This is part 2 of my (partial!) report from the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (Part 1 is here).
One of the tours that was really valuable for me was of the Centre Sportif Gatenau. This relatively recent (2010) sports complex in one of Ottawa’s Quebec suburbs was useful to tour at a time that some of the more detailed design decisions are being made in New Westminster around the Canada Games Pool and replacement of the Arenex.
The CSG had a natatorium that I suspect is close to the volume of water and pool types that we are hearing is desired for New West from the stakeholders and public engagement. They have a 52m 8-lane pool with a moveable floor on one half to increase use flexibility, and a second warmer leisure/wellness pool that may not have as many “fun”activities as some community pools, but did provide a small length swimming area to increase flexibility. They also had a one of the larger diving complexes in a diving-centric community (towers to 10m and paired springboards for synchronized diving) that are probably beyond the needs here in New West.
One interesting point: the modern standard for BC of emphasizing gender neutral and family changing areas is not the standard in Quebec. Their relatively small family-oriented change area is restricted to those 9 and under when accompanied by a parent. I assume that people needing assistants or care providers are also accommodated, but there was little to be seen indicating this was a standard idea in Quebec.
The CSG also had a large three-partition gym complex (it is the home of Canada’s national volleyball team) that is a little larger than is appropriate/affordable for a CGP replacement, but there were some learnings in their state-of-the-art floor treatment (“Terraflex”), and their already old tech lighting (sodium!). A lot can change in 7 years.
The CSG also featured a very large (20,000 square feet) gymnastics area. Again, gymnastics are hugely popular in Gatineau, which allows them to program a gymnastics space twice the size of the Arenex. It was an impressive space that helped provide some context to what a space that size can provide, as we look at options for short- and long-term Arenex replacement.
Gatineau is a true suburb of Ottawa, and in looking around the CSG area, has all of the stroads, strip mall parking lots, and low-density housing you would expect of an auto-oriented community. There is a Corridor Rapid Bus station adjacent to the facility, a community college to one side and the National Library to the other, yet, they only built 175 parking spots. Parking is free for 90 minutes, but charges are applied for longer periods.
There were many, many more details we learned about: what works well and what does not, and about how decisions were made for specific programming. After touring several pools and community centres across the Lower Mainland over the last year, this provided great context to how other regions address similar constraints and desires.
We were also fortunate to get a meeting with staff from Infrastructure Canada to discuss opportunities around the new infrastructure funding plan that is being rolled out by the federal government. There were a couple of other sessions at the FCM discussing the structure of the grant program, and what the Federal Government will be looking for in projects applying for grants. The plan is long-term (10 years) and the needs across the country are large, but this is an important time for information gathering so we can put the best proposal together when funding windows open.
Speaking of funding opportunities, I also attended a session where the FCM’s Municipal Climate Infrastructure Plan grants were discussed. Local governments in Canada own half of all public infrastructure, and are responsible for 60% of public service greenhouse gas emissions. BC is ahead of most provinces on this file (as the first Climate Action Plan under the Gordon Campbell Liberals really pushed Cities towards carbon neutrality), but there is still a lot of work to do, and it was great to learn from the experiences of Cities across the country. It was not lost on this crowd that this talk was occurring the day after President Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Accord, shortly followed by a chorus of state and local government leaders stepping up and saying they were going to lead if the President fails to. Local governments can, and must, lead on climate mitigation and adaptation. The FCM is doing much to help us do so.
Finally, the FCM provided so many opportunities for informal learning. There were networking sessions where I met everyone from a City Councillor representing Kanata who has served for 28 years as Ottawa grew into a tech hub to a young Councillor from a small town outside of Edmonton who frequented New Westminster because his girlfriend actually lives in Moody Park! There is also a significant Trade Fair, where vendors of everything from waste management systems to artificial turf come to show us what is new in public services.
I went for a bit of a vacation after FCM, visiting family in Ottawa and friends in Montreal, which led to a bunch of other informal learning about how those Cities work, but I’ll save that for a future blog post.