A step in the right direction
By Richard Webb
The Mutchmor rink will be reinstalled this fall, but the announcement of the decision is a mix of good news and bad.
The return of the rink, the result of pressure by the community and its representatives, is welcome. Unfortunately, what is being hailed in some quarters as an unqualified victory is merely a first step towards what was sought by the community – the return of the original rink.
The official press release refers to a “smaller rink” and a “modified rink.” Other communications reveal that the rink is to “cater to the predominantly younger population.” As one often has to read between the lines when dealing with officialdom, this sets off alarm bells.
Left unsaid in the press release is that the proposed rink will be 20 by 35 metres. The old rink was 20 by 50 metres, some 43 per cent longer than what is now proposed.
Underlying the community’s push for the return of the rink were three main principles:
1) that those who cannot afford organized hockey should have a right to play hockey at a public rink in their own neighbourhood.
2) that the Glebe – like most other neighbourhoods – should have a boarded rink on which all age groups can play hockey.
3) that public officials and bodies should honour their promises.
Reintroduction of a smaller rink fails to meet these principles. It is too small for hockey (especially for older age groups) and it fails to hold the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) to its promise to return the rink that it closed “temporarily” in 2013.
Apparently, the City and the OCDSB considered two options: put a rink of the same size in a slightly different location or put a smaller rink at Mutchmor. The smaller rink was “the one preferred by the OCDSB.”
Given its promise to return the rink, the preferences of the OCDSB are irrelevant. Its original preference was not to return the rink at all. It only grudgingly agreed to return a rink after community pressure and media exposure. The community has shown it was not content to accept the OCDSB’s original preference for no rink, and initial indications are it is equally disinclined to accept a smaller rink.
Equally troubling is the process by which this matter was purportedly resolved. Initially, communications to officialdom were completely ignored. However, once the Glebe Report and CTV News publicized the story, emails were suddenly and promptly answered and assurances of support were received. A public meeting was held in May, at which time the community showed its strong support for return of the rink. But this meeting was followed by a complete lack of information or consultation until after the City and the OCDSB concluded their agreement in October. Despite how the community championed this issue, no community representative was ever invited to deliberations between the City and the OCDSB, nor were any proposals or options, such as rink size or location, ever communicated.
In fairness, the interests of the community and public officials are often divergent. Officials must deal with many issues and are primarily interested in trying to reconcile conflicting interests and avoid controversy. Accordingly, it remains the responsibility of the community to agitate to ensure that its interests are properly understood and addressed.
Consequently, the community has the right to be heard and to participate in decision-making rather than have decisions made and imposed by officials. Officials making arbitrary decisions in the absence of meaningful input and participation by those most affected does not constitute participatory democracy.
Moving forward, the Glebe Community Association has indicated that it has an informal agreement with the City and the OCDSB to review the situation after the first year of operation and is working toward formalizing the agreement which will hopefully include the possible reinstallation of the original bigger rink.
It is now up the community to decide whether it is content to accept the half measures proposed, to wait until the spring to reassess the situation or to continue to press for return of the original rink as promised (see box). As always, community comments and suggestions, particularly on which of the three options you favour, and on your your rink experiences over the winter are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Webb is a former Mutchmor School parent who has spearheaded the Glebe community’s efforts to have the Mutchmor rink returned to the community.
Request for community opinion
In 2013, the Ottawa Carleton Board of Education closed the boarded hockey rink at Mutchmor to facilitate construction of the school addition. The OCDSB has now agreed to return the rink to Mutchmor; however, the rink (see Option 2 on the graphic) will be 30 per cent shorter than the original (Option 1).
A group of residents has been pushing for the return of the rink for some time and is interested in your opinion as to what further action, if any, should be taken. As this group wishes to represent and takes its direction from the community at large, it would be appreciated if you would take the time to contact Richard Webb at email@example.com to advise which of the following options you favour:
Refrain from any further action;
Continue to press for return of the original rink;
Wait until the end of the first year of operation to determine if further action is warranted; or
Wait until the end of the first year of operation to determine if further action is warranted only if the OCDSB commits to reviewing the situation – with the possible return of the original rink – at the end of the season.
Please also advise if you wish to receive information on future developments. Your name and contact details will be kept private and confidential. Thank you for your assistance.