Chianello: A better budget, a better budget process


Seriously? “Consider that most councillors were stunned to discover at a recent transportation meeting that the cycling infrastructure was not included in that department’s budget, even though the cycling program was already approved as part of the transportation master plan. Instead, cycling is to be funded through a so-called “strategic initiative” pot of money that councillors will battle over later this year. “

Originally posted on Ottawa Citizen:

A survey.

That was the most contentious, most discussed issue at Wednesday’s special council meeting where our elected officials unanimously approved a $3-billion budget and two per cent tax hike for residents. Debate about the survey overshadowed all other issues: rising transit fares, the serious concerns over the lack of record-keeping on student immunization levels, the $400,000 going to Crime Prevention Ottawa for a gang “exit strategy.”

It’s hard to say exactly why first-time Coun. Riley Brockington’s motion ended up being so fractious. It called for staff to survey councillors about “all aspects of the 2015 budget process” and to bring back the answers as part of the 2016 budget directions. The motion didn’t specify the survey questions, but Brockington indicated that he’d like some basic feedback on whether councillors felt they had enough information on the budget, or whether the budget was displayed in a way that was understandable.

Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong.

The motion started…

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Eye Spy: Ecology Ottawa & Sandy Hill come together Tonight

ecologyEcology Ottawa would like to invite Sandy Hill residents to learn more about the Ecology Ottawa Community Network and our campaigns. If you’re interested in getting involved or just curious, please join us on Tuesday, March 3rd at 7 pm.

March 03, 2015 at 7pm – 9pm
Sandy Hill Community Centre
250 Somerset East
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6V6
Google map and directions
Diane Beckett · · 613-231-6274

Eye Spy: Countdown to #Nordstrom Grand Opening

NordstromThe countdown is on! This Friday, March 6, Nordstrom is throwing open the doors at their flagship Ottawa location in the Rideau Centre and we can’t wait. Having seen the care and detail they have put in to the fittings and fixtures at the media preview and the attention to detail in their outreach we expect great things from his retailer.

The invitations to preview and visit the site have been fast and furious – this is an organization that has demonstrated great interest in plugging in and engaging with out local community. Hosting events since last year and a flurry of happening this week.

Find below a couple of opening day promotions from the PR and service team!

More  than just fashion there are some wonderful site highlights: The in-house restaurant, the kid’s play area and the outstanding change rooms!

Opening Day Beauty Bash:  Friday, March 6, 7:30-9:30 a.m.
In addition to the excitement taking place inside the store (please see below), the outside of the store will also be a hot spot as Nordstrom hosts a cosmetics and fragrance “Beauty Bash” at its mall entrance.  Nordstrom beauty advisors will offer complimentary skincare consultations.  Nordstrom Beauty Director Loredana Grama will share the latest beauty tips and tricks. Loredana is also available for media interviews about seasonal beauty and fragrance trends.
Opening Day Store Countdown:  Friday, March 6, 9:30 a.m.
More than 600 employees have been working and waiting for this day!  Department teams will begin their own cheers, and then Store Manager John Banks will start rallying all the employees for what has become a Nordstrom opening tradition: a rowdy final store-wide opening countdown, during which employees will line the aisles near the store’s entrances to welcome and applaud the first customers through the doors when they open.  Members of the Nordstrom family will be available for brief interviews.  It’s a great opportunity to get customers’ first reactions to the new store.  Important note:  Media interested in capturing the countdown and opening from inside the store can arrange for early store entry at 9:15 a.m.

Tremendous that this location was chosen for this, Nordstrom’s second location in our great country! Merci et Bienvenue!

