Jane’s Walk 2012 – my CBC Radio interview

My Jane’s Walk in 2011: picture this with bikes. And water. And sunshine!

This morning, price CBC Ottawa morning aired an interview with me about the Jane’s Walk I’ll be leading on Sunday afternoon along the Ottawa River waterfront. Give this a listen and please let me know what you think!

CBC Ottawa Morning Interview – May 4 2012

Dennis speaks to producer Christine Maki about attractions and amenities that used to exist along the Ottawa waterfront. The interview took place at the base of the Rideau Canal locks along the NCC Bike Path.

Archive: Other Jane’s Walk interviews from Ottawa Morning.

More info on the Walk:

Yesterday’s Jane’s-Walk-related blog post:

Seven lost tourist attractions on the Ottawa waterfront

As I get ready for my Jane’s Walk tour on Sunday, Bike Tour: Ottawa’s Stolen Urban Waterfront (and how to get it back) I’m getting a rare chance to dig through a lot of old photographs and postcards of the city from the 19th and early 20th Centuries. And it’s amazing to me how much has changed, and how much really amazing, quirky, and lively stuff we’ve lost over the 200 short years we’ve been an urban centre.

Is that retrogressive nostalgia for a mythical bygone era? Maybe. I hope not. I hope it leads to a hopeful discussion about the future of these places, and the city’s waterfronts as a whole.

But as you look at these “lost attractions”, try to imagine how the City’s urban fabric would be different if these things were still there.  And how much buzz, excitement, (and yes City Hall, revenue) could be building around Ottawa if tourist guides still listed them as reasons to visit Ottawa.

Seven lost attractions that surprised me:

Chaudiere Falls as it looked in 1870

Chaudiere Falls

The Falls were not only the reason the City grew here and not – as British planners originally hoped – 20 km inland in Richmond; they were also Ottawa’s earliest, and most dearly treasured, tourist attraction. Champlain himself commented on the beauty of the falls, and every other postcard and souvenir map from before the 1930’s shows the falls in all their untamed beauty. Even early postcards of the Parliament buildings were almost always done from an angle that would show the falls in the background.

So what happened? Of course, now the falls are so strangled by hydro dams and hidden behind the decaying mills on Chaudiere Island that most Ottawans couldn’t even tell you where they are. And where is the great “Free the Chaudiere” movement that could help us work towards restoring this treasure? Hmm. Now there’s an idea…

Victoria Island Timberslide

Prince of Wales rides slide in 1901

This channel cut through Victoria Island used to draw visitors and gawkers to see the huge cribs of timber from the upper Ottawa as they slid down to bypass the Chaudiere Falls. It was such a large attraction that not one, but two Princes of Wales- and future Kings of England – rode down the slide on ceremonial rafts: King Edward VII in 1860 and King George V in 1901.

So what happened? The slide was converted to sluiceway in early 20th century, which can still be seen as an overgrown ditch with a rusting metal trough.

Lover’s Walk

The long lost Lover's Walk

This was a very popular 19th century attraction is featured on most downtown maps before the first World War. It was a forested promenade running around the back of Parliament Hill about 2/3 of the way up the slope, allowing even well-heeled ladies in hoop skirts to walk from Wellington near the canal around Parliament and emerge on Bank Street at its Western end. Here’s some glowing tourist-guide copy about Lover’s Walk.

So what happened? Sadly, this attraction was dismantled in the 1930’s due to a few landslides and some temperance-era moral concerns (corrupting the young and all that). You can still see the ruins in the photos on this great Urbsite post about Lover’s Walk.

Canal Basin

Canal Basin and "By Wash" canal

I was shocked to discover that there used to be a sizable body of water in downtown Ottawa, with docks for steamships and other canal boats extending East and West from the canal where Confederation Park and the Conference Centre are now – as well as a secondary canal that ran from the basin to the Rideau River through what is now the Rideau Centre and Byward Market. Imagine if that body of water looked like this.

So what happened? The relentless growth of Ottawa gradually covered over or filled in the parts of this water system. First the ByWash was “infrastructured” out of existence – with new sewers and drains. Then the East side of the Basin was “railed” out of existence. And finally, the West side was “roadwayed” and “parked” to death.

Britannia Amusement Park and Dance Hall

How awesome would this be?

Built by the owners of the Britannia tram line as a reason to use the line on weekends, this park became Britannia Beach. In addition to a steam train ride for kids, and a few other small attractions, there was also a steamboat terminal that doubled as a dance hall that extended out into the Bay on wooden stilts connected by a long a boardwalk to the beach.

So what happened? Sadly, the dance hall burned during first world war, the trams stopped running, and only recently has a restaurant opened to bring a bit of life back to this urban jewel.

Lansdowne Park

Lansdowne as it appeared around 1890

Lost in the debate over Lansdowne Park was the fact that the space was once an actual waterfront *public space*, before Queen Elizabeth Drive, fence, stadium, and parking lot created mental blockades around the park. Old drawings and photos show buildings right up to the edge of the canal.

