Q&A with Rideau-Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom

Election day in Ottawa is just four months away. As mentioned in my last post, I've decided to use the blog to help out the democratic process through a series of candidate Q&As. These posts are not endorsements; any Read more

Where are Ottawa's kids?

We've been spending a lot of time at the new Jules Morin Park in Lowertown lately. The place is pretty much always full of kids! The park is really becoming a sort of community meeting spot and it's neat to see how many families live in Read more

Time to eat: 3 urban Ottawa food experiences

I really love food! I don’t particularly like to make it, but I really like to eat it. Food-related experiences are something I don’t mind investing in and my idea of a great Friday night is a great dinner party. I don’t Read more

Moments of maturity

Somehow, without me really telling her, she knew just what to do. When the Honour Guard came to attention, she was still. When the piper started to play, she started to walk. She held her three purple flowers tightly, looked straight Read more

A park to call home: Lessons about public spaces from NYC

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in downtown living, other cities, park profile, thoughts, travel | 2 Comments

We were in Bryant Park, sitting at a table that the man had moved into the morning sun. We were drinking coffee, chatting and watching a group of kids play some stick game (Google later told me it was Kubb), when I started to notice it. We went on to spend much of the day walking around Manhattan, stopping at so many parks that it became obvious.

Urban public spaces, specifically parks, are something Ottawa could do better. We like to think we have it mastered with all our green space and close proximity to Gatineau Park, but as nice as these spaces are, I’m not so sure they create the kind of landscape that makes people want to live downtown.

This was our first post-child trip to New York and so we spent much time just walking around, sitting and talking about how our surroundings compared to Ottawa from the perspective of city-dwelling parents. We asked ourselves, what was something that stood out as making Manhattan family-friendly?

There were a couple things, and a couple that made it not so kid-friendly, but we kept coming back to the parks and how some of them seemed to work for everyone.

Lately, I’ve been lauding our new neighbourhood park, but it occurred to me that as fun as it is for our daughter, it’s not a place I’m going to hang out at with a group of kid-free girlfriends. Many Ottawa parks have limited seating and brightly coloured and plastic-looking play structures – hardly inviting to someone over the age of 14. Even our parks without playgrounds are often mostly just grass and benches – a little boring kids and adults.

We tend to create separate and distinct kid spaces rather than incorporate everyone into our public spaces. Heck, some of our urban parks are empty! I have yet to see anyone in that temporary park at Rideau and Charlotte.

However, many of the parks we visited in NYC were filled with people of all ages – playing, chatting, drinking coffee, sharing a meal, saying hello, meeting up, laughing, crying. We walked through Washington Square Park after dinner and it had an energy that was so differing from any park here.  It wasn’t just because there were more people and more tourists…

It was because these parks were not just places to visit but places to LIVE!

An urban parks needs to be an extension of the home. It needs to be more than a park. It needs to be a living room, dining room, playroom and even a quiet bay window.

We saw parks with tables and chairs (not just benches and picnic tables) that could be moved around, something I’ve always appreciated. Many play structures were made of wood, iron and more muted colours, which meant they blended nicely into the landscape, creating an almost secret hideaway for kids and a space that didn’t make adults feel like they’re hanging out in Peewee’s Playhouse. Some had spaces for lawn and sidewalk games, others had public art (some of which a little person could climb, hide under or shoot water from). There were lots of ledges and stairways to sit, balance and jump on; gardens and fountains to explore; and wide pathways for bikes and scooters. There were water fountains and nearby food vendors…

There were different areas and equipment within a park depending on whether you’re young or old, alone or with friends, craving noise or quiet, sun or shade. If you needed a snack or a drink, they were nearby. There was something for everyone.

My vacation observations are nothing new. Many of the same thoughts were laid out more than 30 years ago by urbanist William H. Whyte. He studied how people behave in cities and talked about the importance of location (near a busy street), movable chairs (here’s a video clip of his observations), sun and wind, trees, food, water and triangulation when it comes to public spaces. In fact, Bryant Park was redesigned in 1988 with Whyte’s help.

