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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION, WATER AND WASTEWATER (SCEPWWM)
At the committee meeting on Tuesday, members approved contracts until 2023 with our current curbside waste collection service providers. To support native pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, ants and beetles, the Committee directed staff to plant a pollinator garden and install a native bee hotel on City property. The Committee also approved declaring a climate emergency in the City of Ottawa, which was a very hot topic. SEE HERE FOR MY STATEMENT ON WHY I VOTED AGAINST THE MOTION.
Declaring a Climate Emergency in the City of Ottawa
At the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management on April 16th 2019, I voted against the motion to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ in the City of Ottawa. Yes, climate change is a real issue. There is absolutely no denying that, and that is not my rationale for voting no.
First and most importantly, the motion spoils the incredible effort the City has shown in the last decade in being a proactive and responsible leader in the environment community. This motion wants us to “deepen” our commitment to protecting our economy, our eco systems, and our community from climate change. As stated within the motion, the City is ALREADY committed to protecting our environment; we do not need the title of ‘climate emergency’ to continue doing so. We have over 30 key departmental initiatives towards addressing climate change, including the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, the new Official Plan, Energy Evolution, Green Building Policy, and many more initiatives within city reports, by-laws, and programs that seek to reduce environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to initiatives within the City’s programs, Ottawa is also an outside member of the Partners for Climate Change Protection of Federation of Canadian Municipalities, joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and has been recognized multiple times as a top green employer, among many other partnered initiatives. This motion signals to residents that the City has not been doing business with climate change in mind in an adequate fashion, despite the City’s comprehensive list of initiatives aimed at reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Could the City find areas to improve? Very possible. But this motion undermines the initiatives our City already does; initiatives our committee should be celebrating much more often.
This motion also calls to establish a Council Sponsors Group comprised of representatives from the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management, Planning Committee, Transportation Committee, Transit Commission, the Ottawa Board of Health and the Councillor Liaison of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee. This Council Sponsors Group would be comprised entirely of members who already sit around the committee table for Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management, which is where these climate issues should be discussed. This raised a red flag for me; as the City is working to streamline information and processes, creating a separate group with the same members seems to work against this strategy. If we want to talk about new environmental initiatives that the City can take on, this committee can handle it on its own.
If there is one item with which I agree it would be item number eight of the motion which calls us to work with senior levels of government to provide the City and the public with resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the federal level, gas taxes have been implemented and downloaded to the taxpayers. The province, in their budget released last week, will be investing $400 million for emission reductions and will be working on a climate impact assessment. We should be working with these senior levels to get funding and support from their climate change initiatives, and take advantage of what our taxpayers have already paid for.
I want to thank all residents who have contacted me over the last two weeks about this committee item. I received lots of feedback, and I want you to know I considered each and every one of your voices when making my decision at the committee table today. Despite differences between federal, provincial, and municipal climate change initiatives, there is only one taxpayer who pays. Climate change is a global issue; the City of Ottawa does take this issue seriously, and we have many great energy saving, emission reducing, and green programs already in place support that claim. As a member of this committee I am fully supportive of new or improved initiatives the City can take on to reduce emissions or transition to even more green programs. As most of the motion references policies and reports already undertaken by the City, the only difference the City will see from today to tomorrow will be that Ottawa will have a membership in news headlines for the ‘Climate Emergency Club’.
SOUTH NATION CONSERVATION (SNC) BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING
Attended my monthly Board of Directors Meeting at South Nation Conservation on Thursday. On the agenda were a few recognitions of SNC staff for their years of service, some request for approvals for plans and applications, and updates on ongoing programs and initiatives. See South Nation’s website here.
The City’s Auditor General Ken Hughes presented his Annual Report to the Audit Committee this week, with disappointing results. His audit included a review of City Leases; The Social Housing Registry; Corporate Security; Compliance With Ambulance Service Documentation; Public Works and Environmental Services Contract Management; Frozen Services And Hydrant Management And Maintenance; Recreation, Cultural And Facility Services Management Processes; and Building Engineering And Energy Management. Overall, the AG gave 30 recommendations where the City can and should improve, especially for management procedures; the City has agreed to all 30 of these recommendations. See the full report here.
The committee also received the Auditor General’s work plan for 2019, and received an update from the AG for investigation into a transfer of funds to a fraudulent supplier. See the media release for the investigation here.
