On Empathy in a Virtual World
One exciting aspect of my role as Councillor for Ward 9 is the opportunity to engage with residents. Ever since COVID changed the way we meet and interact with each other, many of our encounters have moved into the virtual world. Certainly, there are advantages to these new ways of meeting: more accessible, more convenient, and less reliant on vehicles to be where we need to go. We’ve also learned that it can sometimes be easier to moderate respectful, productive conversations in virtual settings.
But there can also be a darker side to online meetings. In some meetings I’ve participated in, participants engage in disrespectful and even aggressive ways, saying or writing things they’d not likely do in a face-to-face encounter. One of my staff studies these things academically and has told me that this is not all that surprising. Our brains evolved to deal with social situations in three dimensions. When we lose a dimension and interact with people on-screen, we lose some of the critical information that allows us to interpret other people’s intentions and react with empathy. So, while online forums can be very convenient, we need to make sure we are doing our best to genuinely listen and engage with understanding and empathy.
I’m so enthusiastic about the quality of participation we’ve had so far with our public meetings, in all their various forms. This is why I wanted to be your Councillor: to hold constructive conversations with thoughtful residents that lead to positive change in our communities. And so, please continue to participate in these conversations. Meet up with me in one of our in-person encounters, but also take advantage of the numerous opportunities we have for virtual engagement. And when we do meet in an online forum, let’s be sure to remember that in those “2D” settings we must work a little harder to empathize with those who may have different perspectives than our own. We’ll all walk away (or click “Leave Meeting”) so much richer!
Updates from City Hall
The next few weeks at City Hall will be critical as we receive, consider and vote on the 2023 Budget. But the past week had significant developments, too.
At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, I supported a motion for the temporary re-opening of Wellington Street to vehicular traffic. Wellington has been closed since the 2022 Convoy Occupation, with little discussion between the City of Ottawa and the federal government over the future of this major street in our downtown core. For many, Wellington is the most important street in our city, not only as a tourist destination but as the center of our nation’s democracy. At the same time, it’s always been a critical transportation artery. Judging by the polarized responses I’ve received from residents, there is no simple and easy solution to this issue.
My vote was cast to jumpstart a conversation on the revitalization of Wellington Street into something befitting its central role in our city’s history and future. The conversation on Wellington Street has taken a long time to get rolling, but it’s far from over. Wellington must be a place for people, a public place. It can also be a place that circulates people and goods, but not as a four-lane highway.
The City of Ottawa and the federal government must start working productively to figure this out. This process will take time, but it needs to start now. Wellington will be re-opened to traffic no sooner than March 1, but we’ll soon see pilot projects for short-term closures during Summer 2023 to explore the kinds of ways that we can animate the street for public use.
Another development at City Council this past week was the negotiated settlement between the City of Ottawa and the Rideau Transit Group (RTG). City Council received a lengthy briefing from the external legal team to present the City’s options for the court proceedings that had been scheduled for this February.
The accepted settlement resolves several issues between the City and RTG and resets the relationship to focus on the delivery of safe and reliable transit service to the people of Ottawa. The settlement agreement resolves the Notice of Default that arose following the August 8 and September 19, 2021 derailments, with RTG’s Acknowledgement of Default and the City’s confirmation to proceed with RTG as the “cure” based on RTG’s plan to address the current issues.
RTG is committed to achieving a sustainable resolution of these issues for all O-Train Line 1 light rail vehicles before the opening of the Stage 2 East extension. In addition, RTG will continue to implement mitigation measures to ensure the reliability of O-Train Line 1.
In other Council news last week, Transit Commission approved the funding model and business case for the Zero-Emission Bus program. Pending Council approval on February 1, city staff will proceed with the implementation phase for facility upgrades, charging infrastructure and the procurement of 350 electric-battery buses.
This approval allows the City to leverage a $350 million grant from Infrastructure Canada and a loan from the Canada Infrastructure Bank for $380 million. With the gradual phase-out of diesel buses as they reach the end of their life cycle, OC Transpo could achieve a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2036. The transition from diesel buses to electric-battery buses will help the City meet its goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from municipal operations by 100 per cent by 2040.
FEATURE STORY: CASEWORK SUCESS!
For this week’s feature story, we wanted to bring you a success story that our office is particularly proud of.
