Death of a Beer Store

The Beer Store at Pretoria is closing. In and of itself, this is not particularly noteworthy, but the circumstances surrounding it are tad unsavoury.

Notice only went up for the closing last week. That is all the notice that the Beer Store had. The store is located in a relatively small commercial lot that also hosts a Liquor Store and a Loblaws. The landlord, Loblaws, wants to expand, so the Beer Store and the Liquor Store are closing. The Liquor Store is being renovated. The Beer Store is history.

It is easy to dismiss this matter, as Loblaws should be free to do with their property what they want. That is true to an extent (though property rights are an artificial construction). But the manner in which they have gone about this paints them as the stereotypical villain of cheesy Hollywood fare.

You see, this isn’t the first time Loblaws has attempted to expand. Situated in the north end of the Glebe, residents have objected vigorously each time. Consequently, all previous attempts to expand were thwarted. So, what does Loblaws do? They make these plans, set everything in motion and begin eviction plans without telling anybody.

It is easy to dismiss any controversy as typical NIMBYism; it is the Glebe, afterall. But the residents near the Loblaws have valid reason to be concerned about the expansion of the grocer. The south side of the lot is on Pretoria Ave., a mostly residential street. The west side of the lot is adjacent to Metcalfe Ave. (another residential street) across from a retirement community. The roads surrounding the lot are not capable of handling excessive traffic flows (one need only visit the area during rush to see the mess that Chamberlain, on the north side of the lot) becomes).

Neighbours of a property are stakeholders in that property, as the development, care or neglect of property has negative effects on the neighbours. Controlling for these externalities is why we have zoning laws and why we have public consultations. Owning a plot of land does not grant someone the privilege of ruining the enjoyment of their property.

The Loblaws development will certainly have an adverse impact on its neighbours. Is that enough to justify thwarting the development? I can’t say. But it is clear that the way Loblaws is going about this development makes them bad neighbours.

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A bridge somewhere

The Kettle Island Bridge project has been scuttled. When the NCC, and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec had announced that they had, finally, chosen a location for a new bridge, it was a little hard to believe. The talk of an eastern bridge has been lingering for as long as I can remember, literally. But never were there signs of much progress.

Until this past month, when the finally decided: a bridge at Kettle Island made the most sense. It made sense for traffic, for environmental concerns and for cost. It wasn’t an easy call. Every potential location has drawbacks, and every potential location has residents ready to complain.

Unfortunately, shortly after participating in the selection process, the Ontario government reneged. It strains credulity to believe anything other than NIMBYism caused the policy reversal.

There’s no clear answer as to which proposed location for a bridge would be best. An honest debate can exist. What there is no debate about is the need for another bridge. King Edward is abused each and every day, with thousands of trucks cutting through downtown Ottawa. King Edward has become a scar in the city. It bisects a neighbourhood, making an artificial barrier between Lowertown and the Market.

In the Ottawa Sun, Ron Corbett reports on how this decision has deflated the hope of many Lowertown residents:

There have been some dark rumblings in Lowertown since the bridge proposal was killed. People openly saying affluent communities like Manor Park and Rockliffe were given special treatment. Chosen for government protection over the working-class neighbourhood of Lowertown.

Others wonder if anyone in power really wants to solve the problem. Or instead, has Lowertown become a blank page for urban planners, a non-existent community where they are free to do whatever they want. Live out any dream.

Can there be any doubt that residents of Lowertown just don’t mean as much to the provincial government?

What’s in a name?

redblacksThe south side stands of Lansdowne Park/Frank Clair Stadium (are they still going to call it Frank Clair Stadium?) are quickly rising and we’re coming to the one year countdown to the return of professional football to Ottawa. With the CFL holding a tight grip on “Rough Riders”, and “Renegades” belonging to a legacy no one wants to claim, the ownership group had to set out for a new nickname.

They settled on RedBlacks (Rouge et Noir in french).

Predictably, there’s a lot of negative feedback. A lot. It’s considered silly, embarrassing, fake and ridiculous. However, if the agitated are honest with themselves, they’ll admit that just about any name that might have been chosen would have been roundly panned.

And if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that the Ottawa staples in team nicknames, “Rough Riders” and “Senators”, are pretty sad. (Seriously, take away the history associated with the Senators and tell me you’d still want to name your team, essentially, the Mike Duffys.)

But the RedBlacks will grow on us. Naming a team after the team colours (which, themselves, have a storied legacy in Ottawa) isn’t particularly radical. It’s actually rather common (hello Ottawa U., Laval, Stanford, Syracuse, Bo Sox, Chi Sox and Reds). Even if you’re not convinced, this is the CFL. It’s not like this is the home of great names. Let’s review:

Roughriders – The original Rough Rider name is silly enough, cramming the two words together is just added ridiculousness. You can’t slag RedBlacks but give the Roughriders a pass… at least not without cognitive dissonance so extreme it’ll rattle you more than the pile driving at Lansdowne.

Ti-Cats/Tiger-Cats – Have you ever actually called a tiger a “tiger-cat”? Me neither. I know it’s a combination of the names of two clubs that merged, but that doesn’t excuse anything. Plus, if we think it’s a bad to make a new word with RedBlack, how is making “Ti” a word any better?

Blue Bombers – So, what?, they’re sad?

Alouette It’s a lark. A lark. C’mon, who names a football team after a lark?

Eskimos – Hey, at least RedBlack isn’t considered a racial epithet.

The rest of the league is barely better. “Argonauts” is kind of neat and, at one time, semi-meaningful, if rather esoteric. “Lions” is pretty typical and bland, but, all around, unobjectionable. “Stampeders” is about the only name that makes sense both as a nickname for a sports team and for the region in which the team is based.

So, sure, RedBlacks isn’t great, but in context, it’s really not that bad.