The April 30 ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal against the Friends of Lansdowne effectively clears the way for the Lansdowne Partnership Plan to go ahead. This obviously comes as a disappointment for many residents of Capital Ward. We continue to believe that this plan — and the process behind it — are just too flawed to deserve such a major investment of public money and dedication of public space.
We have not been convinced that Lansdowne Park is the right place for a major new stadium, given its relatively poor transportation links, and we do not believe that more retail space is needed in this location. We also remain deeply concerned about the impact of additional daily traffic on the health, safety and social fabric of the residential neighbourhoods in the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Old Ottawa East.
It is time, however, to move from a position of opposing the Lansdowne Partnership Plan outright to one of more constructive engagement. However unappealing this will sound to many, it is in the details that we must seek ways to refine and improve what is likely to be built.
We cannot reverse the major decisions, but we can work with city managers and Council to limit the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones. Such as? A large, new public greenspace. Multiple new walking and cycling routes in and around the site. Better public transit service. New indoor and outdoor venues for community activities and for a host of festivals and public gatherings beyond just the large and professional ones. More permanent residents within the Glebe to support not just the Lansdowne Park businesses, but the many existing shops and eateries on Bank Street in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South.
Among the cons, there are a number of potential pros. The best way to make them a reality is to name them, support them and insist that they be delivered. It takes two to tango, however. We will need the cooperation — no, the full support — of the Mayor, the City Manager and City Council. I believe we will get that on many of the things we believe can and should be part of this big and complicated package.
I will continue to focus my efforts on identifying these improvements and on getting that support. My work starts with the newly formed Lansdowne Transportation Advisory Committee (LTAC), comprised of representatives of local community associations, residents’ groups, business groups and cycling advisors. With the support of the City’s Transportation Committee Chair Marianne Wilkinson, Transit Commission Chair Diane Deans and City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick, we will develop and propose improvements to: transportation demand management plans; traffic routing and signage; parking infrastructure, signage and limits; transit routing and frequency; a pedestrian precinct; and routing, signage and infrastructure for cyclists. As we make our way through our work plan, the LTAC will hold public meetings and seek feedback on our proposals before bringing them forward as reports to Council.
I do not know if we can make a silk purse out of this sow's ear, but I am convinced that we can find some upsides to the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.
As for the long and difficult campaign waged by the Friends of Lansdowne and its thousands of supporters locally and across the region, I want to make my position clear: I chose not to be formally affiliated with this legal challenge as I believe my role is in the political arena. But I admire the courage and dedication of those citizens who felt so strongly about the importance of due process being followed in city politics that they would go as far as the Ontario Court of Appeal to put the Lansdowne Partnership Plan to the test. For no personal gain, and often under unwarranted attack in the media, you showed what it takes to be fully engaged in your community's future.
Yes, the legal battle has cost taxpayers some money — in the neighbourhood of $3 to $5 per household. You also donated tens and even thousands of your own dollars and many, many hours of your time. Democracy is rarely free or easy, but that doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for. Rest assured that no Ottawa City Council will ever again dare cancel an open competitive bidding process in favour of a sole-source deal.
Councillor for Capital Ward