MESSAGE FROM THE COUNCILLOR
It has been a marathon. Three council meetings in three weeks to kick off the new council term. But I’m glad we did it, as there were a lot of important tasks that needed to get done as quickly as possible.
Despite the break-neck pace of council meetings, my team and I also worked hard during our first month together to define our overall “mission statement”, which is a reflection not only of what we heard at the doors during our campaign, but our plan for how best to serve our city’s current and long-term needs. A central component to or mission is “to help manage our city’s projected growth in a way that is sustainable, responsible, forward-thinking and just.”
This goal was instrumental in the choices I made for selection to committees and boards I wanted to serve on, which were all confirmed on December 14th. I am proud to have been assigned to committees that are well-aligned with my mission, including the Environment & Climate Change Committee as well as the Transportation Committee. And I’ll be drawing from my own experience with natural disasters in the work I’ll be doing on the Emergency Preparedness & Protective Services Committee. And my 20+ years working in the film/television industry led to my assignment as the Mayor’s Designate to the Ottawa Film Office Board of Directors, where my goal will be to boost our city’s economic and cultural growth.
During this year’s final Council meeting on December 14, we also debated and voted on the budget direction for 2023. This is not the same as voting on the actual budget for 2023, which will take place in March. The budget direction is the process where we give “direction” to the city’s staff to draft and present a budget for the year, but the parameters provided to staff through this direction, in many ways, determine the budget’s outcome.
The most controversial element of this year’s budget direction was the mayor’s recommendation to cap the property tax increase at 2.5%, a promise he made during the campaign out of concern for the affordability crisis that so many residents are facing. This promise was likely in recognition that it would be lower than the 3% annual tax increase that Mayor Jim Watson and Council had approved for each of the last four years.
Mayor Sutcliffe’s budget direction to cap the property tax increase at 2.5% passed Council, but I was one of 8 councillors who voted against the budget direction. I did not vote in this way out of disregard for the financial challenges faced by residents, nor did I cast my vote lightly. Rather, I am deeply concerned about our city’s inability to provide adequate services and programs, let alone address our significant infrastructure concerns. These are difficult times financially for residents, but they’re also difficult times for the bottom line of our city. I’m concerned that a cap of 2.5% will hinder our city’s ability to do what it needs to do.
Even with annual increases of 3% over the past four years, our city's core infrastructure is in dire shape. What I heard from residents during the campaign was: fix our roads & sewers, fix transit, build more affordable housing, take better care of our city's most vulnerable. As mentioned above, my mission is to help our city manage its projected growth responsibly, and it's hard to fix what needs to be fixed by lowering our revenues.
Based on the city's calculations, for a house assessed at $415,000, a 2.5% tax increase would represent an additional $104 to the owner. A 3% tax increase - which is the increase we've had since 2018 – would represent $135 more per year to the owner. In other words, the difference between the 2.5% cap and the 3% cap we’d grown accustomed to was about $30. I know that, for many, $30 is significant when every dollar counts. But for those who need our city's services the most, or to improve our underfunded infrastructure, that $30 times 330,000 taxpayers is $10M in revenue that could’ve gone a long way.
Last Saturday and Sunday I volunteered for two different programs which deal with food insecurity in our city. On Saturday I spent an hour distributing hot soup lunches to senior citizens who are residents of an Ottawa Community Housing facility in Ward 9. On Sunday I was one of my many councillors who served hot meals to vulnerable residents at The Ottawa Mission.
These residents of our city face food insecurity challenges in addition to mental/social health challenges made worse by ongoing COVID-related isolation. The organizations that serve these vulnerable residents face significant challenges when it comes to getting the resources they need to do their important work. It showed me that when it comes to our ongoing affordability crisis, some of us experience it more harshly than others.
I’m a believer in how our society is truly measured by how well we take care of our most vulnerable. One way to demonstrate how we take care of others is by how we invest in that care. I hope that one day all residents can see that we all stand to gain when all of us are taken care of.
Thanks for your continued support and messages, and I wish you a peaceful holiday filled with warmth, generosity and joy.
With the holidays fast approaching, residents should note that our office will be closed from December 24, 2022 to January 2, 2023 inclusively. After a whirlwind start to this new term of council, our staff will be taking a well-deserved break. Although our office will be closed during this time, we will endeavour to remain as available as possible for urgent requests. Please be advised that response times to either emails or phone calls will be slower than usual.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT SERIES
We believe that two-way communication is the best way for our office to learn how to serve the residents of Ward 9. Given our heartfelt commitment to open dialogue, we’re excited to soon launch our Community Engagement Series, which will feature multiple ways for the councillor and residents to communicate in-person and on-line.
Currently we’re looking at four different modes of community engagement:
- Our Pop-Up Community Drop-In will be an opportunity for residents to book short meetings in-person and one-on-one with your Councillor. Starting on Monday, January 9th, these sessions will take place every two weeks from 9:00am – 10:00am at four different coffee shops across Ward 9 on a rotating basis.
