Budget 2023: Tough Decisions Ahead
On March 1, Ottawa’s City Council votes on the draft 2023 operating and capital budgets. As your councillor, these are some of the most important decisions that I must make. Our city is in a challenging financial situation. Inflation is high, which puts pressures on your household budget, but also on the city’s expenses. The province’s enactment of Bill 23 will see municipal revenues diminished. Our public transit continues to struggle in its return to fiscal and operational solvency. And in a world of “haves” and “have nots”, when times get tough, it’s the “have nots” that experience the greatest hardship.
My responsibility is to take all of this into consideration and make the best decision possible for the residents of Ward 9, and for the City of Ottawa as a whole. I need to consider the challenges of the present day, and the challenges we’ll face tomorrow.
On February 16th I was proud to co-host my first Budget Consultation Public Meeting, where Councillors Kavanagh, Johnson and I engaged with residents to present an overview of the draft 2023 budget, but also to hear questions and concerns from residents.
From the questions that we received, to the results of the survey we conducted at the end of the meeting, certain things became evident:
- The most common concerns from residents continue to revolve around housing and transit.
- Investing in public safety means different things to different people, and the question of increasing the budget for Ottawa Police Service remains as controversial as ever.
- Most residents stated that they were not confident that the draft budget would adequately support our city’s current needs.
Back in December, I was one of 8 councillors who did not support the Mayor’s budget direction. And so, I did not expect to be enthusiastic about the draft budget.
There are certainly elements of the draft budget that I’m supportive of, including a freeze on OC Transpo fares, a $5 million annual commitment to implement the Climate Change Master Plan, and $52 million in new climate investments. I’m also happy to see a budget increase for Ottawa Paramedic Services which will allow them to hire 14 additional staff, as a means of addressing our ongoing “Level Zero” ambulance crisis. And of course, there are specific investments for Ward 9, which I’ll list below.
But there are elements of the draft budget that cause me concern. Despite how the number of Ottawa residents on the waiting list for affordable housing is skyrocketing – it's currently at 12,000 – the $16 million proposed for new affordable housing is only marginally more than the $15 million spent annually since 2019, and barely covers the cost of inflation. Despite the unreliability of bus service, which is a top concern among residents, this budget contains $47 million in cuts and spending alignments to OC Transpo. Despite a critical need to repair and better maintain our streets, sewers and sidewalks, this budget contains $100 million in less-than-critical road widening projects. And despite the recent failures in leadership of our city’s police and increasing evidence of the benefits for policing alternatives, this budget provides a substantial increase to the Ottawa Police Service and delaying proven and effective alternatives.
Simply put, I do not feel that the proposed budget meets our current needs, nor does it help build a better future. It offers modest improvements but maintains the status quo in areas where there should be bold change.
If you want to get significantly more people off the waiting list for affordable housing, or see better maintenance for our roads, or increased emergency preparedness investments to protect against future natural disasters, this budget doesn’t go far enough. If you want to see better snow removal service, or a quicker restoration of our tree canopy, or more lifeguards for our city pools, or more By-Law officers to ticket illegally parked vehicles, this budget doesn’t go far enough. If you want to increase the chance that your bus will show up on time, or show up at all, this budget doesn’t go far enough.
Our budget should reflect our values. As a caring city, as a conscientious and responsible city, how far are we willing to go to get to where we need to be?
Ward 9 Investments in 2023
As mentioned above, the proposed 2023 Operating and Capital budgets will include specific investments for Ward 9 projects. The list below features several of those projects.
- $990,000 to rehabilitate a culvert on Merivale Road over Black Rapids Creek
- $200,000 to design the rehabilitation of Fallowfield Reservoir
- $125,000 to remove accumulated sediment from the Bentley stormwater management facility
- $100,000 to design a pathway along Greenbank Road between Hunt Club and Fallowfield roads
- $80,000 to renew Burris Lane between Eleanor Drive and Merivale Road
- $17,000 to renew sidewalks on Burris Lane north of Eleanor Drive
Parks, recreation and culture
$1.3 million to replace or rehabilitate parks, recreation and cultural facilities, including:
- $700,000 to rehabilitate the roof and a sanitary line at the Nepean Sportsplex
- $ 130,000 to rehabilitate tennis courts at General Burns Park
- $515,000 to improve Redpine Park (accessibility upgrades), Tanglewood Park (bike rack) and Trend-Arlington Park (shade pavilion, outdoor rink)
$24,000 to install new accessible bus stop landing pads at three locations:
- Viewmount Drive at Europa Private
- Chesterton Drive at Assiniboine Drive
- Banner Road at Parkmount Crescent
- Additional $2 million investment required to support a Nepean Housing Corporation development at 1 Dunbar Court with 31 affordable housing units – part of a multiyear municipal investment of $7.2 million allocated to date
City Hall Update: Emergency Generators & Airport Parkway Widening
Last week, City Council passed my motion asking city staff to investigate the City of Toronto’s policy on emergency generators for high-rise residential buildings. Staff will report back on the policy later this year. I have been speaking on this issue for several weeks now. It is important to me that we ensure we are doing everything we reasonably can to ensure the safety of our more vulnerable residents, particularly during ever-more-frequent severe weather events. This is something I plan to pursue. The goal is to explore the issue as thoroughly as we can and look for the best possible solutions for our city and its residents.
