The perils of naming stuff after living people

The city definitely gets a kick out of naming things (parks, bridges, etc.) after prominent local people. For example, we just named the pedestrian bridge between the train station and the ball park after Max Keeping. Certainly a lovely gesture.

But things can sometimes go awry when you commemorate people in this manner, especially the living. The best of intentions can turn out rather unfortunate. Something like that just happened in Ottawa.

Though not nearly significant enough to be a true scandal, the city just officially named a multi-use path out in the Osgoode area after Doug Thompson, former mayor and city councillor. It would seem like a commendable gesture, and, for the most part, it is. Thompson was a long-serving politician who worked hard to get the pathway built. I’ve heard very few bad things said about him.

If you’re thinking you’ve heard some other news about Thompson recently, you’re right. Last week, Thompson became the first candidate to announce running for the Ontario PC nomination for the newly-created riding of Carleton.

So nine days after he announced his candidacy, he got a nice naming ceremony thrown in his honour. That’s not really appropriate.

I’m not saying there’s much that could have been done. It would have been rather gauche to rescind the honour once he announced, and I get why you want honour a person while he’s still alive. But maybe, at least for politicians, we shouldn’t be so quick to hand out these honours, lest news breaks to complicate things.

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