Budget 2023: A Cautionary Tale
An opinion piece came out in the Globe & Mail last week about the origin of the failings of Ottawa’s LRT. One of the article’s co-authors is Bent Flyvbjerg, often referred to as the most cited scholar in the world on infrastructure mega-projects. So, there’s some credibility when the article’s main point is “Ottawa’s LRT didn’t go wrong. It started wrong.”
The article suggests that the central flaw with our city’s largest-ever infrastructure project was the nature of the contractual agreement between the City of Ottawa and Rideau Transit Group (RTG), the consortium hired to design, build and maintain our light rail system. This public-private partnership agreement (also known as a P3) ultimately put the City and RTG into a combative and litigious relationship as the inevitable construction problems arose, rather than see the partners work collaboratively on their mutual interest of realizing the best project possible. When you add the element of former Mayor Jim Watson underestimating both the cost and the timeline for the project but nevertheless applying political pressure to get it done “on time and on budget”, it set the stage for where we are today, with an LRT that continues to experience technical disruptions.
So, what does all of this have to do with the City of Ottawa’s proposed draft 2023 budget?
Among the documents tabled for the 2023 budget is a “statement of principles” which forms the basis of the mayor’s campaign promise “to launch a strategic review of existing city spending”. The aim of the strategic review is to find budget savings of between $35 and $60 million. One outcome of the strategic review of the City’s programs and services will be to assess whether they’re best done in-house, by a contractor, or through a public-private partnership (P3), in order to “optimize the delivery of services and provide the best overall value for taxpayers and ratepayers.”
But as Ottawa architect Toon Dreesen likes to frequently remind me, cost does not equal value. You get what you pay for.
As our LRT experience has shown, City Council should exercise caution when it comes to P3 agreements. When a private contractor hired to provide a service for the public good is ultimately focused on their bottom line, the public good might not always be best served.
There is much in the draft 2023 budget that I’m pleased to see, which I’ll discuss in the next newsletter. I was very happy to hear Mayor Sutcliffe reinforce the principles of fiscal responsibility and compassion in his budget.
But there are several items in the draft budget which cause me concern, including spending tens of millions to widen the Airport Parkway, and a significant increase to the Ottawa Police Services budget (which includes the construction of a new mega-station). During my electoral campaign, I can count on one hand the number of times that residents told me they wanted more policing, and absolutely no one expressed a desire for road widening.
The single greatest demand from Ward 9 residents during my election campaign was fixing OC Transpo. The draft 2023 budget is predicated on finding $54 million in savings city-wide, including $47 million in cuts from OC Transpo. At a time when we need to increase transit ridership, to get more buses and trains and people into circulation, this concerns me.
I know that residents and the city are in a difficult time financially, and that Mayor Sutcliffe’s budget is based on the need for the city to “tighten our belt”. While I agree that we should be thoughtful and responsible with our finances, let’s not tighten the belt so much that we cut off circulation.
City Hall Updates
At Monday’s inaugural meeting of the Emergency Preparedness & Protective Services Committee, I brought forward a Motion to Ensure the Safety and Dignity of Vulnerable Residents During Power Outages (Emergency Power Generators). The purpose of my motion was to get our city to consider the merits of requiring emergency backup generators in apartment buildings.
During the May 2022 derecho, when several areas of Ward 9 were without power for almost two weeks, many of our ward’s most vulnerable residents were stranded in their apartments, without access to elevators, emergency hallway lighting, or even running water. At times our city’s first responders needed to attend to these residents’ basic needs, diverting them from other critical emergencies. One such Ward 9 resident is Dr. Lynn Ashdown, a wheelchair user, who was trapped in her apartment for 10 days following the derecho.
My motion aimed to get the City of Ottawa to support a provincial Private Member’s Bill which seeks to legislate the requirement for emergency backup generators. While we lost that aspect of our motion in a tight 6 – 5 vote, we were successful in another aspect of our motion. City of Ottawa staff will now report back to Council later this year on the requirements for preparing an Ottawa-version of a guideline that the City of Toronto has in place for voluntary performance standards for backup power guidelines in multi-unit residential buildings. My office looks forward to working with staff to advance these measures to ensure the safety and human rights needs of some of our most vulnerable residents.
Black History Month
February is Black History Month. Earlier this month, I was grateful to attend the inaugural event in St. Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church’s Black History Month Speaker Series, which featured an inspirational talk by Dr. Joy Mighty, Professor Emerita at Carleton University. Dr. Mighty’s talk focused on the history of the black experience in Canada, pulling no punches on the dark moments of our country’s historical record in this regard.
