NCC: the river and canal driveways and the Airport Parkway. Those are city roads. They would be in fine hands if they were handed over to Ottawa and Gatineau.

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REALITY CHECK: Why do “fiscally prudent” Tory governments always seem to be just a couple of budgets away from financial stability?

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie gets into a dustup in McDonald’s — over the fiscal prudence of Tory goverments, of all things.

I had a little tussle with a guy in the Bronson Street McDonald’s this morning. I was a tad grumpy, and the big fella said something that worked me into a lather.

All the newspapers are carrying stories about the report by economist Don Drummond that says Ontario has to make big cuts to spending and jack up user fees and utilities costs if Queen’s Park is serious about balancing the provincial budget.

My sparring partner, a hefty and unkempt guy, was hollering about the wonderful fiscal situation in Alberta. That province, he said, was “on the road to a balanced budget.”

I reminded him that Tory governments are always on the road to a balanced budget. They just never seem to get there.

Take the federal Tories. Except for one year, when the Tories had taken over from Paul Martin and hadn’t had a chance to work their fiscal magic, no Tory federal government has balanced the books since the days of John Diefenbaker.

The Clark government couldn’t do it, despite a big hike to the gasoline tax.

Mulroney and his finance minister, Michael Wilson — who was often praised as a Bay Street boy and a financial wizard — never balanced a budget and, in fact, doubled the national debt while in power from 1984 until 1993. Wilson was always a couple of budgets away, he’d say, from financial stability. But, like a bar that promises “free beer tomorrow,” he never delivered.

And yet, through the years, Tories have adopted the whines of their Republican counterparts in the States and moaned about “tax and spend” Liberals.

Which brings me back to my buddy at Micky Ds and our little chat.

“Oil,” says I, “is at the highest sustained level in human history. If Alberta can’t balance a budget with royalties from $100 oil, what happens when the price falls back to $50 or $20?” I reminded him that Tories are always on the road to a balanced budget, but never seem to deliver.

My sensible wife dragged me before we could go at it on the Heritage Fund, which is supposed to help Alberta adjust to life after oil. Yes, there are a few billion in the fund, but for Alberta to cope in the post-oil world, it will need millions of new jobs in some kind of productive work. Most of the work force will have to be re-trained, and a lot of new infrastructure will need to be built.

There’s $15.4 billion in the Heritage Fund. It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not enough to even begin to remake — and save — the economy of Alberta when the oil boom is over.

There’s a reason why Tories like deficits. It gives them the excuse they need to go after public sector workers, students, non-government organizers, and other people they don’t like. They get to cut social services and screw over the poor.

And, if there’s a recession, they get to help out their corporate pals with tax cuts, interest-free loans, and other goodies.

As we head into a round of Tory cuts to federal programs, we can expect them to engage in class warfare against middle-class, unionized government employees and the “undeserving” poor. To some, they’ll look like prudent fiscal mangers.

But to people who can read a balance sheet, they’ll likely still be less than zeroes.

POLITICS CHATTER: Family values — and a trip through the Sun’s classifieds section

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie wonders if the Sun Media chain’s family values are up to snuff.

Well, I’ll be a dirty bird. Roll me in eleven herbs and spices and call me Kentucky Fried. I’m shocked and appalled. Outraged. Think of the kids.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, people on Parliament Hill and the handful of viewers of Sun News were subjected to the moral outrage of Sun TV staffers spewing spittle on their camera lenses because the CBC was peddling soft-core porn on a Radio-Canada website. Seems Radio-Canada had a partnership deal with an outfit in France to produce a soft-core romp comedy called Hard, which centres on some chump who inherits a porn magazine business. Sun denounced the entire CBC and trashed them for using taxpayers’ money for smut that’s posted for easy viewing by your kids and mine.

I’m very happy that the Sun folks troll the Internet looking for porn. I know there is some out there, so I am always glad when someone takes the bullet for me and warns me off smut sites. I’m sure my adolescent children don’t look at porn on the Internet, but that could change. Thanks, Sun TV, for looking out for them.

My gratitude turned to rage when I picked up a free copy of the Ottawa Sun, mere blocks from one of the city’s high schools. Left in a coffee shop for anyone to pick up, this newspaper had a page of  ads for actual prostitutes!

Not softcore porn.

Not hardcore porn.

Yes! Hookers! Eager to seduce our young people and break up our families.

And it gets worse. (I’ll get to that later.)

Let’s see what’s on offer in the Sun’s classifieds.

There’s the gay cruiseline. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t want my six-year-old to read it. And an ad for Shemale Suzy Hung. There’s also the eager Mistress Whitney, offering “Exp’d Dom & Fantasy,” and one ad with the heading GRAND OPENING, which is not only suggestive but rather daunting.

You can get take-out or eat in. You can bring your spouse, or two people can come to your house. Here’s where it gets worse… some of these “organizations” are actually hiring.

Yes, the Ottawa Sun is engaged in a campaign to lure our daughters, our wives, our sisters, our mothers, and maybe our little brothers, into a life of whoredom. That’s why, when the Sun newspaper delivery guys come by my house, I will set the dog on him.

I don’t know what’s happened to morality in this country. Where, oh where, is the idea of a “family newspaper?”

While I do thank the Sun for trolling the Internet and protecting me from inadvertently stumbling on taxpayer-funded filth, I simply cannot forgive them with sprinkling whore recruitment ads around our high schools and on city busses.

Enough is enough, I say. Someone should pass a law.