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Horizon 2067: The Plan for Canada’s Capital

Canada’s capital must be a beacon not only for the country but for the world, said Richard Florida, a business professor and best-selling author on urban economic trends, as the National Capital Commission (NCC) and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launched a nationwide discussion on the future of Ottawa on Sept. 27.

As nations stumble through a global financial crisis, Canada’s capital should stand as a symbol of the things this country does well: protecting a beautiful environment and fostering a space for diversity and personal creativity, said Florida, who teaches at the University of Toronto. “We have to move to a clean and creative capitalism … and this region could stand to the world as an example of a clean and creative capital.”

Florida and three other panellists addressed a crowd of about 350 in Ottawa to kick off the NCC’s visioning exercise “Horizon 2067: The Plan for Canada’s Capital,” which has included forums in Québec, Halifax, Victoria and Edmonton. The public consultation continues online, where Canadians are invited to share their views with the NCC — the steward of federal lands and buildings in the National Capital Region — on how the capital should take shape over the next 50 years.

Singer-songwriter Florence K suggested dubbing the city “HOTtawa,” emblazoned on maple-leaf-red T-shirts, to give it a sexier image. While Canada and Ottawa-Gatineau have gorgeous natural settings, she said, the country is also known internationally for its culture. If Montréal is a centre for jazz and Toronto for film, Ottawa, with the National Gallery of Canada, could become a centre for the visual arts.

Humanitarian and diplomat Stephen Lewis proposed that the capital become a nexus for international conferences to discuss the great issues of the day, building on its role as a diplomatic hub. He added that the development of Ottawa-Gatineau should be driven by “community- based grassroots activity.”

In her opening remarks, NCC’s chief executive officer Marie Lemay pointed out that “the capital welcomes dignitaries and heads of state from around the world.… More than any city in this country, the capital has the responsibility to reflect Canada and its values.”

Society executive director André Préfontaine explained that the Society has partnered with the NCC on this project because “we share pride in this vast and incredible country. We share a conviction that Canadians care about this country. And we both believe that Canada’s capital, to speak in geographical terms, is much more than a dot on a map.”

— Kate Jaimet

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