At City Council, a new work plan was approved for the City’s planning team that will result in a new Official Plan by the end of March 2021, 6 months sooner than the original November 2021 initially proposed by staff.
Council also approved funding to permanently staff the well-loved enhanced Temporary Traffic Calming Measures Program, and a streamlined study process for permanent traffic-calming plans. The new process will prioritize neighborhood streets where small changes would have big impacts, allowing the City to address traffic issues in more neighbourhoods with a goal of making streets safer for all users.
Other approvals included changes to the Road Activity By-law which includes restricting road cuts into pavement less than three years old, expanding peak-hour restrictions on road work, increasing notification timelines, and more.
To see all items that came to Council this week, see the City of Ottawa’s website here.
This term I will be sitting on the Board of Directors for Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA). Osgoode Ward resident Jamie Crawford sits by my side this term, being a member on the board as well. At the Board of Directors meeting, RVCA staff gave us an overview of their Annual Report, their flood warning communication program, and more. I will be promoting resources from RVCA in the near future! See their website at https://www.rvca.ca/.
At FEDCO this week, we received an update on the Confederation Line; everything is moving forward smoothly. We also received the City of Ottawa 2019 Municipal Accessibility Plan (COMAP) Update Report; Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department 2019 Work Plan; and Lansdowne Partnership Plan Annual Report.
Transportation Committee this week approved a streamlined study process to speed up implementation of traffic calming plans and improve safety for all road users. The Committee also approved design guidelines to ensure traffic calming measures are applied consistently to retrofits of existing streets.
The meeting also touched on winter maintenance, which was a major item of concern to committee members, especially with this year’s brutal winter. We directed staff to review the City’s winter maintenance quality standards, with a fulsome report coming back to Transportation Committee in 2021. To address winter maintenance in the meantime, we also directed staff to internally review the City’s winter operations before next winter season to identify short term improvements that can be made. I mentioned to staff that their review should consider how it deploys equipment when one area of Ottawa gets more precipitation than other areas, as this has been a recurring issue in recent years.
Highlights from this week’s ARAC meeting was a presentation about the rural economic development strategy and action plan, as part of a staff report on the Planning department’s 2019 Work Plan. There are many important policy reviews taking place over the course of the year. The Committee also approved terms of settlement on Official Plan Amendment 150 that clears up concerns of three separate appellants; these changes make minor revisions to some mapping.
Last Friday, Premier Doug Ford came to Ottawa. Premier Doug Ford and Hon. Jeff Yurek, Minister of Transportation, announced that the provincial government is committing $1.208 billion to the City of Ottawa to build Stage 2 of LRT. Ontario's government is supporting this project to shorten commutes, relieve congestion and build better transit.
Council received a report on the implementation of the corporate succession plan and approved the change in title and scope for two statutory officer positions, the City Treasurer and City Clerk. The plan comes as a result of the announced retirements of the General Manager of Community and Social Services on April 30, 2019, and of the General Manager of Corporate Services and City Treasurer in January 2020. There are a few more changes that will be taking place. See more information here.
Council also approved allocating $1.2 million from the Vehicle-for-Hire Accessibility Fund to projects that will improve accessible transportation services for residents, following extensive public consultations. The General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services has been directed to try to negotiate an increase to the surcharge to further improve accessible transportation services.
I am honoured to now represent SNC as their Vice-Chair after today’s Board of Directors vote. I am also happy to report local resident Gerry Kautz will be joining the team! South Nation Conservation is a very important organization that monitors water levels, natural habitats, and promotes stewardship programs. I will be keeping you updated on SNC initiatives and news over the next few weeks!
Note: I was not able to attend this week's committees or the budget meeting, as my father passed away. His funeral service was held at the same time as the City Council meeting for the 2019 Budget.
Transportation committee last week approved the draft operating and capital budgets, and sparked many discussions about winter maintenance and traffic calming. A report also came to committee about their pilot project on broadband back-up alarms on snow removal vehicles and equipment. The pilot project was a success, and the City will be installing these alarms on the remainder of the fleet before next winter season. Transportation staff mentioned during the meeting that they would be bringing a report in the spring with new initiatives for traffic.