But Dr. Mighty ended her talk on an inspirational note, with her description of the Zulu word ubuntu, which means “humanity towards others”. From her speech:
Ubuntu means “I am because we are and because we are, therefore, I am.” It is a concept of collective unity, and it suggests that: “A person can only be a person through others”. The late Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained it best when he said “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together….Ubuntu is the essence of being human … you can't exist as a human being in isolation.”
You can read the entirety of Dr. Mighty’s speech here. St. Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church has been programming events for Black History Month for several years, to promote learning, reflection, and the spirit of honouring in their community. For more information on St. Mark the Evangelist Anglican Church’s Black History Month series, please visit their website.
FEATURE STORY: ON CHARITABLE COMPASSION
On February 2nd Councillor Devine had the opportunity to tour The Ottawa Mission, on the very day that temperatures were soon to dip to minus 35 degrees. The Mission’s beds were full that night, as they are every night. The tour was led by Ottawa Mission CEP Peter Tilley.
When Mayor Sutcliffe presented his draft 2023 Budget, Councillor Devine conveyed to the mayor his appreciation for how the budget enshrined the principles of both “fiscal responsibility and compassion”. From Councillor Devine: “Those qualities need not be mutually exclusive. But our compassion will be measured by where we choose to exercise our restraint.”
Even the most cynical of economists know that when we invest in supports for those most-in-need (such as the Ottawa Mission’s dental clinic, staffed pro bono by volunteer Ottawa dentists), that compassionate investment pays off in the long-term: the epitome of fiscal responsibility.
Ottawa Salus is a non-profit supportive housing organization that provides housing and other services to people with mental health and addiction. On February 6th, a burst water pipe at Ottawa Salus forced the relocation of 42 residents from their Scott Street building.
From Salus Executive Director Mark MacAulay: “The building is presently uninhabitable. Tenants have temporarily lost their homes and had to leave most of their possessions behind. This is very upsetting, particularly for people already living with mental health and substance use health challenges.”
Salus has temporarily housed these tenants in hotels, but the insurance coverage will soon run out. These residents have also lost much of the food they had to leave behind.
Councillor Devine has made a personal donation of $250, and our office will be donating an additional $250 from our annual Community Sponsorships & Donations budget. We’re also going to be reaching out to Ward 9 grocery stores to ask them to donate food gift cards, since Salus doesn’t have the capacity to take in food donations.
Our office is encouraging Ward 9 residents who can donate to do so, in order to help support some of our city’s most vulnerable residents through an extremely difficult time.
Public Meeting: Budget 2023 Consultation
This week on February 16th Councillor Devine is proud to be partnering with Councillors Kavanagh (Ward 7) and Johnson (Ward 8) on a joint Public Meeting: 2023 Budget Consultation. The hybrid meeting will take place in-person at Ben Franklin Place as well as virtually on MS Teams.
At this meeting, residents will get an overview presentation of the 2023 budget from city staff, followed by a Q&A session with your three co-host City Councillors. We'll also be gathering information from our residents about your budget priorities, and what's important to you when it comes to our city's budget! If you would like to attend, please RSVP here.
Community Engagement Series
We’ve been having a fantastic response to our Community Engagement Series events, and we hope to continue seeing a diverse array of Ward 9 residents participate. Here is a list of the upcoming events in our series:
- Pop-Up Community One-on-Ones: February 27th from 9:00am – 10:00am
- Public Coffee Hour: February 27th from 10:30am – 11:30am
Please note: Rather than hold the Public ZOOM Meeting that had been scheduled February 16th, we’re hoping to see our residents turn out for the Budget Consultation meeting that same evening. For the month of March, we’re going to be testing out different schedules for these events in order to ensure that we get as wide a range of participation as possible.
We’re also planning something a little more outside-the-box! Councillor Devine plays in a garage band with some of his neighbours, and so our office is planning a music-fueled, community drop-in / open mic event where the Councillor and some special guests get to host a conversation with Ward 9 residents about community-building! Okay, so that’s more than just a little outside-the-box.
Have A Heart Day
February 14th is Have a Heart Day, a youth-led reconciliation event that brings together Canadians to help ensure that First Nations children have the services they need. Councillor Devine was proud to join students from A. Lorne Cassidy School at Centrepointe on this day for a talk about the role of government in advancing societal change. These kids had great questions and comments, especially when it came to budget priorities on how cities should spend their money!
