Capital Slam!

26 Jan

I went to the first Capital Slam of 2011 earlier this month at the Mercury Lounge! I was a first timer, but the people there were very welcoming! If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, you can get a taste of it through my Audio slideshow by clicking the photo below.

Or better yet, go to the next event!

I apologize in advance for the photos…I haven’t had too much experience shooting in dark places yet!

Nathanaël Larochette, Capital Poetry Collective Director, warms up the crowd at Mercury Lounge



Businesses seek compensation Municipal Act prohibits

11 Jan

After months of construction along Sussex Drive, there are finally smooth sidewalks instead of bumpy gravel paths. Business in the area is starting to pick up again, but some business owners have been looking to the city for compensation on behalf of losses suffered this past year.

Municipal Act

Although businesses can ask the City of Ottawa for assistance, the likely response will be no, as section 106 of the Municipal Act, 2001 states, “despite any act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose.”

This means the city can’t grant assistance when it comes to borrowing or giving money and leasing or selling property. The act also prohibits any tax exemptions.

The Business Owners

This section of the Municipal Act is upsetting for business owners along Sussex who say they have struggled to keep business going throughout hard times.

Construction on Sussex in November 2010

Luc Laframboise, owner of Créations Lucas, says that his new awning was damaged by the dirt and debris during the construction, and the fact that the city cannot compensate for the physical and financial damages done is disappointing and unfair.

“There are two [businesses] that have closed, and another one that might close,” Laframboise says. “Lack of business over the last year has been pretty bad so [we] should be compensated for it.”

Peter Kunst, co-owner of Poised, says the construction put many businesses in a vulnerable position, as sales diminished alongside the sidewalks and street.

Sussex in January 2011

New sidewalks in front of the shops

Leftovers from the construction on Sussex

“I think it’s just ridiculous,” Kunst says of the act that prohibits the city from helping the hurt businesses. “Our street was ripped up for a year, yet there is not even a tax break for small businesses.”

Listen to a clip from my interview with Peter Kunst, co-owner of Poised.

Frustration understood, but not much can be done

Jasna Jennings, the Executive Director of the Byward Market Business Improvement Area, says the harm done to businesses on Sussex can only get better now that the construction has finished, but she recognizes why there have been so many complaints.

“I certainly understand their frustration, the kind of average losses are expected to be around the 40 per cent mark and that’s really huge,” Jennings says. “But I do know that on the other side of the coin there’s really no option for them to ask the municipality or the government for rebates.”

Jennings says there really is no fair way to distribute rebates when it comes to construction since the affects are much further reaching than that single area alone. “It really sets a bad precedent…You’re just opening a bag of worms and that’s one of the big reasons why it’s outlawed,” she says. “I encourage [them] to not really dwell or spend too much time fighting it or trying to get compensation because it’s really a losing battle.”

Jennings says other areas of Ottawa such as Bank and Preston have undergone even longer periods of construction and did not get any compensation for losses suffered. “It would be really unreasonable to expect that they would be able to get something when in fact other areas of the city haven’t been give anything,” she says.

Listen to some clips from my interview with Jasna Jennings, Executive Director of Byward Market BIA

Mathieu Fleury, city councillor for the Rideau-Vanier Ward, says that from a resident’s standpoint, he understands it’s not easy when a major road is under construction, but it’s reality, and the work done was necessary. “It’s unfortunate…[But] those pipes were quite old, and they weren’t meeting the requirements of today,” he says.

Fleury says he wants the city to look into being more efficient, and more sensitive to pedestrians and business owners for future construction in areas like Rideau Street. “They did [well] on Preston Street, where they had boardwalks and so on,” he says. “I’m sort of disappointed that wasn’t the case on Sussex.”

Homeless winter

30 Nov

As we hit the depths of November and make our way into December, those who are homeless in the Byward Market and Lowertown look like they’re starting to feel the cold snap.

The homeless shelters have people scattered in front on the sidewalks, smoking cigarettes and sharing conversation. The shelters don’t look as though they can hold everyone, and it’s clear the bitter cold is not welcome.