At this week’s FEDCO meeting, staff provided members with an update on the Confederation Line of LRT. Transportation General Manager John Manconi delivered the news that although RTG has had significant progress, they will unable to make the March 31st deadline. RTG will release a new deadline in the near future, but it is expected that LRT will be handed over to the City during Q2.
Council voted on the 2019 Budget this week. Although I was not able to attend the budget meeting, I feel it right to provide my residents my perspective on this year’s budget.
From roads, culverts, traffic, and emergency services, I believe the final 2019 Budget has successfully addressed many priorities for Osgoode Ward. The budget dedicates $42.7 million to upgrade Ottawa’s rural infrastructure, including bridges, guiderails and culverts, with $1.7 million targeted for our ward. With the growing frequency of rain events and large snowmelts, these infrastructure items serve as our best defence for flooding, mitigating erosion, and protecting the health of our roadways.
Osgoode Ward will receive $6.5 million to resurface roads including Mitch Owens and River Road, and $1.7 million for new major culverts across most villages. The 2019 winter operations budget is increasing by $2.4 million, for a total of $70.8 million. Osgoode Ward will also see over $830,000 for improvements within Parks and Facilities to replace the roof at Kenmore Community Hall, exterior walls and dehumidifiers at Larry Robinson Arena, and the foundation wall at the Vernon Community Centre; all three much needed improvements to our local community buildings.
I look forward to providing you with more details on projects for this year as the next few months unfold!
Community safety is always a top priority for Osgoode Ward. There will be over $7 million city-wide in the budget to invest in traffic control devices, pedestrian crossovers, the well-known Safer Roads Ottawa program, traffic-calming measures, and more. The traffic-calming budget for each Councillor has risen to $50,000 from $40,000 in this year’s budget, providing more resources for safety initiatives in our communities. There will be $589.7 million for community and protective services, which includes funding for 14 staff for the Ottawa Paramedic Service and 2 emergency response vehicles to maintain the response times to increasing call volumes as approved by Council. The 2019 OPS Budget will add 30 more officers into the Ottawa Police Service this year for traffic enforcement, the guns and gangs unit, and to strengthen community policing. I have been a very vocal advocate for more emergency services throughout my time in office and during my campaign, and I am happy to deliver this improvement of service to my residents through the 2019 Budget!
Council also approved Phase 2 of LRT as part of the budget vote. I would like to start by saying that Osgoode Ward tax dollars will NOT be paying for LRT. The LRT project is funded through a combination of transit tax – which we do not pay in our ward – development charges, and provincial and federal funding. Council’s decision on approving LRT Phase 2 will have no impact on other budgets, like road projects, that would be of higher priority for Osgoode Ward residents.
Staff have assured us that the Phase 2 procurement process has been crafted with lessons learned from Phase 1. There have been environmental assessments, 3rd party expert assessments, public consultations, and lots of Council approvals over many years getting us to this point. The process has also undergone rigorous oversight by the fairness commissioner, legal experts, financial experts, and procurement experts. Staff have confirmed that even with the increased cost, the project is still within the City’s Long-Range Financial Plan and is affordable under our policies.
With this information in mind, I am choosing to trust the recommendations from our city staff and their experts who have worked diligently on this project for years. I know that the City has had some setbacks with Phase 1, and there have been some worrying media articles about LRT over the last few weeks. Staff have addressed all concerns that arose from these articles and more, including clarifying that the system has been tested for -and does indeed work- in winter conditions. Yes, I do still have many reservations about this project, and will continue to be cautious and question any items as they come up, but I feel the LRT project should go forward. It will not only benefit the City but will also encourage economic development in the south end.
My residents have maintained during my time in office that we need a solution to our traffic issue in the south end. At this time, I believe that LRT can be one of many pieces in addition to other road widening projects that will help deliver that solution, in a double advantage to Osgoode Ward: we could reap the benefits of traffic alleviation from this project and expansion of rural economic development without paying for the system with our tax dollars. LRT Phase 2 is proposed to be a world-class transit system constructed ready-to-go on day-one, will continue to serve generations to come.
At the ARAC meeting this week, there was very short agenda; members approved two zoning By-Law amendments.
