Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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NCC Burnside embassies application

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On Wednesday night, I'm hosting an open house to which residents are invited to hear from the NCC about their proposal for an "embassy row" on the open parcel of land between Burnside and the SJAM parkway.

Ahead of that meeting, I've been asked for my views on the application. I'd like to state that I am opposed to it, and have in the preceeding weeks expressed that opposition to both the NCC and to the City.

In 2018, Council declared both a housing and a climate emergency. I understand fully that for several years both municipal and federal planning processes have anticipated the building of embassies on this parcel. However, in light of those twin crises, and what we have learned through the course of nearly a year of surviving the covid-19 pandemic, I cannot in good conscience support this proposal.

I agree with groups such as the Mechanicsville Community Association and Big Trees of Kitchissippi when they assert that this parcel is important green space in the community. Its development would represent a step backwards in our efforts to address climate change - particularly in a ward that has already lost too much of its urban forest canopy.

I also agree with the residents who have written to me from around the ward and city arguing that it is distasteful to propose prestige embassies on this parcel when we are faced with a serious housing and homelessness crisis. This area is served by some of the best transportation infrastructure in the city, close to employment and services and amenities. If it must be developed, shouldn't this public asset be leveraged to address critical housing needs?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we've all come to appreciate as never before the primacy of housing as a response to the effects of the pandemic on those we've most marginalized. We have also come to understand in a very immediate way the need for public, green space. In neighbourhoods that are rapidly intensifying like Mechanicsville, we contemplate the elimination of accessible green space at our (and our kids') peril.

Both of these realizations have been acute in the past year, and it very much behooves us to re-consider whether old plans are still relevant and correct.

There are multiple aspects of the conceptual plans for how those future embassies might be configured on the site with which I and others may disagree. It should be immediately obvious that turning a very large proportion of this site over to surface parking, for instance, is inappropriate. Residents of Mechanicsville are rightly concerned about the effect of gating off a large part of their neighbourhood with secure buildings will have on the community. These details and others are not part of the decision to be made today, but are worth bearing in mind.

For the moment, the decision to be made is whether to allow an embassy use on this parcel at all. The conclusion that I've reached, and that has been the unanimous conclusion I've heard from those who are writing to me, is that this re-zoning should not be contemplated. There are other places in the city and other NCC properties on which embassies can be built. There is no tweaking the site details that will make up for putting such an important parcel to a use that few in the city consider particularly critical in light of the much greater issues we face.

I hope residents will join the open house on Wednesday night to listen and pose their questions. Thoughtful email feedback is always the most effective way for residents to contribute. I'd encourage residents to become familiar with the proposal and then provide their comments both to the NCC's CEO Tobi Nussbaum ( and to the City's planner responsible for evaluating the application, Allison Hamlin ( Please consider copying me on anything you send at

Posted February 8, 2021