City of Ottawa

April 16, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
September 22, 2018 Aengus Bridgman

The City of Ottawa conducts hundreds of consultations annually and aspires to be a City where public engagement is valued as an important part of the decision making process and is inclusive, meaningful, accountable, and responsive to the public’s perspectives and needs.

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Mission and Purpose

The City of Ottawa has a broader mission and purpose, but the following vision statement captures the public engagement strategy: A City where public engagement is valued as an important part of the decision-making process and is inclusive, meaningful, accountable, and responsive to the public’s perspectives and needs.

The City has identified seven guiding principles:

  1. Accountable: Provide residents, stakeholders and community partners with information on how their public engagement feedback was considered and adopted, or why it was not adopted. 
  2. Inclusive: Plan and implement engagement activities that are accessible and respond to the needs of all residents, stakeholders and community partners and that remove potential barriers to participation. 
  3. Open, Informative and Transparent: Provide clear, relevant and complete information, in plain language at the start and throughout the public engagement process and communicate the purpose, expectations and limitations clearly. 
  4. Timely: Ensure that public engagement is conducted in a well-timed manner, providing sufficient time for soliciting input, and for reporting back on how the input was used. 
  5. Adaptive: Ensure that the engagement plan is well tailored to the nature of the topic being discussed and flexible enough to be modified during the public engagement process, as needed. 
  6. Continuously Improving: Evaluate each public engagement initiative by seeking input from participants about the process and the content. Evaluate on an ongoing basis in order to improve the quality of the public engagement process over time. 
  7. Co-operative: Build and maintain positive, respectful, and co-operative relationships with residents, stakeholders and community partners in order to increase the effectiveness of public engagement. 

Origins and Development

The City of Ottawa was founded in 1850 under the name Bytown and has conducted public engagement activities for many years. 

In 2003, a "Public Participation Policy" was approved by Council and consisted of "core values" and"key principles" as opposed to a specific policy. Under this policy there were both successful and less successful events which prompted the City to identify the need for a Public Engagement Strategy in its 2011-14 Strategic Plan.

However, it was not until 2013 that the City decided to systematize their approach. The City organized a series of public consultations and produced a City of Ottawa Public Engagement Strategy.

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The Public Engagement efforts are housed out of the Service Innovation and Performance Department which is funded out of the City general revenues. The City of Ottawa derives its income from three sources: Property Tax Levy, User Fees, and Grants and Subsidies. Budgeting for consultation is assigned on a per-project basis but permanent city staff tend to be responsible.

The City of Ottawa’s public engagement function is decentralized with project consultations prepared and delivered by the relevant City Department (e.g. Transportation Planning, Parks and Facilities Planning). A Staff Toolkit was developed in 2013-14 by a Public Engagement Interdepartmental Staff Committee that provides staff with guidance and relevant information for conducting.

Specializations, Methods and Tools

City of Ottawa Public Engagement conducts hundreds of engagement events annually. Most of these events are small scale and involve the day-to-day infrastructure and planning functions of a typical Canadian municipality. A typical consultation consists of a survey, an invitation for direct feedback and oftentimes several consultation events.

There is no one way participants are selected by the City of Ottawa, with different consultations targeting different groups. The Equity and Inclusion policies of the City of Ottawa require specific consideration made for groups that have historically been marginalized in planning decisions. That said, most consultations are open to all residents of Ottawa. 

Major Projects and Events

The City of Ottawa differentiates between public engagement for smaller-scale projects such as a playground replacement and major projects which in September 2018 were identified as: 

  • O-Train Confederation Line
  • Ottawa Art Gallary (OAG) Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment
  • The Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel (CSST)
  • The Ottawa Central Library
  • Developing LeBreton Flats
  • Flora Footbridge
  • And Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project (LRT)

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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See Also

City of Ottawa Public Engagement Strategy


External Links


Lead image: Fusion Jeunesse,