Not Being #1 Is Not That Bad: Ottawa’s Technology Ecosystem, Toronto-Waterloo, and Connectedness

The Ottawa Citizen recently published a special series of articles looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Ottawa’s technology sector dubbed The IT Factor. One theme that appears to emerge is that while the Ottawa’s technology sector has had several success stories, there is a general lack of recognition and appreciation of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, nationally and globally. One of the articles stated that this is one of the biggest barriers the city faces when trying to compete against other Canadian ecosystems to get onto the world stage. Autonomous or self-drive vehicle R&D has been identified as a key sector which has strong potential for leading Ottawa’s technology sector in the future and emergence as a Centre of Excellence in this next wave of technological change. As stated in the IT Factor series, Ottawa’s tech sector has long struggled to get out from under the shadow of the public service as well as its tech neighbours, Montreal and Toronto. However, neither of those two cities have a pronounced reputation for autonomous-vehicle innovation, which means Ottawa could readily take up the cause. Continue reading


WOW! Why is the Ottawa Citizen so down on Eastview?

WOW was my first reaction when I read the Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board’s opinion piece this morning on “Why We Support The Salvation Army”. One of the main reasons the Editors are supporting the Salvation Army project on Montreal Road in Vanier is that the site has already a “rundown motel and poorly maintained parking lot” along a stretch of Montreal Road where few would dare to walk along in the day never mind the night. Presumably, this is because of the rundown character of the area and because, as they state, “many potential clients for the new social services hub are already in this area”. The Editors also claim that there are no developers planning “classy condos” in the neighbourhood. The WOW factor became even more pronounced when reading their statement that they doubt the Salvation Army will not “drag things down much” more than it is and that “Vanier residents…are arguing to protect a gentrified community that doesn’t yet exist”. Continue reading

Dear Mr. Egan Re: My comments on your article on the Salvation Army proposal

Kelly Egan, a journalist with the Ottawa Citizen recently wrote an opinion article giving support to the Salvation Army’s proposed shelter on Montreal Road. I did post a response to the article but kept it fairly short. I decided to write a longer response here. Continue reading

Reframing Economic Clusters in Ottawa: Thinking Outside the High Tech Box

The concepts of economic clusters and entrepreneurial ecosystems continue to have a strong presence in today’s strategic thinking. For example, the federal government recently announced a short list of proposed “innovation superclusters” as part of its $950 million initiative. Invest Ottawa promotes the growth of six high growth knowledge-based industries – life sciences, software, digital media, communications technology, clean technologies and, aerospace, defence and security. As illustrated by Invest Ottawa’s six high growth sectors, cluster strategies typically focus on advanced technology industries. The region is now being touted as being Canada’s Autonomous Vehicle innovation cluster. Continue reading

In Search of Balanced Job and Population Growth in Orleans

As I mentioned in an Orleans Community Improvement Plan, there has been a long-standing issue that Orleans has experienced limited employment growth compared to the rest of the City or other suburbs like Kanata which in turn has limited the opportunities for residents to live and work in the community. As a result, Orleans residents face commuting traffic gridlock every morning and evening. This employment/population imbalance is frequently raised in virtually every recent election held in the community – federal, provincial or municipal. Continue reading

Trying to Make Sense out of Planning Sense: The Proposed Salvation Army Social Services Complex in Vanier

The proposed Salvation Army project is, without doubt, the most controversial active planning file at the City today. The Planning and Growth Management Department recently published a draft planning report recommending that City Council approve the Official Plan and Zoning Amendments application to allow the project to be built on Montreal Road in Vanier. The draft report has generated considerable opposition from the community as well as other interested individuals and organizations. The concerns and issues raised against the project have been extensively covered in the local media and in online social networks and I will only summarize the key ones below: Continue reading

Tax Increment Financing: is the City sTIFfing Ottawa taxpayers?

Tax increment financing (TIF) is an incentive mechanism used by municipalities to encourage property (re)development, usually within designated areas. In Ontario, TIF involves city funds being made available, in the form of annual grants to the property owner, on a site-specific basis to assist in remediation and/or redevelopment. The grant amount is a percentage of the increase in property taxes resulting from the redevelopment over the original or base tax level (before redevelopment). These tax increment-based grants, also called Tax Incentive Equivalent Grant (TIEG), use authority established under the Community Improvement Plan provisions under Section 28 of the Planning Act. The TIEG is calculated annually over the life of the agreement (e.g. 10 years). The property owner then pays 100% of the property taxes owing. Continue reading