The body representing businesses in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood is seeking to have the ward’s councillor ousted from its board of directors following a public feud over closing streets to vehicle traffic during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) sent out a bulletin to its members this week stating it would ask the city for a new representative to replace Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard on its board of directors.
The Ontario Municipal Act requires that each BIA have a board member directly appointed by the city — in most cases, this ends up being the councillor representing that BIA’s ward.
But the Glebe BIA said in its bulletin that board members felt the arrangement with Menard was not working and sought a replacement to provide “more consistent reporting from the city and a more fulsome commitment to our organization.”
“The current arrangement was not working in the best interests of our members. It was therefore decided that we would proceed with a request to city council for a new delegate to act as a liaison between us and the municipality,” the bulletin read.
In a statement provided to Global News, Menard said the proposed ousting “came as a surprise.”
Though no explicit reason was given for the BIA’s removal request, Menard said he suspects it’s tied to a failed plan to expand space for pedestrians to physically distance amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Menard’s proposal would’ve seen 19 parking spots on one side of Bank Street removed and set aside for active transportation, giving pedestrians a wider berth to maintain the recommended two metres of distance.
Though Menard says he consulted with both residents and businesses along the strip before crafting a plan to close the streets with the support of city staff, the proposal received backlash from numerous business owners in the area.
While Menard argued providing extra space for pedestrians would promote patronizing local shops, some businesses owners who were just getting access to curbside pickup following forced shutdowns under Ontario’s emergency orders saw the move as counterproductive.
When Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper brought forward a motion in May to help councillors afford to close streets to promote active transportation during the pandemic, Mayor Jim Watson stepped in with a new proposal requiring ward councillors to get two-thirds of businesses affected by any potential street closures to sign off on the change, derailing Menard’s efforts to close the streets and causing a brouhaha at city council.
The Glebe BIA’s move comes after Watson announced plans at Wednesday’s council meeting to close select streets in the ByWard Market to allow restaurants to expand their patios this summer.
Watson later tweeted Wednesday that the proposal reflected the result of councillors and BIAs working “co-operatively” with his office.
Menard said he would not judge small businesses in his ward by the actions of the Glebe BIA’s board.
Similarly, the BIA said it intends to work “collaboratively” with the ward councillor “to support the area’s economic well-being and serve the needs of the community.”
Glebe BIA executive director Andrew Peck declined further comment.
City solicitor David White confirmed to Global News that the city had received a request from the Glebe BIA to replace Menard on its board, and that council has the full authority to grant or deny the move.