Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

Doucet calls for stronger green space protection

With the controversial soccer field at Immaculata High School as his backdrop, mayoral candidate Clive Doucet called on Ottawa city hall to do a better job protecting "quality of life" for residents, especially when it comes to downtown green space.

Mayoral candidate urges city hall to balance intensification, quality of life

Mayoral candidate and former Ottawa city councillor Clive Doucet spoke to reporters Thursday at Immaculata High School, which recently struck a deal with a private sports club to use its outdoor soccer field. (Kate Porter/CBC )

With the controversial soccer field at Immaculata High School as his backdrop, mayoral candidate Clive Doucet called on Ottawa city hall to do a better job protecting "quality of life" for residents, especially when it comes to downtown green space.

"What we have here is a happy story and a sad story," Doucet said Thursday as kids played on the field behind him. "The happy side is all the kids playing in this field.... The sad story is that the community has lost space."

People living near the field in Old Ottawa East were upset when the Ottawa Catholic School Board struck a secret $2-million deal with private soccer club Ottawa Footy Sevens, which upgraded the field and has exclusive access to it outside school hours.

"Here, the community never heard about anything," Doucet said. "It was a done deal before they ever had a chance to mobilize a finger."

Money questions

The Immaculata field was never a city asset, but neighbours enjoyed using it nevertheless, and the city OK'd its rezoning for use by a private company.

To Doucet, it therefore illustrates a point: as downtown neighbourhoods lose green space to private development, the city never seems to have the money to replace it.

"My question is, where is all the money going? The city doesn't have any money to protect a piece of community property," Doucet said.

Developers pay into a fund specifically set aside for parkland, money that's split between the city and the ward where the development is taking place. But the money rarely stretches far enough, and anyway, there's little available land in central Ottawa to turn into parks.

"We can't even save trees," Doucet complained, referring to 100-year-old trees in Old Ottawa East that were only saved from a developer's axe when the community raised a stink.

Doucet said if elected, he'd make sure tresidents "get a sense that they are being listened to and that their quality of life is being partly protected" when it comes to infill.

Lansdowne debt

Doucet also raised concerns about the amount of debt the city takes on for what are largely private projects.

He complained the Lansdowne Park redevelopment deal, billed by proponents as "revenue neutral," isn't transparent, and carries hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

"It's the second-largest single debt the city has," Doucet said.

The retail portion of Lansdowne is run by privately owned Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which reports annually to council.

With the city potentially paying for public amenities in the possible LeBreton Flats development, Doucet also raised concerns about adding to the city's debt load, and wondered whether it will benefit the private enterprises involved in the project including the Senators and Trinity Group.