After five years in suspended animation, Rake-star, Ottawa’s Sun Ra tribute project, returns


Rake-Star a Sun Ra Tribute at MugShots Saturday night.
See you there ~ Local awesomeness

Originally posted on Ottawa Citizen:

Fans of jazz and anagrams won’t be puzzled by the name of the Ottawa group Rake-star. Rearrange the letters and you get arkestra, as in the free-wheeling, costumed and cosmic ensemble that the late keyboardist and bandleader Sun Ra led from the mid-1950s until his death in 1993. Note that I didn’t add the usual geographic descriptor (“New York-based,” for example) to Ra, since he considered himself to be a Saturn-raised member of the Angel Race.

In Ottawa, Rory Magill has convened Rake-star since 2000. The collective had been inactive for the last five years until late in January, when its latest iteration played at Raw Sugar Cafe. The group is back in action this Saturday at Mugshots. Maybe we can look forward to monthly sightings of Ottawa’s Sun Ra tribute project.

Below, Magill discusses Rake-star’s return.

Tell me the quick version of the tale of Rake-star to date. When…

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Undercurrents – Raising the Bar 12-21 February 2015

Attendance at Undercurrents opening night was testament to Ottawa’s writing and performing talents where a boisterous and enthusiastic crowd filled the house for a trio of outstanding acts. As the festival grows year on year now extending over two weekends with more than 30 performances and an international act to boot the bar (sic)is set  high in both theatrical standards and as a shining example of how to run a event.

Pat Gauthier in the Studio

Pat Gauthier in the Studio

Undercurrents delivers quality theatre in a convivial roughly-polished atmosphere proving it’s the sum of the parts that create a success. Planning to stay for only the first play it was the attention brought to the overall experience that drew me in to buy tickets and contribute to the Pay-What-You-Can (PWYC) act in the Studio (ahem bar) sandwiched between the two pay shows.

Remarks throughout the night from Festival Director Patrick Gauthier provided a welcoming, personal note to the proceedings. Gauthier’s vision and genuine enthusiasm alongside his personable approach is energising theatre in this city.

First up was Thunk!Theatre who set sail in Far & Near & Here on a serendipitous journey of self discovery with a first date thrown in for good measure. Plastic bottles haphazardly litter the set and the opening is rather choppy until Ned (Geoff McBride) and Ted (Karen Balcome) row in to each other’s lives via a notebook left in a cafe and a series of long-distance postcards. Meeting at a GPS point, Here, halfway between their respective homes of Near and Far both are at sea in more ways than one. The discarded bottles and office chairs are not only rowboats nor simply a metaphor for plastic choked oceans but as these two strangers are forced to face personal dissatisfaction head on the play moves from purposefully whimsy to become a pensive thought-provoking piece.

Air by Tottering Biped Theatre was a one-man physical performance with Trevor Copp nothing short of astonishing as he wordlessly encapsulates life after death, a stag hunt, and a man who reaches for and climbs to the stars. These brief performances set to well chosen soundtracks carried the audience easily with physical performances delivering beauty, humour and humanity.  Expecting little at the outset this act proved to be the gem of opening night.

Love + Hate by The Peptides delivers song-filled vignettes tackling the big issues of the day from corporate corruption through the polarizing effects of love and hate. The vocals of this 9-piece are fantastic, clearly a crowd pleaser, as evidenced by the packed house but the theatricality of the performances left me cold; the vocals far outstripping the Thespian routine. A straight-up concert strikes me as a more tempting proposition though I seemed to be in the minority on the night.

A glimpse of the generous spread

A glimpse of the generous spread

The curation of this event is fantastic. Across-the-road local class act resto-bar The Albion Rooms was enlisted to cater opening night and Chef Stephen La Salle outdid himself with a fantastically generous and creative spread. Most dates includes a PWYC option allowing the uninitiated to dip a toe in fringe with satisfying acts in the bar (ahem Studio). On Wednesday Feb 18th they’ve organised a free beer tasting with Dominion City sandwiched between SPIN at 19:00 and Marathon at 21:00 taking theatre accessibility to a whole new level. Ottawa’s theatres can frequently be staid seemingly forgetting that pretension is no marker of success or enjoyment.   Not so at Undercurrents where the delivery of the experience is equal to the quality of the selected pieces. Gauthier and co deliver an experience where the NAC season-ticket holder will feel as comfortable as a Sens fan. Neither precious nor pretentious Undercurrents gets it right delivering professional quality theatre alongside a proper night out.

