Poll reveals municipal candidates’ views on architecture and urban design

(Press release from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).)

Candidates in Ottawa’s urban wards are far more likely to indicate support for policies aimed at improving the city’s architecture and urban design than candidates in suburban and rural wards, a poll suggests.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the national professional association which advocates for excellence in the built environment, asked mayoral and council candidates for their position on five questions related to design quality, the environment and heritage.

Of the eight mayoral candidates, only two responded – Bernard Couchman and Anwar Syed. Of the 124 candidates for City Council, just 39 expressed their opinion.

“It’s regrettable that there’s so little apparent interest in architecture and urban design from the mayoral candidates, given this the capital of a G8 country,” said Allan Teramura, FRAIC, RAIC regional director for Ontario North, East and Nunavut.

The vast majority of respondents – 31 – were in urban wards.  Suburban and rural wards yielded just four responses each.  A second mailing, directed to them, pointed out that good design can enrich suburban life as well and that the protection of agricultural landscapes is a heritage issue.

“There’s a very high level of interest in these issues in urban wards, with most candidates providing strong statements of support,” says Teramura. “It’s possible there could be a half-dozen or so councillors with an interest in design. It’s still a minority, but it’s a start.

“I understand that many people get involved in municipal politics because of issues in their immediate community, but in an amalgamated city, councillors have to be prepared to understand and deal with issues far from where they live,” says Teramura. “This is a challenge for both urban and rural councillors.”

Dave Lee did respond to the survey; Shad Qadri did not. (For the complete responses from all respondents, please see the PDF document.)

Teramura notes that Ottawa is undergoing many changes today. Important issues affecting Ottawa’s urban landscape are being debated, including the possibility of building a new main library, increasing pressure to intensify mature neighbourhoods and the continuing development of LeBreton Flats. With the events of Canada’s sesquicentennial coming soon, the spotlight will be on Ottawa, nation-wide.

“While I would not expect new candidates from rural or suburban wards to have many strongly held opinions on issues that primarily affect the downtown, I would have thought that incumbents would, having had a few years of grappling with them,” said Teramura. “And yet there was relatively little response from these candidates.”

“As a rapidly growing community, it is essential that much of the development focus in this ward be on issues of design and build in order to ensure compatibility with existing neighbourhoods and the preservation of the character of the community,” said Stittsville candidate Dave Lee in his response to RAIC’s questions.


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