Canada’s Capital is a national symbol that embodies the traditions and values that unite Canadians. It rightfully honours those who have contributed to the building of our nation and celebrates our greatest achievements. As the Capital evolves, it must continue to reflect our growth and diversity as a nation.

The bicentennial of Canadian Confederation in 2067 will mark an important milestone in Canada’s history. As Canadians look toward it, they aspire to see our national legacy preserved and enriched in their capital. It must continue to represent our shared values, include the Indigenous peoples of Canada and demonstrate a broad diversity of cultures.

The Plan for Canada’s Capital outlines a clearly defined framework to achieve this. It is a blueprint for the evolution of federal lands in the region that protects and carries forward the legacy of past plans and Capital-building projects for future generations of Canadians. It builds upon these seminal plans that shaped the physical form of the Capital, conserving a dramatic natural context and forging a distinct signature.


Dr. Mark Kristmanson
Dr. Mark Kristmanson

Planning Canada’s Capital has roots that lie at the dawn of the 20th century in the work of Frederick Todd and the Ottawa Improvement Commission. The Plan for Canada’s Capital, 2017–2067, builds on this tradition, with a vision that is practical, buildable and flexible.

It is with great pride and pleasure that we mark Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017 with the tabling of this guide to the development of the nation’s capital well into the 21st century. The NCC’s planning horizon of 50 years extends beyond typical municipal outlooks, and its focus on federal lands provides long-term stability and coherence in the midst of a rapidly growing urban region. As such, this plan complements the work of our municipal partners with an overarching aim to ensure that “the nature and character of the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance,” as it is so elegantly expressed in the National Capital Act.

Importantly, this iteration of the Plan for Canada’s Capital is the culmination of a national conversation undertaken over several years regarding three key themes. Canadians envision an inclusive and meaningful capital that preserves and cherishes national symbols, while respecting Indigenous heritage; a picturesque and natural capital that values public green space and promotes environmental sustainability; and a thriving and connected capital whose networks extend around the globe.

The Plan sets out policies that will guide the deployment of federal lands, buildings, parks, infrastructure and symbolic spaces to fulfill this vision. It addresses a future that is already discernable: urban growth and densification, increased global connectivity, and a “digital shift” that is changing the nature of employment, transportation, commerce and government.

The NCC and other federal landowners will work in concert with local governments and other partners to preserve the Capital’s built heritage and green space, and enhance its landscapes, streetscapes and amenities in order to provide for a growing and more diverse population. The Plan seeks to enliven the urban environment while retaining the dignity of the institutions of government. In implementing this plan, the NCC will develop tools and outreach approaches that support its policy intent, including design excellence and universal accessibility.

On behalf of the National Capital Commission, I offer sincere thanks to the thousands of Canadians from across the country who provided their ideas, including 17 milestone initiatives that substantiate the planning directions indicated in the following pages. Their collective enthusiasm and imagination have yielded this vision of a “smart” sustainable capital that is inclusive and symbolic for all Canadians.

I would like to recognize our dedicated partners at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society for their support throughout the planning process. In closing, I would also like to acknowledge the NCC’s talented staff members who contributed to this document. As planners and stewards, their work is central to building a capital worthy of our nation, an inspiring place to live and for all to visit.

Dr. Mark Kristmanson
Chief Executive Officer

The Scope of the Plan

As the pre-eminent planning document of the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Plan for Canada’s Capital stands at the apex of the Capital Planning Framework. Its focus on federal lands reflects the NCC’s mandate as it is defined in the National Capital Act. Yet, this plan’s geographic scope—straddling provincial and municipal boundaries—embraces the Capital as an open system comprised of interrelated symbolic, natural, ecological, economic and mobility elements that together form an intricate network of relationships between federal and non-federal lands in the region.

The planning horizon is 50 years, beyond the time frame associated with most municipal planning documents. This long view is critical to ensure the enduring distinctiveness of the Capital as new elements are added through to the bicentennial in 2067.

Canadian Museum of History Source: NCC
Canadian Museum of History
Source: NCC

The Plan considers emerging challenges of the 21st century now facing the region, including a growing and aging population, continued urbanization, with its concomitant pressure to steward our fresh water and green spaces as scarce resources. The challenge of rapid technological change accentuates the growing competitiveness between world city-regions for capital and human resources. The Plan must consider the impacts of climate change and heightened security risks. With these factors in mind, the Plan for Canada’s Capital identifies a series of fundamental policy directions for federal departments and agencies to follow between now and 2067. Their implementation will require the commitment and the active participation of the NCC’s federal, provincial and municipal partners, as well as many other stakeholders.


Role of the National Capital Commission

MapNational Capital RegionIn recognition of the Capital’s unique role in Canada, the Parliament of Canada passed the National Capital Act in 1958. The Act established the NCC, a Crown corporation whose responsibility is “to prepare plans for and assist in the development, conservation and improvement of the National Capital Region in order that the nature and character of the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance.” This mandate evolved from the NCC’s predecessor agencies, established as far back as 1899.

In order for the NCC to achieve its mission, Parliament granted the corporation several key powers, including the acquisition and disposal of lands. The Act also authorizes the NCC to undertake the following:

  • construct, maintain and operate parks, squares, highways, parkways, bridges, buildings and any other works;
  • maintain and improve any property of the Commission, or any other property under the control and management of a department, at the request of the authority or Minister in charge thereof;
  • cooperate or engage in joint projects with, or make grants to, local municipalities or other authorities for the improvement, development or maintenance of property;
  • construct, maintain and operate, or grant concessions for the operation of, places of entertainment, amusement, recreation, refreshment, or other places of public interest or accommodation on any property of the Commission;
  • administer, preserve and maintain any historic place or historic museum;
  • conduct investigations and researches in connection with the planning of the National Capital Region; and
  • generally, do and authorize such things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the objects and purposes of the Commission and the exercise of its powers.

Under the Act, projects using federal lands or projects initiated by a federal agency or department on any land must receive the NCC’s approval before proceeding. The NCC’s review ensures that proposals on federal land are consistent with guidance provided by the Capital Planning Framework.

A Collective and Shared Responsibility

View of Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal, 1950. Source: NCC
View of Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal, 1950.
Source: NCC

The NCC plans and guides land use and the development of federal lands in Canada’s Capital Region to ensure that the Capital reflects its national stature. Other federal departments and agencies, provincial and municipal institutions, the private sector, and community-based organizations also contribute significantly to the development and vitality of the Capital. Together, the NCC and its partners have a shared responsibility for the successful evolution of Canada’s Capital.

Municipal and provincial governments are the lead planners for privately owned lands in the Capital. Although the NCC undertakes planning for the federal lands in the Capital, the NCC’s planning documents share with municipal plans the principles of sustainable urbanism. The federal government also collaborates actively with municipal planning authorities to ensure that federal and municipal plans remain consistent. Municipalities typically seek input from the NCC in cases where the NCC’s interests are implicated in planning or developing projects on non-federal lands. Ongoing close collaboration remains essential to achieving the objectives set out in this plan.

This long-term project to build an inspiring and exemplary capital calls upon those who treasure it to embrace an inclusive vision for the protection of our natural resources and the sustainable use of lands and waters. The region’s economy will benefit from all partners working together to achieve this bright and promising future.