Priorities for 2024: Road Safety
I don’t think I’ve ever been as eager to get back to work after a long holiday as I was this New Year. And it’s not because I didn’t enjoy my time off. I really did. But I was quite happy to walk back into the office on January 4th, for two reasons. First, I truly do love this job. And second, I’ve been eager to start this year off with a re-setting of my team’s priorities. The last several months of 2023 were both exhausting and at times quite challenging. And so, I’m excited to start 2024 not only fully re-energized but also aiming to get myself and my team re-focused on accomplishing some important goals for this year.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s because a lot of the positive feedback that we’ve received about our newsletter is that you appreciate just how transparent I am about what matters to me and why. So, we’ll be using the next several issues of this newsletter to let you know some of what we’re focusing our time on. The first item on the agenda: road safety.
Regular readers of this newsletter shouldn’t be surprised to know that I’ve been keen to address road safety issues since taking office. And by doing so I’m not imposing my own priorities upon you forcefully! Road safety was a key concern during the election campaign, and it continues to be one of the top issues that residents contact our office about. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since 2023 was not a good year in terms of safety for many road users.
For example, whereas there were 26 fatalities to pedestrians and cyclists resulting from vehicle collisions between 2017 and 2020, according to the Ottawa Police Service, 10 people died in pedestrian-involved collisions in Ottawa in 2023 alone. And four of those fatalities occurred since the beginning of October. To learn more about our bad recent history, please read the recent opinion column from my colleague Councillor Stephanie Plante.
And so, I’m eager to get some changes made across Ottawa and especially in Ward 9. Without getting into too much detail right now, the strategies I’ll be advancing are as follows:
- Changes to existing road design to lower vehicle speed, including lowering speed limits
- Continuing to advocate for stricter enforcement against speeding
- Education and environmental design changes to improve safety behavior from pedestrians and cyclists
- Incentivizing greater use for other modes of transport
Some of the measures I’ll be looking to implement this year include a more effective deployment of Temporary Traffic Calming measures, continued advocacy for automated speed enforcement cameras, and proposals for the cost-effective re-design of higher-speed roads like Meadowlands.
But here’s the thing. There is often a culture of resistance to any conversation that addresses the subject of safety issues between vehicle users and other road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists. And it frequently veers into attempts to assign blame, rather than agreeing to a need for solutions. Last week, one of my staff had a minor collision with a vehicle that failed to see him crossing the road when the car turned right. Even when I posted that, there were comments suggesting that he was to blame, without even knowing any of the circumstances. It’s as if there’s an antagonistic relationship between categories of road users. But when we’re talking about making changes that reduce the risk to vulnerable road users, the response shouldn’t be based on defensiveness for one side of the conflict, but rather a common agreement to make 2024 less deadly than 2023.
Big News for Ottawa Community Housing in Ward 9
In our next newsletter we’re going to address our priority of addressing housing and homelessness in our city. However, there was a big announcement on housing this week that concerns Ward 9, so we wanted to talk about it as soon as possible.
While the challenge of providing affordable places for people to live is complex and has many moving parts, one of the stickiest challenges is creating a significant stock of public, non-market housing to help balance out the dramatic price and rent increases we’ve seen in privately owned accommodation in recent years. Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) made a significant move in that direction with the purchase of 311 multi-bedroom units (most are three-bedroom units, with some four-bedroom units) from the Minto Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust (Minto REIT), all of which are in Ward 9. These sites are on Woodfield Drive in the Tanglewood neighbourhood, and on Chesterton Drive in the Parkwood Hills neighbourhood.
These units will add to a stable base of rental units in our city that will help counterbalance the dramatic swings in rental prices we have seen lately. There is a lot more to do to help make our city more affordable, but this is an encouraging start to 2024. For more on the purchase, you can read about it on Ottawa Community Housing’s website.
Since we know that some of our residents have questions about this development, our office reached out to Ottawa Community Housing for some further clarity on the following:
- Will any of the current tenants be displaced? No, they will not. OCH being assigned all of Minto’s leases and will be assuming all the conditions and rent profiles as is. OCH is also taking on Minto’s snow and garbage removal contracts. And so, from a tenant perspective, it should be business as usual.
- Currently, these tenants are paying below-market rent. Once OCH takes over, will the owners of these tenants continue to pay the same below-market rent as they are currently paying? Most rents in both locations are at affordable levels (as defined by CMHC) and average around $1500. This is for three-bedroom and four-bedroom units. OCH will maintain the current rent structures and there will be modest rent increases each year to reflect inflation but for cost recovery purposes only. OCH will not seek above-the-guideline rental increases, nor will they seek to maximize rent increases when these units turn over.
