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Past News: 2002

Friday, December 27, 2002

Feature: Release the Hounds

When the NCC arbitrarily re-wrote its animal regulations to suit itself, it predictably caused a lot of controversy. However, along with failing to provide any evidence that dogs were causing significant problems, it now appears the NCC has exceeded its regulatory authority. Why is the Federal Government concerning itself with matters that are clearly in municipal jurisdiction? It's just one more reminder of how Ottawa has one level of government too many.

NCCPD announcement of legal challenge and Legal Defence Fund [24 Jan 2003]
NCCPD notice; post one on a poster collar near you today!

Monday, December 16, 2002

NCC floats aboriginal centre again

The NCC is once again claiming progress on some sort of aboriginal centre for largely vacant Victoria Island:

NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry, who has identified the aboriginal centre as his personal priority among the multitude of projects on the federal agency's agenda, says the 15-year-old idea has faltered in the past due to a lack of co-ordination and will.

But he says amicable talks between the NCC and a native group led by Algonquin elder William Commanda, new ideas about how the centre might be financed and operated, and the passionate involvement of renowned aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal have all rekindled interest in the concept.

And Mr. Beaudry says the ongoing redevelopment of nearby LeBreton Flats -- where completion of a new Canadian War Museum is expected to kickstart a decade of commercial and residential construction -- will provide a timely opportunity to extend modern sewer and water services to Victoria Island and literally lay the groundwork for the project.

"If we sit back and we don't keep on the pressure to move ahead, then the same thing might happen as what happened back in 1990," Mr. Beaudry told the Citizen. "There was interest at one point in time, it never got picked up and it was all forgotten. So we brought it back in 1998 and I'm trying to push it as fast as I can."

He added that he would like to see the centre begun in earnest "within the next couple of years. Once we've got the momentum, we need to keep it going and we need to achieve it."

[...]"The NCC came up here a week or so ago and presented us some of their ideas," said Mr. Whiteduck. "This was brand new -- they were coming to us. That was a real first. It is a positive development. And they have remained in contact and they are going to share with us archeological reports, preliminary reports, etc., so we can react."

During the 1990s, the NCC held discussions with the Assembly of First Nations about creating a national aboriginal centre at Victoria Island that would double as the AFN's headquarters. Despite interest at the time from Mr. Cardinal -- whose wavy-walled Canadian Museum of Civilization has become one of the capital's most recognized landmarks -- the project never got off the ground.

[...]"All of this is going to be tied in together at one point in time in the future," insisted Mr. Beaudry. "When it's going to happen I don't know. But it is going to happen."

In other words, we can all go back to sleep, we're dealing with LeBreton Flats timeframes on this one.

Citizen: NCC rekindles plan for national aboriginal centre [16 Dec 2002]

Saturday, December 14, 2002

NCC floats Chaudiere Island plans again

Every few years, the NCC mentions how much they'd like to do something with Chaudiere Island. Thus:

Mr. Beaudry noted during a speech in September that the NCC has been in discussions for two years with paper manufacturer Domtar Inc. about acquiring property on the eastern end of Chaudiere Island and converting the former Booth Board Mill into a federal government building.

Built in 1912 but unused since 1980, the former cardboard factory has been described by one heritage architect as a stunning candidate for "adaptive re-use" as an office building.

During an interview with the Citizen, Mr. Beaudry revealed that the NCC and Public Works are, in fact, interested in creating an office building at the site to serve as a new home for Parks Canada, which currently shares space with its parent department, Canadian Heritage, and several other federal agencies at Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere complex in Gatineau.

And, as usual, Domtar notes its disinterest in the whole business:

[...]Domtar spokesman Patrice Bourgoin said the company hadn't heard of the Parks Canada idea but is familiar with the NCC's determination to purchase all or part of Chaudiere Island and other industrial lands along the waterfront.

He said that although discussions occur from time to time with the federal government about Domtar's properties, the company's active paper-making operation on Chaudiere Island is "very profitable." And while Domtar has no immediate plans for the abandoned cardboard mill, he said, the company is inclined to maintain ownership in the event of a possible business expansion.

Mr. Beaudry said there's no urgency about deciding what should become of either Victoria or Chaudiere, but added it makes sense to consider extending services to the islands now as part of the LeBreton Flats redevelopment rather than doing it as a separate project in the future.

Mr. Bourgoin added that selling the eastern part of the island for an office building would probably lead to conflicts between the paper plant and its new neighbour. He said Domtar would prefer to retain the entire island to help maintain a "buffer" between industrial operations and other public or commercial activities.

So, as usual, nothing is happening.

Citizen: NCC eager to move into old mill [14 Dec 2002]

Friday, December 13, 2002

LeBreton development angers residents

The NCC got an earful at a consultation meeting last night:

About 30 residents attended the public consultation at Tom Brown Arena. Many were upset that the development, which will include office towers, retail, residential and the new War Museum, would put even more traffic pressure on Booth Street, especially heavy trucks. "It takes me 15 minutes to back out of my driveway every morning as it is," said Dany Paraschivoiu, who lives on Booth Street. "They're destroying the beauty of old Booth Street."

[...]NCC project director Peter McCourt said the meeting is "sharpening our understanding" of the residents' concerns.

Citizen: LeBreton development angers residents [13 Dec 2002]

Beaudry reacts to building collapse

Chairman Beaudry defended the NCC's record of heritage preservation in response to the collapse of the houses on Waller:

The NCC is committed to preserving the built heritage of the capital and takes very seriously the damage to buildings at the Nicholas-Laurier site. The demise of the two buildings, listed as heritage assets by the City of Ottawa, was especially disappointing in light of the considerable time and effort we had devoted to brokering an agreement that provided for heritage conservation at the time of the land transfer to Groupe Lepine in 2001.

When we learned of the collapse and subsequent demolition of the buildings, a structural engineer was immediately dispatched to the site to investigate. The engineer provided recommendations on an emergency basis to Groupe Lepine on how to better brace and safeguard the remaining city-designated buildings.

In the days following the heritage destruction, the NCC took action to remind Groupe Lepine of its obligations under the restrictive covenants imposed at the time of the land transfer.

The whole business has worked out rather nicely for the NCC, considering they owned and neglected the buildings for years. Groupe Lepine takes the fall while the NCC can conveniently forget its own role in the loss of the buildings.

Citizen: NCC shares concern about losing heritage [13 Dec 2002]

NCC boots Bluesfest again

The NCC has barred the Bluesfest from using Confederation Park. Apparently, they are worried about the turf. To add a bit more perspective to how ludicrous this is, the decision comes a month after the NCC spent fully one quarter of its Annual Meeting presentation trumpeting its own events, such as Winterlude. They did this because a poll commissioned by the NCC suggested the NCC didn't get enough credit for its work in "animating the Capital." Which leaves us wondering what the Bluesfest is doing, exactly.

This is the NCC we're dealing with, so the Bluesfest has absolutely no recourse to appeal or negotiate this decision. However, this little incident isn't going to do anything to improve the NCC's future poll numbers where "animating the Capital" is concerned (try "the guys who killed the Bluesfest"). Instead, more people are suggesting that the NCC should be disbanded instead of the Bluesfest, which is all to the better.

The Bluesfest is asking folks to write letters to the NCC and various Liberal MPs (see link below). Given our experience with the NCC (indifferent, bureaucratic, self-absorbed) and local area MPs (uncritical admirers of the NCC -- see here), we have our doubts as to how successful that might be, so be sure to send those letters to the Citizen and the Sun as well, as a few extra pages of bad press on the Editorial pages doesn't hurt.

Note: The Bluesfest won the 2002 Event of the Year award from the Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority. Guess that means Winterlude didn't.

CBC: Ottawa Bluesfest seeking new home [12 Dec 2002]
Bluesfest: NCC Rains on Bluesfest's parade [12 Dec 2002]
Bluesfest: What you can do [12 Dec 2002]

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

An eyesore next to Parliament Hill

Researcher Ken Rubin assesses the NCC's Metcalfe Lite parking garage plan in the Citizen:

The above-ground "plaza" on Metcalfe will be sterile and foreboding if the existing drab area in front of the NCC's visitor centre is any guide. The plaza will entail the demolition of three heritage buildings and the moving of two other buildings, including the visitor centre. Far from being a lively, well-located town square, the plaza will essentially function as the concourse to the garage below, making it more like a mass-transit entrance -- lacking, of course, the mass transit.

[...]Documents show that more-distant parking-structure sites were rejected. Options such as park and ride or a tasteful light-rail transit link through the core area, stopping at the Hill, were not seriously considered. And the plans are not connected to a recent City of Ottawa report suggesting an expensive bus-only tunnel downtown.

The parking garage/plaza project, if proceeded with, seems destined to bring more downtown disruption. Bus and car pick-up and drop-off points will overly dominate area traffic and pour hundreds more visitors into a small area. Documents indicate that the project could mean reopening Sparks Street for some traffic, severely restricting Queen Street traffic, and more than occasional area road closings when bus and vehicle flows are unmanageable.