But let’s not kid ourselves; Ottawa isn’t NYC. We have about 1/10 of the population and more than double the space. Furthermore, many NYC parks receive private contributions and there is definitely serious inequity amongst neighbourhoods.  That being said – Sparks Street take note – what if Ottawa designed parks (and public spaces in general) by taking a few more cues from Whyte and one of North America’s largest cities?

It wouldn’t be too hard…We could start by putting out some tables and chairs during the day…ones that could be moved into the morning sun!

Better public spaces would mean more people envisioning downtown as more than just a place to come for work and sometimes dinner, but as a place to call home and raise a family.

Thoughts? What do you want to see in an urban park?

P.S. A couple interesting and related reads from spacing.ca…

12 ways to make cities more child-friendly

Ottawa’s Waterfronts: An under utilized asset

A pocket park for Ottawa?


Q&A with Rideau-Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in guest post, issues, neighbourhoods, politics | Leave a comment

Election day in Ottawa is just four months away. As mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to use the blog to help out the democratic process through a series of candidate Q&As. These posts are not endorsements; any urban Ottawa candidate can participate and I’ll be asking everyone the same four questions. 

First up…Cam Holmstrom, who is running for city council in Ward 13 Rideau-Rockcliffe.

Cam Holmstrom 240x300 Q&A with Rideau Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom1. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you are running for City Council. What do you have to offer Rideau-Rockcliffe?

I come from a mixed background; I am a teacher by profession and training, have been a federal civil servant and am a political aide today. I paid my way through university working in a gold mine in the Far North of Ontario in the summers and by delivering pizza in my evenings during the school year. I’m Métis originally from Northwestern Ontario, happily married to my partner in life Allison for going on six years with a young daughter who is closing in on two quicker and quicker each day. I decided to run for council where I live in Rideau-Rockcliffe because I love the community we live in and I believe we can have better, more active representation. I am a big believer in participatory democracy; it’s what my professional experience has taught me works and I want to hear how people want their communities to look and feel like. I don’t claim to know it all and I want to have that input from residents to ensure I can serve them to the best of my ability. In the end, my family and I have found our home and I want to ensure that our communities can reach their full potential so that we can continue to make this our home for a long time to come.

2. What are two of the biggest challenges facing your community and what do you plan to do about them?

The biggest challenges I see facing our communities right now are the pace and processes for development. Rideau-Rockcliffe is blessed with great diversity, history and character. We value those unique parts of our communities. We are not opposed to new developments in our communities, we just want to make sure they fit the character of our communities and don’t destroy some of the historic features that have been with us for so long.

In my view, the city’s current approach to consulting neighbourhoods in the planning process has been lacking and inconsistent. It has resulted in some bad, rushed decisions, over-rulings at the OMB and with many upset residents. I believe that we can avoid some of those headaches by including residents early and often, taking a bit more time and do a better job of taking their concerns into account. I also believe in following our official plans more closely than we already do. When we deviate from those plans too often, the OMB has a means to impose decisions on our communities. I believe that if we take the approach that I am proposing, we can make some great developments for the city.

This is particularly true in Rideau-Rockcliffe, where we will see the re-development of CFB Rockcliffe taking off in the next few years. That re-development offers a great chance to develop a new, environmentally sustainable community in the right way, and set the standard that the city can follow going forward. But in order for that to happen, the political will needs to be there. I am offering to help bring that political will in this election.

3. What can be done to improve Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods for families and get more families living downtown?

Firstly we need to make our urban neighbourhoods more family-friendly. Many young families, like mine, have chosen the downtown because we like the lifestyle, the proximity of transit and work, recreation centres, doctors, services and alike. Some of those factors can be improved upon (like OC Transpo’s new Presto cards and access to bike paths) but some of it is protecting the services that we receive. For example, when the city cuts back on the length of classes offered at recreation centres, that has an effect on the community and needs to be made up somehow. It is important to me that we protect those services as best as we can.

