Watson calls for NCC reforms

Mark Brownlee
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Fed up over his inability to reach a compromise with the National Capital Commission on several key municipal files, Mayor Jim Watson signalled he’ll be suggesting changes to how the federal Crown corporation goes about its business.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

Until now, Mr. Watson has shown a willingness to find middle ground between the NCC and the City of Ottawa for projects on which the two bodies can’t immediately agree.

But in calling for fundamental changes to the way the NCC works, those days appear to have come to an end.

“Over the course of the next couple of months I’m going to be speaking about how I think we can reform the NCC to make sure that it is more of a help than a hindrance,” said Mr. Watson, who made the comments to tourism officials at an event organized by the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association.

He referred to the NCC as “another level of government that no other city in the country has to deal with.”

Mr. Watson, without going into specifics about what he wants changed, singled out a number of policy areas in which the NCC has created a “problem” for the city’s attempts to attract visitors.

These include the NCC’s concerns about the Ottawa Convention Centre’s desire to get an art wall on its exterior and its decision to shut down a tourism office across from Parliament Hill.

A particular source of frustration appears to involve the city’s plan to extend its light-rail transit project to the west. The city is currently working on a route that would take the project farther west of the current construction route, which only goes as far as Tunney’s Pasture.

City staff announced last year their preferred option would be to run the route for long stretches on land the NCC controls along the John A. Macdonald Parkway. However the NCC expressed an unwillingness to give up the land, citing concerns that LRT would limit access to the waterfront.

The city initially showed a willingness to work with the NCC’s concerns by returning to the drawing board. It released a similar version of the route that would take the route underground for stretches at a time.

The NCC again said that option was unacceptable, though, because it still used the Parkway. That apparently lead Mr. Watson to the conclusion that the two bodies weren’t going to be able to reach a compromise without major changes to the Crown corporation’s mandate.

“When we’re trying to get light rail even farther west and take one and a half acres of scrub land and they’re saying ‘sorry you can’t do that, try another option that’s going to cost you another $600 million,’ that's a problem,” said Mr. Watson.

His speech ended too late for OBJ to get comment from the NCC.

Other complaints involved matters for which the federal government, rather than the NCC, were responsible.

He expressed disappointment that the Government Conference Centre, a former train station the federal department Public Works maintains just east of Parliament Hill, is open only to government meetings rather than the public.

Organizations: NCC, Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, Ottawa Convention Centre Public Works

Geographic location: Ottawa, Parliament Hill, John A. Macdonald Parkway

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Recent comments

  • larry malloy
    May 17, 2013 - 15:33

    Always a great plan Mayor Jim. When you are continually incapable of handling your own issues then divert attention somewhere else. When you publicly open up and fix those contracts you have in place for your GREEN BIN program, come and tell the world you can run things better than anyone that steely resolve on fining stores else can. Until you do that perhaps you should focus on what you do control, or at least purport to control.

  • Christine Kelly
    May 16, 2013 - 21:22

    Mayor, your true colours are showing and they are not shades of green. 1.2 kilometres of greenspace does not equal 1.5 acres of scrub land.

  • Jayme
    May 16, 2013 - 18:27

    MItch If Ottawa-Gatineau was a district chances are the Ncc would run the city.

  • Joe Murphy
    May 16, 2013 - 14:27

    Mr Mayor your right the NCC is and extra level of government that no Other City in the Country has. And thank god for that because is not like any other City in the country it our national Capital. I am no fan of the NNC but I understand they have a mandate to keep Canada’s capital beautiful for all Canadian’s. we can all just imagine how Ottawa would look with no NCC. Green belt would be full of house and the city be say we need more money so taxes would go up. MR mayor you also have to give not only the NCC.

  • Jayme
    May 16, 2013 - 13:39

    MItch Keep in mind that would mean the city wo9ulod have to take on alot more plus the budget would have to increase and the city would have to hore more staff if Ottawa was to take over from the Ncc you would have to hire thousands of more staff.

  • Mitch B
    May 16, 2013 - 12:22

    Bravo Jim! It's about time the City tries to stand-up for itself against those bullies. I can speak from experience dealing with the NCC on just about every project that comes through our office - they put the brakes on everything... unless it's for them or benefits Gatineau (cough, Interprovincial Bridge Crossing, cough). They tried to block the MTO from installing lighting on the 417, but the MTO told them to take a hike! Seriously - for the good of Canada? Give me me a break! Abolish the NCC.

  • Phillip Blancher
    May 16, 2013 - 11:45

    I think it's a great idea to have this discussion. In fact, lets get rid of Ottawa City Council and let the NCC run the city. Take Ottawa out of the province of Ontario, take Gatineau out of the province of Quebec, great a national capital territory or province on it's own like Canberra in Australia, and let Mayor Jim find a job somewhere else.

    • Mitch B
      May 16, 2013 - 15:17

      I agree with everything Phillip says except letting the NCC runs things.