Posts Tagged ‘Ontario politics

04
Feb
09

Ontario wants to help Ottawa curb sprawl

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Ontario is ready to help step in and grant Ottawa an exception to rules that force it to set aside land on the fringes of the city for suburban development. Some choice quotes:

As part of the land-use planning process, the city intends to set aside 850 hectares for new development. Construction on the land is expected to consist of a number of single-family homes in low-density subdivisions.

At the same time, the municipality is attempting to boost population density as a means of stemming sprawl and improving the efficiency of the public-transit system. Several provisions in the plan, and an associated transportation plan that emphasizes light rail, aim to promote intensification in areas that have already been developed. Some councillors, however, have said an 850-hectare expansion of the city’s growth boundaries will undermine that end.

But Councillor Peter Hume, the chair of the planning committee, said Monday that space for low-density projects is required by the “provincial policy statement,” a declaration under Ontario’s Planning Act that sets the ground rules for local land-use plans.

André Sorensen, a professor at the University of Toronto, says the city doesn’t have to banish suburban development to become more densely populated.

“You can’t entirely change the trajectory of how cities get developed,” Mr. Sorensen said in an interview. “What we want to do is shift to a higher and higher percentage of new housing units being built as intensification.”

This last quote is something I particularly wanted to point out. I’m obviously something of a booster when it comes to densifying cities and changing the way we develop urban areas, but at the same time I know that it’s not something we can change instantly. We’re fighting against about a hundred years of inertia, where the ideal life has always been seen as owning a house in the suburbs with a big yard and white picket fence. It’s not easy to tell people that everything they wanted is wrong and that they would, in fact, be much better off doing something completely different. Really, it’s not something that we can do.

So the trick will have to be to change attitudes slowly. We can’t just sit down and eliminate suburban development entirely, in fact, I don’t think we should. As Sorensen mentions, suburbs won’t just go away, and we’re going to have to work with them if we want to densify cities. They’re already built, what we need to look at when it comes to suburban areas is making them more like urban ones: for instance, how can we combine living spaces with working and shopping spaces better, rather than having them as separated clumps, like they are in so many existing suburbs? I don’t have the answer to that, but I think it’s questions like that that we’ll need to be answering in the future.

Going back to the original article, I’d like to see Ottawa have minimum density targets set, like municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area. Basically this requires existing developed areas to hit a certain target for population density, while new development is also held to higher-density standards. This forces developers to change their strategy for new proposals, and seems to be working so far in the GTA, albeit slowly. It would be at least worth looking into in Ottawa, if you ask me.

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15
Oct
08

A return..

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted in this blog. I’m not sure what caused me to stop, but I’m back for now, and hopefully will be posting regularly again.

Of course, the reason I’m back is doubtlessly obvious to everyone reading this: the 2008 Canadian Federal Election. So without further ado, here’s what Canada looks like now:

Conservatives and NDP gain, Bloc Quebecois hold steady, Liberals lose. But for the most part, a rather similar government to the last one, only the Bloc no longer hold the balance of power.

Next, here’s Ottawa, looking, well, the same:

In Gatineau, incidentally, the Bloc won while the Liberals won in Hull-Alymer. Overall, the results for Ottawa pretty much mirror the rest of Ontario. Urban centres are tiny islands of red and orange in a sea of blue suburban and rural ridings.

The real question, of course, is how will this election affect Canadian cities, Ottawa amongst them? Not very well, I fear. Toronto and Ottawa are both still trying to recover from the downloading of provincial fees (such as having to pay for public transit entirely out of municipal budgets) which happened under the Mike Harris Conservative Ontario government, and Stephen Harper hasn’t show that he’s any friendlier towards cities. I will, of course, continue to hold out hope—perhaps the NDP and Liberal’s large share of urban representatives will be able to give cities a voice—but I’m continually astounded by how little we seem to care for our cities in this country. Over 80% of us live in urban areas, yet cities and municipal governments aren’t truly players on the national stage, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing any time soon in Stephen Harper’s Canada.




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Email: dmccl033(at)uottawa(dot)ca

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