The cost estimates for this parking garage/plaza and related projects are still well hidden and not thought out, but no doubt will be exorbitant. For an initial idea of cost, turn to the already inflated millions of dollars the NCC spent on purchasing Sparks Street office buildings. And recall the high maintenance and repair bills associated with such downtown parking structures as the National Arts Centre underground lot for an idea of the future costs.

Such a parking garage/plaza configuration will not kick-start downtown revitalization, of Sparks Street in particular. Set against the magic of Parliament Hill, it just does not work. It's about as imaginative as the national "vista" created by putting up a 66-year leased condominium concrete tower on what was the promising Daly site nearby.

[...]It's too bad that the federal government has learned little from the controversy it faced over tearing down more of Metcalfe Street further south for a larger and equally questionable mall.

After all, these are the same folks who "renewed" the downtown core of the former Hull in the 1970s with massive federal buildings and parking complexes, and who now want to create a high-rise, high- traffic community in and through LeBreton Flats. They see nothing out of the ordinary or undesirable about plunking down a mega- parking garage opposite Parliament Hill.

Citizen: An eyesore next to Parliament Hill [11 Dec 2002]

Thursday, December 5, 2002

Sparks Street report recommends huge parking garage

A parking study by Delcan for the NCC recommends the parking garage that the NCC wants to build under Sparks Street should accommodate up to 1350 cars and 30 buses:

A downtown parking study commissioned by the NCC is recommending the construction of a huge underground garage for up to 1,350 cars and 30 tour buses in the shadow of Parliament Hill. The project is twice the size of a 650-car garage envisioned a few months ago by NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry.

[...]"The existing parking supply/demand conditions, compounded by the impending loss of short-term parking supply and an increase in parking demand, will result in a core-area parking supply shortage that could have adverse impact on downtown's vitality," says the report, obtained through an Access to Information request by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin.

It recommends that "a parking facility with capacity for between 1,000 and 1,350 parking spaces be provided in a location within a five- to 10-minute walk of Parliament Hill" and that the garage "have capacity and amenities for up to 30 tour buses and their passengers."

As usual, the report had to pried from the NCC through an access to information request. In response to the revelation, the NCC downplayed the report and claimed it was still working with its 650 car proposal.

Citizen: 1,350-car garage urged for Hill area [5 Dec 2002]

Thursday, November 28, 2002

NCC facelift for Hull roads

The NCC is throwing in $7 million towards making St. Laurent and Maisonneuve boulevards less ugly. That means granite curbs, ornamental light standards, landscaped median strips, and poster collars. The article is a bit misleading however, when it says "from Parliament to Gatineau." That should read from Parliament through Gatineau, as St Laurent is simply one end of the McConnell-Laramee freeway.

CBC: Boulevards for the hills: from Parliament to Gatineau [28 Nov 2002]
Radio-Canada: La CCN veut améliorer l'esthétisme des boulevards de Hull [28 Nov 2002]

Friday, November 22, 2002

Gatineau Park Master Plan Review meeting

Apparently, the NCC is reviewing its Gatineau Park Master Plan. The "public consultation" will take place from 5 pm to 9 pm on two nights: mostly in English, on Tuesday November 26, 2002 at the National Gallery of Canada; and mostly in French, on Wednesday November 27, 2002 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. There will be a Q and A session, so be sure to get up there and ask 'em about all the new roads they're planning, like the McConnell-Laramee freeway and Mackenzie King Estate access road.

Citizen: Traffic jam in the park [16 Oct 2002]

LeBreton Flats open house

The NCC will present its design for LeBreton Boulevard at an open house 12 December 2002 at Tom Brown Arena, 5PM to 9PM.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Embassy Barriers to stay, forever

Barriers outside the US Embassy on Sussex Drive

Those barriers in front of the American Embassy on the NCC's "mile of history" aren't going anywhere, and Ottawa is spending $30,000 on a study that will recommend how to make the barriers prettier. The city is also paying $300,000 to redesign Clarence Street so cars can't ram the embassy gates.

Embassy history: The U.S. acquired the land from the NCC in 1995 for $12.4 million in a swap for the old embassy (which was valued at $16.9 million). Prior to that, the site had been another well maintained NCC vacant lot since the 70's. Before that it held wartime temporary government buildings.

The neighbouring York Steps were rebuilt by the NCC for $1.7 million (the U.S. paid for the design). In a telling twist, the NCC threatened to scrap plans to rebuild the steps back in 1993 unless the city agreed to relax height limits for the proposed embassy. Chairman Beaudry sent a letter to Ottawa Council warning that the viability of the stairs was "directly related to the proposed zoning for the embassy." In other words, unless the city agreed to permit an eight-storey structure, the U.S. would be forced to build a wider embassy that extended across the steps and blocked the view of Parliament Hill from the Byward Market. Curiously, the present embassy is only four stories, and, obviously, is not built across the steps.

CBC: Get used to barriers around U.S. Embassy [21 Nov 2002]
CBC: Prettier but permanent barriers for U.S. Embassy [15 Jan 2003]

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Two down

Waller wedge home

Two out of four historic houses on the Nicholas-Waller wedge have been destroyed. The developer claims one of them collapsed, and it had to demolish a second because it wasn't safe.

One might well ask why the heritage homes were in such poor shape. Step forward the NCC, from whom the builder purchased the land and buildings (with the understanding that they would preserve the homes). The NCC bought the properties in the 70's anticipating expansion of the dreary DND headquarters, and then neglected them for decades. The NCC has a history of acquiring property and neglecting it (see here for a good example).

Update: Chairman Beaudry was, not surprisingly, unperturbed when told the houses were lost, stating that the company will probably build good copies. The NCC later backed away from Beaudry's comments, claiming "radio comments by NCC head Marcel Beaudry in which he took a philosophical view of the loss of the buildings 'did not capture the position of the NCC.'"

CBC: Heritage buildings gone [20 Nov 2002]
CBC: Developer must rebuild historic homes [27 Nov 2002]
CBC: NCC would deal with delinquent developer again [28 Nov 2002]
Citizen: Heritage houses were 'rotten', developer says [4 Dec 2002]
NCC Watch Feature: NCC Wastelands

Thursday, November 7, 2002

NCC Annual Meeting the second

Well, the second annual meeting has come and gone, and once again it was an exemplary exercise in petulant self-justification on the part of our favorite Crown corporation. The NCC chose to describe their new animal regulations, their plans for the LeBreton Flats, and those events in the capital that they don't believe they get enough credit for. Kudos to area dog owners, who take the award for exasperating Chairman Beaudry the most during the question and answer session.

CBC: NCC talks new bridges, dogs at annual meeting [7 Nov 2002]
Centretown News: NCC faces public scrutiny [22 Nov 2002]
NCC 2002 Annual Meeting page

Monday, November 4, 2002

NCC set to pave Arboretum pathways

The NCC has already primed a stretch of path through the Arboretum for asphalt to "bring it up to government standards." The project also includes realignment. Total cost: $239,000. How was the public notified? A sign was erected indicating construction would be finished spring 2003.

Citizen: Don't pave these paths [4 Nov 2002]
Submission to Central Experimental Farm Advisory Council [12 Nov 2002]

Saturday, November 2, 2002

NCC to build yet another road in Gatineau Park

The NCC intends to "improve access to the MacKenzie King Estate", which means building a 900 metre road from the Champlain Parkway to the Estate parking lot. The Environmental Assessment is available at the NCC website.

LowdownOnline: Trees will die, but better than a kid [24 Oct 2002]

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

NCC General Meeting announced

The NCC has announced the date for its annual general meeting: Wednesday, November 6, 2002 at the Ottawa Congress Centre. A meaningless PR exercise, the meeting does give you the chance to yell at Chairman Beaudry and his apparatchiks in person if you're so inclined.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

NCC poll results

The NCC is pleased to report that 63 per cent of people polled have a positive view of the NCC. The poll, the latest step in a campaign to improve its own image in the wake of the Shortliffe report of awhile back, cost $25,000 and surveyed 600 area residents. "The NCC [...] relies heavily on the feedback of the residents of the region who are key stakeholders in the Capital building process. We are encouraged by the survey results and we value this important validation of our efforts," burbled Chairman Beaudry. Feedback, according to the NCC, amounts to polling residents on their quality of life.

Buried at the bottom of the NCC's own release are some less laudatory numbers, however: "fewer than half (48%) give the Commission positive marks for its performance in planning land use for the federal government in the region, and this rating has declined from 58 percent two years ago." Only 45% think the NCC is doing an excellent or good job of working with local municipalities.

Apparently the "public is most divided on the job the NCC is doing to consult the public on planning and development issues" -- 31 percent rate the NCC as "only fair", and 26 percent rate the performance as poor or very poor.

But what of those cranks who look on the NCC with a less favourable eye? Well, there are only 11 per cent and, pay attention, this is important, "this group is also less satisfied more generally with the quality of life in the region, suggesting their attitude toward the NCC may be coloured by a broader set of issues and concerns." In other words, they're angry at the world, not the NCC.

According to the Citizen, "the NCC's Guy Laflamme said the low recognition numbers 'gives us a clear indication as to what needs to be done in gaining ground in terms of the image of the corporation.'" And evidently "there is a significant opportunity to strengthen the NCC's public presence in the Region by building a stronger connection to what residents value." Which is what this survey is all about - the NCC improving its image, not its performance. So, here's to more and better marketing and promotion from the NCC.