One man is on a bench in the late evening; he has swept away the light dusting of snow on the wood. He is wrapped in a sleeping bag with his feet resting on a cardboard box to keep his feet dry. His face is covered and he shivers slightly as pedestrians wrapped in scarves and warm jackets walk by, not seeming to notice him.

Another man has a cat on his shoulder and a dog just ahead of him. He lays out a blanket on the concrete in front of The Bay and sits down, his back against the frosty brick wall. The fluffy black and white cat runs towards it and nestles into the cotton warmth beside the man. People are intrigued and stop to talk to him, admiring his pets.

Winter is just beginning, and in Ottawa, those who may be spending some nights on the street are preparing for the sub-zero temperatures that will be hitting hard soon enough. However, Rob Eady, public relations director of The Shepherds of Good Hope, says that they try to accommodate everyone they can, even if it means having people sleep on the floor or in the hallways.

The Byward Market wants more Christmas feel!

29 Nov

Christmas is less than a month away, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw the trees on York Street waiting to be chosen and decorated. There are tall ones, short ones, skinny ones and fat ones, all lined up and waiting to have presents placed beneath them. Vendors are still out, and now there’s more green and red to be seen in the Byward Market.

While the weekend was chilly, temperatures have been pretty mild so far this year. For vendors like Mario Cleroux, the weather doesn’t exactly help with selling Christmas trees.

Cleroux says that it’s usually busier by this time of year, but things have changed in the 20 years that he’s been bringing his trees from Navan, ON to the Byward Market.

“This time last year it was freezing,” Cleroux says. “The weather has not been helping at all..we want snow!”

Despite the lack of flurries, Cleroux is hopeful that people will be getting into the Christmas spirit soon enough.

“Another two weeks and they’ll get in the mood,” he says with a smile.

Until then, the trees will have to wait for more snow to arrive before they can settle into their homes this Christmas season.

Sweat and metal at Café Dekcuf

28 Nov

Friday night in the Byward Market had some metal in the mix, as six bands came together to rock the stage at Café Dekcuf. Those below at the neighbouring bar, Mavericks, must have heard the heavy bass and guitar shreds emanating from the metal show above.

The bands that played were On Burning Shores, This Deathvalley, Royal Rumble, Stortini, Against all Odds, and I Now Walk into the Wild. The show started early with doors opening at six o’clock and music blasting until 11.

The venue was small, and the music was piercing the ears all around the tiny room. There wasn’t much room on the stage for all the band members, but they found a way to work with it. The lead singer of Against All Odds didn’t even use the stage much, but frolicked around the room screaming wildly at bystanders, with the microphone cord wrapped around the back of his neck.

The amount of energy in the small space didn’t seem to always match the crowd. Some people stood silent, while others hit the floor hard, stomping their feet and swinging their arms violently. What was pretty clear was that the bands were having fun, sweating it out and pumping up the crowd.

Kevin LeClair, guitarist of Against All Odds, says that he always enjoys playing in Ottawa. “The show went great overall, we got to play with some awesome local bands and make some new friends,” he says. “Ottawa is an incredible place to play because people really care about the music scene.”


Speak Silence in the Byward Market

24 Nov

I went down to the Byward Market on Sunday to check out Carleton students involved in Journalists for Human Rights.

They took a three hour vow of silence to raise awareness about human rights! Some even gave up speaking for an entire day!

You can see what I saw here!


Saturday Stroll

13 Nov

The sky may have been rather grey today, but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the mild weather. The vegetables are still lined up along the sidewalks, and the local talent is still making music in the market in mid November.

Here are some of today’s sights:

All the action of the Market seems to be permanent despite the mayhem we’ve seen on Sussex Drive in the last while. New sidewalks have recently been put in, replacing what was once bumpy terrain just a few months ago. But the construction looks like it’s here to stay for awhile longer. I’m looking forward to seeing the end result, and I’m sure drivers and pedestrians would agree.


Hopefully my next trip will involve a bit more sun and a little less cloudiness!

– M