- There are approx. 12,000 families/residents that are currently on the waiting list for affordable housing, i.e. waiting for “deeply affordable” units. When there is turnover at these new OCH properties, will OCH fill that vacancy from the affordable housing waiting list, or does the unit go back on the market simply as “market affordable”? This acquisition will expand OCH’s stock of available units. It will also take some of the pressure off OCH’s existing stock of rent-geared-to-income units and free some of those spaces up for people who have been on the waiting list for affordable accommodation. More units means more options for OCH and tenants.
- Both sites at Chesterton and Tanglewood are in the range of 50 years old. Did OCH acquire them intending to re-develop the land in the future? These units are in very good shape, and OCH fully anticipates that they will be viable for 20-30 years before they require re-development. The Tanglewood site does have a much lower density and so there may be some opportunities to add development to specific portions of that site, particularly the sites that border on Merivale Road, but there are no immediate plans for that.
Municipal Taxation in Ontario
As I start to address my priorities for 2024 as your Councillor, one issue I will be discussing with you regularly is the state of Ottawa’s finances, and the role that property taxes will play in our financial health. Toronto’s new Mayor, Olivia Chow, made headlines last week with her announcement that she would be seeking a much-larger-than-normal hike in municipal property taxes this year. This is part of a growing trend we are seeing across the country. Years of hold-the-line budgets, combined with aging infrastructure and explosive growth have placed significant pressures on municipal budgets. With our own budget process in the fall, Ottawa council struggled with the commitment to hold increases to 2.5% or less. While I voted against it, Council passed that belt-tightening budget. What that means is that this year’s budget process will be even more challenging with continued inflationary pressures and a mounting list of priorities that will need to be funded, somehow. We are months away from discussing the 2025 budget, but it will be important to keep an eye on this trend and ensure that we are prepared to deal with the realities of our financial situation when that discussion does begin. Stay tuned!
Vacant Unit Tax Declaration
We’re in a new year, and that means it’s time to file your annual Vacant Unit Tax declaration. The program is entering its second year and, if you own a home in Ottawa, you have until Thursday, March 21, to complete your annual filing. Don’t forget that there will be a $250 penalty issued this year for late declarations.
The process is simple. The quickest and easiest way to provide your declaration is through the city’s online portal. This list of what you need to complete the process is right there on the web page. If you don’t have easy access to the website, you can also do it by telephone by calling 613-580-2444. You will need your property tax roll number and information about the person to whom the property is registered. If neither of those options are possible, you can make an appointment to do it in person at Revenue Services.
OC Transpo: Bus Route Review Update
Over the past several months we’ve worked closely with senior staff at OC Transpo as we undergo the current Bus Route Review. As we have said before, we are not supportive of this change, since we believe it will lead to an overall diminishing of services. However, since we know that the change is happening, we wanted to make sure that we could get the best results for Ward 9 residents. Residents interested in reviewing the proposed bus route maps may view this document. You can also learn more at the OC Transpo website.
The following is a summary of two of the key changes that we’ve been working on: Here is an update on the current changes:
Changes to the 82/282: While we prevented a catastrophic route change, we couldn’t save as much as we hoped. Originally, the plan was to eliminate the 282 entirely and to reduce service on the 82 to only weekdays during rush hour. While the 282 is still being cancelled, we were successful in maintaining the 82 as a full-service route, running all day on weekdays and weekends. For now, the 82 will run every 30 minutes. Once the Pinecrest LRT station opens, the 82 will pick up / drop off at that station, providing quick access to the LRT. Until then, the 82 will run from Baseline to Tunney’s Pasture during weekday peak hours and will run from Baseline to Lincoln Fields during other hours.
Changes to the 112/89/86: Many changes have been proposed to the various bus routes passing through the Meadowlands / Viewmount / Chesterton / Fisher area. While some of the changes were positive, the greatest concern we had was that the proposed routes would eliminate all bus service from Chesterton. Effectively, this would’ve left no bus service along a densely populated uphill street that included two schools, a park, a large apartment building, and a lower-income townhouse complex (which was acquired this week by Ottawa Community Housing).