Ottawa Police Services Questionnaire
The Ottawa Police Service has produced a 2023 Draft Budget Questionnaire for members of the public to provide feedback “to ensure that community viewpoints and values are reflected in policing priorities, goals, programs and strategies.”
Public Transit Reliability
In response to a growing number of emails that our office has received on cancelled/delayed bus routes, our office will be conducting a survey of Ward 9 residents to collect data on the reliability of bus routes that serve Ward 9. We hope to have a survey prepared over the next 2 – 4 weeks.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Covid-19 & Health Update
Levels of respiratory viruses in Ottawa remain stable, with influenza, COVID-19, and RSV activity similar to the week prior.
- Influenza: low levels and similar to last week
- COVID-19: very high levels and similar to last week
- RSV: moderate levels and similar to last week
- Influenza: 1.5 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: 17.3 percent. Moderate levels and similar to last week.
- RSV: 7.2 percent. Moderate levels and similar to last week.
This information and much more can always be consulted on Ottawa Public Healths website under the Respiratory and Enteric Surveillance Report.
Earlier this month Councillor Devine had a briefing with Ottawa Police Service’s Sergeant John Drader, Community Police Officer serving Ward 9. The increasingly concerning issue of auto theft was discussed. Please refer to the OPS website’s page on vehicle theft prevention.
Sergeant Drader spoke about the sophisticated level of organization among Ottawa’s auto theft rings, where specific makes/models of vehicle (e.g. Dodge Ram pickups) are targeted. If vehicle owners notice that a small segment of their windshield (near the bottom, on the driver’s side) has been wiped of snow, this could be an indication that vehicle thieves are attempting to record your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Last week our entire team had an extensive briefing with Ottawa By-Law Services, during which we talked about parking regulations and enforcement. We thought we’d use this space to provide some accurate info on parking regulations.
It’s a bit of a parking regulations myth that “no signs equals no time limit”. In the City of Ottawa, streets without signage have a 3-hour street parking limit Monday through Friday between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, increasing to a limit of 6 hours on weekends and statutory holidays. Note that it’s also an offence to re-park your vehicle within 300 meters of a previous on-street parking space within one hour.
Parking at intersections and near driveways
When a vehicle is too close to an intersection, it poses a safety hazard by blocking sightlines. Vehicles should be parked no closer than 9 meters to an intersection and may never park in a crosswalk. Vehicles may not park within 1.5 meters of a driveway, unless it is their own property. If a vehicle is parked too close to your driveway, you may file a report via 3-1-1.
Parking near a hydrant
In an emergency, every second counts and we want to ensure fire hydrants are always accessible to fire fighters. Vehicles may not be parked closer than 3 meters to a fire hydrant, even if it is set back from the road.
Vehicles over 6.5 meters in length may not park on a City street at any time of the day. The exception to this rule is if they are parked on a designated truck route, as established pursuant to subsection 54(2) of the Traffic and Parking By-law (2017-301)
It’s no secret that snow makes our commutes tougher during the winter months. While the City’s Roads crews are hard at work removing snowbanks, on-street parking is often limited. Please help keep our streets passable by remembering the following tips when parking:
- Ensure there is adequate space for emergency vehicles, snowplows and garbage trucks to pass by your vehicle when parking next to a snowbank. Even if legally parked, vehicles that are obstructing traffic may be ticketed and towed.
- Keep an eye out for temporary “no parking” signs staked into snowbanks
- Please follow the overtime parking rules referred to above
- If you park your vehicle on the street, please secure alternate parking arrangements during winter weather parking bans.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Merivale Renewal Project
Our office continues to advance discussions on our long-term goal of transforming Merivale Road into something truly spectacular, a once in a lifetime opportunity. As Merivale straddles both Ward 8 and Ward 9, Councillor Laine Johnson and I were pleased to join senior planners with the City of Ottawa in a strategic conversation about this planning initiative. This Spring Councillors Devine and Johnson will be hosting senior staff on a bike tour of the Merivale/Baseline corridors.
