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UPDATE: Recognizing Lansdowne Park as part of the commons

Lansdowne Park on the Rideau Canal

Lansdowne Park on the Rideau Canal

Lawyer (and Council of Canadians Board member) Steven Shrybman writes on rabble.ca, “In a month or so, the Ontario Court of Appeal will hear a case that will set important legal standards for P3s in Canada, and determine whether municipalities can hide behind the complexities of such schemes to subsidize private developers while ignoring public procurement rules. At issue is a P3 scheme to privatize Lansdowne Park which is arguably the City of Ottawa’s most valuable public asset. You may have skated by it on the Rideau Canal – a world heritage site. The City has decided to give most of the park to private developers for commercial development while subsidizing their investments and losses in football and hockey franchises.”

He continues, “Friends of Lansdowne, a grassroots group, took the City to Court and lost round one. In giving the P3 scheme a pass, Justice Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court held that the views of City Council should be given great deference when it comes to carrying out a complex P3 project, stating that: ‘To do otherwise would be to unduly restrict the public/private joint ventures that are of increasing importance in the establishment of municipal facilities and which often depend upon a complex exchange of benefits, assets and services to facilitate development.'”

Shrybman concludes, “Unlike most P3 fights, this one is about public space, not services. It is about the commons, and whether it will be enclosed by commercial interests. Lansdowne Park can be for the people of Ottawa, what such places as the Forks in Winnipeg, English Bay in Vancouver, or Millenium Park in Chicago are for those communities. Or it can be another place to shop.”

On March 24 of this year, the Ottawa chapter of the Council of Canadians organized a public forum in defence of Lansdowne Park. That forum featured Shrybman and 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.”

For previous blogs on this, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22lansdowne+park%22.

You can find out more about this landmark legal challenge at www.letsgetitright.ca.