We’re very pleased to report that thanks to our persistence, we managed to save bus service on Chesterton. However, it will still require a transfer for most riders. Here’s a summary of what’s currently proposed:
- Route 111 will run every 15 minutes from Baseline to Billings Bridge (and on some trips to Carleton), and will travel east-west on Meadowlands
- Route 112 (a new route) will run every 30 minutes from Baseline to Billings Bridge, and will travel east-west on Viewmount
- Route 189 (a newly modified route) will run every 30 minutes from Baseline to Colonnade, and will include all of Chesterton
OC Transpo: A Day in the Life of a Bus Operator
We all know that OC Transpo continues to experience challenges, and riders are often frustrated with the service they receive. Unfortunately, sometimes riders take their frustration out on their bus operator. Since one of the challenges that OC Transpo faces is their ability to recruit and retain bus operators, it might help if riders can take a more compassionate approach to OC Transpo’s frontline staff. To help with that, we wanted to promote a campaign that OC Transpo released last year called A Day in the Life of a Bus Operator. We hope you enjoy!
Registration for City’s March Break and Summer Camps
Save the Date! The registration portal for the City of Ottawa’s March Break and Summer Camps will officially open on Tuesday, January 16 at 9pm. The Camps are affordable and flexible, providing children, aged 4-14, with supervised and enriching environments to try new things, make new friends and most importantly have fun. The options are endless and provide an opportunity for all to find something that fits for them. They are also available in both official languages! You can already browse the numerous options on the City of Ottawa website to prepare for registration night. Make sure to click on the following link to register tonight, on Tuesday the 16th!
Hydro Ottawa Rate Change
On December 19th City Council received notice from Hydro Ottawa alerting us to rate changes that will take place in 2024. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approved changes to Hydro Ottawa’s distribution rates that came into effect on January 1, 2024.
A typical Hydro Ottawa residential customer using 750 kilowatt-hours per month will see the fixed distribution charge per month increase by $1.80. Including changes to other charges on the bill, which are outside of Hydro Ottawa’s control, a typical residential customer will see a total bill increase by approximately $4.92 per month or 3.61%.
For a typical small commercial customer using 2,000 kilowatt-hours per month with a demand of less than 50 kilowatts, the distribution charge will increase by $4.71 per month. Including changes to other charges on the bill, which are outside of Hydro Ottawa’s control, a typical small commercial customer will see a total bill increase by approximately $13.64 per month or 3.85% (figures calculated before taxes and the Ontario Electricity Rebate).
Learn more about Heat Pumps
Electric heat pumps are energy-efficient heating and cooling systems that provide comfortable temperatures for your home year-round. They also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to heating with fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil.
To help Canadians learn more about heat pumps Natural Resources Canada has developed a comprehensive guide which outlines factors to consider when choosing, installing, operating and maintaining a heat pump. You can also hear from Ottawa residents, Shawn, Holly and Paul, who proactively installed cold climate heat pumps before their gas furnace failed.
Don’t forget, rebates and financing are available for heat pump installations. Anyone who finances a heat pump through the City’s Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program will also be eligible for additional incentives.
NCC Pinhey Dunes Cleanup
In response to ongoing concerns from residents in Merivale Gardens, as well as residents generally concerned with the state of the National Capital Commission (NCC) Pinhey Dunes area, our office has been in discussion with the NCC about their restoration plans for this area after the devastating impact of the 2022 derecho.
The NCC’s post-derecho clean-up work continues across the region, with 15 priority areas that require substantial removal of debris. The next phase of work will start this winter with a focus on 3 locations, including the Pinhey Dunes / Pinhey Forest area.
The NCC told our office in late December that clean-up of the Pinhey Forest area was on track to commence in January. They provided us with some preliminary info on the scope and location of work.
The map below shows the area of derecho damage to the NCC Greenbelt natural area, specifically the Pinhey Sand Dune complex located near Merivale Gardens. The plan is to remove dead fallen trees prior to March to benefit from frozen ground conditions.
The scope of work is to remove storm debris from this site. This will include the use of forestry equipment to skid and haul logs greater than 4’ long. Best management practices will be followed to reduce the impact on standing trees, sand dune ecosystem, soils, and natural forest regeneration.
Notice to Residents: Graham Creek One-Time Cleanup
Residents in Trend Arlington whose properties run along Graham Creek between Banner Road and Canfield Road will likely be aware of the clean-up and debris maintenance work that took place in December. This work addressed the ongoing risk of flooding and erosion issues due to high water levels. Following the 2022 completion of the Graham Creek storm sewer rehabilitation project, this one-time clearing of major debris in 2023 is now complete.
