City bureaucrats pull a fast one on us

All the hoopla about a new St. Lawrence North Market design belies an ugly truth about city hall. It’s populated with deceivers and obstructers paid for by your tax money. Locals have been tricked by high-paid bureaucrats who have been scrambling to feather their nests and stake out their turfs while pretending to consult with residents about how to shape the new North Market.

Locals took it to heart, believing that butt-covering, empire-building city bureaucrats would actually do something first on behalf of the neighbourhood where the North Market is a fixture, then on behalf of the wider city it also serves.

Over the duration of the “pubic consultation” some 50 well-intentioned and thoughtful area residents and business operators met many times with city-hall operatives from 1998 to this year.

They would have better spent their time picking up the trash on the streets and other public places as once was done frequently by city workers in the pre-Miller days before a broom became the symbol of sweeping incompetence out of sight.

Certainly there’s a long-standing need to revamp the undistinguished ‘60s-era box across from the historic treasure that is St. Lawrence Market. The vibrant neighbourhood of businesses and homes that centre on the Market is dominated by city-hall department warlords who take up an unacceptable amount of public space in the under-serviced business and residential district.

What it has is too much city government: an entire retail strip is rendered useless on the south side of The Esplande west of Jarvis. It seats the butts of bureaucrats in the city licensing silo. The entire second floor of historic St. Lawrence Hall has been vandalized by two city departments that ripped out the old to replace it with modern new construction. Despite years of soothing talk by Councillor Pam McConnell that they’ll be gone, they’re still in place.

She also paid lip service to freeing the Market complex from the strangling bureaucracy of the city real estate and property silo. Sadly, like too many on this city council, she seemingly considers staff part of her constituency. And city hall types don’t like to give up any turf, especially a toy as much fun as St. Lawrence Market and St. Lawrence Hall.

The result is that managers on the ground haven’t enough autonomy to do their jobs effectively and can only hire staff from city hall, while competitors (such as Evergreen Brick Works with a Saturday farmers market) can outperform any city-hall operation.

Making the Market complex an independent city-owned agency (as are Sony Centre, various arenas and other city-owned facilities) would enable it to hire competent staff instead of whomever city hall or the union decide has to be positioned.

Locals looked forward to some public space that could house various local initiatives and services. Many creative ideas were proffered at these citizen-bureaucrat confabs. Much self-serving obstruction was proposed by the city-hall departmental silos, especially the inept city parks department that couldn’t open a wading pool during the start of a horrid heat wave last month but waxed poetic about how it couldn’t spare an inch of the poorly maintained, often trash-strewn Market Lane “park.” That’s the slab with a planter, benches and fountain between the North Market and Market Square condo.

Few of the local participants in the “consultation” process about the future of the North Market want to be quoted. Many views of those who would speak off the record are reflected above. They say that once the bureaucrats made it an $800,000 international design competition, they knew their input had been in vain. That’s a bureaucrat’s way of washing away local perspectives to appear bold, international and inclusive.

What the locals wanted was, first of all, to retain the historic external materials of the Market’s era: stone, brick. That was in a resolution proposed in the 1990s by Tim Burns and unanimously adopted by his fellow members of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association. The idea was that the building would last through the centuries, as the one to the south will do. The modernistic glass and metal the chosen architects have proposed would go the way of the ’60-era modernistic crap it would replace.


As for uses, the community has lost bigtime. If it’s built according to any of these showpiece plans, there will be four storeys of a luxury courthouse, plus a massive front-of-the-second-floor room for police (who already have a station down the street).

Because of the parks department bureaucrats, the entrance to the underground parking wouldn’t be from King Street. It would be a monster traffic-jamming slope off busy Jarvis.

This is true if city hall has its way. If you disagree with the choices, which you can see online at, be sure to let Pam McConnell know. She’s certain—perhaps deservedly because she does work hard—to be reelected, since she has name recognition and that means “unbeatable” the way this city is run.

The bureaucracy will annnounce a “winning” design June 7. That doesn’t mean it has to be built. There’s going to be a new mayor in October and maybe a new and better city-hall regime. As for the public vote on a selection: Figure that the likely already chosen winner will be the Red design.