The City of Ottawa continues to talk about plans for Lansdowne as if the project were approved. But don't believe the propaganda machine—this deal is still on very shaky ground.
There is a very real possibility that the whole scheme will be deemed illegal by the Ontario Court of Appeal, or even that leave to appeal will be sought to the Supreme Court of Canada, by Friends of Lansdowne or the City. Even if Friends of Lansdowne does not win in court, major changes to the proposed development may be required by provincial heritage and environmental authorities. These changes may increase costs or cause further delays.
And let's not forget that the City has yet to ink a final agreement with OSEG. Will Council really sign an agreement that costs taxpayers some $400 million with no return on investment for 30 years (if ever), just as Ottawa's economy takes a hit from federal government cuts? Who knows, but surely some of the Councillors who ran on platforms of fiscal responsibility will want to take a look at the costs of this mega-project.
We understand that the design plans for Lansdowne will finally be revealed in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if there is any public consultation on the design. When the City approved the plan in June 2010, it did not have a master plan for all of Lansdowne Park. At the time, it had two plans—one for the park area, one for the commercial area—that did not even fit together. So the soon-to-be-released Lansdowne design plan, which was 20 months in the making, will be the first real look the public will get from their $400 million dollars, and giveaway of public land. If you think the public should be given a chance to have a look at the details of one of the City's largest and most costly development projects, then let Mayor Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and your own councillor know.
We also have two stories of interest from other cities:
What these two examples raise is the difference between doing something right and doing something wrong. Good governance, public consultation and fair process should be at the heart of city-making.
Both the NCC and Mayor Watson are talking these days about creating a great capital for 2017—the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It's hard to take them seriously when they are about to turn Lansdowne Park, a historic public place on a UNESCO world heritage site, into a shopping centre that privileges private profit over the public good. But if we win our legal case and the current Lansdowne Partnership Plan does not go ahead, let's think of Lansdowne as a flagship project for Canada's 150th birthday.
Every day we wait for a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal is a reminder of just how complex and important the Friends of Lansdowne legal challenge is. There are unprecedented legal issues at stake here, and clearly the Court is giving them careful consideration. As you know, our lawyers worked extremely long and hard to mount our case and anything you can do to help pay the costs of the challenge are greatly appreciated. If you can donate again, please do so here: http://www.letsgetitright.ca/get-involved/donate-to-friends-of-lansdowne
Thanks for your support.
Let's get it right.