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

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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

The Orleans Community Improvement Plan needs a major overhaul.

Ottawa City Council approved the Orleans Community Improvement Plan (CIP) in 2013. The main goal of this initiative is to attract major knowledge-based employers which would result in a significant improvement in the job-to-household ratio in Orleans so that residents have an opportunity to live and work in the same community.  This has been a long-standing issue in the eastern suburb which has experienced limited employment growth compared to the rest of the City or other suburbs like Kanata. The issue is frequently raised in virtually every recent election held in the community – federal, provincial or municipal. Continue reading

Free Lunch versus Free Market: Did Ottawa Taxpayers Subsidize Downtown Condo Builders?

I read a recent article written by Joanne Chianello, a journalist at CBC Ottawa, about the City of Ottawa’s Brownfield’s policy. This policy, which was approved by City Council in 2007, provides grants to developers to encourage the redevelopment of contaminated lands. Her article points out that City Council has approved over $70 million in brownfields grant since 2007. The article further questioned the public benefits resulting from such grants and the absence of any assessment to see if the policy was actually stimulating investment which would not otherwise occur. Continue reading