A big part of the work we do is “casework”. Every time we get an email or a phone call about an issue with snow removal, or By-Law, or coyotes, it becomes a “case” that we then work on solving.
Soon after we took office, we received a piece of casework where residents living in a home in Ward 9 had experienced a horribly messy and unfortunate plumbing mishap in their basement, resulting in sewage emanating from a broken sewage pipe, and much of their basement floor being excavated in order to get the repair done. Due to miscommunications between the City and the residents’ contractor, the residents could not obtain the permit required to do the street excavation work. Councillor Devine and Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris paid a house call to see first-hand the frustrating situation that these residents were patiently enduring. It was evident that the situation was not only untenable, but if a permit weren’t obtained soon there would be another sewage backup making a horrible situation only worse.
From that meeting Alex Harris went into high gear, with many exchanges between the residents, their contractors, and the City of Ottawa, so that we could expedite getting the permit in place. We were very happy to receive a message and a video from the residents this week showing an excavator on the street outside their property, starting the work that they’ve been waiting months for! Congrats, Alex! Job well done.
Merivale-area businesses: Barrhaven BIA event
As part of Councillor Devine’s long-term plan for the revitalization of Merivale Road, we have begun discussions with the Ottawa Coalition of BIAs about the development of a Merivale Road BIA. Whereas most wards in Ottawa have BIAs (Business Improvement Association), Ward 9 has none. And Merivale Road has many businesses that have expressed a strong interest in forming a local BIA.
On February 15th Councillor Devine will attend the Barrhaven Business Networking Reception. Hosted by the Barrhaven BIA, this event will bring together business leaders and City Councillors along with businesses from neighbouring communities for an evening of networking and relationship building.
Our office is looking for Merivale Road businesses to join us at this event, as we put our minds together on the plan for the economic development of Ward 9’s central business area. Tickets for non-members cost $15, and can be purchased at the EventBrite page. If any Merivale Road businesses are interested in discussing this event or the future of Merivale, please email [email protected]
Economic Development Survey
The City of Ottawa is developing an Economic Development Strategy for the new Term of Council. As part of the City’s stakeholder engagement efforts, we are seeking input from Ottawa’s broader business community through an online survey. This survey will serve as an important input into the strategy’s development and will be live until February 6th.
Funding opportunity: Community Economic Development
The City of Ottawa’s annual Community Economic Development (CED) Funding Program provides financial support to selected projects that are anticipated to result in:
- Resilient job creation (continuing beyond the funding period)
- Business enterprise creation (for-profits and/or social enterprises).
The program seeks to positively impact under-represented segments of the Ottawa population (e.g. residents of lower income neighbourhoods, youth, older adults, rural residents, new immigrants, racialized and Indigenous populations, etc.) through financial support to non-profit agencies for new, or expanded, projects that assist targeted residents to overcome identified obstacles to the creation of new jobs and/or new enterprises. The deadline to apply is February 24th.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT UPDATE
We wanted to acknowledge that it is frequently taking us longer to respond to resident emails and phone calls than we had hoped. We continue to implement office management systems for responding to resident enquiries in a timely and effective manner. Our office is now using [email protected] as our primary email address for all casework and general inquiries. If you’re looking to get in touch with Councillor Devine to schedule a meeting or invite him to an event, this email address is the quickest way to get in touch with us!
Community Engagement Series
We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far with our Community Engagement Series, and we look forward to continuing to host our residents for discussions on issues facing the City and Ward 9. Our upcoming events include a Public ZOOM Meeting on February 2nd, and a Pop-Up Community Drop-In on February 6th. We look forward to seeing you there!
On February 7th our office will host a virtual Public Meeting on 1545A Merivale Road, where a new medical imaging laboratory is proposed. Whereas we welcome the facility, our concern is that this prime real estate on Merivale Road is not being developed to its full potential.
On February 8th residents are invited to participate in a virtual Public Consultation on the Barrhaven LRT / Stage 3 line, with an emphasis on the rail line between Knoxdale Station and Nepean Sportsplex Station, and the elevated line along Woodroffe connecting these two stations.
