Ottawa’s Top News Stories of 2018
On the afternoon of September 21, 2018, a localized outbreak in the national capital region of 6 tornadoes impacted eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. The Dunrobin-Gatineau tornado was classified as a high-end EF3, with winds reaching 265 km/h. Dubbed Ottawa-Gatineau’s tornadoes, they blew down houses and blacked out half of the city. However, despite injuries to over thirty people and extensive property damage no one was killed. Most impressive of all was the response of Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordereau and other security and emergency services as well as the hydro companies. Power was restored to all areas of the region within 10 days of the impact and there was no looting or increase in crime. Communities came together and helped those affected as elected officials and city officials were on top of the disaster from the get-go. While a difficult time for many, the response of officials and the community was goldstar. Bravo.
The National Capital Commission Cancel RendezVous LeBreton
On December 20, 2018, The National Capital Commission terminated the RendezVous LeBreton redevelopment plan in the heart of downtown Ottawa after Eugene Melnyk of the Ottawa Senators and John Ruddy of Trinity Developments sued each other over the demise of their consortium. The cancellation of the billion dollar project left many questioning whether Melnyk even had the money for the project in the first place or whether he was involved in a cynical ploy to get the consortium or the city to pay for a new NHL arena for his hockey team, the Ottawa Senators. The collapse of the project is yet another example of the National Capital Commission completely botching major capital projects. The rules for the original bid process put together by bureaucrats at the NCC were so onerous that only two groups ended up bidding on the project. So it's back to the drawing board with the NCC doing the same thing all over again. Ugh.
The Good Mayor – Watson Wins Again
Jim Watson, Canada's Most Popular Mayor, is re-elected for a third straight term (and 4th term as Mayor). Watson was a former Ottawa city councilor (1991–1997) and mayor (1997–2000), and subsequently represented the riding of Ottawa West—Nepean in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 2003 to 2010. He was a Minister in the Cabinet of Premier Dalton McGuinty until he resigned in January 2010 to successfully run for mayor in the 2010 Ottawa municipal election. He was re-elected mayor on October 27, 2014 and on October 22, 2018. Known for his friendly demeanor and candidness, Watson is responsible for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) O-Train development in Ottawa which is the largest transportation infrastructure project in the city’s history. The Confederation Line will open in 2019 and stage 2 which will bring rail further east, west and south will continue. Watson has kept taxes down, managed the social services and public works files and ensured the new library building process is underway. He also completed the Ottawa River Action Plan to protect the regions waterways for future generations. Watson has done all this while retaining a significant amount of public support and likeability. Bravo.
Cannabis Comes to the Capital
Local cannabis firms Canopy Growth and HEXO are employing hundreds of people in the national capital region and have built companies with market valuations in the billions of dollars all because of a little plant called marijuana. Across Canada other companies like Organigram in New Brunswick and Delta 9 in Manitoba joined the Ottawa companies in trying to meet the high demand for pot when it became officially legal for public consumption on October 17. By December, the new City of Ottawa Council had approved allowing retail cannabis stores to operate across the region by April, 2019. At the time, the demand was nowhere close to being met across the country which bodes well for this “high” growth industry.
Shocked, sad and dismayed are just some of the words used to describe the feelings of many in Ottawa when it was learned last February that former Ottawa Centre NDP Member of Parliament Paul Dewar had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After the diagnosis, he launched a new grassroots initiative called Youth Action Now that brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to foster greater civic engagement and help young people increase their impact in making a positive change within their communities.
Former Canadian Hostage Joshua Boyle – Arrested on 15 Criminal Charges
On New Year's Day 2018, former Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle made his first court appearance in Ottawa after being arrested on 15 criminal charges including allegations of sexual assault, unlawful confinement and uttering threats. The charges were laid after Caitlan Coleman, Boyle’s American spouse, accused him of physically and emotionally abusing her while the family was being held hostage by Taliban-linked militants. They were kidnapped in 2012 and during the five year captivity she gave birth to three children. Boyle, his wife and the children were freed in October 2017.
Erik Karlsson Sens Era Ends
In September, the Ottawa Senators ended their 9 year run with popular Ottawa star defenceman Erik Karlsson and traded him along with prospect forward Francis Perron to the San Jose Sharks. In exchange, Ottawa got forwards Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenceman Dylan DeMelo, prospect forward Josh Norris and two conditional draft picks.
In 627 career games, Karlsson had 126 goals and 392 assists, while averaging just less than 26 minutes a night. In 48 playoff games, he added another 37 points (six goals, 31 assists). In the 2017 playoffs, Karlsson carried the team leading them in scoring with 18 points — including two game-winning goals — in 19 contests, averaging more than 28 minutes of ice time despite having torn tendons in his left foot. After losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2017, the team then plummeted in the standings in 2017 finishing 30th in the 31-team NHL with just 67 points.
Karlsson’s personal stats dropped in 2017 to 62 points overall (nine goals, 53 assists) – a respectable tally for most, yet lacking for the world’s best defenceman. The trade ended one chapter of what had been a tumultuous period for the franchise. Ticket sales have suffered and it didn’t help that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk kept shooting himself in the head by threatening fans that he might move the team if ticket sales didn't improve. Some fans responded by raising money to fund a series of billboards dissing Melnyk. Personal tragedy then struck Karlsson and his wife Melinda in March 2018 when they announced their first child, a son they named Axel, was stillborn. After the trade, Karlsson, classy as always, tweeted out "Thank you Ottawa for making this my home. All my love to the fans, community and former teammates. You will be dearly missed. On to the next chapter now. Shark nation I’m coming for you."