CBC: Most have positive view of NCC: survey [17 Oct 2002]
Citizen: Capital area benefits from NCC [18 Oct 2002]
NCC: Press Release [17 Oct 2002]

Monday, October 14, 2002

NCC pitches parking plan

The NCC has completed a transportation and parking study that, surprise surprise, confirms a need for a parking lot. The NCC's parking lot. Of course, they are spinning this all as a big benefit to Sparks Street, which will receive hordes of tourists off the busses in the lot etc., etc. Reportedly, one NCC plan calls for a four-level lot for 560 cars and 25 tour buses. No word on the cost.

Centretown News: Parking garage divides Sparks St. merchants [25 Oct 2002]
OBJ: NCC pitches parking plan [14 Oct 2002]

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

NCC builds $250,000 dollar washroom in Rockcliffe

The Citizen revealed that the NCC paid a cool quarter million for a public washroom in Rockcliffe park:

What will $252,701 buy in Rockcliffe Park these days? If you are the National Capital Commission, a seasonal washroom.

But not just any washroom. This is a structure that speaks the same "architectural language" as the historic pavilion the toilet serves, according to Julie Roy, of Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects. Ms. Roy's firm received a $10,365 contract for designing the washroom, which was built this summer.

Yesterday, however, tour bus drivers like David Carlisle used their own "language" to question the wisdom of the luxury facility.

"That's kind of dumb," said Mr. Carlisle, on a cigarette break from ushering a group of Japanese tourists around the capital. "The buses can't even park there."

[...]A document search by independent researcher Ken Rubin revealed the washroom cost $242,336 and was built by V-Par Limited Construction. That total didn't include the architectural fee, but did include the cost of parking, paths, landscaping and water and sewer hook-ups.

Ms. Roy said the cost was increased by using material and details for the washroom similar to those in the pavilion. "The detailing is not standard in today's world," Ms. Roy said.

The washroom, which is typically open from 8 a.m. to sunset in the summer, is now only open on the weekends, said NCC spokesman John Kane.

The quarter-million-dollar structure is closed over the winter months.

Looks like we have a new Tombstone of Waste.

Citizen: NCC spends $250,000 on spiffy Rockcliffe biffy [9 Oct 2002]
Halifax Herald: New federal loo 'no scary park washroom' [10 Oct 2002]

Friday, October 4, 2002

The NCC's golden design opportunity

Citizen columnist Randall Denley takes a look at the NCC's plans for LeBreton Flats:

[NCC official Peter McCourt] says the NCC isn't trying to wring the last dollar from the site. The idea is to sell the land at a price that lets developers put more quality into the buildings without making them unaffordable to buyers.

These are reassuring things to hear, because the NCC's track record doesn't inspire confidence. Remember the Daly Building?

The idea of these people organizing whole neighbourhoods is frightening, but we have to approach this positively. There's no other choice, since ordinary people don't really have any further say in what goes on the site. The NCC has been consulting the public since 1994, but the useful point of consultation is when the NCC can say, "Here's what the new LeBreton's actually going to look like. What do you think?"

We aren't there yet, and may not get there until developers start to build. The closest we will come is when the NCC releases its detailed design guidelines several months from now.

Many problems must be overcome for the new LeBreton to succeed.

LeBreton Boulevard bisects the site, separating the public spaces on the north side from the offices and homes on the south side. The road is being planned at six lanes. If it's too wide, or too busy, it will cut the neighbourhood off from the museum and the river.

The buildings that face the boulevard will have a maximum height of 12 storeys. That has the potential to create an intimidating visual wall. McCourt says this effect will be avoided by limiting most buildings to six storeys and using the full 12-storey height only for corner tower buildings.

The population of the new LeBreton won't be very large, no more than 5,500 people. Will that be enough to sustain neighborhood services, or will everything close up by 5 o'clock, once the office workers have gone home?

Another key issue is the role the NCC chooses for itself. The commission hasn't decided if it will act as developer and sell lots to small builders, or release larger chunks of land to big developers. The first option offers the most control, and makes the most sense. We ought to take advantage of the fact that this land is publicly owned.

Citizen: The NCC's golden design opportunity [4 Oct 2002]

Sunday, September 29, 2002

NCC has cyclists on a road to nowhere

Road to nowhereThe Ottawa Cycling Advisory Committee (OCAC), who have been tracking the NCC's performance from a cycling perspective, has some pointed criticisms. From the Citizen:

"The NCC treats bicycles as toys for tourists," Brett Delmage said. "They say they don't have a mandate for transportation, but the decisions they make affect transportation for people all the time. They think about roads, but they don't think about commuters on bicycles."

At the south end of the newly renovated Champlain Bridge, for instance, a bike path runs straight into a traffic sign.

"It's a new project," said John Kane, an NCC spokesman. "There are going to be things that have to be worked out."

Mr. Kane said he didn't know who would have been responsible for painting lines that, if cyclists were to obey them, would cause serious injuries.

When the Champlain Bridge was closed for construction, Mr. Delmage said, the commission suggested cyclists use the next one over -- a six-kilometre detour.

The NCC, he said, considers its pathways recreational and thinks nothing of closing them or creating detours without warning, and doesn't consider the safety of cyclists who might be on the paths after dark.

According to the committee, cyclists have been badly hurt when they've run into barriers the commission has placed to stop cars from running into its paths -- which are painted black.

The OCAC recently got the NCC to change its plans for a proposed biking detour to accommodate the LeBreton Flats construction. The NCC was going to have cyclists crossing Booth Street walk or ride their bikes through crowds of people waiting for buses at the LeBreton Transitway station. OCAC has assembled a list of the NCC's more notable blunders:

  • Leaving marker lines unchanged during construction projects: During a construction project at Britannia in the mid-1990s, a cyclist was led into a snow fence by path lines that didn't change to indicate a detour.
  • Portage Bridge: Closed to cyclists during construction in 1998; reopened with a poorly designed bike path.
  • Champlain Bridge: When the Champlain Bridge was closed for construction, the NCC suggested cyclists use the next one over -- a six-kilometre detour. Cyclists had to use a 1.5-metre-wide, 1.7-kilometre-long sidewalk during a three-year reconstruction. And when finally reopened, it had wide bike paths, but multiple obstacles when exiting the bridge, and a bike path that runs straight into a traffic sign (see photo).
  • Alexandra Bridge: Vendors' booths were placed across the marked bike path during the Francophonie Games in 2001, while the existing bike path leads cyclists onto a pedestrian sidewalk.
  • Wellington Street: During reconstruction of Wellington Street in 1998, the NCC placed a sign to car drivers across a nearby bike path.
  • Ottawa River Parkway: Cyclists ordered off the road during reconstruction in the early 1990s.
  • Black bollards: Low poles to keep car drivers off bike paths are black and nearly invisible in the dark.

Citizen: Advisory committee says NCC is oblivious to city's cyclists [29 Sep 2002]
Ottawa Cycling Advisory Committee
Champlain bridge cycling hazards

Saturday, September 28, 2002

OMB rules against Moffatt Farm plan

The Ontario Municipal Board has ruled that the NCC's development plans for Moffatt Farm are "inadequate" and "premature," and have ordered a new study of the property: "The board allows six months from the date of this decision to enable the parties to complete both the broader secondary planning study and any revised subdivision design."

CBC: OMB orders study into Moffatt Farm development [29 Sep 2002]
Citizen: NCC foes celebrate Moffatt Farm 'win' [28 Sep 2002]
Ontario Municipal Board

Public figure, private man

The final installment of the Citizen's extensive look at the NCC looks at the grand poohbah himself, Chairman Beaudry. Some excerpts:

As a former mayor, there was great hope that Mr. Beaudry would champion a more open NCC. That hasn't happened.

In a 1993 interview with the Citizen, Mr. Beaudry said that, as a general principle, "I'm all in favour" of greater accessibility at the NCC. As for opening NCC meetings to the public like any city council, he said: "Maybe we'll come to that."

But on Sept. 6, his most recent interview with the Citizen, Mr. Beaudry made it clear he has no intention of changing the way the NCC conducts its business.

"The NCC is a Crown corporation. We are not a municipal council. If we were a municipal council, accountable to only the people of the municipality, we would be opening up those meetings," he says.

Mr. Beaudry says Ottawa residents simply don't understand the NCC's mission, and particularly that he is not answerable solely to area residents.

He says the controversy over Moffatt Farm illustrates public misconception.

"This is a field, a 90-acre field. It is not a park, it is nothing particularly special," he says of the Prince of Wales Drive property, across from Mooney's Bay.

"It is a field used by people who want to walk their dogs and kids who want to play in the trees," he adds, stressing the NCC has every right to develop it if it wants.

He says Ottawa residents are privileged enough because they use, almost free, a lot of federal services, paid for by the rest of Canada.

[...]Irving Schwartz, the NCC board member from Nova Scotia, says Mr. Beaudry "has been abused, attacked, hurt. We have senators coming after him. We have the press coming after him. The heat he takes is unbelievable."

