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NEWS: Council supports Lansdowne Park challenge

Lansdowne Park on the Rideau Canal

Lansdowne Park on the Rideau Canal

CBC reports, “The long-awaited legal showdown over the future of Lansdowne Park got underway Tuesday afternoon. Lawyers for the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), and the opposition group Friends of Lansdowne have submitted documents that are being reviewed by a judge in an Ottawa courtroom. …With about 75 people in the courtroom, Friends of Lansdowne’s lawyer Steven Shrybman said that the case is fundamentally about accountability and transparency. At one point, Senior Justice Charles Hackland looked for clarification about how the group’s case covers whether this is a bad deal for the city. Shrybman responded their case is not about the deal’s merits, but about the lawfulness of the procurement. The issue is bad faith, not bad economics, he said.”\

“The Friends of Lansdowne case hinges on three arguments: The City acted in bad faith, using its powers to serve private interests; The City violated its procurement bylaws by abandoning a public design competition and instead sole-sourcing the contract; and The City illegally gave bonuses to OSEG — for instance, by providing leases at below-market value. …At issue is whether the city followed its own rules when it came up with the plan to redevelop Lansdowne Park. The legal outcome will either pave the way for construction to begin on the $300 million project, or put the city back to square one with the public space.”

On March 24, the Ottawa chapter of the Council of Canadians organized a public forum in defence of Lansdowne Park. That forum featured Shrybman (who is also a member of the Council’s Board of Directors) and national chairperson Maude Barlow.

At that event, Barlow said, “The debate over Lansdowne Park is part of the struggle around the world to protect the commons against private interests. The commons includes public space and that which is part of our shared, common heritage and needed for life. …Lansdowne is a public jewel. It doesn’t belong to those who gave it away. We have to live with our mistakes for a long time, so we need to change this. …I grew up in this city and have visited Lansdowne Park since I was a child. This is a private deal with private developers. The process is wrong, the model is wrong. It will transform Lansdowne Park into just another shopping mall… The Council of Canadians is committed to this struggle. I thank the Ottawa chapter for their involvement. We are a determined lot. People power is the most important power. We will win this.”

Barlow also recently spoke at the Lansdowne Follies 2, a fundraiser for the legal challenge, on June 12.
The CBC report notes, “Senior Justice Hackland set aside two-and-a-half days this week and another three days in the last week of June to hear the case.” For further information, including details on the court dates, please go to http://www.friendsoflansdownepark.ca/blog.

The full CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2011/06/21/ottawa-lansdowne-park-friends-oseg.html.