When I first moved to Ottawa from Toronto in September 2009 my family and friends thought my wife and I were crazy. We were leaving a place that we'd known as home all our lives and had no family and jobs waiting for us here. Most of all we were leaving Toronto, or New York North, for...Ottawack! But we were chasing a dream of working for the Federal Government, which we were successful at achieving within a few months, and living in a bilingual city. I didn't know it would be the municipal scene that would captivate our hearts.
The truth is although Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area had a larger urban area, for someone who studied political science and spoke French, it had grown rather small. I walked around in a constant state of claustrophobia feeling as though I'd reached a ceiling and could go no further.
After moving the first thing I was told was that the municipal government was horrible. It's been a year since my move and I've seen that the cynicism is more wide spread than I thought. To be honest I've already had my issues with the City, but I've also seen such great potential in Ottawa. One of the biggest draws for me was moving to a city that was in the process of developing as compared to being in a city that was already built. I wanted to be a part of the development process. When people asked me why I was leaving Toronto for boring "Ottawack", letting me know there was nothing to do here, I replied, "I'm not going there to be entertained; I'm going to help build a city!" I've seen so many gaps here in Ottawa where nothing exists. There's no high class black hair salon. Centretown is dead after 7pm. The shopping experience isn't the greatest. But I've decided that wherever I see a gap I'll work to position myself to address it whether professionally or financially, and not engage in Ottawa bashing.
So this brings me to this blog. The most vibrant segment of Ottawa's media is its blogosphere so I'm excited to join the ranks. Ottawa already has some great blogs so I'll try to bring something different in sharing ideas for the future. I love pouring over City documents, visiting construction sites in the city and staying on top of new real estate and infrastructure projects so I can dream of what the city will look like in years to come. I'm constantly generating ideas of how land could be used to help the city move forward. In talking to friends I realized that many people were unaware of the most basic projects that were going up as we speak. A few of my friends have been urging me to blog informing people about projects in the city so I will also be doing that, letting readers know how it will impact the future of Ottawa. Since I'm not at the place professionally or financially to address a lot of the things I see, this will be my forum to share my ideas for "Reinventing Ottawa". Does Ottawa need to be reinvented? The short answer is yes. At one point Ottawa was a lumber town. It was then reinvented as a political capital. As someone who is bringing a fresh set of eyes to the city I perceive Ottawa will be reinventing itself over the next 30 years. What do I think that will look like? Well, you have to come back to find out.
I look forward to working with my fellow Ottawans (not the self-bashing, complaining ones) in building and reinventing this city. I believe Ottawa has the potential to be the best city in Canada. The best place to shop, work, live and play. Is that an impossible goal? No. As the Bible says, "All things are possible to those who believe." The only limit to what this city can become is our lack of belief in ourselves. In the 1970's, Japanese and Chinese products were seen as lower quality than North American products, but within a generation Asian products are now seen as superior, and for the most part domestic products are seen as cheap. What happened? Aside from believing in themselves, the Japanese and Chinese studied what we were doing and found ways to do it better. Likewise, right now Ottawa is lagging behind Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and possibly Calgary as an urban centre, but if we study what others do well, find ways to do it better, and set goals for where we want to go as a city, we can change our position in Canada and the globe. It all starts with believing in ourselves.
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a person coming in from the outside to see potential because of pessimism, but let me tell you that Ottawa has great potential. What other city in Canada houses the country's Federal Government, national museums and institutions, and national symbols? Immediately we have something that other cities in Canada don't have. We have a great foundation; now let's move forward and believe. To borrow a popular statement from our neighbours to the south. "Yes, we can."