Mr. Beaudry and other NCC officials believe the media, and the Citizen in particular, are to blame for much of this.

"The biggest problem we have at the NCC is the goddam press, especially your newspaper," Mr. Schwartz told a reporter.

John Mlacak, former reeve of the former March Township and NCC board member, says when he arrived at the agency in the late 1990s, he advised everyone not to depend on the Citizen because of its anti- NCC bias. "I told the NCC: 'Don't work with the Citizen, work around them."

A persecution complex has gripped the soul of 40 Elgin St. and deep resentment of the media permeates the air. Mr. Beaudry is consumed by it. He says the Citizen doesn't give him a fair shake and was never more agitated than when cataloguing what he views as the newspaper's sins. During the interview, he waved a copy of a Citizen article, which he thought unfair. The offending article was on the strong economic revival of Sussex Drive, and Mr. Beaudry was unhappy the report failed to mention the agency, which he says is behind the revival.

Of course, the NCC's paranoia about the media is understandable - media reporting on the NCC's bungling is virtually the only check on the NCC's activities.

Citizen: Public figure, private man [28 Sep 2002]

Friday, September 27, 2002

For all Canadians

The NCC and its defenders claim that critics don't really understand the NCC's role, that it serves a far grander purpose than serving the necessarily parochial interests of the residents of the national capital region. It is an insidious argument, as it allows the NCC to dismiss criticism out of hand as the time wasting provincialism of an idle and feckless citizenry, while granting themselves a mandate so vague that it allows them to justify anything.

Suppose then that the NCC proposed, in the interest of all Canadians, to explode a neutron bomb over the city. Is there some point at which one could stand up and say "I disagree" without being dismissed as a yokel? An absurd example, perhaps, but that's more or less what the NCC did to the LeBreton Flats in 1963. Now I don't care if the NCC demolished the flats for all Canadians, for their mothers, or for baby Jesus -- whether I lived in Vancouver or Wawa, given the salient facts I would conclude that that was a monumentally boneheaded thing to do.

Of course, chances are that if I lived in Vancouver or Wawa, I wouldn't be aware of the NCC, because while the NCC may be doing whatever it does for all Canadians, most Canadians just aren't paying attention. It therefore falls to those Canadians who are paying attention (not improbably, largely residents of the NCR) to hold the NCC to account for its actions. Why, you could even say we are criticizing the NCC on behalf of all Canadians. We judge the NCC's behaviour on its merits -- and the NCC has no one but themselves to blame if it is so often found wanting.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Beaudry's decade

To mark Chairman Beaudry's tenth anniversary at the helm of the NCC, the Citizen starts a six-part series on the NCC today.

As part of the series, the Citizen is conducting an on-line poll. The options are:

  • The NCC is valuable and has done an excellent job.
  • I believe it could do a lot more for Ottawa.
  • I don't even really know what the NCC does.

Through some unfortunate and regrettable oversight, the fourth option "The NCC has outlived its usefulness, please consign them to oblivion" was left off. Let 'em know what you think at Letters to the Editor instead.

Citizen: NCC's defiant boss tells critics: You're lucky to have us [23 Sep 2002]

Friday, September 20, 2002

NCC reveals more of LeBreton Flats plan

Complete with colour-coded map and the now familiar artist's conception, the LeBreton Flats plan is making the rounds again. From the Citizen:

The NCC released the first detailed artist's rendering of how it expects LeBreton Flats to look in a few years.

The 12-storey buildings, containing apartments or offices, will be on LeBreton Boulevard, a new street on the south side of a triangular park in the area just west of Parliament Hill.

The new Canadian War Museum is scheduled to open in May, 2005 on the north side of the park, close to the Ottawa River.

Elisabeth Arnold, councillor for the area, said last week she feared a "highway hell" if too many high-rise buildings were permitted on LeBreton Flats.

That the proposal includes 12-story buildings now seems to be causing controversy. But as the Citizen recently pointed out, "If we insist on buildings that are only a couple of storeys high, we're not going to get a lively concentration of people living, and working in offices, stores, bars and restaurants. We'd just be buying into more loose suburban development." Just make sure the streets have a human scale, like Bank Street in Centretown. Unfortunately, they appear to be planning King Edward Boulevard II.

The plan to demolish three heritage buildings and move two others on Sparks Street to make way for a parkade is also being shopped around again. All that's changed is the NCC is now using the post-September 11 security arrangements on the hill to justify the demolition.

The need for more parking in the Sparks Street area has been made more acute by the federal government's decision to close Parliament Hill to tour buses and automobiles, he said.

The decision followed last September's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Mr. Beaudry said he expects the federal government to decide next spring whether to demolish three heritage buildings on the north side of Sparks Street, and to move to two others, in order to create space for a large underground parking garage along three blocks at the north end of Metcalfe Street.

Demolishing and moving buildings would permit a parking garage large enough for 650 automobiles and 30 buses, Mr. Beaudry said.

If no buildings were demolished or moved, the parking garage could accommodate 300 automobiles and no tour buses, he said.

The plan, of course, dates back to before 2000, and originated with the Metcalfe Grand Boulevard scheme.

Citizen: NCC looks to change face of Ottawa [20 Sep 2002]
Radio-Canada: La CCN veut démolir 3 édifices historiques sur la rue Sparks [20 Sep 2002]
CBC: 12-storey towers planned for LeBreton [20 Sep 2002]
Centretown News: NCC plan for downtown called 'robbery' [27 Sep 2002]

Monday, September 16, 2002

Champlain Bridge: Same as it ever was

Seems the Champlain Bridge is still jammed during peak hours. Inevitably, Gatineau city councillor Lawrence Cannon has asked the National Capital Commission to do something to reduce the congestion. The NCC seems to think it's just a matter of tweaking the intersection on the Quebec side. Unfortunately, Mr. Cannon fails to mention how many of the people stopping him in the street to complain are commuting in high occupancy vehicles.

CBC: Commuters steamed over jammed bridge [16 Sep 2002]
Radio Canada: Le pont Champlain est encore plus congestionné [17 Sep 2002]
Le Droit: Confusion sur le pont Champlain [17 Sep 2002]
Radio Canada: Ouverture officielle d'un pont congestionné [24 Sep 2002]

Friday, September 13, 2002

NCC decides to allow canoes in Leamy Lake

The Citizen reports that the NCC has decided to allow canoes in the Leamy Lake Navigation Channel, coincidentally after a canoeist contacted Le Droit after being ticketed for the crime of paddling in the channel:

Etienne Gilbert went out for a paddle one day last June and found himself up the creek.

By the time he hit shore, the National Capital Commission had chased him down in a motorboat, dressed him down for his offences, and slapped him with $235 in possible fines.

Mr. Gilbert, 28, an avid paddler who lives on shores of the Gatineau River, took his 18-footer out on June 11. Eager to try out his new racing canoe, he wanted to explore nearby Leamy Lake, which is connected to the river by a short, narrow canal.

As he approached the canal, an NCC agent in a booth told him to stop: no canoes or kayaks allowed; motorboats only.

As a lifelong paddler, he thought this was absurd, so just kept on going, exploring the lake, then spilling out a second exit toward the Ottawa River.

For the next few minutes, he journeyed along the Quebec side, then crossed the Ottawa to Ontario waters.

A man in a motorboat who had been following him for an estimated 15 minutes approached him and told him to come to shore.

[...]When he arrived back on the shore of the Gatineau, Mr. Gilbert was met by a pair of NCC officers and told he was being prosecuted for violating two NCC regulations: using the canal and disobeying a warning from an NCC agent.

[...]"I couldn't understand why the NCC, which promotes walking, bicycling, canoeing, would make regulations that promote motorboats and prohibits small boats like canoes."

It seems that the more trivial (or incomprehensible) the offense, the more zealous the enforcement by the NCC's rent-a-cops. The NCC now intends to use a string of buoys to create a "canoe lane" in the channel.

Citizen: Canoeist lands in hot water with NCC [13 Sep 2002]

Monday, September 9, 2002

NCC land could fetch $5.3M in land deal

More of the NCC's surplus land is going up for sale, this time to accommodate a fast food restaurant, or a gas station maybe. The land is at Walkley and Hawthorne in the South. Originally zoned industrial, the NCC had it rezoned for a shopping centre, medical facilities and office space. No mention of how or why the NCC acquired the land in the first place.

OBJ: NCC land could fetch $5.3M in land deal [9 Sep 2002]

Friday, September 6, 2002

LeBreton Flats Public Open House

The NCC is hosting a public open house Wednesday, September 25, 2002, from 7 pm to 9:30 pm at the Tom Brown Hall, in the Tom Brown Arena 141 Bayview Road, Ottawa, Ontario. On the agenda will be the environmental assessments for the construction of water and wastewater works and the reconstruction of Booth Street. The environmental assessment reports for these two projects will be available on September 23, 2002. Comments will be accepted by the NCC until October 7, 2002.

A note to cyclists, if you use the route through the flats, you may want to voice your concerns at this meeting, as they are proposing a temporary sidewalk that will involve lots of walking for cyclists.

