People on the Move: Former Ottawa city planner Alain Miguelez joins NCC as senior-level executive

Alain Miguelez
Alain Miguelez, new vice president of capital planning and chief planner at the National Capital Commission.

After almost 20 years as an urban planner with the City of Ottawa, most recently tasked with the job of overseeing its new official plan, Alain Miguelez has joined the National Capital Commission.

The NCC, a federal Crown corporation and the largest landowner in the region, manages almost everything there is to love about our neck of the woods: Gatineau Park, the protected greenbelt, the Rideau Canal Skateway and our scenic parkways. It also oversees heritage buildings, urban parks and commemorative monuments.

“I think the NCC is a really important player in our city and it’s an honour and a privilege to be here,” said Miguelez, who took on the role of vice-president of capital planning and chief planner at the NCC earlier this month.

As part of his new job, Miguelez will be involved in the future above-ground interprovincial tramway project that will connect Gatineau and downtown Ottawa via the existing Portage Bridge. The system will be operated by Gatineau’s transit agency, the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO). As well, Miguelez is working on ways for the NCC to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the National Capital Region.

The government organization has a “unique role,” said Miguelez. “It crosses both provinces and looks at the whole metropolitan area as one, which I really like.”

Miguelez left his City of Ottawa management job on the highest note possible. The official plan that he and his team completed was overwhelmingly supported by city council last October. The new plan will guide growth and development in the municipality over the next 25 years.

The planning document abandoned the former one-size-fits-all approach by mapping out the goals and priorities of the different areas, from the downtown core, to the inner and outer urban settings, to the suburbs, to the rural communities, said Miguelez.

“We have a very large territory. Each part is valid in its own right and each has to find itself reflected in the plan for the city. At the same time, a plan needs to talk about not only the way things are but about the way things ought to be and why and give clear direction to change.” 

“To get all this right takes a very deep understanding of a number of different things,” said Miguelez, who called the official plan “a high point in my career, no question about it”. 

Miguelez also praised his former colleagues, whom he described as being “among the top” in their field. “I made friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”

When the career opportunity came up at the NCC, Miguelez considered the progressive manner in which the organization has been renewing its goals and priorities and bringing the region more in line with 21st-century wants and needs. “I’ve been looking at the NCC over the last few years and thinking it would be a pretty interesting place to work,” said the history buff and author of two books, “A Theatre Near You: 150 years of going to the show in Ottawa-Gatineau”, and “Transforming Ottawa: Canada's Capital in the eyes of Jacques Gréber”.

Miguelez’s interest in urban planning can be traced back to his childhood, when he would visit construction sites with his dad, an Argentinian-born, Paris-educated university professor. He can still remember when Ottawa’s downtown shopping mall, the Rideau Centre, was just a gaping hole in the ground.

“I was fascinated by how cities were built,” said Miguelez, who created his own mini metropolis in the basement of his family home using Lego sets and Matchbox cars. 

After high school, Miguelez majored in political science and history at the University of Ottawa. He was flipping through university course guides when he landed on urban planning. He knew what he wanted to do next. He got his degree at the Université de Montréal and “never looked back.”

Paris and Barcelona are among his favourite cities. He also admires the urban fabric of Helsinki, Dublin, Amsterdam and Berlin.

“There’s one thing I think is certainly important for an urban planner: a city will never lie to you when you walk it.

“You can drive past something and not notice it because you’re going fast but it’s important to walk around a city and feel it that way.”

People on the move across Ottawa

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Silicon Valley tech veteran Scott Day, a former top executive at PayPal and Airbnb, has joined Corel as chief people officer. Day spent three years at PayPal as vice-president of human resources, global product development and sales. The alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute was also previously head of global talent strategy for Airbnb.

Vanessa Kanu, CFO at TELUS International, has been appointed to the board of directors of Manulife, effective February 28. She joins the board’s audit committee and corporate governance and nominating committee. Kanu, who has more than 20 years’ business experience, was awarded CFO of the Year in 2021 by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal.

Veteran marketing executive Tracy Thayne has joined revenue marketing consultancy Demand Spring as vice-president of strategy. He brings to his new role his experience in brand marketing, digital marketing, product marketing, partner marketing and demand generation. Thayne has led transformation initiatives with HP, Schneider Electric, Motorola, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.

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Raymond Sullivan, former executive director of Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, has become the Ottawa Community Land Trust’s first executive director. The OCLT, which was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization in January 2021, will acquire and hold land to be used for affordable housing.

Emilio Ousset-Paciulli  has joined Unreserved, an online auction platform for real estate, as general counsel, following three years at Flow Alkaline Spring Water