The City of Ottawa will be issuing a Notice to Residents for impacted residents. This notice lays out the scope of work completed, but also reminds residents of their ongoing responsibilities to prevent future incidents of debris clogging up the creek and causing further risk. The Notice states:
“To prevent debris from being carried to the inlet grate and blocking the grate, the City requires the cooperation of residents in keeping their private properties free of debris. This would involve regular removal of fallen tree branches, trimming trees, and removing dead trees. Any trees or branches that would be removed/trimmed needs to be removed from the Graham Creek shoreline to prevent the material from being carried by water flows to the inlet grate and blocking the grate.”
Residents who wish to view a digital copy of the Notice may access it off the Councillor’s Google Drive.
OCDSB Kindergarten Registration
If your child is turning 4 in 2024, you can now register for Kindergarten at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB). In January and February, OCDSB elementary schools across Ottawa will be holding Kindergarten Information Nights to allow parents/caregivers to learn more about the program and school.
For more information and to register your child, visit: ocdsb.ca/kindergarten or contact your local OCDSB school.
Woodroffe Water Main Project Update
The Woodroffe Avenue Watermain Repair Project has officially started this week. From Monday, January 15 until Friday, January 19, you will find construction crews working along Woodroffe Avenue, from Slack Road to 650 metres north of Grenfell Crescent, from 9am until 3pm. This involves the excavation of the west shoulder and outer southbound lane of Woodroffe Avenue, which will impact traffic by reducing Southbound Woodroffe Avenue, from Slack Road to 650 metres north of Grenfell Crescent to only one lane. Signage will be placed to notify drivers, and residents of the ongoing work, but slowdowns can be expected for drivers passing by the construction zone.
Craig Henry Drive Speed Bumps
Our office has been in communication with the City department overseeing last year’s traffic calming construction on Craig Henry Drive. We understand and share residents’ concerns regarding the ongoing project, and we want to assure you that we are actively working to address resident feedback and inquiries. The contractor has been receptive to our concerns and has committed to resolving the situation. Additional information and updates will be provided as we receive more information.
Clear Your Catch Basin
Winter has finally decided to pay us a visit in Ottawa. And with the increasing amount of accumulated snow and ice, it’s time to turn some attention to helping keep our streets as clear as possible. There is one simple, helpful thing we can all do to help prevent large build-ups of ice and water in our streets: clearing the catch basins near our homes. When snow or ice (or leaves and debris) block the opening, snow and ice melts, leaving a mess in our streets rather than draining away into the sewer system. So, grab a tool and open up the drains! If you want to know where the catch basins are near your home, you can use the city’s handy catch basin locator map!
Thawed: Keeping Ottawa’s Water Flowing
Winter is here, and while we all love to enjoy the many pleasures the season has to offer, frozen pipes aren’t one of them. But fear not the freeze! The city’s warm and helpful team at Water Linear Customer Service is here for you. Check out the City’s helpful website for more info on ways to prevent frozen water pipes. At this site you’ll meet city workers Tom and Robert. They are part of the First Response Team that works hard all winter to keep your pipes thawed and helps to ensure that Ottawa’s great tap water continues to flow!
Invite us to your events
We are officially in the New Year, and we are excited to get back out in the community. With this in mind, we would love to hear about your upcoming community events. If you have any upcoming events for 2024 that you would the Counciullor to attend, please contact us at [email protected]. We would love to come out and support your important initatives!
Temporary Traffic Calming: 2024 proposals
Improving road safety for all road users will be a priority for our office in 2024. Residents may recall that our office gets a budget every year to spend on Temporary Traffic Calming (TTC) measures. Examples of TTC measures typically include items like flex-stakes, bulb-outs, street markings, and speed indicator signs.
The process for TTC measures in 2024 has already begun and we have contacted Ward 9’s community associations to start engaging their participation in this process.
We’re also happy to hear from residents to get their ideas and suggestions. To participate, please send an email to [email protected] with the subject “Traffic Safety 2024” and let us know the following:
- Your name and address
- The location that you are concerned about (e.g. an intersection like “Argue Drive / Seymour Avenue” or a stretch of road like “Bertona Street between Craig Henry Drive and Knoxdale Road”)
- Briefly describe the problem (e.g. “speeding cars," or "cars driving through busy intersection," or "poor visibility around curve," or “too many cars parking on curve.”)
We also look forward to hosting some community meetings across the ward in the next few months.
Commemorative Naming Policy Review
The city is requesting your feedback regarding a review of the current Commemorative Naming Policy for municipal streets, parks and facilities. Information gathered from this public engagement initiative will assist us in the development of a revised policy that values the perspectives and uniqueness of Ottawa.
To get involved, complete the online survey at Engage Ottawa to share your feedback on the Commemorative Naming Program and help shape a revised policy that will contribute to Ottawa’s legacy for generations to come.