NCC 2001-2002 Annual Report released

We've yet to plow through this piece of self-congratulatory fluff, but a quick scan reveals that, as usual, their recollection of events is self-servingly selective. Project of the year is the LeBreton Flats, and the NCC is so proud of its accomplishments that they couldn't even wait for the Table of Contents to review their own "progress":

LeBreton Flats was the single most important NCC project in 2001-02. A large piece of empty land along the western edge of the downtown Capital, LeBreton Flats has lain virtually idle since it was cleared of housing and light industry in the 1960s. For several years now, the NCC has been working - with municipal partners - on a plan for redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.

In the interest of providing some sort of perspective on the whole situation, we just wanted to mention the unfortunate fact that it was the NCC itself that expropriated and demolished the flats and that the NCC is responsible for the flats lying idle ever since. So, nice work on the flats, guys.

Saturday, August 30, 2002

NCC looking at opening Sparks to traffic

The Citizen reports that the NCC has hired a consultant, Robert McKinley, to examine four options for traffic on Sparks Street: Leave it as is; introduce trolley buses; allow regular buses; or reopen the street to all traffic. Why would the NCC be considering putting traffic back on Sparks Street at this point? Maybe it has something to do with their other grand plan for Sparks Street: levelling the north side of Sparks for a new underground parking garage at Metcalfe.

The best option is, of course, to leave Sparks Street as it is. Cars and busses won't help Sparks Street, intensification will. Of course, intensification is something that isn't accomplished by demolishing buildings (all of them heritage). Under that plan, the Bates, Birks and Fisher buildings on the north side of the street will be demolished while the building that houses the NCC tourist infocentre will be moved half a block to the west. What a coincidence. What a waste.

Citizen: A little light on Sparks [30 Aug 2002]
NCC Watch: 10 Reasons why the NCC's Plans for Sparks Street Suck

Pet owners set to unleash campaign against NCC

Meanwhile, according to the Citizen, dog owners who are no longer welcome at most of the NCC's properties, are planning to ignore the new edict:

As part of the ongoing dispute between the National Capital Commission and the people who walk their dogs on the Crown corporation's land, the NCC put up signs last week in several parks across the city forbidding owners from letting their dogs run off the leash.

The new rules restricting the number of parks where such roaming is allowed are accompanied by regulations prohibiting people from using in-line skates or biking with dogs on leash, or from disposing of dog excrement, even in plastic bags, in NCC garbage cans. But some dog owners have come up with a form of civil disobedience they expect will ward off the law. They plan not to give their names to the officers.

They plan not to give their names to the officers.

Lisa Kelly, a member of the Hampton Park Dog Owners Group, said she does not believe the NCC's conservation officers have the authority to compel dog owners to produce identification. If they don't know the name of the offender, she argues, they can't very well write a ticket.

"That is my plan and it's the plan of a number of people," Ms. Kelly said. "I won't give I.D. and I'll see what happens."

Ms. Kelly said yesterday that in discussions she's had with the NCC, the commission has acknowledged that there could be a legal issue there. However, Ms. Kelly said the NCC also said the possibility exists that non-compliant offenders could be arrested.

Just be prepared to be harassed, and even followed home, as happened to one dog walker.

Citizen: Pet owners set to unleash campaign against NCC [30 Aug]

Friday, August 9, 2002

NCC roundly criticized over Gatineau Park

An editorial in the Citizen by Stephen Hazell, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, outlines some of the NCC's failures:

New roads such as the Laramee-McConnell connection and Mackenzie King Estate access road, along with new housing development inside the park and on its periphery, continue to fragment wildlife habitat. Exploding levels of trail use by bicyclists, skiers, all-terrain vehicle riders, snowmobilers, rock climbers and hikers also increase the stress on ecosystems. If Gatineau Park was a national park, it would be on the critically endangered list.

National parks are protected by law, but not Gatineau Park. Incredibly, Parliament has enacted no law governing how land in the park is to be used. The NCC owns most of the land in the park and thus has some control over development. But decisions to build new roads or expand skiing facilities are made at the discretion of the NCC and in secret. And without a governing statute, the NCC lacks the tools to properly manage the park, even if it wanted to.

Hazell notes that Public consultations are under way for a new Gatineau Park Master Plan. CPAWS would like to see legislation that would make the park more like a real national park (as opposed to an NCC fiefdom). The NCC is currently backing a plan to build the McConnell-Laramee freeway through the park.

CPAWS: Let's Protect Our National Treasure [6 Aug 2002]
CPAWS April 2002 submission to the NCC's Board of Directors
CPAWS Update on the McConnell-Laramee Road Through Gatineau Park

Monday, August 5, 2002

NCC reneges on dog agreement

Since the NCC announced its new restrictive dog walking rules a few years back, the National Capital Coalition of People and Dogs has worked diligently with the NCC to work out a reasonable dog policy. To little avail, apparently, as the NCC has now reneged on part of the agreement. Check the NCCPD web site for details.

National Capital Coalition of People and Dogs campaign
CBC: Dog owners won't be penned in [3 Sep 2002]
The NCC's latest rules (refer back often)

Thursday, August 1, 2002

NCC trail repairs aren't working

Citizen letter writer Ian Stewart notes the NCC's poor management of trails in Gatineau Park:

The National Capital Commission is renovating Trail 3 in Gatineau Park at a great cost that could have been avoided.

I have seen fist-sized rock being trucked in and spread around with a mini-bulldozer. All that is missing is the asphalt. This "renovation" follows repairs to the same trail that were needed after a backhoe installing culverts destroyed several kilometres of trail.

I have travelled to numerous trail systems in Colorado and British Columbia over the years, and volunteers with hand tools built every one. The trails in those places last longer, are more enjoyable and don't cost the taxpayer a cent.

The problem here is that the NCC ignores the major problem of streams running onto its trails, causing erosion. Every manual or guide devoted to trail-building will tell you that uncontrolled water is a trail's worst enemy. Yet for 15 years I've seen no attempt to divert the water. Yes, the NCC has been informed -- it has even been shown photographs -- but it has consistently ignored these problems.

I fear the NCC has a secret agenda to ignore all but a few trails, effectively making the smaller or tertiary ones nothing but a memory. The old Camp Fortune trail network has certainly been reduced.

There are simple ways of fixing the problem, but first the paternalistic NCC must stop being unco-operative. I encountered this attitude recently when I was refused the e-mail address for Gatineau Park's director.

Citizen: NCC trail repairs aren't working [1 Aug 2002]

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Again with the dogs, redux

Another couple of months, and more regulations for dogs courtesy the NCC. Now they want owners to "remove their pets' feces from NCC property", apparently to "preserve the environment for future generations." So do your part to delay the inevitable global environmental catastrophe and carry that package home, eh?

CBC: NCC regulates curbing your dog [30 Jul 2002]
National Capital Coalition of People and Dogs campaign
The NCC's latest rules (refer back often)

Monday, July 16, 2002

LeBreton Flats Environmental Assessment Reports

Now available from the NCC. Comments will be accepted until July 25, 2002.

Friday, July 5, 2002

Scouts not prepared for NCC

Sources tell us a troop of Scouts that had been leasing land from the NCC for camping at Moffatt Farm were forced to vacate about a month ago due to a significant increase in the lease charges. The Scouts had built, at their own expense, two small buildings to store their equipment, but they've been instructed by the NCC to remove the contents of the buildings, which will then be demolished. The NCC hopes to sell the land for development, although the City has refused to re-zone the land and the case is still before the Ontario Municipal Board. This should impart a valuable lesson to the lads: don't trust the government. Time to sew a new badge on boys!

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Loto-Quebec abandons Leamy Lake golf course

Poll resultsLoto-Quebec has kept their word and cancelled the golf course they were planning for Leamy Lake Park (owned by the NCC) when polling revealed a majority of people in Gatineau were against the idea.

Of course, the NCC, who can never admit they are wrong and are ever eager to hand amunition to their detractors, won't let go of the idea of developing the land and continue to defend the dead project. From the Citizen:

The National Capital Commission, however, owns most of the affected land and said future development of the area was possible, despite the public sentiment.

Laurie Peters, a spokeswoman for the NCC, said NCC guidelines for that land allow more intense development.

"We aren't going to go out and look at other projects, but we wouldn't close the door on future proposals as long as they respected, and were appropriate according to the land use guidelines," Ms. Peters said.

She also said she believed the public and the media had overreacted to the golf course proposal, noting that it would have consumed only 75 of the park's 274 hectares and preserved the most popular public areas, including beaches, paths and picnic areas. [very generous -- ed.]

"The golf course was not taking over the entire park, far from it," Ms. Peters said.

The 50-year lease of land for the golf course would have netted the commission about $2.65 million, Ms. Peters said.

The Leamy Lake golf course stands as yet another illustration of the NCC's knack in backing schemes certain to foster public opposition and expose them to derision. An enthusiastic backer of the plan since day one, the NCC went as far as to present the plans for the course at its first public annual meeting last fall in a misguided attempt at reassuring the public. Standing to make a tidy sum from the deal, the NCC stood on its own stage and tried to sell a golf course for gamblers on what is, at least in the public's (albeit mistaken) opinion, public land. But by shilling for the Hull Casino, they succeeded only in further undermining their own self-proclaimed role as protector of lands of "national significance" in the Capital. So, from our point of view, this has not been a useless exercise.

