Skip to content

UPDATE: Ottawa chapter defends the Lansdowne Park commons

At this moment about 150 people are gathered at the Knox Presbyterian Church in downtown Ottawa for an Ottawa chapter-organized public forum in defence of Lansdowne Park, a public space under threat by private development.

The meeting began with a rousing version of ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ with a trio playing guitar, banjo and tambourine. The lines included, “No public land for private use, we shall not be moved/ With the Council behind us, we shall not be moved/ Let’s stop and think and get it right, we shall not be moved/ Just like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved.”

Lansdowne Park is a 40-acre public-space located adjacent to the Rideau Canal. It includes the Frank Clair Stadium, where the Canadian Football League team the Ottawa Rough Riders once played, and the Aberdeen Pavillion, an exhibition hall built in 1898 for the Central Canada Exhibition agricultural shows and now a National Historic Site. It is also the site of a popular local farmers’ market.

In 2008, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), was awarded a new CFL franchise. OSEG proposed a public-private partnership with the City of Ottawa to rebuild Lansdowne stadium (which had been partly demolished). Later they also unveiled plans to develop the grounds with two residential highrises and 350,000 square feet of commercial space with stores, restaurants and bars. Ottawa City Council decided to enter into this partnership.

Council of Canadians Board member, and lawyer for Friends of Lansdowne, Steven Shrybman spoke at this evening’s forum about a court challenge over this public-private partnership. The challenge focuses on the argument that the city broke its own procurement bylaws by not undertaking a competitive bidding process for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park. He also described the “egregious, one-sidedness” of the deal to the benefit of the developer.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude 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.”

Barlow said, “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. And we’ve started many fights on the losing side and eventually won.” She then related to the audience the 26-year fight against the Site 41 dump site, which was eventually won.

Barlow concluded, “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.”

Congratulations to Richie Allen, Phil Soubliere, Hélène Lebrun, Mike Vorobej, Ben Stewart, Fred Wilson and all members of the Ottawa chapter for organizing this wonderful, inspiring event that raised $2,000 for Friends of Lansdowne.

Update: The public forum was the lead story on the local CBC News at 11 pm and CFRA covered the event at http://www.cfra.com/?cat=1&nid=78632. In a CBC Radio interview broadcast Friday morning, Barlow said, “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.”