On Friday, February 22, the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee held the first meeting of the Term of Council. The Committee approved its draft budget for 2019, which includes $7.2 million to renew rural infrastructure. This includes roads, bridges, and guiderails across rural wards. The Committee also approved changes to the Site Plan Control process to improve efficiency, which involves a new fee structure and a streamlined process for applications. The changes reduce the number of small-scale developments requiring Site Plan Control, freeing up staff time to focus on complex applications, and reflect the real cost of work associated with applications.
The City’s Audit Committee approved the draft budget for audit work by the Auditor General in 2019. The Committee received the audit plan from Ernst & Young for the audit of 2018 financial statements. Ernst & Young is the City’s external auditor on a five-year term ending in 2023. The audit plan sets out the work to complete the audit report that confirms that the City’s 2018 financial statements are in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.
Council approved a work plan for the development of a new Official Plan for Ottawa. The work plan lays out a public consultation process and timelines starting early this year, to produce a new Official Plan by the end of 2021. Other items on the Agenda included appointments to Board of Directors, and approving changes to the Site Plan Control process from ARAC.
City Council, sitting as Committee as a Whole asked questions of staff and heard from 18 members of the public on the procurement of LRT Phase 2. Staff provided a presentation to members on costs, stations, and information on the preferred proponents. East-West Connectors is the recommended private-sector partner to design, build and finance the Confederation Line extension, which would add 12.5 kilometres of rail and 5 stations in the east and 15 kilometres of rail and 11 stations in the west. TransitNEXT is the preferred proponent to design, build, finance and maintain the Trillium Line extension, which would add 16 kilometres of rail and 8 stations in the south. Council will vote on the item at the City Council Meeting of March 6th 2019.
The SCEPWWM met on Tuesday morning to discuss various items, with the 2019 Budget being the main topic on the agenda. Staff provided an Annual Drinking Water Source Protection Status Update, followed by a presentation on the update and implementation of the Urban Forest Management Plan. The committee also approved to appointments to the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee for the term.
The storwmater fee was an item that attracted some discussion. The fee was set to increase in the draft Budget, and through working with staff and the Mayor’s office, we were able to reduce the increase to the minimum possible in this year’s budget. Most rural properties will now only see an increase of $4 a year on their bill. To put this in perspective, last year the city’s stormwater program collected only $1 million in stormwater fees from rural residents, while spending almost $13 million in rural stormwater culvert replacements. The stormwater fee funds the large-scale manmade engineered culverts under major arterial roads, like Mitch Owens, in the Ward. This fee was previously paid pre-amalgamation to the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, and is now being paid under the name “Stormwater Fee” to the City of Ottawa. Stormwater is managed between municipalities, conservation authorities, and provincial bodies. The funds from the stormwater fee allow the City to maintain and upgrade our aging underground culverts; the City is essentially playing “catch-up” to get all our major culverts replaced after years of deterioration. I look forward to seeing construction begin in the summer, where we will see many new major culverts our main roads!
Thursday morning I attended the South Nation Conservation (SNC) Board of Directors meeting. We received updates from SNC staff on ongoing projects and approved incoming initiatives. Among other things, I learned that data from our water monitoring initiatives shows the water stream in Findlay Creek at Blais road is a "cool" stream, which is good news! We have a couple new faces around the Board of Directors table this year, and I look forward to working alongside these new Board members. We also had the pleasure to honour two SNC staff members for their years of service. This organization and it's people do wonderful work!
I encourage you to visit their website. You will know more about South Nation Conservation, their work with the environment and what they do to help water quality and natural habitats!
Due to this week’s snowstorm, the pre-budget consultation scheduled for Tuesday evening at the Osgoode Community Centre had to be cancelled. I apologize to anyone who was planning to attend; Mother Nature is not always on our side. If you would like to provide your comments to staff, please email [email protected].
Staff gave a presentation that provided an overview of some of their projects over the last year, highlights from programs to be launched under their 2019 work plan (including a pilot for public WiFi in 26 City Buildings across the city), and the successes and growth in their delivery to customers. Committee also approved the IT Budget, to be approved by Council on March 6th.
At a special City Council meeting this week, the 2019 Draft Budget was tabled. Among other key items, the draft budget suggests approximately $10 million to put into infrastructure including road resurfacing, culvert replacements, and bridge replacements. There is also over $10 million for intersection improvements, which includes new traffic lights for Bank & Blais Road, and intersection improvements at Bank & Rideau. City wide, the draft budget suggests 14 new paramedics, 32 new Ottawa Police Officers, and an increase in $10,000 per ward for Temporary Traffic Calming measures, including PXOs.
