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While Ottawa waits, Kitchener-Waterloo welcomes light-rail transit




KITCHENER — Last November, commuters in the Kitchener-Waterloo region were promised they’d be riding light-rail transit in the spring of 2019.

Friday morning, with just 15 minutes to summer, the first passenger-carrying Ion train pulled out of Kitchener’s Fairway Station.

As dignitaries strutted and preened under the blazing, not-yet-summer sun, with fluttering flags and a brass band playing, it was a launch party that Ottawans can only dream about.

“They’re very different systems,” said Waterloo Regional Counciller Tom Galloway, one of the driving forces behind the Grand River Transit’s Ion LRT. “This is a development tool. Ottawa’s is a mass transit system.”

It’s thumbs up from the first driver of the first train of Grand River Transit’s Ion LRT on June 21, 2019. Blair Crawford/Postmedia Blair Crawford / Postmedia

Waterloo Regional Council approved a light-rail system in 2003, with the idea of spurring development along a central core of the adjacent cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. And it’s worked. With a known commitment to rail — train tracks can’t be moved or cancelled like a bus route — the region has seen $2.82 billion in new development along the Ion route, Galloway said.

That investment, he’s quick to point out, was already committed before Ion had carried a single passenger.

“This is all about moving our development inward, to intensify and to save our farmland,” he said.

“It’s been a long journey. We fought three municipal elections on this and the community always said yes.”

To celebrate, GRT has made all travel on the Ion trains and its interconnected bus system free for the first 11 days of service. It’s gesture Ottawa has declined to do.

Although they’re both called LRTs, the Ion and O-Train are so different it makes comparisons difficult.

The Ion operates at street level, sharing the road with cars and other vehicles just like Toronto’s streetcars or the trams common in European cities. The Ion relies on a complex system of signals and barriers to keep cars, trains — and cyclists and pedestrians — safe. So far, drivers have faced a steep learning curve. There have been four crashes in the three weeks leading up to opening day and in every case the trains have had the right-of-way.

In contrast, the O-Train runs along a dedicated corridor and has no level crossings, at least in Phase 1. Downtown, it’s out of view completely as it ducks underground into the 2.5-kilometre tunnel beneath the city core.

Both systems are electric-powered, but Waterloo region opted for the Bombardier Flexity Freedom light-rail vehicle. Each car seats 60 and can carry another 140 standing passengers for a total of 200. Each of its 19 stations was built to accommodate a doubled-up car, meaning each train could eventually carry 400 people if the demand is there.

But the vehicles have been a headache. Though Ion made its most recent spring 2019 deadline, it had been originally meant to open about 18 months ago, Galloway said. Almost all of the delay is due to delays in the delivery of the Bombardier vehicles.

Waterloo Regional Councillor Tom Galloway has been the driving force behind LRT through three elections. Blair Crawford/Postmedia Blair Crawford / Postmedia

Ottawa’s Confederation Line has been plagued by delays too, everything from tunnel cave-ins on Rideau and Waller streets, to problems with Ottawa’s Alstom Citadis Spirit vehicles. The Confederation Line is already 13 months behind schedule and no new target date has been set.

But that doesn’t mean Ottawa isn’t getting ready for its own Confederation Line launch. An OC Transpo delegation was in Kitchener on Friday, taking notes on how to throw an LRT party.

And if Kitchenerites and Waterlooians were still angry about Ion’s delays, they weren’t showing it Friday. Some lined up four hours to be the first to ride Ion on it’s 19-kilometre crosstown journey. Most carried loot bags stuffed with Ion stickers, colouring books and a cardboard model of the deep blue and white Bombardier train.

“Pinch me,” Galloway told the crowd of several hundred that came out for Friday’s launch. “Somebody, please pinch me.”

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Ottawa Book Expo Author Boot Camp: What’s in it For You?





Would you love to attend a writers’ book camp? If yes, then check out this upcoming boot camp on organized in conjunction with the Ottawa Book Expo. The boot camp seeks to boost the commercial success of authors while providing a convivial atmosphere for social networking among authors. There you would learn what you need to do to boost the sale of your book. The goal of the group asides social networking is to empower authors to make money while also saving money.

What’s in it for you?

Whether you are a new writer who hasn’t published any books yetor you are a veteran writer who has been publishing for decades, a writers boot camp could still be extremely beneficial to you in a couple of ways. There, you would get to meet other writers, you would be motivated to start up your book or continue your writing journey. Ways you can benefit from a writers boot camp include:

  • You get to ask questions and have your questions answered.

The book camp is not just a place to make new friends and link up with old ones; you also get to learn new ideas. You could ask questions about any topic on writing and have these questions answered by professionals. You would also get to see other writers ask their questions, and learn from them. Your questionsare more likely to be answered directly by someone who knows their onion in the field.

  • Network with other writers

At the boot camp, you would get to make friends with other writers who would be in attendance. A lot of writers are introverts who would rather not make small talk; however, you have to remember that putting yourself out there, is what’s going to help you sell your books. You could also come along with a business card that has your name, what kind of author you are, and the links to your social media. Networking with other writers is definitely worth the time and money you’re spending at the Expo.

  • One last thing

There’s no better way to gain some exposure as a writer than starting local. The boot camp would feature experts on all types of writing. This is one of the most efficient ways to connect with other local writers who would are likely to keep in touch with you through social media or in person, you can also connect with your fans and readers who would be likely to purchase your books. If you’re thinking about attending a writers’ festival, start local, with the Ottawa Book Expo.

The event is open to all writers and publishers locally and internationally. The Expo is a grassroots-oriented author, publisher, bookseller and literary services festival which supports authors and publishers who seek to promote marginalized voices such as those of different cultural backgrounds, gender and LGBTQ communities.The Expo would hold at the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park on the 20th of October 2019.

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa





Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa





In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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