ArtsCourt, 2 Daly Ave, Ottawa, ON

12-21 February 2015

Illuminated: @centre454 shines a light on vulnerable neighbours

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Centre 454 and their outreach to Ottawa’s vulnerable community.

Tonight to celebrate this landmark of caring for the community Centre 454 will be presenting a free photo exhibit by Onno Kremers at Ottawa City Hall from 4PM.


Photo: Onno Kremers Courtesy Centre 454 website

“Illuminated” is a black and white exhibit of photographs and words that strips away the often harsh environmental backdrop from these neighbours and focuses in on their face, their lives and their humanity.

Join Centre 454, Mayor Jim Watson and artist Onno Kremers at tonight’s exhibition and silent auction that will include refreshments and story-telling.

This event is free but donations to those who give so much to our neighbours and community are being accepted.

Ottawa City Hall – Jean Pigott Place
110 Laurier Avenue West

An Evening Pulling Pints down the Gladstone with “Two”

An edited version of this review has been published at
Set in a northern UK town Jim Cartwright’s Two features Michelle LeBlanc and Richard Gelinas in not only the roles of husband and wife publicans, but also as the dozen or so characters that pop in for a drink over the course of an evening down the pub.

Two_vThis inventive two-hander opens with the landlord and lady deftly serving imaginary customers whilst biting and snapping vicious asides – the play slowly reveals clues to this brewing storm. Laughingly they pull pints as she rolls her eyes and snarls at his tired banter while he berates her for wasting profits by sitting a drink to a regular. They’ve no social life and no family life as all is “pulled” from behind the bar.

Via swift changes Leblanc and Gelinas take the audience through a cast of characters rich in human emotion as they paint a vivid picture of a community populated by lively and varied regulars. For anyone who has lived in the UK, Cartwright’s writing is bang on as are the portrayals of the very real and penetrative stories that lie behind the everyman down the local. While certain moments may teeter on the verge of saccharin or melodrama, the stories seem penned from real lives and this keeps the narrative solid.

Two invites its audience, some literally on stage, to inhabit the pub as an old dear, “regular as clockwork,” enters stage left. She takes her quiet Guinness and shares that the booming laughter of the butcher down the shops and her drink are the small daily respites from the onerous burden of being the sole aging carer for her ailing husband. The beating heart of her reality lingers as she finishes up and slowly shuffles off.

The characters come and go, some successful and others less so. The lecherous Moth and girlfriend Maudie seem a tired effort; caricature rather than character. While the couple that come to watch the telly and eat packets of crisps prompted spontaneous pleasure and mid-act applause.

LeBlanc is more consistent with greater endurance in maintaining the marathon demands of these performances. The accents are at times slippery as eels with some clearly antipodean moments but there are a few good “loves” that wouldn’t be out of place in Sheffield. In the whole LeBlanc & Gelinas do not disappoint as they populate this pub with the bereft, the angry, the cowed and the hopeful.
When the root of the disharmony between the pub owners is revealed, it’s a sobering coffee at the end of a long night leaving a sharp taste that concludes the evening with the sense of a journey still to be taken.

Finally it’s the collective of portraits that lingers gently, emphasised by Cartwright’s landlord and lady remaining nameless to the end. And that’s the success of this production, some sketches outshine others but it’s the collective that makes it work. Everyday lives publicly moving forward while challenges are privately waged within. These ordinary, even common, lives will undoubtedly leave some uncomfortable and others cold –but to people watchers, voyeurs and those that enjoy social commentary, these curious characters and John P. Kelly’s subtle direction will sing.

The Gladstone Theatre
until January 31, 2015.