We are back to work and things are in full swing! This week we have a public consultation for the Riverside South Community Design Plan (CDP), and many meetings with city staff that will lead up to the 2019 Budget Process. Next week I will be attending OWBA’s Breakfast meeting, where city staff will be giving an update on rural economic development in the Official Plan.
This term we will be reviewing not only the Official Plan Amendment, but also the Transportation Master Plan. These are two major documents that will have a significant impact on development in the City of Ottawa. I will be keeping this “Councillor’s Corner” section updated with political information as we go through each process.
City Council this week voted on the Members for Committees, Boards, Commissioners, and City Liaisons for the 2018-2022 term. I consider it a privilege to hold the position of a Deputy Mayor, as well as a sitting member of Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee, Audit Committee, Transportation Committee, Environment Committee and Information Technology Sub-Committee. In addition, I will sit on the Board of Directors for both South Nation Conservation Authority, and Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. As Deputy Mayor I will be attending events on behalf of Mayor Watson, reviewing all Rural Economic Development files across the City of Ottawa, sitting on the Finance and Economic Development Committee, among other duties required within this role. There will be multiple large files that will come to Council this term, including revising the Transportation Master Plan and the Official Plan Amendment, which have a large effect on rural areas. My portfolio this term has placed me in a leadership position; I will take the challenge of this higher profile to work towards a bigger vision for the City of Ottawa which will run on smart growth with sensible policies, especially for rural communities. I am deeply honored and humbled for the role set before me over the next 4 years.
At the Special City Council Meeting of December 13th 2018, City Council approved retail cannabis stores within the City of Ottawa.
Both the Federal and Provincial governments have established regulatory regimes for cannabis legalization. Given these tight frameworks, municipalities unfortunately own very few regulatory powers for retail cannabis stores. Essentially, the Province of Ontario has offered an all-or-nothing package deal to municipalities for retail cannabis stores. The Province will assume strict control and responsibility over store licensing and locations, permitted location for cannabis use, along with marketing and packaging of products. These regulations prohibit municipalities from licensing private retail stores and passing By-Laws to impose zoning restrictions, but does permit 15 days for municipalities to provide their comments on applications, and gives Municipalities access to funding for challenges associated with cannabis legalization.
In return, permitting retail stores will drive economic development and opportunity in Ottawa, as opposed to having those revenues exported to the Ontario Cannabis Store or to neighboring municipalities. The scope of financial incentives, programs, and support from the Provincial government towards any social or financial challenges associated with cannabis legalization is something not offered to municipalities who opt-out. Retail cannabis stores will provide Ottawans with access to safe products regulated by Public Health, the ability to receive information on products at the point of purchase, and provide consumer privacy.
I have been a huge advocate of economic development during my time as a City Councillor. Cannabis is now a legal and rigorously regulated product, available for purchase to of-age consumers; it therefore makes economic sense to opt-in to the all-or-nothing package deal the Province of Ontario has offered to Ottawa. We will work with staff to ensure there are educational programs for our youth, resources and training for our emergency services, and a wholesome approach to integrating cannabis retail stores into our City. Based on the information and advice provided by staff, the recommendation of Ottawa Public Health and the Ottawa Police Service, along with the support from the Osgoode Ward Advisory Committee, I fully support this decision by City Council. Mature, responsible decision making will allow Ottawa to take advantage of this new economic opportunity.
Council this week approved the 2018-2022 Council Governance Review that sets out the committee structure, policies and procedures for this Term of Council.
Also at Council, a report providing options on retail cannabis stores in Ottawa was tabled Wednesday Council will consider the Report on Ontario Cannabis Legislation and Cannabis Retail Stores at a special meeting on Thursday, December 13th 2018. Residents, groups and organizations are welcome to speak to the report on December 13th by registering as a public delegation. Because Council is meeting as Committee of the Whole, public delegations will be permitted to make a five-minute presentation to Council.
SNC’s Board of Directors, comprised of 13 members appointed by SNC’s 16 member municipalities, approved the 2019 SNC Budget at their November meeting. For more information, contact [email protected].