Clive Doucet is a distinguished Canadian writer and city politician. He was elected for four consecutive terms to city council in Ottawa from 1997 to 2010 when he retired to run for Mayor.
As a city politician he was awarded the Gallon Prize as the 2005 Canadian eco-councillor of the year. He was defeated twice by Jim Watson in 2010 and 2018 when he ran for the Mayor’s chair. He presently lives in Grand Etang, Inverness Co., Nova Scotia.
Mr. Doucet has agreed to write a series of nine essays about his Ottawa municipal career which
Unpublished Media will begin publishing in January 2023.
Clive Doucet: Ottawa continues to erode after 23 years of amalgamation
November 19, 2023
The City’s amalgamation with the towns and townships of Carleton County is now twenty-three years old and it’s clear it’s never worked. The only people benefiting from it are developers who use the municipalities outside the Greenbelt to split council and get as many condo towers as possible inside the Greenbelt and as much sprawl outside as possible.
Amalgamation has been a bonanza for the city’s largest developers. Council has now approved subdivisions in Cumberland in wetlands that are so far outside the urban growth line that even city planners working on the developer dime couldn’t swallow it. Inside the Greenbelt public parks like Lansdowne and public green spaces like the National Experimental Farm have been privatized for parking and condo towers.
The disconnect between the municipalities of the old Carleton County and the municipalities inside the Greenbelt has always been there but people (I among them) hoped with time the two sides of the Greenbelt would learn how to live and govern together in the interests of both. It never happened. Councillor Glen Gower lists the second Lansdowne Park giveaway under ‘Odds and Ends’ in his ward newsletter, that’s how little it means to him. Communities inside the Greenbelt have been fighting the Lansdowne One and Two giveaways for as long as the amalgamated city has existed.
‘Friends of Lansdowne’ took the city all the way to superior court in Toronto to fight Lansdowne One. People raised close to a quarter of million dollars to achieve this. Lansdowne 2.0 is even worse than Lansdowne One (costing twice what a similar project does in Gatineau). In Lansdowne City residents get less, lose more and the developers get more.
Under the Ontario Planning Act, the people who live closest to a development are supposed to be prioritized. Their opinions and feelings are supposed to count more, not less because they are affected more. Prior to amalgamation, this is the way it used to be. In the amalgamated city, those most affected count the least. When I was a city councillor, suburban councillors would regularly ask for the postal code of those who opposed Lansdowne One so they could dismiss their opinions. Lansdowne 2.0 makes it clear that after 25 years nothing has changed.
Amalgamation has been a tragedy for the National Capital. The light rail project was turned away from Carling Ave to the River parkway to satisfy developers who had developable land there which needed rail service. It was the wrong decision for the wrong reasons for the wrong route. The NCC choice for a new city hospital was turned down for a national heritage site (the Experimental Farm) because it made for richer development pickings.
I used to think a public inquiry could fix things. We’ve had two. Both have condemned city politicians and managers. Nothing happened. I am now convinced, the only way to get the National Capital back for the people who live there is to get rid of the amalgamation. Let the towns and townships outside the Greenbelt run their own affairs. Let those inside do the same. This is entirely possible, but it will take a civic party with a charismatic mayoralty candidate dedicated to giving the city back to the people who live there.
Imagine a city where communities are listened to, and public transit works.
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 shortlisted for the Shaughnessy Cohen Award.