- Our Public ZOOM Meeting will be an opportunity for residents to meet virtually in a group setting, where the discussions will be moderated by the councillor, but the subject matter will be largely determined by the residents. Starting on Thursday, January 19th, these sessions will take place every two weeks from 5:30pm – 6:30pm. Here’s the ZOOM link for these recurring meetings, and the Meeting ID is 958 5187 6434.
- Our Public Coffee Hours will be monthly sessions offering a chance for residents to meet in-person in a group setting. Starting Monday, January 16th, these sessions will take place on the third Monday of every month from 10:30am – 11:30am, at the Dao Café (1558 Merivale Road).
- Our Town Halls will be opportunities for residents to engage with the councillor and special invited guests in a public, in-person forum. The dates, locations, subject matter and guests for these evening sessions will be based on pressing needs and will be communicated as they arise.
- Our Community Consultations will be focused conversations where residents in a particular neighbourhood need to be consulted on a matter of local import (e.g., consulting with residents on the impact on a local development application). Details for these meetings will be communicated as they arise.
A more detailed schedule of meetings, locations and booking process will be communicated in our January 3 newsletter, and will also soon be found on our website at www.seandevine.ca
CHRISTMAS PAGEANTS & SERVICES
We have requests from two Ward 9 churches to post information about their upcoming Christmas services and pageants. So here they are!
FREE NATIVE SEED EXCHANGE
The Trend Arlington Community Association and the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library are partnering to co-host a native seed exchange event on December 28th from 4:00pm – 7:00pm at the Trend Arlington Community Centre, located at 50 Bellman Drive. The Seed Library will be offering their full free seed collection, and in exchange will accept seeds, envelopers, stamps and donations. Their seed donation guidelines are available here.
VACANT UNIT TAX
Our office continues to receive many emails from residents expressing confusion and concern over the the City’s communication of the new Vacant Unit Tax (VUT). As we have indicated previously, Councillor Devine supports the intentions behind the VUT, which is to decrease the number of vacant properties across the city as a means of addressing our critical lack of housing supply. Councillor Devine has had extensive discussion with the City’s Finance Department to discuss better communications for this year and next. During these discussions we learned that a similar approach to implementing a VUT in Vancouver over the past 5 years has led to a 36% decrease in the number of vacant properties.
This past week City Council passed a motion which will require that staff present Council with a report in 2023 providing data and insight on the effectiveness of the VUT’s delivery and implementation, and we hope that this report will help lead to a smoother process for future years.
Although the Vacant Unit Tax does not apply to a principal residence, a declaration is still required. And if you own more than one property, a separate declaration must be submitted for each property. Only residential properties NOT being used as principal residences and that have been unoccupied for at least 184 days per year will be subject to the tax. However, as of January 20223 ALL homeowners will be required to file the online “occupancy status declaration”. Please note: you cannot submit this declaration until January 2023, and the notice that you have received in the mail was only a preliminary instruction notice, and further notices will come in the New Year.
To learn more about City’s Vacant Unit Tax, visit the City’s website.
DEVELOPMENT UPDATE: 780 BASELINE
We are keenly interested in all active development applications affecting Ward 9, but we have been paying especially close attention to the development application at 780 Baseline (aka the Lonestar). We have been meeting with various stakeholders involved in the project and will continue to review feedback submitted by the community.
Please note that the deadline for residents and groups to submit written feedback on this development has been extended to January 15, 2023. All written submissions will be considered by the City’s planning staff in preparing their own written report on this application. Area residents who wish to submit feedback may do so here.
UPDATE: As the development application has undergone recent significant change, our office is planning to host an additional Community Consultation on 780 Baseline. We will be holding this meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday January 12th. This meeting will either be held online via ZOOM, or at a suitable location for an in-person meeting. Details will be confirmed as soon as possible.
PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE
The levels of respiratory viruses circulating in our community remain high, and we’re still seeing the increase in COVID-19 wastewater and % positivity levels that we saw last week.
- Wastewater virus detection levels of COVID-19 are significantly higher than the same period last year and increasing
- Wastewater virus detection levels of RSV are very high and increasing
- Wastewater virus detection levels of Influenza are very high and increasing
- Per cent positivity of COVID-19 is high and increasing
- Per cent positivity of RSV is moderate and decreasing
- Per cent positivity of Influenza is high and decreasing
- Outbreaks due to COVID-19 are very high and increasing
- Outbreaks due to Influenza are moderate and decreasing
- Outbreaks due to other respiratory viruses are moderate and increasing
In these winter months, every single layer of protection matters that much more. These layers include wearing a well-fitted mask when needed, washing your hands, & staying home when sick...which is especially true when it comes to holiday gatherings. If you’re sick, don’t go.
Speaking of the holidays – now’s the time to get your flu vaccine & your COVID-19 bivalent booster. These vaccines are available in many places throughout our community. Learn more on our website: OttawaPublicHealth.ca
Preparing for the Holidays
As we prepare for holiday gatherings, we need to continue to assess our level of risk and the risk for those around us to make informed decisions. Vaccination is an effective way you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from the most serious effects of respiratory illnesses. The Province has announced that all Ontarians aged five and over are eligible to book a bivalent booster dose starting December 21. Read more about why and when you should get a COVID booster (Ontario.ca/COVIDbooster) as well as your flu shot (OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Flu).
