Who Lost On Lansdowne Deal? You: DOUCET

By Clive Doucet

Lansdowne Park has a great and important legacy from the first farmer-citizens of our city long ago.

The land was placed into the care of Ottawa City Council in 1868 for public use – in perpetuity. And for more than a century it served the city wonderfully being the site of every major public event from Stanley Cup, amateur sports to city funerals. But by 2006, it was clear it needed a serious renovation to continue on for the next century. And city council prepared for this essential task by commissioning an international competition to develop a new design for the park for the 21st century. Some of the best architectural firms in Canada and from as far away as Norway began to prepare.

This was a very happy piece of city council stewardship. A wonderful rebirth of the park was anticipated. Some innovations that began to circulate from local architects such as Lester Johnson envisaged some open water for a turning basin at Lansdowne with a new access to the Rideau Canal; a reflecting pool from Bank Street to the door of the Aberdeen Pavilion, new trees and new green spaces. The future of the park seemed assured.

What happened was after a new mayor and council were elected in 2006, council abandoned the previous mayor’s commitment to a competitive process for the renewal of the park and gave the park away to a couple of powerful local developers who had never built or re-built a municipal park before – without any competition whatsoever.

This giveaway never worked. The current commercial and financial mess at Lansdowne is a direct consequence of that 2006 council’s failure to support an open, competitive process to determine the future of the park.

Lansdowne 2.0 is nothing more than a continuation of the private process which resulted in the first giveaway of the park. But to be stewards of the city is not just about protecting legacies, it’s about preparing the city for the future. The greatest challenge facing Ottawa and every city is the climate crisis. In the 21st century, Ottawa needs to be greener, less congested, less costly, more breathable and more accessible. Lansdowne 2.0 will make it more costly, less green, less breathable, more congested just as first Lansdowne proposal did.

In 2023, the failure of Lansdowne has given city council a second chance to rectify some of the mistakes made at the park in 2006 and take the city in a better direction. The new stadium, the new hockey rink, the new towers should be built in a place that is less congested and less compromised by history, and there’s no reason this can’t happen but it won’t. It’s very clear, no real change in the mayor’s chair or on council in 20 years has changed the fundamental forces which control the Ottawa’s elected officials. It’s business as usual at city hall.

Neither council nor the public have been given any alternative to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group proposal. There’s no plan B, no discussions with the owners of the Senators, no cost comparisons with Gatineau which has built a similar rink for less than half the cost. It’s “take it or leave it” just as it was in 2006 and this mayor and council are going to take it, not leave it just as former mayors Larry O’Brien and Jim Watson did. The winners are clear and so are the losers. You, me and the city.

Clive Doucet is a former Ottawa city councillor and author. His book about Ottawa, City Council, Urban Meltdown: Cities, Climate Change and Politics as Usual”was short listed for the Shaughnessy Cohen Award.



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Lansdowne: What Would Have Been Better? BENN

Councillors Should Be Demanding Answers To These Questions

CITY HALL: Names Change, Actions The Same: THE VOTER



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1 Response

  1. The Voter says:

    This city is in desperate need of visionaries who could see the City that could be instead of the small-minded, pedestrian nightmares we’re being shown by the unimaginative crew around the Council table these days. People like … Clive Doucet!

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