Archive for February, 2010

Ottawa Urban Boundary Expansion

I have been a slow poster,  because of many things that have been keeping me preoccupied including work, but there is an issue that has come up that I really do want to discuss.

I’m not sure if I am missing all the details , but Ottawa City Council is reopening a debate about the expansion of the urban boundary.  To briefly explain, Ottawa has become a truly humongous city since the amalgamation of 2001 with an area of 2,778.64 km2 .    In order to deal with this massive size, the city had to perform a split between the urban and rural areas with slightly different by-laws and legislation between them.  Something else that occured was some zoning that restricted development (housing, commercial, etc.) to certain areas.  For the urban area there was a boundary where no more development could occur outside.  (The villages that were amalgamated also have a development boundary).

There was a vote in June of 2009 where the full expansion of 850 hectares was turned down by one vote.  That vote is now going to be looked at again tomorrow, February 24th.

I believe there are many reasons why Ottawa should NOT extend the urban boundary,  but for the sake of time I will not write them out here.  Instead I will re-use part of my letter to Mayor Larry O’Brien in order to state my case.

I just wanted to say that I am disappointed that there is to be a revote for the expansion of the urban boundary of Ottawa.  I think this would not be a good decision for the long-term.  Adding new development to city may save us some legal fees in the short-term, but there are many services (sewers, roads, OCTranspo, etc.) that would have to be expanded, and would cost extra tax dollars in the long-term.  Intensification inside the current urban boundary would increase the tax base (higher price for homes) with much less new infrastructure to build and maintain.  There are other benefits involved with not extending the urban boundary (less commute time, more greenspace), but I believe that the idea of making Ottawa more compact and efficient could be the best reason of all.

As a side note, I have admired your stance on taking a more business-like approach to government.  As I am someone from the private sector, I have often been frustrated with the slow workings of a bureaucracy, and have been hopeful that someone might be able to change that.  It is turning out to be hard to change everything, but I do believe that one achievable goal could be to make Ottawa more efficient.  Expanding the urban boundary would not make this city more efficient.

I urge City of Ottawa residents to write letters to the Mayor and your local Councillors if you are opposed to (or for) the Urban Boundary Extension.  This is an election year so the voices of the public can make a difference.

To get a better picture of the issue, here are some articles in the local media.

Ottawa Citizen

Orlean Star

Ottawa Sun and here

Ottawa Citizen (letter to the editor)

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Craig Barrett on regional innovation

Was just reading an article on The Next Silicon Valley website that details some of the talks that Craig Barrett (formerly of Intel) was giving in Ireland.   He has some strong opinions on how a real technology sector can grow.  I think he has a lot of good things to say, with the biggest being that Foreign Direct Investment is probably not the best way to grow a regional technology hub.  Growing from within is longer, but really the only way for a sustainable technology park.  Worth a read.

Outsourcing–the debate rages

I just read an interesting article on EE Times about outsourcing.  The comments section brings out some of the passion of the engineering community in North America.

I actually think the comments from Nirav Desai, Graduate student have some merit.  Place manufacturing in the country of the consumer, and he uses the automotive industry as an example (strange to use the automotive industry as a positive example!)    The automotive industry has some extra protection in the form of tariffs (I believe), and a car costs much more to ship than a cell phone.  But maybe tariffs on electronics could work?  And maybe extra taxes on companies that outsource could be a better idea.  Although I do know that some companies get tax breaks if they can guarantee so many local jobs.

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see if this outsourcing trend continues in the electronics industry.