Op-ed: Nighttime, daytime — how about a 24/7 plan for our city?

Downtown Ottawa city

Fun fact: I like a good plan. Something with a vision, priorities and goals, budgeted resources, assigned tasks, timelines and performance measures. It makes my heart sing.

So it stresses me out to think of the hodgepodge of challenges — and opportunities — facing Ottawa these days. There are so many moving (and non-moving) parts.

When it comes to the future of our city, we have no shortage of smart people, great ideas and goodwill. What we lack is a leader and a plan. What are our priorities? What budget can we put against them? Who does what? What are the next steps? It feels like that moment after you’ve poured all the jigsaw puzzle pieces on the table and try to figure out where to start. We need to find the corner bits.

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At OBJ, every day we talk to businesspeople struggling to make sense of their future and to plan for it. I feel for them; the uncertainties they face are astounding, and so many are outside their control. ByWard Market? Lansdowne? Wellington Street? Downtown office conversions? Affordable housing? Hockey arena? Federal workers? All these things and more need to add up to a vision and a plan for Ottawa.

It’s nice that we could have a nighttime plan and a “night mayor” to ensure we’re all entertained in the wee hours. But I’d like to see a 24/7 plan that will take us into the next 10 years and beyond — and a person to lead that plan. It’s likely a job outside the scope of our “regular mayor” — although, should not the vision come from his office?

Part of the challenge is that we have so many players at the table, all with different timelines and priorities. Thankfully, there is a desire for collaboration (usually). And kudos must go to the Ottawa Board of Trade and others who are sounding the alarm and coming forward with actionable proposals. But after we’ve all stated our opinions and put forward our recommendations, who does the mind-bending job of putting the puzzle together? 

I guess it’s nothing new. Welcome to democracy. But one thing’s for sure: uncertainty is the death knell for business. Good or bad, when there’s a decision, at least you can plan. 

Like everyone else, I’m waiting for someone to take control. In the meantime, I stand with the businesspeople who need to take concrete steps — even baby steps — instead of remaining mired in uncertainty. Like them, I’m itching for a plan. And I hope I can play a part in it.

Anne Howland is the editor-in-chief of OBJ.

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