Craig Henry Community Association AGM
Residents of Craig Henry are encouraged to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Craig Henry Community Association on Monday, January 29th at 7:00pm. This will be a virtual meeting on Zoom. It’s more important than ever for residents to participate, since this community association is in urgent need of new volunteer directors. Councillor Devine will be in attendance to answer questions from residents, and to encourage people to sign up! In fact, the councillor was a long-time volunteer director at the Trend Arlington Community Association and can testify to just how rewarding an experience it can be! Any Craig Henry residents interested in joining the association should send an email to [email protected].
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Be Cautious! Flu and COVID Update
COVID continues to make its presence felt in our community and now, it has been joined by seasonal flu. Levels of both in Ottawa are very high right now and they are high, right across Ontario and Quebec. Hospitals in many regions are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients. So, exercise some caution whenever you can. The best thing you can do for yourself is get your vaccines, stay home if you’re unwell, and wear a mask in public spaces. Let’s do what we can to keep everyone safe and healthy!
National Non-Smoking Week - January 15-19
This week (January 15-19) marks the 47th annual celebration of National Non-Smoking Week (NNSW), which provides an opportunity to encourage people who smoke to consider joining thousands of others as they take their first steps to becoming smoke-free. Counselling and medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like the patch, is the best support we can recommend to anyone trying to quit. You can find lots more helpful information about quitting smoking on Ottawa Public Health’s website.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Ottawa Islamic School Update
As mentioned in previous issues of this newsletter, the Councillor has been having ongoing discussions with senior staff at the Ottawa Islamic School in Fisher Heights, to address the long-standing issue of delays over the construction of their school’s extension. The conversations that began in late 2023 have been productive and friendly, even as the Councillor has communicated the legitimacy of the local community’s concerns.
The Councillor is pleased to confirm that significant progress to the project will take place this spring. Starting in April, and spanning 4 to 5 months, the next phase of work will include pouring the foundation floor of the expansion and completing the exterior building envelope (cladding, window installation, brickwork). The contractor for this work has been secured, and the school has two major fundraising dinners coming up to complete the fundraising campaign.
The principal and project managers from the Ottawa Islamic School have also agreed to holding a public community meeting at the Fisher Heights Community Centre in the Spring, prior to the commencement of the next phase of work. Councillor Devine will co-host this public meeting, to build greater transparency between the school and area residents. The Councillor will be working with the Fisher Heights & Area Community Association to organize and promote this public meeting.
The proposed by-law amendment for the development at the Lone Star Plaza received partial approval from City Council in December (you can read about it in our last newsletter). The file was essentially split into two parts for approval purposes, with only the first phase, a 24-storey tower on Fisher, receiving the go-ahead. Since then, city planners have been meeting with the developer and representatives of the Experiment Farm and working towards the best available solution for the site. The file returns to Planning & Housing Committee later this month, on January 31. We will keep you updated!
The development of a new Salus Ottawa supportive housing complex was approved last year and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in December. Some of you who track the progress of developments in our ward may notice that the project is back on the planning committee docket. The new application is to make a minor adjustment to the project, allowing for the addition of an administrative office on-site. The new 54-unit facility will provide supportive housing for older adults, creating opportunities for them to “age in place,” a key component of living with dignity and independence.
The plan to replace the damaged strip mall and gas station at 1545 Woodroffe has been approved for some time but reconstruction has been continually delayed by the developer. We are hopeful this project will proceed this year. Several constituents have expressed concern about the state of the property and our office has reached out to city staff to ask that the site be maintained in good order until the reconstruction begins.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Ward 9 Winter Carnivals
Now that we’ve finally got some snow, it’s time for the annual season of Winter Carnivals, happening across Ward 9. Here’s a list of all the carnivals that we’re currently aware of:
- The Fisher Heights Winter Carnival takes place January 27th from 1pm - 4pm at Fisher Heights Park & Community Centre (31 Sutton Place)
- The Tanglewood Winter Carnival takes place January 27th from 1pm – 4pm at the Tanglewood Community Centre (30 Woodfield Drive)
- The Trend Arlington Winter Carnival takes place January 28th from 12pm - 4pm at the Trend Arlington Community Centre (50 Bellman Drive)
- The Manordale Winter Carnival takes place February 3rd from 11am to 3pm at the Margaret Rywak Community Building (68 Knoxdale Road)
- The Glens Winter Carnival takes place February 18th from 1pm - 3pm at Grenfell Park
Black History Month
Film Screening at Villa Marconi
Food Sharing: Winter Workshop
Knox United is Celebrating its 61st Anniversary