Councillor Devine was excited to invite urban design activist Duncan Rae to our “roundtable discussion group” of local experts and stakeholders eager to share their insights on Merivale. Duncan gave us a stunning presentation on his vision for Merivale, which included depictions on how to modernize it as a “complete street” transportation corridor, but also a dramatic visualization of Merivale as a mixed commercial/residential haven. Along with Duncan’s immeasurable enthusiasm, he also has a lot of skill when it comes to putting his thoughts into visual form. Below are two images that capture his vision for the intersection of Merivale and Lotta, which he has dubbed “Lotta Square,” or “the Heart of Nepean.”
Local Development Files
Last week our office hosted a Public Meeting for 1545a Merivale, a new development application for a one-storey medical imaging lab. Councillor Devine joined about 35 residents to ask questions and share concerns with the developer and consultants. While the Councillor and residents are pleased with the addition of this new imaging laboratory to Ward 9, the common frustration expressed was the under-realized potential of developing this prime real estate without the addition of housing above the one-storey facility. The current zoning allows for this area to be developed in this manner, and the owner is eager to start construction as soon as possible to support their currently over-capacity business, so there is little that can be done to modify this development. The Councillor will continue to work with the developer on improvements to the site plan for neighbourhood permeability as well as more landscaping.
With regards to the controversial development at 780 Baseline (aka The Lonestar), Councillor Devine and River Ward Councillor Riley Brockington continue to hold meetings with the developer, city planners, and community representatives. While our office is intent on supporting smart intensification along the Merivale/Baseline corridors, we’re monitoring how the current plans for this site uphold the principles and guidelines of the Official Plan, as well as paying attention to recommendations from Agriculture Canada and the NCC over the impact that this development could have on the adjacent Central Experimental Farms, which are an important site for Canadian food research.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Even though the weather is getting milder, there’s still at least one more Ward 9 winter event coming up. The Fisher Heights Community Association is holding their Winter Carnival on the afternoon of February 25th.
Restoration Work at Pinhey Forest
The NCC will be working in Pinhey Forest from February 10 to March 1 as part of the ongoing work to repair/restore tree damage from the 2022 derecho. Here’s what residents can expect:
- Work will take place just south of the intersection of Slack Road and Vaan Road (see maps below, in an area referred to as “Sand Dune #2.”
- Work will consist of clearing debris and trees damaged during the storm, including the removal of approximately 75 red pine trees and stumps.
- Site restoration to enhance native biodiversity will start in spring 2023.
The May 2022 storm event was the most significant natural disaster experienced in the National Capital Region since the ice storm a few decades ago. The Greenbelt was hit hard. Drone footage of the damage in the Greenbelt is available on the NCC’s website.
Trend Arlington Community Association Blood Drive
The Trend Arlington Community Association (TACA) is partnering with Canadian Blood Services to hold a TACA Blood Drive on February 25th. Councillor Devine has already signed up for a spot, so we encourage residents across Ward 9 and especially in the Trend Arlington area to join the TACA Team on this important cause. To learn more and to sign up for a spot, visit TACA’s website.
City of Ottawa Civic Events Funding
Civic Events Funding is open to all local not-for-profit organizations, such as community groups and associations. This funding is intended to deliver family-friendly events in local Ottawa communities and neighbourhoods that:
- Promote neighbours meeting neighbours in their local, geographic community;
- Include multiple activities, family entertainment and attractions designed to appeal to residents in a specific geographic neighbourhood/district or ward;
- Promote community well-being by welcoming all community members; and
- Promote equity and inclusion.
The deadline for application is March 10. Maximum funding per agency: $3,000.
Governor General’s Foot Guards Youth Achievement Awards
Community Environmental Projects Grant Program
Are you looking for an opportunity to put your environmental ideas into action? The City of Ottawa is now accepting applications for the 2023 Community Environmental Projects Grant Program (CEPGP). CEPGP provides funding to non-profit organizations interested in undertaking small-scale, community-based initiatives that support an environmentally sustainable Ottawa. The application deadline is Friday, March 31. For details on eligibility criteria, the application process, profiles of past projects, and to submit an application, please visit Ottawa.ca/cepgp.
Crime Prevention Ottawa Funding
Crime Prevention Ottawa’s 2023 Request for Proposals is open, and applications are due by March 13. CPO is looking to fund projects that make Ottawa safer. Up to $600,900 of CPO funds is available for 3 streams of funding:
- micro grants (up to $15,000, for one-year projects),
- non-renewable grants ($30,000 to $60,000), and
- multi-year systems level/collaboratives (up to $160,000 per year).
Visit CPO’s funding page for more information.
As always, thanks for engaging!