And on February 16th Councillor Devine along with Councillor Theresa Kavanagh (Ward 7) and Councillor Laine Johnson (Ward 8) will co-host a Public Meeting: 2023 Budget Consultation. This hybrid meeting will take place online as well as in-person at Ben Franklin Place.
Extension of Gilbey Park Consultation
After receiving feedback from concerned residents, the City has extended its public consultation period for the play equipment replacement at Gilbey Park. Residents have until February 11 to submit their choice of two options for new playground equipment. Please note: this consultation is focused exclusively on updating the play equipment, which has reached the end of its life cycle.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE
COVID-19 and Health Update
Last week Ottawa Public Health confirmed that 1000 Ottawa residents have now died from COVID-19. This is a stark reminder of the ever-present danger that COVID-19 poses, and the need to remain vigilant.
- Levels of COVID-19 are down from last week. Per cent positivity is 13.2%.
- Both influenza activity and other respiratory illness activity have decreased since last week.
Residents can always monitor these respiratory viruses by looking at Ottawa Public Health’s Seasonal Respiratory Infections and Enteric Outbreaks Surveillance Reports
Frozen Water Pipes
Depending on location and installation year of a water service pipe, some are not buried as deeply or properly insulated as others, meaning they are at risk of freezing at this time of year. Approximately 2,000 Ottawa homes and businesses may be impacted by frozen water service pipes. To prevent frozen water service pipes:
- Proactively insulate pipes near exterior walls
- Ensure the indoor air temperature is kept above eight degrees Celsius in areas that contain water service pipes, especially near the water meter
- Visit ottawa.ca for additional tips to prevent frozen water service pipes
Organized by the Council on Aging for Ottawa, Snow Moles are volunteers who report on what it is like to walk outside on a winter day. Residents are invited to ensure healthy, accessible, and safe winter walking conditions by becoming a Snow Mole and completing a Winter Walkability and Pedestrian Safety Questionnaire. Your answers will be shared with the City of Ottawa for better understanding of the safety of winter walking in Ottawa.
Reporting incidents to Ottawa Police
The Ottawa Police Service has various ways in which to report incidents. For Traffic Complaints please visit ottawapolice.ca for details on how to file a report. Many other reports can now be filed online, including theft, lost property, mischief or damage to property, drug complaints, fraud complaints, and hate-motivated incidents. For issues that have immediate safety impacts, please call 911. For all other incidents that do not fall under the online reports and do not present an immediate safety issue please contact the Police Reporting Unit at 613-236-1222, extension 7300.
Winter Walk Month
February is Winter Walk Month, the perfect time for families to enjoy walking outdoors together. One great way to stay active this winter is by walking to school, which can even help improve academic performance! The increased physical activity improves alertness and attention span during the school day. Whether you are a parent, guardian, teacher, or engaged community member, the children in your life will thank you for walking with them.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
There are still lots of winter events ahead of us! On February 4th, the Manordale Woodvale Community Association will host their annual Winter Carnival.
And on February 11th the General Burns Community Association will be holding the General Burns Skating Party.
But of course, the biggest Ottawa winter celebration of the year is Winterlude! This year’s big event starts February 3rd and runs through to February 20th.
The Nepean Rideau Osgoode Community Resource Centre (NROCRC) provides many programs and services to some of Ward 9’s most underserved communities. Councillor Devine will be participating in several of these programs over the coming weeks.
Some of their services include the Tanglewood Children & Youth Sports & Recreational Program, the I Love to Skate Inverness Park Program, the Parkwood Hills / Manordale After School Programs.
Last week Councillor Devine spoke at the ribbon cutting for CryoStasis, an Ottawa start-up with a mission to commercialize a ground-breaking process to preserve human organs and stem cells for up to a week without freezing. Their revolutionary discovery is a Canadian success story that helps showcase Ottawa as a centre for research & innovation. It’s an exciting time for the growing biotech industry here in Ottawa.
Planting for Success
The Nepean Horticultural Society is hosting a virtual Planting for Success seminar on February 16th. Come learn the new best practices in gardening!
50 Plus Stretch & Study
Woodvale Pentecostal Church is hosting a 50 Plus Stretch and Study program on Wednesdays from 10:00am to 12:00pm. This is an opportunity for seniors to experience exercise and fellowship all at once! This program is free of charge, and anyone is welcome to participate.
As always, thanks for engaging!