So what happened?  Roads. Jurisdictional disputes. Decay. Sole source “renewal”. What didn’t happen? The new plan for Lansdowne will create more parkland, but not the canal-facing restaurants and cafes our city so desperately lacks, and sadly, the roadway remains.

Nepean Bay Beach

Aerial photo from 1950s

Okay, I cheated on this one. It never became a public space per se. But it could have been a jewel. There used to be a sandy beach that stretched between Le Breton Flats (where the War Museum is now) and the Prince of Wales Rail Bridge, and curved inland almost as far South as the Scott /Albert corridor.

In the 1950 Greber Plan, Jacques Greber identified this area as an ideal place for a public park and beach, or in the words of the plan:


So what happened? And there’s the rub as well. Greber’s words “Bordered By a Driveway” evolved into “utterly Destroyed by a four-lane high speed roadway” and the vast embankment that engineers built to support it cut straight across the bay in the mid 60’s. Now the shoreline of the Bay is not much of a Bay at all – just a narrow path with no room for any sort of public space.

Here's what Greber had in mind for Nepean Bay - and the rest of the waterfront

The Growth of Ottawa 1810-1945 – illustrations from Greber plan

As part of my preparation for my 2012 Jane’s Walk, cialis 40mg I found this fascinating sequence of 9 graphics in the Greber plan that show how the urban area of Ottawa (in red) expanded over its first century and a bit.

Here’s the link if you can’t see the Slideshare window.

These made me smile

Anatomy of a very very awkward photo-op

Stephen Harper’s walk on the beach.

This morning, sales I saw this article  in the Canadian edition of Huffington Post: Stephen Harper On The Beach: Prime Minister Takes An Awkward Walk In Colombia. In it, order there was a photo of Stephen Harper walking down the beach in bare feet with his pantlegs rolled up.

My thoughts, in order, were:

  1. Wow, that looks really dorky. I’m almost embarrassed for the guy.
  2. But, because it looks so awkward, that can’t be a staged photo-op.
  3. Good gosh! Maybe the Prime Minister Stephen “Roboshot” Harper actually did something on the spur of the moment.

But then I took  another look at the photo. What are the chances that secret service guy spontaneously commandeered that neon-coloured dune buggy – or alternately that this is some random guy who likes to dress like the Men in Black whilst dune-buggying?

Here's the annotated version

Chapters FAIL: No that’s NOT what I meant by “Toy Story”.

Dear Chapters,

I’m not easily offended. At all. I’m not a fan of censorship, drug and I certainly don’t write a lot of hate letters about stuff that offends my tender sensibilities.

But I do have three young kids. And while I do want them to learn about the world in all of its complexity and strangeness – really I do – I kind of had in mind a gradual unfolding of knowledge. You know, recipe like introduce the really ugly and complicated stuff gradually?

So today while I was looking for Christmas presents my 5 year old son might be interested in, I entered “Toy Story, Books, Fiction & Literature” and as you might imagine, this is what I was looking for.


But this is what I found (and yes I have censored it for a PG audience):


The title of that “eBook” in the corner is “S*x Toy Stories: Er*tic Tales of Naughty Pl*y” (letters changed to keep me out of weirdo searches). And I gotta admit, I was a bit taken aback by the fact that this image and title would appear on the same page as Buzz and Woody… GAH I take that back! See what you made me do there Chapters?!?

But even worse, below it was this:


Okay, I don’t care what the story is about, the title sounds WRONG. Like evil, pathological criminal wrong. And even if the title is misleading and the story is about rainbows and butterflies, the title is enough to make me want to run screaming from the site.

And what’s worse, there’s no way to flag it for Chapters. I get that people can self-publish their Kindle books, and that bad people will want to put sick stuff on the Toy Story page during the Christmas rush. Fine. But nowhere on the page is there even a “Hide” button, or a “Flag this as inappropriate content” link so I can help Chapters get better at filtering their stuff for me.

So Chapters, just thought you should know, you lost a customer today.

Let me know when you fix that and I *might* just come back.

So sorry. A feminine Hygiene adventure

Okay, healing this apology from OB Tampons to their customers for running into supply problems is way over the top, diagnosis but it’s funny, this web shareable, and the customization is really impressive.

Check it out here

But I have to admit, I got childish glee from two things:

1) making the song about some guy named BUBBA.

2) This unintentionally funny error message that appeared above the video. Something about insertion errors and errant strings. 


Jesus comments on the 99% movement (RSV – Republican Standard Version)

It’s bizarre to me that so many prominent conservatives call themselves Christians and yet have so little sympathy for the plight of the working poor, abortion support tax breaks for the rich, viagra order and blame anyone but the wealthy, vote-buying class for the problems we’re in right now.

Jesus didn’t talk that way. At least in my Bible….

But then I realized: they must be reading from a different version of the Bible than the rest of us. And sure enough, see if you can recognize the Jesus that’s quoted in this passage from The Gospel of Newt:


Dear Michael Ignatieff, here’s the “coalition” speech you should have given

For the record: I’m not a Liberal, medicine not a Conservative, pharm not Green, website NDP, or Marxist Leninist or anything. So what’s my political affiliation? Ottawa Centre – because that’s where I believe parliamentary democracy really lives: at the riding level. 

