Jody Wilson-Raybould's influence on Ottawa's official plan and city politics
When Jody Wilson-Raybould stood up for her principles and the rule of law for all, not the rule of law by exception, she gave city councilors, communities and citizens a breath of hope that they might also be able to impact local government, if they also stand up to power. This hope is flying high as the consultation process for Ottawa’s new Official Plan rolls out.
One thing you can count on is that the Official Plan will be terrific. I’m confident the new plan with will win awards as it did in the golden years of Pamela Sweet when she was the head planning honcho at the city. Like old Official Plans, the new one will promote mid-rise instead of high rise; ensure that front of houses have ‘eyes on the street’ as Jane Jacobs recommended. (‘Eyes on the street’ means front doors with sit on porches, not driveways and garage doors.)
I am also confident we will see all kinds of great things recommended: Reduction of the urban growth boundary instead of growing the edges and trashing the centre with high rises; more community public transit, not less; less sprawl and less costs for our piped water system. There will be plans to reduce commute times for car drivers, enliven city streets and help the arts community prosper.
But it’s essential to realize that the city’s Official Plan is a ‘wish list’ composed as if developers weren’t running the city. The bigger, the more important the decision the more likely it will be run through the lens of Ottawa’s wealthiest corporations. The new hospital is located where developers wanted it, not where the public or the NCC did. The new light rail system uses the the western parkway and the old Richmond tram line instead of Carling Avenue where people actually live, work and shop because that’s where developers wanted it.
It’s going to cost us a billion dollars more to mazimize condo profits along the riverfront but well worth it because the western parkway has spectacular river views but desperately needed rail transit to service the new condos. That’s the argument for. The argument against it is: You build public transit where people are, not where they might some day might be. The city never needed a cut and cover project along the western parkway, but developers do.
What would happen to Ottawa and the country if the big guys actually had to obey the laws like the little guys? Thank-God, Jody Wilson-Raybould is out of cabinet is one line of thought. I beg to differ. Respecting the law leads to transparent debate and better decisions at every level. SNC would survive just fine if the law was imposed as it should be. Respecting the City’s Official Plan would make competition fairer, prices more reasonable and public decisions would serve the community more than developer’s pocket book.
Clive Doucet is a former city councilor and author. His latest book ‘Grandfather’s House’ has just been published by Nimbus (Halifax). “Urban Meltdown: Cities Climate Change and Politics as Usual” is his best known book about cities.