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Second City, Second Metro: “realistically one must accept that this is one City”

Ottawa Mayor Don Reid (pictured here with Nancy Greene in 1968), appeared in front of the Jones Commission with a team to outline Ottawa’s position. Image: J. Primrose / Library and Archives Canada / e011196790.

When Ottawa Mayor Don Reid and a team of other municipal politicians and officials appeared before Murray Jones, they highlighted the need for an amalgamated single-tier municipality inside the Greenbelt. While the City of Ottawa clearly did not get its wish granted by the Jones Commission, it would as part of the 2001 amalgamation – and then some.

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Second City, Second Metro: Annexations Unwelcome at Merivale Gardens

Homeowners in Merivale Gardens were not interested in being swallowed by Ottawa. Image: geoOttawa.

Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, the Jones Commission heard from another Greenbelt community that independence was preferred.

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Second City, Second Metro: The Green Belt Property Owners’ Association – ‘victims of government’

The Greenbelt Property Owners’ Association never did much care for the National Capital Commission’s approach to the Greenbelt. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 3, 1961, 3.

It was not just the Townships of Nepean and Gloucester that had a hard time with the National Capital Commission’s approach to the Greenbelt: those who owned property in what became the Greenbelt weren’t entirely impressed either.

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The (Ontario) Department of Planning and Development Encounters the National Capital Plan, cont’d. (1952)

The Department of Planning and Development was one of the earlier tenants in the Bay-Grovesnor Building at 880 Bay. The early modern office’s main tenant was Bell Canada, but in addition to Planning and Development, its builder, Soules Construction, occupied an office on the top floor along with its architect, Charles B. Dolphin. Image: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 59, Item 17.

Picking up from the last one, it’s worth noting that it is not been entirely frequent that a planning, development, or housing issue particular to Ottawa has been considered to merit much more than the cursory attention of Ontario’s policymakers at Queen’s Park and its environs. To be certain, while these are absolutely within the Province’s purview, Ottawa has tended to be treated as something of a peripheral concern. Or at least to a greater degree than most of Ontario’s other municipalities, a bit of a self-governing colony, and even if not, it was normally easier to leave most issues to the City and the Dominion.

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The (Ontario) Department of Planning and Development Encounters the National Capital Plan. (1951-52)

As I continue my brief hiatus from transcribing the materials from the Ottawa, Eastview & Carleton County Local Government Review (1965) chaired by Murray Jones, it occurred to me that something is missing. One of the central difficulties pointed to in the dozens of testimonials and even in Jones’ analysis is the existence of the National Capital Greenbelt. For the rural and new suburban municipalities of the day, the Greenbelt represented a significant restriction and a loss of potential revenues, and for others it made any sort of urban typology for the Ottawa region hard to establish and operate. 

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Jacques Gréber: “What is a City Green Belt?” (1952)

You’ve likely seen it: Yousuf Karsh’s well-known portrait of Jacques Gréber. Image: Yousuf Karsh / Library and Archives Canada, Acc. 1987-054 NPC, Item e008293327.

The so-called “Green Belt” was, at its inception, incredibly contentious. Even today, Ottawa’s greenbelt is not free from controversy or conflict and those elsewhere in Ontario can be even more of a lightning rod.