April 1, 2006, Ottawa, ON – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today the creation of a new Cabinet department: The Ministry of Placemaking and Public Space Revitalization (PPSR).
In what amounts to nothing less than a fundamental reorganization of Canada’s government, the Prime Minister told reporters today that the Ministries of Public Works and Government Services; Transport, Infrastructure and Communities; and Human Resources and Social Development will now be under the jurisdiction of the new Ministry of PPSR. Surprisingly, PPSR was also vested with the authority to overrule the Ministry of National Defence in determining when to deploy troops. “Sometimes,” Harper explained, “a few well-placed café tables and chairs–and maybe an ice cream vendor–is all that’s needed to make the nation safer for its children.”
Glen Murray, former Mayor of Winnipeg and outspoken proponent of PPS’s “Power of Ten,” was appointed to head the new Ministry. His first act as “Place Czar” was to order that all new and existing developments within 100 metres of a body of water include vital public spaces at the ground floor. “Our waterfronts look like something straight out of a Le Corbusier sketchbook. We’ve got to get a grip! We’ve almost completely forgotten how to create active uses around the base of buildings. And besides, the guy’s been dead for decades. Enough already.”
Murray proceeded to announce a national competition to create the Best Civic Square in Canada. While meeting with PPS staff in January, it dawned on him that no major Canadian city had a great civic space on the order of Luxembourg Gardens in Paris or Las Ramblas in Barcelona. “Many folks have tried to convince themselves over the years that Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto is world class, but they’re just fooling themselves,” said Murray. “We’re Canada, for the love of Pete. We can do better!”
By and large, the idea has enjoyed huge support from every corner of the country, especially among farmers market organizations, city departments of parks and recreation, teens and young adults, cycling and hiking enthusiasts, and neighbourhood heritage preservationists, all of whom take credit for making the Ministry a reality.