Canada’s Capital and You: A Conversation in Toronto and Victoria

The Plan for Canada’s Capital forum is a conversation about the future of our capital and the role all Canadians have to play in shaping it. Our goal is for the Capital to be a place in which all Canadians see a reflection of themselves and feel at home. The forum was held in four capital cities across Canada, in partnership with The Royal Canadian Geographical Society(RCGS).

In my previous blog post, I covered the first two stops of the Plan for Canada’s Capital forum in Charlottetown and Québec City. In this post, I will summarize the Toronto and Victoria events.

Next stop: Toronto

Toronto panel

It is most appropriate to have brought this conversation to Toronto. It is a city that is a leader in its own right, declared by the BBC to be the most diverse city in the world.  

Toronto sign

In developing the Plan, one of the most exciting aspects of the process for us was asking Canadians: What milestone ideas should carry us from the sesquicentennial to the bicentennial?  

Some of the ideas have direct relevance to similar initiatives in Toronto, such as:

  • embracing sustainable transportation
  • ensuring the vitality of urban forests
  • turning waterfronts and shorelines into lively destinations  

It was great to hold the event at Evergreen Brick Works. What a terrific urban success story this is! The adaptive reuse of heritage buildings is a primary activity at the NCC. What Toronto has done with Evergreen Brick Works—taking a former industrial site and reimagining it as a wonderful space full of life and energy—resonates with us because of similar projects we have undertaken, and will undertake, in the Capital in the coming years.

Evergreen Brick Works venue

Evergreen Brick Works venue  

When we started this cross-country journey in Charlottetown, the NCC’s resident Indigenous elder, Rene Tenasco, suggested that, on behalf of the Algonquin First Nation, we make a presentation of tobacco, one of the four sacred plants, at each stop of the forum.

We hosted the Toronto forum on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, and I was very pleased that Elder Garry Sault from the New Credit First Nation offered an Aboriginal welcome and accepted our presentation of tobacco prepared by the Algonquin Nation.  

Elder Garry Sault from the New Credit First Nation and NCC CEO Dr. Mark Kristmanson

Elder Garry Sault from the New Credit First Nation and NCC CEO Dr. Mark Kristmanson  

Panel observations on the plan

Panelists were invited to speak to one of the three pillars of the plan:

  • Inclusive and meaningful
  • Picturesque and natural
  • Thriving and connected
Left to right: Idil Burale, John Geiger, Elder Garry Sault, Dr. Mark Kristmanson, Dr. Enid Slack, Paul Bedford, Dr. Anne Golden and Geoff Cape

Left to right: Idil Burale, John Geiger, Elder Garry Sault, Dr. Mark Kristmanson, Dr. Enid Slack, Paul Bedford, Dr. Anne Golden and Geoff Cape  

Inclusive and Meaningful

Idil Burale of the CivicAction Emerging Leader Network shared her thoughts on what creating an inclusive and meaningful city means to her. Burale advised that the NCC should prioritize human and cultural experiences, and continue to engage across physical, economic, cultural, social and environmental contexts. Some good examples from Toronto:

Picturesque and Natural

Geoff Cape of Evergreen, whose organization has done so much to realize the spirit of environmental sustainability in the GTA and across the country, addressed the theme of picturesque and natural.  

He spoke of how the identity of a nation emerges from its landscape. His work on the Toronto Ravine Strategy is a great example of this. The strategy began with the ambition to connect the Brick Works site with the city. This was a great opportunity to build the ravine’s identity and to connect it with Torontonians. Cape shared the example of bringing people to the ravine through temporary art installations.

Installation in the Don River Valley Park. Photo: Yuula Benivolski.

Installation in the Don River Valley Park. Photo: Yuula Benivolski. 

Thriving and Connected

The third pillar, “thriving and connected,” is about building a capital that is active and competitive on the international stage. Dr. Anne Golden, Chair, Ryerson City Building Institute, and board member of Metrolinx, talked about the need for intergovernmental participation and funding to make the Plan a success.  

Paul Bedford, former chief planner, City of Toronto, and Chair, Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel spoke about his contributions to the Plan and the similarities and differences between our two cities when it comes to sustainable transportation and urban forests. His lessons from Toronto are to embrace ongoing change and not to take our cities for granted. A good example of this is the recent Sidewalk Toronto announcement to create an innovative smart community on Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

Final stop…Victoria

It is easy for a visitor from Canada’s Capital to feel at home in the “City of Gardens,” with its striking combination of elegant, historic architecture and breathtaking natural beauty.  

There is also much in Victoria to which our National Capital Region can, and does, aspire:

  • remarkable cultural diversity
  • accessibility and animation of the waterfront
  • a thriving, knowledge-based private sector  

Many of the elements that define the Capital of the future are already well-established in the capital of British Columbia.  

Victoria is on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people, and I was pleased to present tobacco to Rob Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation.

Rob Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation with NCC CEO Dr. Mark Kristmanson

Rob Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation with NCC CEO Dr. Mark Kristmanson

While in Victoria, we visited the Songhees Nation Wellness Centre, and presented the Plan to the Mayor of Victoria and City Council.

Meanwhile our partner, RCGS, went into classrooms to teach young Canadians about the Plan for Canada’s Capital.  

RCGS presentation

Panel observations

Victorial panel

From left to right: Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Michael Pankiw, Dr. Mark Kristmanson, Councillor Rob Thomas, Chief Ron Sam, Jean McRae, Marianne Alto, Kerry Moore, Ellen Curtis and Paul Nursey  

Inclusive and Meaningful

I am pleased that Jean McRae, CEO of Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, shared her thoughts on what creating an inclusive and meaningful city means in Victoria. She shared a few examples of projects that embody inclusiveness:

  • Community Partnership Network brings over 180 organizations together to build diverse, welcoming and inclusive communities in Victoria.
  • We Speak Translate is a collaboration between Google Translate and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, utilizing the Google Translate app for refugee resettlement and newcomer inclusion in communities.
  • Safe Harbours is an education program to help businesses in Victoria become more diverse and inclusive.  

Picturesque and Natural

Paul Nursey, CEO of Tourism Victoria, spoke to this theme. Both Victoria and Ottawa–Gatineau have a waterfront interface that connects nature and the built environment. Victoria has done great work to leverage its waterfront, positioning itself on the world stage. In 2017, the city was named the No.2 small city in the world by the latest Condé Nast Readers’ Choice awards.  

Victoria

Thriving and Connected

A thriving and connected capital is an innovative smart city, culturally exciting, economically sustainable, and highly desirable to top talent as a place to live and work and raise a family.

Kerry Moore of the City of Victoria discussed this in the context of Victoria. The city’s Economic Action Plan resulted in the creation a Business Hub at City Hall to grow Victoria’s largest economic engines. The Business Hub serves to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed. 

Chief Ron Sam of the Songhees Nation wrapped up the event, and spoke about the Plan for Canada’s Capital in the context of Truth and Reconciliation. His advice to the NCC: Don’t shy away from having these important conversations.   

I was glad to take this opportunity to speak about the passion and commitment of NCC staff in creating an inspiring capital on behalf of all Canadians.

A successful plan

As you can see, in many places the goals of the three pillars overlap: the great 21st century capital thrives at the intersection of inclusivity, sustainability and connectivity.  

I think the plan will be successful if it becomes the basis for greater collaboration. A great plan is open to elaboration and extrapolation, and I believe this is what Canadians have achieved here.


Watch all four of the forum events on our YouTube channel.

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