Our only question now is, will they fix the park sign?

Leamy Lake Park sign

The last word belongs to SOS Leamy: Victoire.

Citizen: NCC refuses to rule out Leamy Lake development [21 Jun 2002]
CBC: Leamy Lake golf course gets deep-sixed [20 Jun 2002]
Radio-Canada: Le casino abandonne son projet de golf [20 Jun 2002]

Friday, June 14, 2002

Canoes banned from Leamy Lake canal

Too much traffic as it has become a popular destination for power boats, apparently. No question of inconveniencing power boats of course, as they're likely to be paying customers at the casino.

CBC: Canoes banned from Leamy Lake canal [14 Jun 2002]

Loto Quebec polling residents

Loto Quebec has started polling Gatineau residents about the Lac Leamy golf course. Curiously, when polled, respondents are told it is a survey about the quality of life in Gatineau. There's a connection?

Radio-Canada: Sondage critiqué sur le golf du casino [14 Jun 2002]

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Again with the dogs

The NCC has once again changed its rules for walking dogs on NCC land. They do this every year -- no doubt to boost their revenues from fines. In all, there are 300 regulations to contend with. See here for bit of back plot.

CBC: Dog rules change on NCC land [13 Jun 2002]
Citizen: NCC bans dogs from picnic areas, campgrounds [14 Jun 2002]
National Capital Coalition of People and Dogs campaign
The NCC's latest rules

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Chairman Beaudry testifies

Chairman Beaudry's testimony before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance touched on a wide variety of topics, including Moffatt Farm, Sparks Street, grand boulevards, Treasury Board's directive for selling surplus lands, and Chairman beaudry's own salary. After a set statement featuring the usual bumph about the NCC's plans and awards, Beaudry faced a variety of questions from the Senators. Chairman Beaudry's answers were occasionally revealing:

  • Capital appropriations. According to Mr Beaudry, $20 million is given to the NCC every year by Treasury Board, but they need $25 million to $26 million to meet their capital expenditures. Hence the need to sell land that they themselves declare surplus. Curiously, throughout the testimony, there was never any question of the NCC actually reducing its capital expenditures. Indeed, when asked what the NCC would do once it had run out of surplus land, Beaudry replied that "perhaps Treasury Board will change their policy at that point in time."
  • Surplus land. The NCC decides in its infinite wisdom. To quote Chairman Beaudry: "Surplus land is determined after a long analysis by the people at the NCC. They take into account the circumstances that have taken place, and look into whether this land is needed for the NCC's operations, programs or symbolism. We decide afterwards what land should be declared surplus." No surprise there, then.
  • The Metcalfe grand boulevard. The NCC never throws any idea away, no matter how bad. To quote Chairman beaudry: "The grand alley boulevard is not in the cards at this point in time. Years from now it may become an idea to be pursued."
  • Sparks Street. The NCC still wants its square and underground parking lot for tour busses. Specifically, it wants to demolish the Hong Kong Bank and Montreal Trust buildings. They are also talking with Public Works about converting a building for residential use.
  • The City of Ottawa's zoning policies and the OMB. Unfair. To quote Chairman Beaudry: "Generally speaking, the city of Ottawa always likes to keep NCC's land as open land, no zoning. Why? Because they can use it for their purposes. I do not think this is fair. We have said to the city, "When we do not feel it is fair, we are going to go to the OMB." These are some of the cases where we went to the OMB in the 1990s: Concord and Echo, Innes and Blair, Heron and Walkley. Each time we were successful at the OMB, because OMB felt that the city was not being fair to the NCC as fair as zoning was concerned."
  • The people of Ottawa. Spoiled. "The people in this area here are using all of the facilities that the NCC has been providing for over the last 100 years. All those parks, pathways, parkways and Winterlude, which are being paid for by federal money, are being used to the extent of 85 per cent by the people of this region. Not too many people in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Riviera de Loup, Quebec, and Norway Bay use these facilities. The people in this area, paid by federal money, are using them extensively. We consider that when it becomes a local issue, then at that point, it is not NCC's responsibility to provide these parks for local issues."

Transcript of Beaudry's testimony [11 Jun 2002]
Chairman Beaudry's speaking notes
Standing Senate Committee on National Finance Report on the NCC
Sheila Copps' Testimony before the Standing Senate Committee

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Chairman Beaudry goes before the Senate June 11

Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at 9:30 a.m. Location: Room 705, Victoria Building 140 Wellington Street. According to the Committee Business schedule of meetings, the National Finance Committee meeting featuring Chairman Beaudry will also be web cast live and possibly broadcast on CPAC.

Friday, May 31, 2002

LeBreton Flats meeting

The next public meeting (fourth in the ongoing saga) about the NCC's progress on the LeBreton Flats will be held on Tuesday, June 11, 2002, from 7 pm to 9 pm at the Tom Brown Hall, in the Tom Brown Arena, 141 Bayview Road. The final Environmental Assessment (by consultant Dessau-Soprin) and the final Environmental Screening Report (by the NCC) are also now available to the public. Sounds like good bedtime reading.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Senators question NCC's land dealings

Some Senators are pushing to amend the federal legislation governing the NCC to stop the agency from selling lands to private developers. The NCC claims that if they can't sell land, they'll need a hefty boost to their appropriation to make up for it. Quote of the day: "To reconstruct a heritage bridge or to maintain a beautiful Gatineau park, it all takes funds." Last time we checked, the Quebec Government was going to pay to put that freeway through the park, so what's the problem? Chairman Beaudry gets to make his case early next month, when he appears before the Senate's Standing Committee on National Finance.

NCCWatch Opinion: Be careful what you ask for. An NCC that isn't forced to sell land to pay for its projects is more unaccountable than one that doesn't. At least now they have to face an outraged public and city zoning bylaws. Giving the NCC a blank cheque will not solve the fundamental problems of the NCC: arrogance and unaccountability. We maintain that the NCC should be abolished, full stop.

CBC: Senators question NCC's land dealings [23 May 2002]

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

War Museum offers three designs

The War museum has posted three proposed designs for its new museum, to be constructed on the LeBreton Flats.

Local Liberal MPs Love the NCC

While Senators Cools and Kinsella ask some pretty pertinent questions regarding the NCC, one might well wonder where their local Liberal MP stands in all this. Well, if this letter to the Ottawa Citizen from March 2000 is any indication, they're standing squarely behind Chairman Beaudry and the NCC.

Citizen: We area MPs support wonderful NCC plans for capital [10 Mar 2000]

Monday, May 13, 2002

Senate continues to hammer the NCC

The Senate's debate concerning the NCC's proposal for Moffatt Farm, initiated by Senator Cools, has widened into something broader, questioning the NCC's methods and very mandate. On May 8, Senator Kinsella raised the following points:

  • All Canadians have a direct interest in the open lands and assets of the National Capital. The NCC holds these properties in trust and on a fiduciary basis on behalf of all Canadians from coast to coast.
  • The National Capital Act was brought in by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1958; after 44 years the time has come for Parliament to review the adequacy of this model of legislation.
  • The social, economic and mobility dynamics in the year 2002 sees Canadians being stakeholders in the use of all public lands in the National Capital in far greater numbers than 50 years ago. Therefore decisions of the NCC relating to the disposition of these public lands affect all Canadians across the country in new ways.
  • The Section in the National Capital Act dealing with the sale of public lands held in trust for all Canadians needs to be revised to provide for a recall mechanism. Section 10(2) of the Act, which gives the power to the NCC to sell lands held in trust, could be amended to provide for a review mechanism by a Parliamentary Committee upon the receipt of 1,000 signatures. As well, the Section of the Act that gives the authority to Cabinet to overturn any decision by the NCC to not sell land should also apply to any decision to sell land.
  • The National Capital Commission should not be selling assets to private developers to offset ongoing costs of the Commission. If the NCC needs money they should bring their case to Parliament.
  • The NCC should withdraw its application before the Ontario Municipal Board to appeal the decision of the City of Ottawa to deny re-zoning of Moffatt Farm.

Now that's what we call sober second thought.

Senate Debate May 8, 2002
Senate Debate April 23, 2002

Friday, May 3, 2002

NCC endures the public for an evening

The NCC held its first annual 'Meet the Board' meeting - one of the measures introduced as a result of the Shortliffe report - where interest groups can make presentations to the NCC's board:

NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry thanked participants for attending the public session.

"We at the NCC are trying to deliver a product, not only to the people of the capital region, but to Canada.

"We are here to listen -- we are not here to present a program," he said.

Despite this, when some participants criticized an aspect of the NCC, Mr. Beaudry felt it necessary to defend the goals, intentions, and previous actions of the NCC during the question portion set aside after each presenter.

[...]Of the 15-member board, (seven from the national-capital region and eight from across Canada), half seemed interested with the presentations, and the other half appeared bored.

About 100 people were on hand to hear 33 presentations.

