General Meeting – August 23, 2021


Greenspace Watch

General Meeting


August 23, 2021

On-line meeting

Members present: Paul Johanis (chair), David McNicoll, Erwin Dreessen, Iola Price, Jason Kania, Mary Hegan

The meeting commenced at 7:00 pm.

  1. Adoption of the agenda

The proposed agenda was agreed upon. Moved by Jason, seconded by Erwin. Carried.

  1. Administrative items

a. Minutes of the June 31, 2021 meeting (for approval)

Moved by Erwin, seconded by David. Carried.

b. Association reports:

Paul reported on the FCA annual retreat, an event at which the FCA Board roughly plans out its next year’s program and plans. A number of working groups and committees were set up. The Greenspace Alliance remains active within the FCA through Paul’s presence on their Board. Following their online discussion on June 23, the CAFES Tree Caucus produced and submitted a tree motion to City staff pointing out deficiencies in the protection framework for trees in the city. Paul presented a request from the Healthy Transportation Coalition to support a letter writing campaign in support of adopting the Healthy Streets concept in Ottawa’s Official Plan. Members agreed, with alterations to the proposed text to highlight the importance of trees for healthy streets.

Action: Paul to redraft the letter and send to Mayor and Council on behalf of the GA.

  1. Policy instruments

a. New Official Plan

POP held a workshop on July 26 2021 with a view to refining messages and generating support for our positions leading up to the Joint Meeting of Planning and ARAC, initially scheduled for September 13, 14 and 15 (subsequently deferred to October 14, partly as a result of a request from the FCA). Around 80 people participated. The workshop led to the crystallization of 8 key focus areas for the development of proposed changes and amendments to the revised draft of the Official Plan (by the time of workshop Sections 1 to 3 and 5 to 8 of the revised draft of the Official Plan had been released by the City).

A second POP initiative ahead of the JPARAC meeting is a survey of Councillors on the Official Plan. With the scope of the OP being so vast, it was agreed to focus the survey on a specific aspect, targets and metrics. This was seen as a fairly neutral, good governance topic, which could be of interest to a wider audience of councillors, but would yet give us a way of introducing climate and greenspace themes. After preliminary testing with two councilors, the questionnaire was finalized. It was agreed to give preference to conducting these interviews in person rather than in writing and to start with perceived swing councilors.  The response has been good, with four councilors interviewed by the end of August and several more scheduled through September.

A media campaign has also been launched in parallel, with several op-eds prepared and published and a series of press releases planned.

b. Walkable Ottawa Infill Modelling Project

Paul reported that he has accepted a request from Walkable Ottawa to sit as a member of an advisory committee on the Infill Modelling project that they have undertaken. The model projects the type and level of intensification that can be achieved over the 25 year planning horizon of the Official Plan on the basis of ground oriented and low rise built form, incorporating impact on tree populations.

c. Climate Resiliency Strategy

The GA has been invited by the City to be part of a stakeholder group for the development of this strategy. Paul has attended an initial webinar and participated in an online survey on behalf of the GA.

  1. Threats

a. Rural Greenspace

b. Major urban greenspace

i. The Ottawa Hospital New Campus Development Project

The GA submitted its comments on the Master Site Plan application for the new campus. Consideration of the application by Planning Committee has been further deferred to October 1. The issue of the site location and preservation of greenspace on the selected Sir John Carling building location has become an election issue in the Ottawa Centre riding, with the Liberal candidate making a commitment to sponsor a Bill to provide permanent legal protection to the Central Experimental Farm. This would be a remarkable gain.

ii. Brian Coburn extension

The GA has submitted its comments on the extension of this roadway, opposing City staff’s preferred route on the basis that it would remove greenspace in close proximity to the Mer Bleue Bog and supporting instead a route further north that follows the existing right of way of the Blackburn Hamlet bypass.

iii. Jock River floodplain

The GA undertook to investigate whether to appeal Council’s decision to lift the floodplain overlay from a large section on north shore of the Jock River through Barrhaven. Contacts were made with a number of legal firms listed on the Canadian Environmental Law Association website. Two agreed to provide some legal advice. Based on this advice, it was agreed not to proceed with an appeal on the basis that the chances of success were slim and expected remedy were quite limited.

iv. Public Consultation George Etienne Cartier Parkway

Iola reported that the NCC would be holding public consultations on the desirability of additional amenities along the George Etienne Cartier Parkway, with an online questionnaire closing on September 12.

c. Other greenspace

i. Kichi Sibi Trails

We were contacted by the evaluators of the grant application sponsored by the GA on behalf of Kichi Sibi Trails. While favourably disposed regarding the application, they were seeking additional information on NCC support for the Rideau Falls portage project. This prompted more direct statements from the NCC on the extent and nature of their support at this point, which comments were relayed to the evaluation team. The decision date on grant awards is September 16. (Post-meeting comment: This date has been deferred to September 27.)

ii. Red pine plantation, Hunt Club Road, Nantes Woods

The organized community outcry regarding these two threats to greenspace seem to have had and effect. The proponent has paused its application in the first case, while in the second it seems a land swap is being discussed between the developer and the City, which would preserve the third of the woodland that was threatened. (Post-meeting note: Both items were to be considered at the August 26 meeting of Planning Committee but have now been deferred sine die.)

iii. Embassy Row

Local representations continue to be made opposing the development of a number of embassies on vacant greenspace in Mechanicsville, bordering the Sir John A, McDonald Parkway. (Post-meeting note: The NCC application was approved by Planning Committee at its August 26 meeting, modified by motion from Councillor Leiper to 5 embassies from 6, less surface parking and a larger remaining greenspace/park area.)

iv. Parliament Hill reforestation visit

On the invitation of Public Services and Procurement Canada, Iola, Janice and Paul visited the Parliament Hill escarpment on August 20. The site project manager gave them an extensive tour and briefing on the clean-up, erosion control and planting work occurring on the steep slopes down to the Rideau Canal to the east and to the Ottawa River to the north. As work started in early summer at the eastern end, it was possible to observe the various stages of the operation, with the Canal side slope work being completed and work on the slopes furthest west on the Ottawa River side just started. Over 70,000 native plants, including ground cover, shrubs and trees, will be planted over the summer.

The Meeting adjourned at 9:01 p.m.