Because of that, I was annoyed when Stephen Harper opened campaign season by raising the spectre of a hypothetical coalition and even more dismayed when Michael Ignatieff took the bait and promised he would never, ever, ever even consider such a thing and how dare Harper suggest it (which Canadians didn’t believe anyway)?

Basically Harper handed him a brush, pointed to a corner, and Iggy happily painted himself into it.

But as branding guy, I saw Harper making two clear plays: 1) a clear move to reposition all of his opponents using a scary C word and 2) a moon shot for majority-or-bust by positioning himself as less scary. So I wondered: how would I have advised Michael Ignatieff to counter-position Harper?

So I humbly suggest: the speech Ignatieff should’ve given.


Canadian voters – yeah, I mean all of you,

Our exalted Minority Leader Stephen Harper has thrown down a bold gauntlet in the early days of this election. And I’m here to tell you we are going to leave that dirty gauntlet on the ground.

Because the challenge Minority Leader Harper has issued is no progressive idea, not an innovative policy, and it’s not a pledge to stop wasting your money on expensive American-style megajails or vastly overpriced stealth fighter planes – because by golly, Minority Leader Harper still wants to spend your multiple billions of tax dollars on his Super Prisons and vanity planes.

Also, sadly, I can’t report that Minority Leader Harper has bravely decided to apologize for, or heaven forbid clean up, his party’s corrupt fundraising practices. Minority Leader Harper also won’t bother to fix the core problems at the heart of his government that led to last week’s ruling of contempt of parliament. Even worse, despite the fact that his minority government fell because they had lost the confidence of the democratically elected House of Commons, he has made no move to restore that confidence.

So today, the big C in “Conservative” is tainted by three other C’s: Corrupt fundraising, Contempt for Canada’s Parliament, and the non-Confidence of those who represent a large majority of voters across this country. (Take note Iggy – these are handy talking points for future speeches too!) 

But rather than fix those three C’s, Minority Leader Stephen Harper is instead trying to insult your intelligence with one more great big scary C: “COALITION SCAREMONGERING!” (Note to Iggy: this is where you do your best SCTV / Count Floyd impression.) “Ooooh Scary stuff kiddies!” 

In other words, our exalted Minority Leader wants you to be afraid of the one thing that scares the beejeezus out of him: Canadian parliamentary democracy.  (Iggy: feel free to hit the podium here. I would)

That’s why he prorogues the house at the drop of a hat. That’s why he refuses to abide by parliamentary rulings. That’s why his right hand men play fast and loose with campaign funding laws. And that’s why he uses basic democratic concepts as bugbears to scare Canadians.

But as Minority Leader Harper would have learned in grade 9 – if he had cared to listen – Canada is not a two party republic like our neighbours to the South, nor are we a one-party dictatorship like those that are falling like dominoes around the world. Canada is a parliamentary democracy. And that means the choices we make are not going to be simple. And it means we will have to shun simplistic answers while embracing scary, messy, and very Canadian values like diversity and community, cooperation and honest public dialogue.

(Iggy: this next bit gets a bit more partisan than I’d feel comfortable with, but your crowd will eat this stuff up)

Now, let me be clear: the Liberal party is not now in a coalition, nor do we believe a coalition is the best option for Canadians. We think that stable, Liberal majority is the best choice for our future. That’s why we are running our campaign to BEAT AND REPLACE Minority Leader Harper and his party – the Contemptuous, Corrupt Conservatives who have lost our Confidence. 

Let me also be clear that we will not enter into any governing agreement – including a coalition – that would compromise any of the core Canadian democratic principals our party, and the country, were founded on. 

But on May 2, if a majority of Canadians again vote strongly against Minority Leader Stephen Harper’s party – which has never received even 38% of Canadian votes – you have my promise that we won’t ignore the will of Canadians as Minority Leader Harper would obviously prefer. Instead, we’ll work with Canadians across the country to govern for them and with their democratically elected representatives.

(Pay attention Iggy: this next bit is the branding part.)  

Oh and in case you are wondering why I’ve started calling our exalted opponent “Minority Leader Stephen Harper”, it’s because I have the sad suspicion the term “Prime Minister” has gone to his head. And if Minority Leader Harper forgets to remind himself every day that he only governs by permission of Canadians and the parliament they elected, well then I guess that’s my job isn’t it?

And because it’s a parliamentary democracy, dear voters, it’s your job too. 

Please, get out and vote on May 2, 2011.

How I spent my summer vacation (or at least one fun day)

viagra sans-serif; color: black;”>Last week – on the coldest, health wettest day – my brother Brent, my cousin the Reverend Dave Tigchelaar, and I tackled a stretch of the Madawaska River near Griffith Ontario. If we look dry and confidant here, it’s because it was the first rapids of the day. That is, before my brother and I flipped the canoe 3 times…

Also notable: when heavily concentrating, I stick my tongue out. Just like my son. Just like my dad. My grandfather. And apparently my cousin too. So if I look less than intelligent, I will blame my genes.