About a month ago, I mentioned that the NCC was also interested in knowing what citizens would like in Ottawa and that they were starting a new project, Horizon 2067, to that effect. Today the group held their first event about the future of the Nation's Capital at the Ottawa Convention Centre. I attended the presentation entitled "Creating a more representative and vibrant capital" to see what was it was all about, and thought I'd share my findings with you.
Upon my arrival, I was surprised to see what looked like a big media production. Literally: Lights, Camera , Action! Lots of spotlights in the front for the speakers and other guests, cameras in front and in the back, tables reserved for the medias, and posters in the back with NCC staff describing the seven challenges NCC would like to take on over the next years. In fact, Rogers TV was also there and they will be showcasing this event on TV this Sunday. There were quite a few people present, but I can't say how many were members of the public and how many were NCC staff.
For the opening speeches, Marie Lemay, CEO of the NCC, talked about what they have done in the past and the former minister of foreign affairs, Lawrence Cannon, talked about some of his observations while traveling in Asia and made some comparisons with Ottawa. The moderator for this event was Rebecca Makonnen, current TV and Radio host for Radio-Canada.
The panel consisted of George Hazel (chairman of MRC McLean Hazel Ltd), Florence K (artist, signer-songwriter), Stephen Lewis (professor at Ryerson University) and Richard Florida (senior editor of The Atlantic and professor at the University of Toronto). The panelists had interesting views and ideas for Ottawa. They each did a short presentation and then they had a discussion between them moderated by Makonnen. The discussion almost turned into a left wing vs right wing political debate between Lewis and Florida. Good thing there was a moderator.
Here are some of the great ideas I noted from the panelists during their presentation:
From George Hazel's presentation :
- NCC getting the opinion of the public was a great initiative to help Ottawa grow. In fact a similar exercise was conducted in Australia in the 80s and had a great turn out from it. What stuck in my mind was the fact that Australia did this 30 years ago! That's how behind we are. Never mind the fact that the plans are for 2067. But at least it's a start.
- "Cities are about people and that it's people that make a city work." So what people want and need should be taken under consideration when aiming to build a better city.
- It is important to maximize the number of parks, community centers and businesses and minimize number of large roads and parking spaces. This promotes more interaction between people, makes for a better community and a more attractive city.
- The canal and the river are underutilized assets. Most cities around the world would love to have such great features.
- There should be more use of technology in the city like and like an app for smartphones to find out about the next bus schedule, dynamic parking like in San Francisco, etc.
- The bus system should be the same in Ottawa and Gatineau to the people riding them. In London, the buses are run by various companies but they all look the same to the public.
- Don't underestimate the power of public chairs. Chairs invite people who are tired to take a break, take in the scenery and stay in the city. If they are tired and they are no places to sit and rest, they'll just go home.
From Florence K's presentation :From Stephen Lewis' presentation :
- Attractions such as concert halls and museums are too far apart from one another, which makes it difficult for tourists and citizens to enjoy them. They should be more centrally located.
- Canada Day should be upgraded to Canada Week. With all the tourists coming from many places we're missing an opportunity to make it a bigger and better event. A lot of effort is put into it every year and it's kind of sad to have it jam packed only one day.
- It's important to build from the community up and not the opposite. In order words, building a better city starts with the people not the government.
- Ottawa should build upon its current identity and become an internationally recognized conference centre where people from around the world could gather to talk about various topics that matters to the world. Ottawa could be the city of international dialog.
- Ottawa should be a capital that others can learn from.
- Openness to diversity is very important. Diversity is one of the key factors in increasing the level of happiness of a community and you need diversity to fuel creativity.
- Having a community care about its beauty is also very important to the success of a city. I guess it builds up self-esteem on a city level.
From the discussion session:
- Arrival points such as the airport, the bus station and the train station are the "shop windows" of a city. (Did they read my blog? ). Our airport is better than some but could be better. There's nothing interesting around it or on the way to the city. Think about places like Grand Central Station in New York. We have a long way to go.
- To promote more movement between Ottawa and Gatineau, the areas around the bridges should be more pedestrian friendly. This would build stronger relations between the two areas of the nation's capital and in turn make the city better. There should be things that entice people to want to cross the bridge and explore as opposed to see the river as a divide between two provinces.
- The Embassies should be have more presence. We have so many of them, they should be part of Ottawa's identity. Perhaps with a Canada Week they would be able to participate as well. Also, it would be interesting to have embassies invite artists or chefs from their countries to some sort of international festival in Ottawa.
- We need to build more communities. New York is a city of community that seamlessly fits together.
- We should not look to the government for solutions or to take action. This is a major problem in Ottawa. People and businesses should take the lead instead.
I keep going back to the mess that is Sparks Street, which to me is a benchmark. How many years have they been studying Sparks Street? There's a new NCC website, photo opts on flickr, and a TV show coming this Sunday on Rogers TV, but I think what we need are less talk more action. I really side with Richard Florida on this one: If we want change, we can't wait on the government, we have to do it ourselves. Now who wants to makeover Spark Street?
Photos : MOOT | roonsari |