Secondly, when we are talking about development, especially regarding the city’s infill requirements, we need to ensure that these redevelopments are family-friendly and allow for young families to stay in our communities. It’s that diversity of residents that makes for a vibrant community and we need to do what we can to ensure that our communities are as welcoming as possible. Again, this is where the re-development of CFB Rockcliffe offers a unique opportunity to create such a community from scratch inside the city itself.

4. In one sentence, what’s the best thing about Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward?

The best thing about Rideau-Rockcliffe is the cultural, linguistic and historic diversity of communities and how we all come together to make our communities the best they can be.

Cam Holmstrom’s website

Cam Holmstrom on Twitter

If you’re running in the upcoming municipal election and would like to participate, let me know at pubpatioplaydate@yahoo.ca


Where are Ottawa’s kids?

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in neighbourhoods, statistics | 5 Comments

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the new Jules Morin Park in Lowertown lately. The place is pretty much always full of kids!

The park is really becoming a sort of community meeting spot and it’s neat to see how many families live in our ‘hood. It got me thinking…

Where are Ottawa’s kids?

Ottawa Wards Where are Ottawas kids?Ottawa Wards Where are Ottawas kids?Ottawa Wards Map 150x110 Where are Ottawas kids?






So I took a look at the most recent census data to see which municipal wards have the most kids and teens and put together a few charts…

Number of Children Teens By Ward Ottawa 300x168 Where are Ottawas kids?Density of Children Teens by Ward Ottawa 300x168 Where are Ottawas kids?






5 Findings:

  • Barrhaven has the most residents under the age of 20 with 13,685, followed by Gloucester – South Nepean (13,375) and Cumberland (12,430).
  • Somerset has the least amount of residents under 20 with 3,290, followed by Rideau – Vanier (5,670) and West Carleton – March (6,095).
  • When you look at the wards’ total population and the percentage of young people, Gloucester – South Nepean (32.14%), Stittsville (30.07%) and Kanata North (29.87%) lead the way.  At the other end are Somerset (9.37%), Rideau – Vanier (13.79%) and Capital (17.92).
  • Although the central wards of Somerset and Rideau – Vanier have the lowest numbers, other more central wards, such as Alta Vista and River, are comparable to the more suburban regions.
  • And my favourite…27.59% of Ottawa’s kids live in the 8 most central wards!

Check out the Excel Spreadsheet of All Ottawa Kids Data.

On a related note…

It’s been a while since we’ve had a neighbourhood profile. Anyone interested in telling us in 500 words or less why their Ottawa ‘hood is great for families? We haven’t yet heard from Carlington/McKeller Heights, Westboro, Civic Hospital, Hintonburg/Wellington West, Lebreton Flats/Mechanicsville/Tunney’s Pasture, Centretown, Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East/Rideau Gardens, Overbrook and Vanier…

Furthermore, I mentioned via Twitter that I’d like to use the blog to showcase some of the urban Ottawa candidates in the upcoming municipal election. Basically, I’ll ask them all the same 4 questions and post their answers. If you’re running and would like to participate, let me know.

I can be reached at pubpatioplaydate@yahoo.ca

Time to eat: 3 urban Ottawa food experiences

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in experiences, offbeat kid hangout, restaurants | Leave a comment

House of Targ 2 224x300 Time to eat: 3 urban Ottawa food experiencesI really love food!

I don’t particularly like to make it, but I really like to eat it.

Food-related experiences are something I don’t mind investing in and my idea of a great Friday night is a great dinner party.

I don’t discriminate. I like to check out fancy restaurants but I’m also happy to eat Life cereal and pepperettes for dinner. I’ll take some delicious vegan fair one day, and then some fattening and gross goodness that is completely devoid of any nutritional value the next day. I’m seriously considering planning a weekend getaway for the man and I around poutine. That’s right, poutine tourism is going to be a thing.

