10 Ottawa stories to watch in 2016 (and five farewells)
People & Places

10 Ottawa stories to watch in 2016 (and five farewells)

The holidays are over and the new year is well underway. Here are 10 stories you might want to keep an eye on in 2016 — along with five expected farewells.

Ten to watch

1. Championship Watch
Tennis legend Billie Jean King once said, “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” Well, two of Ottawa’s pro teams came heartbreakingly close to winning it all in 2015 — meaning Ottawa is poised to be even more sports crazy than usual. Can the Redblacks make it back to the Grey Cup with some new faces, new coaches, and ageless QB Henry Burris? Can the Fury return to the NASL championship under new head coach, Paul Dalglish? Even the 67’s may not be far from OHL glory, and look to build on a strong second-round showing. If a few things go right, Ottawa could steal away Edmonton’s grandfather-clause nickname as “City of Champions.” (Meanwhile, even if all goes wrong, the capital could still be the “training ground of champions.” Team Canada holds its training camp here — plus some exhibition games — ahead of the World Cup of Hockey.)

2. LeBreton Flats Redevelopment
Attention all doomsayers and naysayers! Public consultations on the final two bids will be held Jan. 27 and 28 at the Canadian War Museum. While both proposals include an NHL-calibre hockey rink, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has hinted his team will only relocate if his bidding group, RendezVous LeBreton, comes out on top. Still, that is a brave step forward for a guy who once had visions of Kanata’s Canadian Tire Centre somehow becoming Ottawa’s second downtown. Being able to walk to the market and other central hoods after an NHL game? Any Sens fans living east of Nepean will raise a new year’s champagne glass to that! (But we all remember Lansdowne. Our city rarely embarks on a major project without various factions claiming the sky is falling. Expect Chicken Littles to emerge.)

3. City Facelifts
A $110 million-reno of the National Arts Centre is in the cards, to both modernize architecture and boost capacity. And 24 Sussex Drive could get a much-needed overhaul, too.

4. You’ll Have Less Money
2016 will prove costly. Ottawans will have less money for a rainy day — or otherwise. The 2016 budget includes higher transit fares and a 2 per cent tax hike. (Couple that with seemingly ever-rising hydro costs.) The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees. Money, that’s what Ottawans will need.

5. Festival Watch
Bigger and … pricier? OC Transpo’s plan to collect $200,000 from Bluesfest (to cover extra bus service) could leave 2016 ticket buyers feeling blue, and facing a 5 per-cent price increase. Meanwhile, CityFolk’s executive director Mark Monahan has suggested that space constraints (i.e. only one outdoor stage) at the first Lansdowne Park fest could lead to additional stages or venues in 2016. (But could that also mean more money to get through the gates?) Of course, lineup quality will play a factor. How will Bluesfest top the likes of Kanye West and Iggy Azalea? As for CityFolk, could a couple top-tier performers — such as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen or Paul Simon — make it financially viable for the fest to feature some acts in TD Place Stadium? Close on the horizon, Winterlude fans will be able to enjoy a new roster of “Subzero Concerts,” featuring Canadian artists in Confederation Park (but if December’s unseasonal weather returns, they could be attending in shorts). Meanwhile, the Ottawa Grassroots Festival (April 21-24) has found a new, larger space to folk around at The Southminster United Church in Old Ottawa South.

6. Ottawa’s 150th Birthday Suit
With Canada celebrating the big 150 in 2017, the downtown core will put its face on — with touch-ups planned to prepare for an influx of tourists. Expect things like new community gardens and trees, street upgrades and museum revamps.

7. Birthday Party Favours
Ottawa has already landed the 2017 JUNO Awards, but expect some other big birthday event announcements — like a probable Grey Cup game and a potential outdoor NHL Winter Classic. (Locals would even settle for an all-star game of shinny on Dow’s Lake or the Rideau Canal).

8. Sci-fi Sensations
The capital will take a trek to the stars with the Starfleet Academy Experience, a new, ground-breaking interactive exhibit at The Canada Aviation and Space Museum, opening May. 13. (Find out if your captain material, or more of a Scotty). And a galaxy far, far away will feel a lot closer with the one-night local premiere of One Man Star Wars at Centrepointe Theatre on March 23. The event is a fundraiser for the 20th Ottawa Fringe Festival.

9. New Amsterdam?
Beer is already being sold in select grocery stores, and the federal government may legalize pot!? Now factor in Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recent musings about selling legalized marijuana in LCBO stores. Could Ottawa become the New Amsterdam of North America? After all, we’ve already got the canal thing down pat.

10. Cab Clarity
Meanwhile, city council is expected to unveil the first draft of its taxi bylaw review early in the year. It will likely include new rules for Uber and other potential ride-hailing apps — in order to try to balance the playing field for the city’s reeling cab industry. After a turbulent year that included violent taxi driver protests over airport fees, the review could bring a measure of peace. (But it may not be good news for people seeking the lowest fares possible.)

Five farewells

1. Mayor Jim Watson’s honeymoon?
Five councillors voted against Watson’s 2016 budget — councillors Rick Chiarelli, Diane Deans, Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney and Tobi Nussbaum. It marks the first time in years that a Watson budget did not garner unanimous support. Is it a sign of things to come? Should the mayor’s “Spidey sense” be tingling about a newly formed Sinister 5 (or Fantastic 5 depending on your political perspective)?

2. Tory Blue
The city is painted Liberal red. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre is like a Stark in Westeros: the winter is coming, and he’s all by his lonesome. But the early, strong performance of Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose should give him, and his caucus, reason to hope for a future new king or queen. The near Liberal election sweep brings another potential spectacle. With popular NDP MP Paul Dewar losing Ottawa Centre, could he begin planning a mayoral run for 2018? After all, his late mother Marion was one of this city’s most beloved leaders.

3. Bureaucratic Blues
Sure, public servants probably shouldn’t be openly cheering Justin Trudeau and his ministers like the second coming of King Arthur’s court — and the happy marriage won’t last forever. But the new relationship does feel like honeymoon bliss compared to the acrimony that festered under Stephen Harper’s rule.

4. Lansdowne Park Debate
It didn’t make as much money as forecasted, but it is here to stay. The patios thrived, the Aberdeen Pavilion drew crowded events — and Redblack and Fury games felt like true community celebrations. (And given the sellout crowds, the entire 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup should have been played here). Long live Lansdowne! The local torch-and pitchfork types can now set their sights on the fabled LeBreton monster.

5. The Hamburgler
He was one of the 2015 NHL stories of the year, but Andrew Hammond’s lucky streak is over. He is unarguably the Sens back-up goalie again. Barring another injury, Craig Anderson is the man to beat between the pipes, and could lead the rejuvenated hockey club deep into the 2016 playoffs.