During last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, I was proud to join a majority of committee members in approving a transportation budget that amended the proposed plan to widen the Airport Parkway. For those who are not familiar with this project, it represented an investment of over $80 million over four years, which sought modifications to the Airport Parkway between West Hunt Club and Brookfield. While I support some of the proposed modifications (including a new multi-use pathway, a roundabout, and further “complete street” renovations), I could not in good conscience support such a massive investment of public dollars into road widening. Our budget needs to reflect our values, and our values must reflect what’s most needed for the public good. Our city has far greater present needs than expanding the Airport Parkway from two lanes to four, and my vote reflected that.
Vacant Unit Tax: Submission Deadline
As most of you will know by now, the new Vacant Unit Tax has come into effect and all property owners need to declare the status of their properties by Thursday, March 16—just over two weeks from today. The good news is that the vast majority have already filed their declarations. If you are one of those who hasn’t yet, don’t worry. You still have time. You can file your declaration online, or if you need some assistance or want to file your declaration over the phone, you can call 613-580-2444 and, after selecting your language of preference, select option 3.
Follow us on Facebook & Twitter
This newsletter comes your way once every two weeks but there are other ways for you to stay up to date on what Councillor Devine is up to and what is going on around the city. For those of you on Facebook, you can follow the Councillor’s Facebook page. If you’re on Twitter, you can subscribe to two feeds: one for the Ward, itself, at @Knoxdl_Merivale as well as Councillor Devine’s own account at @DevineSean. All three accounts will give you insight into what’s going on around the city and where Councillor Devine stands on the issues.
Community Engagement Series
Since taking office in November, our Community Engagement Series has been a great way for the Councillor to meet with residents through a wide range of events. In addition to our Public ZOOM Meetings, our Public Coffee Hour and our Pop-Up Community One-on-Ones, we’ve also held several Public Meetings to discuss planning and development files, and of course the 2023 budget.
On February 27th we held our regularly scheduled Pop-Up Community One-on-Ones as well as our Public Coffee Hour. Starting in mid-November, we’re going to start testing out some different formats and schedules in order to ensure that our processes are accessible to as many residents as possible. Stay tuned for news on this.
Until then, here are our upcoming Community Engagement Series events:
- On March 2nd we’re holding our next Public ZOOM Meeting
- On March 6th we’re holding our next Pop-up Community One-on-Ones.
Public Meeting: Merivale Transformer Station Modernization Project
Our office will be participating in a Community Open House being hosted by Hydro One, where representatives from Hydro One will share updates on the Merivale Transformer Station Modernization project and planned construction activities, to taking place in the Tanglewood neighbourhood of Ward 9 over the next few years. The meeting is to be held on March 6th from 6:30pm – 8:30pm at the Tanglewood Park Community Centre, at 30 Woodfield Drive.
Since the Notice of Commencement and Open House in November 2022, our office has worked with Hydro One as they conducted a review of project effects and mitigation opportunities based on a variety of feedback received from Councillor Devine, community members, local associations, and stakeholders.
Ward 9 Community Builders
Hey, Ward 9! We are creating a new occasional section in our newsletter dedicated to highlighting an individual, group or organization in Knoxdale-Merivale that has demonstrated a commitment to community building and making our Ward a better place. This may include life-long service, outstanding acts of kindness, inspiring charitable work, or any other exemplary achievements. If you have anyone you would like to nominate, please send us; 1) the name of the individual you would like to nominate, 2) a brief description of why, and what you are nominating the individual for, and 3) a photo of the nominee. Please send your nominations to [email protected]
NROCRC Together Project
What is The Together Project? It's an initiative where participants will:
- Complete 6 workshops aimed at building capacity and skill development
- receive certification in nonviolent crisis intervention and trauma awareness
- be provided with funding and support to implement projects in your communities
- be paid an honorarium for their time and commitment to their communities
Out in the Community
Even though it’s been a busy two weeks with committee meetings and preparations for the March 1 Council meeting, the Councillor still managed to have some exciting encounters out in the community.
