10 Ottawa-area stories to watch in 2014

Predicting exactly what will happen during the year ahead is impossible, but here are ten stories we expect will keep making headlines in 2014.

Construction projects rank high, but don't take the top spot

The beauty of covering news is you never know what surprises await you every day, so anyone who says they know exactly what will come in the future is likely full of hot air.

That being said, there is always carry-over from the previous year and events that are scheduled to happen (and would make news if they were cancelled).

Here are ten such events we expect will be making headlines this year.

10: Medical marijuana in Smiths Falls

Tweed has been putting in work since their bid to open a medical marijuana production facility at the former Hershey’s plant in Smiths Falls, Ont., keeping up a steady stream of social media updates and recently posting a number of job openings.

The one thing they and the majority of other hopeful, legal distributors don’t have yet is Health Canada approval under the newest regulations.

If Tweed is given the go-ahead, it would bring a hundred much-needed jobs to Smiths Falls and save the plant from being demolished, according to Mayor Dennis Staples.

But it could also bring along any as-yet-unknown side effects of having a legal grow-op in people’s backyards.

9. High-profile trials

Christy Natsis’ impaired driving causing death trial has dragged on like few do, and will start again in May.

That will be more than three years after the Pembroke dentist was first accused of causing a fatal crash which killed Bryan Casey on March 31, 2011.

Ottawa’s teen prostitution trial has gathered national attention, but it looks like it could be wrapping up in January.

Two teenage girls who have already pleaded guilty to luring underaged girls over social media and forcing them into prostitution will be sentenced Jan. 17 and 20, while a verdict in the trial for the alleged 16-year-old ringleader is expected Jan. 29.

Howard Richmond will be back in court Jan. 29 to continue his bail hearing. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

There is also national interest in the death of Melissa Richmond, whose husband was publicly mourning the discovery of her body in a ravine near Ottawa’s South Keys shopping centre in the summer one day and being charged in her murder the next.

He has said he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a former member of the military, at a time when four recent suicides by Canadian Forces members has put their mental health in the spotlight.

8. Luka Magnotta

Luka Magnotta's trial will be held in Montreal, the city where the man he is accused of killing and dismembering lived. But the trial will likely still be of interest to people in Ottawa, as Magnotta may have lived in Ottawa for a time and is also accused of mailing body parts to federal political parties in the nation's capital. 

The trial is set to begin Sept. 15.

7. Canada’s 150th anniversary

Pencil this one in for spots in our list in 2015, 2016 and of course 2017 as well.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the rest of the local government are trying to make the capital the centre of Canadian attention during the sesquicentennial, meaning plenty of events and projects to be pitched, panned and plotted in the months and years to come.

There’s already attention being paid to the logo which will be pasted all over Ottawa’s streets during what is sure to be a 2017 Canada Day to remember.

6. Quebec's Bill 60, aka 'The Charter'

A national story on a provincial issue that will affect us locally, changes the Parti Quebecois wants to make to ban wearing of religious symbols by public employees would have a direct impact on western Quebec and an indirect impact on eastern Ontario, as an influx of people not willing to follow such a rule is possible.

Bill 60 could also be part of the reason the Marois government calls a snap election, which could send western Quebec back to the polls with the rest of the province less than two years after the Sept. 4, 2012 vote.

5. Bus/train crash impact

The biggest news story of 2013 in Ottawa, the fallout from September’s crash between an OC Transpo bus and Via Rail train will play out throughout 2014.

What will the Transportation Safety Board’s report say? What moves with the city, OC Transpo, Via Rail and other organizations make because of it? Will there be any legal action?

One thing we do know is that Sept. 18, 2014 will be a sad day in the city.

4. Ottawa’s new sports teams

While Rick Campbell and Marcel Desjardins came in at seventh in our ranking of the top local sports figures of 2013, chances are very good someone connected with the RedBlacks will be higher next year as the team begins play (it will be a bigger story if they don’t start on schedule).

Calgary Stampeders' quarterback Kevin Glenn leaves after cleaning out his locker a day after losing the CFL West Final. Glenn now is the presumed starting quarterback for the Ottawa RedBlacks. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Along with the third try at making CFL football work in the capital, Ottawa will also welcome its highest level of soccer in modern history when the Ottawa Fury join the North American Soccer League.

And don’t sleep on the return of the Ottawa 67’s to the Ottawa Civic Centre, where there should be bigger crowds to cheer on an up-and-coming squad.

3. City-wide construction

Take your pick — the delayed Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge? The more-delayed Airport Parkway bridge? Light-rail and other work involved in the Ottawa on the Move initiative?

The sound of saws and jackhammers will ring out more than usual this year, and that’s not even mentioning...

2. Lansdowne Park

… one of Ottawa’s most-contested construction projects ever will start to open up in the spring of 2014 for sporting events, with other parts still being worked on.

Questions around its opening include the effect of event traffic on nearby neighbourhoods, which businesses (including a theatre) will fill its retail spots and whether the development will have the transformative effect on Ottawa that the city hopes it will.

Answers will start to come in 2014.

1. Municipal election

The potential for change across the entire city, including the personalities, ideas and controversies that will emerge before the Oct. 27, 2014 vote, looks to outweigh the impact of the opening of Lansdowne Park on this, the first day of 2014.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has said this re-election campaign will be his last in politics; who will rise to challenge the generally-popular city leader? Will the city see massive turnover as it did in 2010, or will the current group of councillors return to pursue the interests of their wards?

We'll start to get a sense soon of how the coming year's race will play out.


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