Individual actions can add up to population-level protection when we use multiple layers of protection:
- Masking: Wear a well-fitted mask in indoor public settings such as schools and child care, grocery stores, large indoor gatherings, malls, music venues, and museums.
- Vaccinations: Anyone 6 months and older should stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including a fall booster for anyone 5 years of age and older and a fall influenza vaccine. Anyone aged 5 and older can receive their COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine at the same time. Check your local pharmacy for vaccination appointments.
- Stay home if sick: Monitor for symptoms. Stay home, even if symptoms are mild, and until you are feeling better.
- Clean your hands: Use hand sanitizer or wash hands often.
- Clean surfaces: Clean commonly touched surfaces frequently.
- Gatherings: Screen for symptoms before attending or hosting a gathering and stay home if you are sick. If hosting a gathering, consider holding it outdoors or opening windows, especially if individuals will be removing masks to eat or drink. You can also encourage those with which you are gathering to be up to date on their vaccines.
The holidays can be a difficult time for many. Check in with your loved ones and neighbours. If you or someone you know is having trouble coping – there are resources to help. Learn more about local mental health and substance use resources in Ottawa at: Mental Health and Substance Use Health Resource List.
OC TRANSPO WINTER SCHEDULE & NO-CHARGE DATES
OC Transpo winter service changes will take effect on Sunday, December 25. This winter, changes will include service adjustments on select routes, two new seasonal pilot programs, and special service for the holidays.
New winter schedules are available on octranspo.com. Before heading out, use the Travel Planner to plan your trip and to see if it has changed.
Route 62: Weekend trips will be modified to bring service closer to Iber Road.
School service on various routes will be adjusted to better meet customers’ needs. Visit octranspo.com for details.
Rack & Roll Winter Pilot
This year, OC Transpo’s Rack & Roll Program will be extended year-round as a pilot on the entire bus fleet. Whether travelling to work, school, or just out enjoying Ottawa’s winter weather, we encourage customers to consider combining biking and transit with ease through the Rack & Roll year-round pilot.
OC Transpo welcomes customer feedback on this pilot program through the customer feedback form. Through the winter, OC Transpo will gather data on how the bike racks perform in winter weather to determine if an all-season program will be permanent.
Starting this December, the OC Transpo Rack & Roll practice bike rack will be moved at the beginning of each month to a new station to make it easier for cyclists to try it out in their area. Station locations will be advertised on octranspo.com.
Severe Storm Schedule Pilot
This winter, OC Transpo will implement a new Severe Storm Schedule pilot for buses on weekdays when 31 cm or more of snow is expected, or under severe weather conditions. This pilot aims to help us better provide safe and reliable bus service during severe winter storms.
- When the Severe Storm Schedule is implemented on weekdays, bus service will be based on a Saturday schedule, with the addition of limited service early in the morning and on some weekday-only routes. Trips will be added to select routes servicing hospitals.
- Most articulated buses will be replaced with double-decker and 40-foot buses to improve service reliability.
- When a severe storm is forecast for the weekend, the schedule will stay the same and some bus type adjustments will be made to reduce the number of articulated buses in service.
- Para Transpo and O-Train service levels will not be reduced when the Severe Storm Schedule is in effect, but as with any mode of transportation, OC Transpo customers should plan ahead and expect delays in severe storm conditions.
OC Transpo will communicate through regular channels a day before the Severe Storm Schedule is being implemented. Sign up for My Alerts to be notified instantly by text message or email when the Severe Storm Schedule is in effect. Use OC Transpo’s Travel Planner to see how your trip will change when the Severe Storm Schedule is in effect.
A special holiday service will run from Sunday, December 25 to Friday, January 6. Check octranspo.com for information on hours of operation, frequency adjustments and schedules for bus routes and O-Train Line 1 during the holidays. Customers can get real-time schedule information, 24 hours a day, by calling 613-560-1000 or texting 560560 plus their four-digit bus stop number or first three letters of the station name.
Para Transpo Holiday Bookings
Para Transpo will operate a holiday service on Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Days. Regular scheduled trips are automatically cancelled, but customers may book trips for these days by using My Para Transpo or by calling 613-560-5000 up to seven days before each holiday. Don’t forget to suspend your regular bookings if you are on vacation during the holiday season. Para Transpo customers can now text 57272 to connect with OC Transpo Customer Service Representatives for estimated arrival times, direct cancellations, or general questions.
Ride for no charge on New Year’s Eve
In partnership with MADD Ottawa and Safer Roads Ottawa, OC Transpo is offering no-charge service on buses, O-Train and Para Transpo on New Year’s Eve from 6 pm to 4 am. OC Transpo will operate a Saturday schedule, with additional service on busy routes. O-Train Line 1 will run until 2 am, after which Night bus service will run through downtown. O-Train Line 2 buses will run until 1 am. Para Transpo runs until 3 am (with last trips booked at 2:30 am). Fare gates will be open, and OC Transpo will have staff at some stations to help customers.
Transit is the best way to travel to festivities across the city. Use the Travel Planner to plan your New Year’s Eve trip.