Reflecting on the GCA as agent of change

Sarah Viehbeck
President GCA

This is my last column as the Glebe Community Association president. I am delighted to be handing the gavel over to former GCA secretary, Laura Smith. She has been my right hand for every GCA meeting over the last two years, and I have every confidence in her ability to lead the GCA through its next phase.

When I became the GCA president in 2018, I had just become a mother and was on parental leave with a three-month-old baby. I am now back at work as a public servant contributing to Canada’s response to the global pandemic, with a toddler at home. I have been amazed and humbled by the contributions of GCA members in supporting me and the association during my term. I have been so grateful for the laughs, the respectful discourse, the engagement and the spirit of consensus which are evident at every monthly meeting, whether at our Glebe Community Centre or via Zoom. I would also like to acknowledge our dear partners at the Glebe Report, the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group and the Glebe Business Improvement Area with whom we work to make the neighbourhood the best possible place to live, work and play in Ottawa.

The GCA board and it’s committees comprise incredibly committed and energetic volunteers who are united in contributing to a more vibrant, diverse and sustainable neighbourhood. It has been my pleasure to give my time, energy and leadership on these issues. During my two-year term, we have seen many changes in the neighbourhood, and many more are to come.

Changes to Bank Street
The transportation committee of city council has recommended changes to make the Bank Street Bridge more accessible and safer for cyclists and pedestrians by reducing vehicle traffic to three lanes and building wider multi-use pathways on both sides. At time of writing, council had not yet voted on the recommendations, which would go a long way to addressing GCA concerns about the safety on the bridge. Comments by the GCA can be viewed on our website. We hope any changes will include reduced speed limits and more signage. We also requested barriers between the pathways and traffic but were told there is not enough space.

We expect the Bank Street Height and Character Study will be finalized this year for community reaction. The GCA has advocated strongly for limiting development to no more than four storeys along Bank Street between Pretoria and Holmwood.

Changes at Lansdowne
Nearly a year ago, there was an outcry about possible changes to the programming arrangement between the city and OSEG at Lansdowne. As a result, the city gave assurances that community input would be sought on any changes. OSEG subsequently withdrew its proposal to assume programming responsibility.

In August, councillor Shawn Menard reconvened the Lansdowne Park Working Group at the request of community associations. At the August meeting, the GCA learned of proposed design changes to Aberdeen Square. We have not seen the proposals yet but our Lansdowne committee will be pressing the city and OSEG to share them and consult with neighbouring residents and the wider community. The GCA is also working with OSEG and the city to continue to reduce waste at Lansdowne, and I applaud our environment committee for leading this work.

Changes to
the Great Glebe Garage Sale
The Great Glebe Garage Sale (GGGS) was cancelled because of COVID-19 but the GCA worked with the Glebe BIA, GiveShop and the Ottawa Food Bank to launch a virtual edition. At time of writing, more than $3,500 worth of stuff was posted on the app for the GGGS fundraising group. All proceeds go to the Food Bank. We have seen an increase in postings and encourage people to contribute goods and buy them. Check out the online version at www.giveshop.ca/market/?group=5f0e0be5a18e127bc1989cb8.

Changes at Mutchmor
This past winter saw the return of the rink to Mutchmor field. It was well received by many, with use by children, adults and GNAG programs. The Capital Ward Cup was also hosted there. The GCA conducted a survey to collect stakeholder input to inform further efforts related to the rink. At time of writing, the GCA has not received word from the OCDSB or the city on whether or not the rink will return this winter. 

Changes to Membership
I’ve written previously about the GCA’s decline in memberships because our door-to-door canvass could not be conducted during the pandemic. Thanks to those who purchased memberships online this year. The GCA executive will be looking at new ways to expand membership during this time of physical distancing.

Changes at the FCA
The GCA is a proud contributor to the Federation of Citizens’ Associations. We are ably represented at this city-wide table by Bob Brocklebank and Angela Keller-Herzog. On behalf of the GCA, I would like to thank Sheila Parry, who will step down as FCA president this year.

And lastly, a note about democracy …

I have been somewhat dismayed to see urban councillors continue to be locked out of membership on critical city council committees. The GCA has had to increasingly insist on the importance of community engagement in the governance processes at city hall. At a time filled with sobering reminders that there are still many among us who are not treated as equals due to systemic and institutional barriers – whether that be due to race, gender, sexual orientation, differences in ability or other factors – there must be a role for community association voices to stand in solidarity and support efforts to make a more fair and just society for all.

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