Citizen: NCC outdated, too secretive, interest groups say [3 May 2002]
CBC: Secretive NCC goes public [3 May 2002]

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Home builder loses battle with NCC

You think your neighbours are obnoxious? Top this: the NCC is forcing a man to tear down his newly built home in the Westboro Beach area because it's too close to NCC land. Apparently the NCC requires nine metres between a structure and their property, three times what the city requires. The house is 4.8 metres from the fenceline. The NCC refused an offer of $20,000 for landscaping, legal fees and a penalty of $60,000.

Citizen: 'Dream' house must be torn down [27 Apr 2002]
CBC: Home builder loses battle with NCC [28 Apr 2002]
ALS News: Superior Court ruling [24 Apr 2002]
Star: Controversial Ottawa house has new owner [13 Jul 2002]

Friday, April 26, 2002

Moffatt Farm OMB hearings

The Moffatt Farm Coalition and the city are going before the Ontario Municipal board starting April 29, 2002 at 1PM, anyone interested in attending for the first hour would be appreciated.

Senator Cools dishes it out to the NCC

Senator Anne Cools didn't hold back in the Senate on Tuesday:

Honourable senators, this inquiry is also about greed, profiteering, land speculation against the public interest. It is about the corruption of a public purpose, and the unconstitutional and unparliamentary conversion of a public purpose to a private one, one that is not fitting or desirable to a constitutional entity, a commission. Further, this purpose and role was never countenanced by Parliament; neither was it ever intended or authorized in enacting the National Capital Act. Parliament has never intended that the National Capital Commission should place itself into hostile conflicts with Canadians and with Ottawa's own elected mayor and city councilors."

Senate Hansard: 1st Session, 37th Parliament, Volume 139, Issue 107 [23 Apr 2002]

Thursday, April 25, 2002

LeBreton Flats work begins

Work has begun on the LeBreton Flats; archaeologists are to finish searching for artifacts in the area and decontamination work to begin next month. However, researchers are concerned they won't have enough time to properly investigate the site. Just one more thing the NCC could have been doing in the 40 years the land has been vacant.

CBC: Redevelopment work starts at LeBreton Flats [25 Apr 2002]
CBC: What's the story in LeBreton Flats? [26 Apr 2002]

NCC is abusing the public interest

Senator Anne Cools has responded to the Citizen, elaborating on her comments about the NCC:

It is exactly because I do live in the neighbourhood that the residents came to me after being shunned by their elected members of Parliament. After all, I am a senator from Ontario, which includes Ottawa.

Your writer should acknowledge that the NCC is a creature of Parliament, created by the National Capital Act. He should say that every member of Parliament, including senators, owes the citizens of Canada a duty of diligence in the oversight of every statute of Parliament, and of every department, ministry, tribunal and commission created by Parliament.

This is especially pressing when local citizens and elected city councillors have asked me for assistance because they believe that the NCC is acting against the public interest and is assuming the role of a private developer.

[...]The current value of this parkland is about $400,000, which has been the basis of the government's "grants in lieu of taxes" paid to the city for many decades. The NCC is proposing that the City of Ottawa rezone the Moffatt Farm from parkland to residential to justify a high market-price approaching $10 million, so that the city may purchase it from the NCC at that elevated price and then turn around and restore the zoning back to parkland.

The result would be that Ottawa taxpayers would pay the federal government an extra $9.6 million, and that the city would have collected the government's "grants in lieu" at the lower land value rate for decades. How could Ottawa Council justify this to its taxpayers? And why should the federal government, through the NCC, engage in this kind of unfair enrichment, and attempt to enlist the Ontario Municipal Board in its scheme?

Such distortion of land values does not serve a public purpose. The editorial writer is missing the point that such land privateering is not fitting for a commission such as the NCC that owns public lands. Neither is such land privateering countenanced by the purpose or character of the commission that Parliament intended in the National Capital Act.

The NCC has already refused an offer from the city of $400 000 for the land.

Citizen: NCC is abusing the public interest [25 Apr 2002]

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Senator raps NCC over Moffatt Farm

A senator, of all unlikely public officials, has stepped in to criticize the NCC over its dealings with Moffatt Farm. This is in part due to the complete inaction on the part of Ottawa-area MPs, Mac Harb being particularly notable for his reflex support of every scheme the NCC has ever cooked up.

CBC: Senator raps NCC over Moffatt Farm [16 Apr 2002]

Friday, April 12, 2002

City offers to buy Moffatt Farm, NCC refuses

The National Capital Commission says the City's offer to buy the Moffatt Farm for $400,000 is simply not reasonable -- and no offer will be considered until the Ontario Municipal Board holds its hearing. They're counting on the OMB siding with them to get the land rezoned for residential development, even though the city has rejected the rezoning.

CBC: NCC rejects city offer for Moffatt Farm [12 Apr 2002]
Ottawa City Council resolution to buy Moffatt Farm [10 Apr 2002]
CBC: City wants to buy Moffatt Farm, maybe [10 Apr 2002]
CBC: City votes to buy Moffatt Farm [11 Apr 2002]

Saturday, April 7, 2002

LeBreton Flats reports available

The draft Environmental Assessment Study (by consultant Dessau-Soprin) and the draft Environmental screening Report (by the NCC) are available to the public. Comments accepted from the public until the 18th of April.

Friday, April 6, 2002

Urban blight a fitting symbol of NCC decay

The Toronto Star ripped into the NCC today in an editorial:

By any measure, it is the capital's - perhaps the country's - most conflicted, revealing and evocative empty lot. A two-minute stroll from Parliament Hill, next door to the faintly lugubrious Chateau Laurier and across the street from the conference centre where the deal to bring home the Constitution was cut, the Daly site is spectacularly located at Canada's symbolic epicentre.

Sadly, it is equally well-located at the heart of bureaucratic bungling by another symbol: the starkly undemocratic National Capital Commission. After dithering over the Daly site since 1978, the commission is finally doing something. If all goes well - and it rarely does when the NCC puts on its developer overalls - nine floors of luxury condominiums will rise over street level shops on a historic, prime piece of property that belongs to all Canadians.

It wasn't supposed to end this way. At one time, the NCC was so committed to integrating the original home of Ottawa's first department store into grand - some say grandiose - plans for the national capital that it snubbed public demands for a temporary park that citizens, in a fit of civic pride, offered to build with their own hands.

Instead, the NCC, claiming to act in the national interest, built hoardings, dumped some benches, ran up a few flags and for more than a decade allowed a site with stunning potential to become an eyesore. True, the commission and Marcel Beaudry, a well-connected former developer who is now its reclusive chairman, were hardly idle. There was bold talk about a people place that would attract tourists while connecting a political sector that is silent after dark to the city's bustling Market. A 1997 shortlist of proposals led to a bizarre, fatally flawed plan to turn a quintessentially Canadian asset into an overflow hotel for the Chateau Laurier and, wait for it, an aquarium.

In contrast, the deal that will see a private developer build some 70 condominiums seems positively inspired. Artist drawings promise an appropriately handsome building and the units, ranging from just over $300,000 to just under $1 million, will bring more people and energy into the city core.

But what the NCC and Canadians get out of this is surprisingly small and out of sync with national interests. Leasing the land will cost the developer a modest $100,000 annually, money the NCC will use to fulfill its mandate of "Creating Pride and Unity Through Canada's Capital."

Again according to the NCC, the three tenets - that's tenets, not tenants - of that mandate are to "communicate Canada to Canadians, to create a meeting place for Canadians and to preserve national treasures and lands." How building condominiums fits that objective is a mystery at the heart of the NCC enigma. A crown corporation created in 1959 to safeguard federal buildings, monuments and parks, the NCC is much more. It is a mini-municipality that controls 10 per cent of the land in the sprawling National Capital Region. And, horrifying its many critics, it is often a developer, one with a nasty record of costly projects that regularly inflame a local population that has no control over an essentially unaccountable political institution.

Officially, Beaudry and 15 directors from across Canada are ultimately responsible to Parliament through Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. Reality is a little different. Too often, key decisions are made in private with mandarins or the Prime Minister.

That process can put the capital on a convoluted course. Last year, Beaudry and Jean Chrétien abruptly relocated the planned new military museum from a superior site on the Ottawa River to the downtown wasteland of LeBreton Flats as part of the search for the Prime Minister's missing legacy. And then there was the lunatic notion that a significant part of Ottawa's centre should be gutted to open a panoramic view to the Peace Tower.

Much less flamboyant, if almost as damaging, is the NCC's inept management of the Daly site. In less than 25 years, this deformed public-and-private-sector hybrid has levelled the last Canadian example of the Chicago school of architecture and created urban blight, only to build condominiums.

There were alternatives. The park, a public place capturing the spirited openness of Rome's Spanish Steps, a plaza of the provinces and a lasting tribute to the contribution of aboriginal peoples were all discarded.

