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April 01, 2022

Connecting people and places across Canada

The pandemic has made it challenging to connect with co-workers and community members alike. Planners have had to adapt quickly and transform our usual practices to engage in a digital world, while implementing COVID-safe techniques for in-person experiences.
To combat the potential for disconnect in a time of isolation, WSP has brought human connection to the forefront of their project experiences.
This blog post highlights several projects from across Canada that were designed to improve the lives of community members through a diverse set of planning techniques. In each example, the focus is on building meaningful connections with community members and enacting innovative planning practices to create better communities.


Longueuil, Quebec: Planning for healthier communities

Urban environments are not built by chance. All decisions and interventions that have a direct or indirect impact on urban planning will influence the quality of life of families, workers, students, consumers, pedestrians, and everyone else who live in, or frequents, these environments.
Living near a train or subway route doesn’t have to come with consequences. Noise and vibration can be addressed using transit-oriented development (TOD) design. Scientific principles and targets must be identified and integrated into performance standards and policy. For instance, noise and vibration performance criteria in various situations must be anticipated, measured, and verified during and after project planning and completion. 
Smart planning is helping communities, like the City of Longueuil, address the challenges that noise and vibration can pose to nearby residential developments. Mathieu Langlois, Planner at WSP Canada, and his team conducted a study on noise and vibration best practices for the City of Longueuil. Careful attention was given to building layout, architectural design, uses, and outdoor amenities to inform performance standards and planning policy which contributed to the health and well-being of people exposed to noise and vibration. 

Photo courtesy of DTAH. 

Toronto Port Lands, Ontario: An ecological corridor

The Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure project is expected to develop some of the most distinctive streets in Toronto. The project is putting people and the public realm first. James Schofield, Senior Engineer at WSP Canada, believes wide sidewalks, high-capacity cycling paths, dedicated space for transit, and significant investment in green infrastructure will result in healthy, livable streets.
Not only will these streets form the core transportation network for new neighbourhoods just minutes from downtown Toronto, they will also allow residents and visitors to connect with nature, including the many unique new parks and play spaces near the lakefront.

Halifax, Nova Scotia: Putting people first with rural active transportation

When we think of active transportation, we often think of bike-share programs in major cities or pedestrian laneways that encourage physical activity. But what about our rural communities? How do we help them get around?
It takes a people-centric approach, one that creates routes based on needs and connectivity. A people-centric approach places community engagement at the centre of decision making. The community stakeholders share power in the development of routes and objectives.
Working with the Halifax Regional Municipality, WSP Canada compiled research from North American and European best practices in active transportation. With input from community stakeholders, they identified a series of clusters (small, dense rural communities) and spines, (long-haul connections between communities) and built objectives to help focus investment on impactful active transportation routes. The route review also included an equity lens in decision-making.
The result? A fair, thoughtful, and inclusive approach to investment — and the development of a network that puts people first.


Haines Junction, Yukon: Every person counts

Giving everyone a voice is important. It makes people feel like they are providing a positive contribution to the future of their community.
The Village of Haines Junction is a community of less than 1,000 people located 150 kilometres west of Whitehorse in the Yukon. In reviewing and updating their official community plan, door-to-door consultation formed an integral part of its engagement plan in reaching members of the community.
Chen Peng, Senior Project Manager for WSP Canada, believes the process of developing the updated official community plan required the acknowledgement of the rich and rooted history beyond this young village, recognition of current community values and objectives, and establishment of a collective community vision to empower the future — both short and long term. These updates were supported by facilitating a comprehensive public and stakeholder engagement process, which included engaging the Aishihik First Nations and the local community in a robust engagement process.
By allowing everyone to have a voice, we can plan inclusive communities that leave no one behind.
Winnipeg, Manitoba: Integrated communities and infrastructure

The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (WMR), made up of the City of Winnipeg and 17 surrounding municipalities, is the fastest growing area of Manitoba, and the economic hub of the province. The WMR is a partnership between municipalities established to address opportunities and challenges in a coordinated way. In 2019, the WMR was mandated by the province of Manitoba to develop a 30-year regional plan. 
Together, the WMR is leading and preparing the region for the future.

Meagan Boles, Planning Manager at WSP Canada, believes the five policy areas that have been proposed are supported by a regional structure:
1) Integrated Communities and Infrastructure provides regional policy direction on growth and ensures infrastructure is planned and prioritized across municipal boundaries.
2) One Environment focuses on climate change and building resiliency.
3) Resource Management protects resource-related lands for economic opportunities.
4) Investment and Employment supports working together for regional economic development.
5) Collaborative Governance recognizes that good working relationships form the foundation towards a prosperous capital region.
Proactively engaging communities, agencies, and public officials early in the process of development or redevelopment of their living environment — by means of official public consultation, for example — creates healthier communities for everyone, regardless of where they call home.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Andria Sallese, RPP

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