The Life and Death of City Planning at Ottawa?

“The only thing certain about city planning is that there’s nothing certain about it”.

No, this is not a quote from the legendary Canadian-American city planner and urbanist, Jane Jacobs. It comes from none other than Ottawa City Councillor Jan Harder who also has been the chair of the City’s Planning Committee since 2014 (she was the vice-chair before that) and will continue to perform that responsibility up to at least 2022. If there is one person who has contributed the most to uncertainty in terms of city and land use planning since 2014, it is Councillor Harder. Continue reading


What Would William Booth Think About the Salvation Army’s Proposed New Booth Centre in Vanier?

In 1890, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, published In Darkest England and the Way Out. Booth devoted his life to aiding those unfortunates found in the desperate situation of unemployment and economic depression in East London of the latter 1880s. In his Darkest England book, Booth outlined his plan to regenerate London’s destitute poor living in appalling conditions which provided the foundation for the future social work of the Salvation Army. Darkest England outlined three successive stages in Booth’s plan for social reform. A “City Colony” and a “Farm Colony” would provide food, shelter, training and work for the destitute and unemployed. Ultimately emigration to a “Colony Across the Sea” would offer new futures and new lives for those rehabilitated by the Salvation Army scheme. Continue reading

Will Amazon Fulfill Economic Aspirations for East Ottawa?

Amazon’s first fulfillment centre (FC) was a modest 93,000 sq. ft. warehouse built in 1997 in Seattle, Washington where the company started 3 years earlier (a fulfillment centre is a 3rd party, in this case Amazon, logistics warehouse where incoming orders from ecommerce vendors are received, processed and shipped). The company has been aggressively expanding its fulfillment space over recent years in proximity to population centres to meet growing demand for fast delivery. Today, Amazon operates 6 FCs in Canada, 2 in the Vancouver metropolitan area (Delta and New Westminster) and 4 in the Greater Toronto Area (Mississauga – the first FC in Canada opened in 2011, Milton, and 2 in Brampton). Another 2 FCs are to be added – one in Balzac just outside Calgary, Alberta to be completed in Q3 2018 and one in Ottawa scheduled for completion by Q3 2019. Continue reading

Trading Tim Hortons For Cummings Store: Revitalization of Vanier’s Traditional Main Street

During the latter half of the 19th Century and until about 1920 Cummings Island was a vibrant commercial hub on the Rideau River between Janeville (one of three settlements that eventually formed Eastview which later became Vanier) and Ottawa. When the City of Ottawa bought the island in 1923 and built a new bridge bypassing the island slightly north of it, the store was moved to a new location now occupied by Tim Hortons at the intersection of Montreal Road and Vanier Parkway. The new site was to become the entry point for what was to be Eastview’s downtown and Vanier’s traditional main street and French Quarter. Continue reading

Huge Economic Benefits Expected from Hard Rock Ottawa Casino but Don’t Bet On It

Since the first casino opened in Windsor in 1994, there has been a proliferation of gaming (a.k.a. gambling) facilities throughout Ontario under the watchful authority of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Authority (OLG). From the early bingo halls in church basements to today’s mega hotel-casino-theatre entertainment complexes, gaming is big business in North America.

The Nation’s Capital has had a part of the casino wave. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was discussion about getting a casino on Sparks Street to inject some excitement to the otherwise dead downtown. Instead, Hull (now Gatineau) beat Ottawa  to the punch and built a world class Casino du Lac-Leamy with a 5-star Hilton Hotel within an eye’s view of the then young National Gallery of Canada. When Lac-Leamy opened in March 1996, there were 14 other gaming establishments within a 500-mile radius compared to more than 80 two decades later (Ottawa Citizen). Ottawa did get on to the casino bandwagon eventually albeit in a less celebratory way when the 1,200 slot machines were installed at the Rideau Carleton Raceway in 2000 to support the declining horse racing attendance. Continue reading

The Geography of Economic Wealth in Canada

In January 2017, Statistics Canada released a new economic indicator for Canadian cities – Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 33 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and 9 non-CMA regions. While GDP data have long been published at the national and provincial levels, the calculation of metropolitan level figures is much more difficult and time consuming according to the federal agency, requiring the synthesis of a wide range of data sources.

GDP is most widely accepted statistic used by economists to measure economic progress and economic output. GDP is a monetary measure of the market value of all final goods and services produced within a given period of time, typically quarterly and annually. It is typically measured and the national and provincial levels by adding together personal consumption expenditures, government expenditures, net exports and net capital formation. In short, local GDP measures the overall wealth created by people and businesses within a given region or metropolitan area. Continue reading

Three New Homeless Shelters in Three Canadian Cities, Three Different Approaches and Outcomes of Community Engagement

The announcement of a new emergency shelter in a neighbourhood, perhaps more than any other land use, most often leads to emotionally charged opposition from residents concerned about rising crime, falling property values and the overall decline of the community’s quality of life. Such opposition is often described, usually by shelter supporters and civic advocates, as Not-In-My-Backyard or NIMBY reactions. Of course, NIMBY responses are not just limited to emergency shelters – they are widespread to almost any new type of development in established communities such as a high-rise condominium building or new alignment of truck routes (think bridge over the Ottawa River). Continue reading