A price should be paid for such wanton disregard of the public interest. Despite recent NCC efforts to let taxpayers occasionally peep inside its meetings, despite good works more in keeping with its mandate, it's far past the time for an autocratic, anachronistic institution to close its doors. Turn public lands over to Parks Canada, let Beaudry the developer return to development and let elected politicians, federal and local, shape and implement a national capital vision in the full glare of daylight

Toronto Star: Urban blight a fitting symbol of NCC decay [6 Apr 2002]

Thursday, April 5, 2002

Meet the Board

The NCC board wants your opinions! On what, you ask? Why, no less than "Communicating the Capital to Canadians, safeguarding and preserve [sic] national symbols and treasures and creating a meeting place for all Canadians." Register your brief on these weighty topics no later than April 8, 2002, and then air your beef Thursday, May 2, 2002, 7 pm to 10 pm at the Canadian Museum of Nature. NCCWatch's proposal, entitled Communicating the capital, preserving treasures and creating a meeting place by abolishing the NCC, fulfils all of these goals as follows:

  • abolishing the NCC would send a clear message to all Canadians that the Capital can confidently take its place as the fourth largest metropolitan area in Canada
  • it goes without saying that abolishing the NCC would prevent the wanton destruction of any more symbols and treasures by the NCC
  • abolishing the NCC would allow the transformation the NCC's (centrally located and very spiffy) headquarters into a meeting place for all Canadians; a lunchroom or cafeteria perhaps -- the possibilities are endless

Send your brief today!

Monday, March 25, 2002

Lake Leamy golf course poll

Pre-empting the Hull Casino, Radio-Canada and Le Droit decided to poll public opinion about the Casino golf course planned for Lake Leamy Park. Apparently 48 per cent support the golf course, 41 per cent are opposed; 82 per cent had heard of the proposal. The developer provided cautious reaction, stating they would like more support before proceeding with the project.

Radio-Canada: Lake Leamy Golf dossier
Radio-Canada: Le golf sera aménagé si plus de gens l'approuvent [25 Mar 2002]

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

LeBreton Flats update

Cleanup of contaminated land is set to begin next month, apparently.

CBC: LeBreton clean-up to go ahead [20 Mar 2002]
Radio-Canada: Décontamination des plaines Le Breton [20 Mar 2002]

Loto Quebec starts "misinformation campaign"

What could be more natural than a golf course seems to be the question Loto Quebec is asking with a lavish four-page spread in area newspapers, the first step in what looks to be an expensive and cynical campaign to persuade us of the merits of its plans for the NCC-owned Lac Leamy park. Apparently it will be months before it polls residents to see whether they support the idea of a golf course at Leamy Lake.

CBC: Leamy golf course fight escalates [20 Mar 2002]
Radio-Canada: Les opposants au golf du casino font appel au Fédéral [20 Mar 2002]
Radio-Canada: Pétition contre le golf du Casino déposée au Parlement [23 Mar 2002]

Friday, March 8, 2002

LeBreton Flats public meeting

Third in an ongoing series, Tuesday March 19 at 7 PM, Tom Brown Arena (upstairs). The NCC intends to provide a "general update" on our favorite 40 year old project. Sounds like a gas.

Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Hull Casino unveils golf course plans

The Hull Casino likes its plans for a golf course in Lac Leamy Park, and thinks the man on the street will too, boldly claiming that if the general population rejects their plans, they will be abandoned. No details on how they will determine whether the general population has rejected their plan, but there will be an expensive marketing campaign ("so that citizens of the Greater Outaouais region can make an educated decision about the project"), "public consultation" and a survey of some sort. The press release (linked below) has the usual bumph about local support (quoting new mayor Yves Ducharme and some tourism flunky), and you will no doubt be relieved to learn that "Loto-Québec firmly believes that the proposed development project has been designed in total harmony with nature and the environment." No word from the NCC (who own the park); they're just waiting for the cheque to clear. Le Conseil régional de l'environnement durable remain suspicious, however, preferring proper public hearings to a survey. They figure the Casino wants a survey because it will be quicker.

CBC: Park enthusiasts steamed at development plans [6 Mar 2002]
Radio-Canada: Le golf du casino: la population sera consulté [5 Mar 2002]
Radio-Canada: Les écologistes s'opposent toujours au golf du casino [5 Mar 2002]
Loto Quebec press release [5 Mar 2002]

Friday, March 1, 2002

Moffatt Farm update

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has rejected plans to develop Moffatt Farm, but an appeal is already in the works because the city didn't address the issue within the allotted time (90 days). The developer already has a hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board scheduled for next month. The city is offering to purchase the land at park value, but the NCC wants to sell it at developed value, as if it was already zoned for development.

CBC: Residents win round one in development fight [1 Mar 2002]

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

NCC raises rent on church

Don't ever expect charity from the NCC - they are landlords like any other. The Citizen reports today that the NCC plans to raise the rent of the St. John the Divine church from $300 a year to at least $42,000 a year. Ironically, the NCC is basing the new rate on the value of buildings erected and paid for by the congregation. Apparently, the congregation had a 40 year lease, during which time they built and paid for the church building. But as they do not own the land, they will lose the building now that the lease is up. The NCC does not intend, nor do they have any legal obligation, to pay the congregation anything for the rectory and the church, which have been evaluated as being worth $675,000. Of course, it was pretty foolish to build on NCC land in the first place. Whatever were they thinking?

Citizen: Church flees NCC's 14,000% rent increase [27 Feb 2002]

Friday, February 22, 2002

City hearing on Moffatt Farm

The city's planning department has approved the Moffatt Farm development; the city will hold a hearing February 28 at 13:30 at City Hall - all are welcome.

Saturday, February 16, 2002

NCC to hold information sessions on Ottawa River plans

The sessions, titled "Towards a common vision for the sustainable development of the urban section of the Ottawa River" (wordy, yet safely devoid of content), are to be held Wednesday, February 27, 2002 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Canada (Group entrance, Lecture Hall).

Monday, February 11, 2002

Claridge ready to select retailers for Daly site

The developers of the Daly Site are getting ready to select the retailers who will occupy the new Daly building.

OBJ: Residents win round one in development fight [11 Feb 2002]

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Residents oppose Greenbelt development

The NCC's latest Greenbelt business park development proposal (between Uplands Drive and the Airport Parkway) received a cool reception at their public meeting. From the CBC:

A battle is brewing over the National Capital Commission's plans to develop part of the city's Greenbelt.

The land spans between Uplands Drive and the Airport Parkway in the city's south end.

The NCC outlined its plans for the area at a public meeting last night. Area residents showed up to give it the thumbs-down.

The land in question is covered with low-lying vegetation with part of it being designated as a wetland.

It's a place where people enjoy the outdoors. However, it could one day be home to a group of high-tech workers.

The NCC wants to build four office buildings on the land.

The NCC's senior planner Robert Walters harrumphed that they could "develop property right now with current zoning." Robert, you don't have to tell us the whole exercise is a charade - we know. The development: 800,000 square feet of office and research space in one- and two-storey buildings in the middle of nowhere. Smart growth indeed.

CBC: Residents oppose Greenbelt development [23 January 2002]
OBJ: NCC to rezone land near airport for biz park [23 January 2002]

Monday, January 21, 2002

NCC to pave over more Greenbelt

The NCC is proposing to amend the NCC's Greenbelt Master Plan and Plan for Canada's Capital to permit "commercial and institutional uses in a green, open setting, and rural landscape" on greenbelt land north of the airport between the Airport Parkway and Uplands Drive. In laymen's terms, they call it a "business park," itself a euphemism for low rent office space in the suburbs. Good thing we have the NCC around to preserve land for generations so that banal office parks can be built in the future.

Citizen: NCC sets sights on patch of Greenbelt [22 Jan 2002]
NCC Uplands development information page

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Don Boudria put to Work

Local area MP Don Boudria has been chosen to fill Alfonso Gagliano's giant shoes over at Public Works. But while some local area politicians think this will be good for infrastructure in the Ottawa region, Sun columnist Greg Weston reports that secret negotiations are underway to allow Public Works to tear down (irony alert!) heritage buildings currently standing in the way of the NCC's Sparks Street plaza.

Meanwhile, Truscan Property Corp., the NCC's partner in developing the south side of Sparks, has dropped objections to the city's heritage designation of the Sparks Street area after the city approved Truscan's plans for its development. The NCC has not.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Whither the Sports Hall of Fame?

Plans for a sports hall of fame in Union Station are up in the air after the Federal Government declined to provide funding to restore the building. According to unreproachable Public Works Minister Gagliano, "the deal is off unless those who want to open a Canadian sports hall of fame can very shortly come up with the money for repairs to the building." But the man in charge of getting the hall done says it's just a temporary setback.

CBC: Sports Hall of Fame is still in the game [10 Jan 2002]
CBC: NAC head makes bid for conference centre [11 Jan 2002]

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Embassy barriers to stay

The ever-unattractive concrete barriers sitting in the middle of Confederation Boulevard by the American embassy aren't going anywhere in the near future. This might be an occasion for all those who claimed the site was inappropriate to say "we told you so." Be sure to copy the NCC on that.

Barriers outside the US Embassy on Sussex Drive

CBC: Embassy barriers are here to stay [8 Jan 2002]
Radio-Canada: Les barricades resteront autour de l'ambassade americaine [14 May 2002]
CBC: City committee wants U.S. barriers removed [16 May 2002]

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

10 Reasons why the NCC's Plans for Sparks Street Suck

As the NCC moves forward with its plans for Sparks Street, we'd like to present this handy review of why their plans to demolish several blocks of downtown Ottawa for a plaza, er, suck.