Councillor Devine joined several of his Council colleagues and the Mayor at the Barrhaven BIA Business Networking Event. While this event focused on business development opportunities for Barrhaven, Councillors Devine and Johnson were happy to be the special invited guests of the Ottawa Coalition of BIAs because of our shared interest in developing a new Business Improvement Association for Merivale. Did you know that Ward 9 is one of the only wards in Ottawa that does not have a BIA? Exploring the prospects for a Merivale BIA is one element of our office’s mega-project which is focused on the transformation of Merivale Road.
While at this event, Councillor Devine got a chance to continue conversations with Nepean MP Chandra Arya and got to meet Parry Sound-Muskoka MP (and former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate) Scott Aitchison. As a former mayor, MP Aitchison was happy to share his insights on intensification and the need for cities to expand our commitment to new housing starts.
The Councillor also got to attend NROCRC’s Early-On Pre-School program in Parkwood Hills, where he met with program workers, local caregivers, and of course our city’s next generation of movers and shakers! We conducted an instant poll of requests for the 2023 budget: 73% of these respondents want to see greater investment in puppies.
Councillor Devine and Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris got to meet with the principal and parent council president of St. Rita’s School. Like many schools in Ward 9. St. Rita’s is experiencing significant traffic safety concerns for parents and students during drop-off and pick-up times, due to higher levels of vehicle congestion and inadequate infrastructure for safe crossings. Our office is looking to return to St. Rita’s in the next few weeks to see if we can get an official traffic study in place prior to making recommendations for safety enhancements.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE
Covid-19 & Health Update
Levels of respiratory viruses in Ottawa remain stable, with influenza, and COVID-19 activity similar to the week prior. Levels of RSV activity have decreased since last week.
- Influenza: low levels and similar to last week
- COVID-19: high levels and similar to last week
- RSV: low levels and similar to last week
- Influenza: 0.2 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: 11.8 percent. Moderate levels and similar to last week.
- RSV: 2.6 percent. Moderate levels and decreasing since last week.
This information and much more can always be consulted on Ottawa Public Health’s website under the Respiratory and Enteric Surveillance Report.
Routine Vaccination for Children at Neighbourhood Health & Wellness Hubs
Routine vaccinations protect people and those around them against diseases like measles and polio, and are required for school and daycare attendance. For children and youth who are facing barriers to accessing routine vaccinations in the community, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is helping them get caught up on their vaccines. In addition to Ottawa Public Health’s Family Vaccination Clinics, four Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs now offer routine vaccinations. All vaccines at these clinics are offered at no cost, and an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card is not required.
A reminder to update immunization records by reporting them Ottawa Public Health. Visit ParentingInOttawa.ca/immunizations
March is Kidney Health Month
March is Kidney Health Month. This is an important time of year to highlight the impact of kidney disease and raise awareness of kidney health in communities across the country. People living with kidney disease fight a lifelong battle, and The Kidney Foundation’s mission is to support those affected every step of the way. This March, they’re launching an awareness and fundraising campaign inviting Canadians to #MakeYourMark on kidney disease by sharing their campaign on social media and by donating to their campaign at www.kidneyontario.ca.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Registration for Spring Activities and Summer Camps
Here’s what you need to know to be prepared:
- Browse spring activities on register.ottawa.ca starting Tuesday, February 21
- Register for spring learn to swim and other aquatics programs on Monday, March 6 at 9 pm
- Register for all other spring programs on Wednesday, March 8 at 9 pm
Summer camps and activities
- Browse summer camps and activities on register.ottawa.ca starting Tuesday, March 21
- Register for summer learn to swim and other aquatics programs on Monday, April 3 at 9 pm
- Register for summer camps and all other summer programs on Tuesday, April 4 at 9 pm
Be prepared by creating an account on the City’s new registration system before registration night. To create an account, visit register.ottawa.ca, submit your email address and create a password. Complete the form with your information and add other family members to your account. Put in your credit card information (Visa, Mastercard or American Express) in advance to save valuable time.
Getting Green & Gardening
Increasing our city’s capacity for local food production is something we hope to focus on over the course of this term, and you’ll soon start to hear more from us on this. We certainly welcome suggestions from our residents and local organizations about gardening events and programs you’d like to see supported, including this event from the Nepean Horticultural Society.