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  • Writer's pictureMatthieu Gagnon

My Vision for Orléans

The discussions surrounding the proposed roundabout at Jeanne D’Arc and Fortune/Vineyard had me thinking about how there is little leadership focused on the needs of the community. We have an overarching vision in the official plans and in the secondary plans but that vision is not shared well with the community which often leads to projects being proposed in a way that causes resistance and we end up with results that mimic the status quo. I thought I would share my vision for Orléans North (north and excluding Innes because I think it’s a lost cause to the river and between the Greenbelt and Trim).

I think the status quo does not work because it exacerbates a lot of issues that we have in our society. I won’t go into much detail but I think we can all agree that the following need to be address:

  • Declining city infrastructure and services and financial solvency of the city

  • Housing crisis

  • Social isolation especially for children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations

  • Street safety

  • Decline of local businesses in favour of large online platforms and big box stores

  • Cost of living crisis

For more information on how the city can address those issues, check out this previous post that I made and I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in the topic to take this short online course provided by Strong Towns. I want to focus on how I see life in Orléans from a user perspective. I will use my perspective because it is the one I know, which is the one of a suburban dad who spends a lot of time consuming urbanist content (books, podcasts, videos, Discord discussions, etc.).

My main reason for being involved in the community association and Strong Towns Ottawa, is my kids. To me, this is about providing a better life experience for them and maintaining my connection to them as they grow up.

Picture of my kids playing on the multi-use pathway near a park

I think about my experience growing up near Garneau. I remember as a kid being able to easily access the businesses on St-Joseph and the mall where the Independent is on Orléans Boulevard (1km away from my home). I would frequently bike with my friends to various parks that were “far away” such as Marcel Bériault (1.6 km) and getting lost in the woods. I also often walked to my friend’s place near Place D’Orléans (3 km). I would be hard pressed to figure out how old I was when I went to these places and how, but I know that I had some level of freedom. I don’t think that freedom is available to youth today given the increased complexity of our roads, the increasing size of vehicles and the increased sheltering of children. I also think about the parents of teenagers I have seen spend hours watching their kids attend Taekwon-do class (Lu’s Taekwon-do) in the waiting room while I was helping out with classes and training. One of the main reasons that I am involved in activism is because I want to give back freedom to kids and to parents. Kids, depending on their level of independence and maturity, should be able to access schools, parks and most activities that are not too specialized (activities like soccer or gymnastics and not historical European martial arts). 

Kids, especially teenagers, should be able to walk or bike to school without parents being reasonably worried for their safety. I don’t expect my five year old to be able to walk or bike to school by themselves but I remember biking to school as a kid in elementary school and it is not unreasonable for a 4-5th grader to be able to do so. This means that by looking at the school’s catchment area, we should be able to map a path that a child in 4th grade could take that is not too long and safe. To do so, we need to do two things as a community which is to encourage density so that school catchment areas are not as big as they currently are and improve our transportation infrastructure so that the actual journey is safe. The same type of analysis should be possible for activities that are common such as hockey, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, and music. Kids should also have similar access to third places such as parks where they can spend time with other kids and other members of the community safely for unstructured play. Population density is key to having the services that my kids need nearby and quality non-car centric infrastructure is key to providing them the freedom to enjoy those services on their own terms.

As my children grow up, I don’t want them to be forced out of the community. As I grow old, I don’t want to age out of the community where my children live. Right now, I would not be able to buy the house that I bought in 2018 while being comfortable with my finances. I also look at my aging neighbours and I feel bad that they will soon not be able to keep maintaining the single family home that they bought to be close to their kids who live on the next street. This means that we need to provide housing that is suitable for all stages of life. We need housing that is affordable enough so that someone starting out in life can start putting roots in their communities and housing that is low maintenance enough so that older adults can manage on their own. Since car ownership significantly impacts affordability especially for young adults, and people lose the ability to drive safely as they age, that housing needs to be close and accessible enough to the places and people around which they have built their lives. Again, we go back to building a variety of denser housing and building safe and comfortable transportation infrastructure being key to this objective.

This, in a nutshell, is my vision for Orléans. I want Orléans to be a place where families have all they need, where people can live their entire lives and where everyone has the freedom to go wherever they need to go regardless of means and ability. This is what informs my positions and I hope enough of you can share my vision to help make it a reality.

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