So anyway, here’s a little synopsis of three of my recent urban Ottawa food experiences…

1. Dishcrawl Ottawa. This group puts on walking culinary tours with a neighbourhood focus. Last week, I took a tour of Centretown during which I tried three different restaurants. It was a neat way to have dinner and a fun night because there’s an element of mystery to it – we didn’t know where we were going beforehand. I also got to try out some restaurants (Maxwell’s and Izakaya on Elgin Street and Backdrop on Metcalfe Street), meet and eat with new people, try some new food (like the lovely Izakaya slaw and some interesting breakfast/dinner fusion dishes), and take eating breaks to walk around outside, which meant I was able to eat more food. FYI…Dishcrawl is planning another event for June 17.

2. Da Bomb Desserts and Fine Foods. This is a little spot on Beechwood Avenue in New Edinburgh that I’ve been avoiding because the name bugged me. However, the man kept telling me the food is great and finally convinced me to try it for brunch. The truth is, this place is da bomb! All the brunch items looked and tasted delicious and they come with your choice of one of their great big desserts! Yes please! I can definitely support eating a giant chocolate and peanut butter tart for breakfast. Plus, with its casual atmosphere and kids menu, it’s a nice family brunch restaurant. I heard it’s equally good for lunch.

3. House of Targ. This place on Bank Steet (across from the Mayfair Theatre) has perogies and about 20 pinball machines so I was sold on it before I even walked through the door. Perogies are a go-to/shit, I forgot to plan dinner meal around here; and the first thing we bought after we bought our house, before even considering anything remotely practical, was a vintage pinball machine. At night, House of Targ is a bar and live music venue, but from 5 to 9 p.m. it’s family-friendly. I took the little one and she loved it. The staff is so nice and there are stools for little kids so they can reach the machines. The perogies are pretty darn good too! I especially liked the ones with smoked Gouda and fresh kale.

Okay, so…That’s all. I need to go eat something now.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free ticket to the Dishcrawl event. The views expressed are my own.

Moments of maturity

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in parenting, thoughts | Leave a comment

moments of maturity 2 300x179 Moments of maturitySomehow, without me really telling her, she knew just what to do.

When the Honour Guard came to attention, she was still.

When the piper started to play, she started to walk. She held her three purple flowers tightly, looked straight ahead and was solemn.

My hands were full so I couldn’t hold hers, but she kept pace as we followed my dad through Beechwood Cemetery in the pouring rain.

And as the Padre spoke, saying words she had never heard before, she sat quietly.

When we lowered the urn into the ground, I could see the confusion on her face and the cold rain hitting her head…but she said nothing.

I picked her up and when she saw my dad’s jaw start to quiver, her face became concerned and her eyes filled with tears. I whispered that it was okay and she nodded.

We stood together, holding hands, as the bugler played Last Post.

She looked like any barely four-year-old with her black polka dot skirt and muddy pink rubber boots, but for those 20 minutes she was wise beyond her years. The silliness, fidgeting, whining and constant chatter that had been there as we waited in the chapel were gone, suddenly replaced with poise and an almost eerie maturity.

I had planned to leave her with her dad as my father and I buried my grandfather; however, he was away and so she came. There was something poignant and so heavy about three generations, alone in a cemetery in the rain, burying a fourth.

I had prepped her a bit, telling her that she would need to listen and be quiet and that afterwards we would have a special lunch. But the rest was all her. I was floored as I had mentally prepared myself for typical little kid behaviour.

Is four years old too young for such responsibility? I don’t know, but that day she proved that she can handle a lot more than I sometimes give her credit for.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that she’s growing up. The questions she asks are harder to answer, bits of utter innocence are being lost and she seems ready for a more responsibility, more independence…and more chances to shine in the rain.

Thinking about that day makes be cry, but not for the reason I expected. I’m sad he’s gone but it was time. It’s she who brings me to tears. I’m so proud of her and sad that he won’t know her.

She asked many questions during the car ride home. Would he be cold? Can he hear us? Why was Grandpapa’s jaw shaking? Can we eat the brownies now? Can I have a big one?

And just like that she was my silly little girl again.

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