More coverage of Ontario Votes 2011
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City parks preserved

Posted by Alistair Steele

Councillors on Ottawa's Community and Protective Services Committee took a small but vital step this morning when they approved this new by-law. Dedicating public parks and adding them to the city's official inventory seems like a perfunctory measure, but users of Sylvia Holden Park found out the hard way just how tenuous a park's status can be, and just how clueless the City can sometimes be about its own holdings. 

SHP3.jpgFew people outside of the Glebe had heard of Sylvia Holden until the City lumped it in with the rest of the Lansdowne redevelopment deal. It didn't seem to matter that a very official-looking, blue and green City of Ottawa sign identified the land at the corner of Bank and Holmwood (and perhaps the adjacent strip of grass and trees) as Sylvia Holden Park. According to the City, it wasn't a park in the way most reasonable people would understand the term. Adding to the confusion, most people in the community knew the larger park bordered by Lansdowne, O'Connor Street, Fifth Avenue and Queen Elizabeth Driveway by the name "Sylvia Holden." So, it seems, did the City, because its official inventory still lists the address of Sylvia Holden as 10 Fifth Avenue. That is in fact the address of a day care. In a rather clumsy attempt to clear up the confusion, the City decreed that the larger park was in fact called "Lansdowne Community Park," and it was eventually removed from the process (see Lansdowne Myth #3). The 'other' Sylvia Holden Park remains part of the deal. (A mediated settlement between the City and groups challenging the Lansdowne re-zoning means a "passive public open space area" measuring six by six metres will be retained near Bank and Holmwood. No word on whether it will be named after Sylvia Holden.) 

Today's decision to dedicate parks will, in theory at least, prevent this kind of giveaway from happening again by closing a gaping loophole in the city's parks policy. It gets even better: In scouring the city for nameable greenspaces, city staff have uncovered some 100 parks that weren't on the list. They will now be added, and people who enjoy them now will continue to enjoy them.


Not Larry's party

Posted by Alistair Steele

Today's ribbon cutting ceremony at Ottawa's sparkling new Convention Centre was a veritable who's who of local politics. Mauril Bélanger and Norm Sterling made appearances. So did premier Dalton McGuinty, alongside most (if not every) city councillor. The lineup of former mayors resembled the portrat gallery at 111 Lisgar: Jacqueline Holzman, Jim Durrell and Bob Chiarelli joined Jim Watson for the big event. There was just one man missing.

My CBC colleagues Chris Goldrick and Paul Morisset were outside on Colonel By getting exterior shots of the building, when who should happen by but Larry O'Brien. He was out for a stroll with his dog. O'Brien said he didn't know about the ribbon cutting, and hadn't been invited to the big gala tomorrow night. Seems incredible, since a great deal of the work that led to this day happened under O'Brien's watch. That includes the approval of the city's portion of the funding. O'Brien may have exagerated during his re-election bid when he claimed credit for the project. But to be relegated to passer-by? Some might call that unfair. Petty even.

While O'Brien stood there chatting, Richard Hayter came out to say hello. He's with the Building and Construction Trades Council, a group representing a couple dozen unions. Hayter invited O'Brien in for a private tour. At first O'Brien resisted, because he had his dog with him. No problem said Hayter, and in the three of them went.

Bélanger to make LRT pitch at historic station

Posted by Alistair Steele

So the Liberal candidate for Ottawa-Vanier, Mauril Bélanger, has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. tomorrow in front of the Government Conference Centre on Rideau Street. According to his news release, he will "unveil a proposal on the light rail transit network's "flagship" station in Ottawa." That would be Rideau Station, which the the LRT folks at the city say will look like this. The Conference Centre, to the west, is only mentioned in terms of "future links" to the LRT stop.

A spokesperson for Bélanger isn't saying what the incumbent's proposal is, only that there will be lots of business people and representatives from the hospitality industry at the announcement. Could Bélanger be tearing a page from former mayor Larry O'Brien's book? Looks like that train still hasn't left the station.

Jack MacLaren takes on City Hall

Posted by Alistair Steele

Libertarian landowner Jack MacLaren's victory over political veteran Norm Sterling for the Ontario PC nomination in Carleton-Mississippi Mills was met with shock and awe, both from within the party and from those of us on the outside. In fact MacLaren seemed to be the only one who didn't seem surprised last Thursday night. Whether he wins a seat at Queen's Park this fall or not, no one should be surprised if MacLaren emerges as bur under the City's saddle. The criticism began minutes after he secured the nomination.

"As government grows and we bcome more and more regulated, small business and the private sector shrinks," MacLaren told reporters. "I had breakfast at Pinto Valley Ranch last week, that ranch has been there for three generations, they had a restaurant before. The City of Ottawa now thinks that they need to get this other permit or land use designation change to conform to some government requirement for only 16-thousand dollars. How many bacon and eggs do you have to flip and fry before you make 16-thousand dollars? That's a crime when a small business that everyone enjoys and appreciates in the community is going to be put out of business because of some stupid regulation."

Where rural meets urban and different ways of life collide, expect more of this from Jack MacLaren in the months ahead.