Letter to the Editor: Coalition wants NCC to develop community benefits agreement for LeBreton Flats

Submitted by Martin Adelaar

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is busy with public consultations leading to an updated “Master Concept Plan” for the development of LeBreton Flats. The LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition believes that as well as being an exciting new national asset, LeBreton should become a vibrant neighbourhood integrated with surrounding communities and generating wealth in the broadest, most socially beneficial way possible. 

Imagine a LeBreton Flats where people from all walks of life can live and work affordably and comfortably, with access to a complete range of health, affordable housing and other services. Imagine a Lebreton Flats that is a model for sustainable building and social innovation. Imagine a development that procures from local enterprises and provides local employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities.

The coalition’s goal is to secure a Community Benefits Agreement with the NCC that would specify a range of specific community and social outcomes that the LeBreton redevelopment must achieve during and post construction. This agreement would become an integral part of the NCC’s master plan and tender documents for the future land parcelling at LeBreton. Community benefits agreements (CBAs) are legally binding and enforceable.

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The coalition currently comprises 21 Ottawa-based organizations and the list is growing. These organizations advocate for affordable housing, decent work and training, local and social procurement, sustainable energy, co-operative enterprises, the needs of Ottawa indigenous citizens, health services, and other social outcomes. The coalition also includes several community associations, like the Hintonburg and Mechanicsville community associations.

The use of CBAs to build community wealth from major developments is growing rapidly in North America and overseas as communities now realize that the old playbooks used by institutions and developers often leave little long-term community value. CBAs can ensure that social, economic and environmental benefits actually result from development. CBAs enable communities to play a meaningful role in development planning and execution and they avoid weak governance and enforcement.

In advocating for CBAs, broad-based coalitions address the needs of community voices not normally considered and avoid the fragmentation that occurs when community sectors are forced to advocate for their own interests as individual silos. Here in Ottawa, a community benefits agreement is being negotiated in the Herongate community. CBAs are in place or being negotiated in Toronto to govern Metrolinx transit projects, the former Woodbine Raceway lands, and in the Parkdale neighbourhood. A particularly important precedent is the Community Benefits Plan for the Windsor-to-Detroit Gordie Howe International Bridge development, which is under federal jurisdiction.

LeBreton Flats is an opportunity for the NCC to show leadership and embrace a community benefits agreement as the social framework for the development; much like the federal leadership shown with the Gordie Howe Bridge project and what other levels of government have done elsewhere. Over the next few months, the coalition will be working hard to establish community benefit targets for a community benefits agreement and also to raise awareness of how it would benefit our citizens.

We hope the CBA goal for LeBreton will resonate with residents of Hintonburg, Mechanicsville and Wellington West who know well the challenges posed by how various developments can play out in a community. Stay tuned for our web site and social media launches. We welcome your involvement.

Martin Adelaar is a resident of Hintonburg and member of the LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition Steering Committee.  For more information on the Coalition and Community Benefits Agreements, contact George Brown, George@integralnorth.ca or 613-804-2453.

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