Ottawa’s Air Quality Warnings
As I write this message today, Tuesday June 6th, Ottawa’s air quality is at dangerous levels. You only have to step outside for a moment to sense it immediately. As my six year-old daughter said this morning, “The clouds smell like a campfire.”
Ottawa Public Health has posted warnings and recommendations on their website, as has the Government of Canada. A quick scan of the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System website at Natural Resources Canada will show you the wide range of forest fires happening across Canada that are leading to these current air quality conditions.
Whereas some councillors may see their ultimate responsibility as making life more affordable for residents, I see it differently. As an elected representative, my ultimate responsibility is to support and protect you, and your community, and this city. My ultimate responsibility is to protect the long-term viability and survivability of this city, and of the many systems that support this city.
Here’s a list that I want us all to consider:
- Historic flooding in 2017
- Tornado in 2018
- Historic flooding in 2019
- Derecho in 2022
- Ice storm in 2023
- Historic air quality risk in 2023
More and more frequently, our city and its residents are in harm's way. The reason that I’m on the Environment & Climate Change Committee is because I see it as a platform to take action that will protect our city and its residents over the long term. Based on the outcomes of several important votes that have taken place at this Committee over the past few months, including yesterday’s votes on the proposed waste diversion policy, I wish that I felt confident that all of my colleagues on the Committee had the same goals as I do.
"Only a foolish society leaves its own people behind.”
On May 30th I attended the official opening of the Ottawa Food Bank’s new facility. It was a sobering event, since the much-larger warehouse was needed to meet the frightening growth in demand for the food bank’s services over the past year.
“The reality is that we are only here because the need continues to grow. You may have noticed we aren’t referring to this evening as our “grand” opening. Nothing about a food bank having to grow is actually grand,” said Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachael Wilson.
Among the guests who spoke at the event, I was particularly moved by the comments of Ottawa South MP David McGuinty, who recounted a medical study that linked 75% of mental health conditions among adults to deficiencies in early childhood development, including malnutrition.
What struck me about his remarks was the connection between food insecurity and society’s economic well-being. By allowing people to go hungry, we deprive ourselves of the potential contributions they could make in reaching their full potential. “Only a foolish society leaves its own people behind,” he said.
Whether it’s through the donations of residents to food banks, or through systemic support of governments in food security, these are not acts of charity. They are investments in our future economic prosperity.
The Future of Ottawa’s Waste Management
At the time that I wrote this heading, I had fully anticipated that by today we would’ve decided on “the future of Ottawa’s waste management”. But following yesterday’s June 5th meeting of the Environment & Climate Change Committee, we have made no decision at all. Frankly, yesterday’s debate over waste management was embarrassing.
Ultimately, there were three options on the table: a) the original Pay as you Throw proposal of 55 tags per household; b) the alternate Pay as you Throw proposal that came from the Mayor’s Office and Councillor Marty Carr, in which households would be allowed 2 garbage items per collection without tags, would receive a one-time allotment of 15 tags for use at any time, and could then purchase more tags as needed; and c) the “firm limits” proposal from Councillor David Brown allowing each household to put out 4 garbage items per cycle. And bear in mind, Councillor Brown’s proposal would not achieve our goal of extending the life of the Trail landfill or meeting our provincially-mandated waste diversion rates.
But in the end, nothing happened as all three proposed options ended in a split 5 – 5 vote, since one Committee member had to leave before we got to vote on the motions.
My votes at that Committee meeting – and my vote at the June 14th City Council meeting where this matter will be debated once more – are to support a Pay as you Throw policy allowing for each household to put out two items without tags, with the option to purchase additional tags. Any Pay as you Throw model that goes forward will come with a rigorous plan for Education, Engagement and Enforcement. As Pay as you Throw becomes no longer “best practice” but “standard practice” across Ontario, Ottawa simply cannot continue to be a city that acts as a bystander while municipalities lead on this front.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference
From May 25 – 28, I was grateful to attend the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). This year’s event was held in Toronto, with almost 2,900 civic leaders, councillors and mayors joining from across Canada. These are high-profile events in Canadian politics, and the keynote speakers included PM Justin Trudeau, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, NDP Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
But it wasn’t these big-name federal politicians that generated the most enthusiasm. Rather, it was the conversation about the need for our federal partners and provincial partners to revisit the deal they have with municipalities. More specifically, what echoed across the convention was the need for “a new fiscal framework” to address the fact that far too many costs are being downloaded to municipalities that don’t have the same diversity of revenues available to provincial and federal governments. Beyond our fiscal challenges, the two most talked-about issues were the urgent need to build enough housing to meet population growth, and the escalating risk of climate-related natural disasters.
One exciting outcome that came out of building relationships at FCM is a connection I made with the Mayor of Charlottetown. That City has found a great deal of success with their waste-to-energy facility, and I'll be planning a trip out to PEI (and to another site in Nova Scotia) to meet with local authorities to better understand their success in the hopes of finding better solutions for Ottawa's future waste needs.
Open Air Fire Ban
Due to persistent hot, dry conditions, and as a measure of public safety, an Open Air Fire Ban is now in effect for the entire city of Ottawa. Campfires, brush piles, and wood burning outdoor fireplaces are not permitted during a ban.
Residents should beware of telephone scam
The City of Ottawa is warning residents of recent scam calls impersonating the City’s water meter replacement program. The City’s small water replacement program does not call residents to book appointments.
The actual small water meter replacement program is partnered with the City of Ottawa and Neptune Technologies Group. When Neptune Technology Group is in your community, you will receive information - delivered to your home by letter - that prompts you to book an appointment that is convenient for you – including weekends or evenings, if spots are available.
The information letter is clearly identified with the City and Neptune Technology Group’s logos. Booking an appointment is quick and easy and can be done either online or through Neptune’s call centre, all listed on the information letter.
If you have received this scam call and provided any personal information, please contact the Ottawa Police Service immediately at 613-236-1222.
2023 Construction Season
Over the summer months Ottawa residents will begin to see an increase in construction across the city. This year, the City will invest over $800 million in our infrastructure including roads, bridges, sidewalks, pathways, underground pipe network as well as the renewal of many of our parks, recreational facilities and our water and wastewater treatment facilities. Some highlights include:
- $136 million for road rehabilitation including resurfacing, geotechnical, guiderails, rural road upgrades and preservation treatments
- $34.4 million for bridge structures
- $61 million buildings and parks
- $7.7 million to renew sidewalks and pathways
- $245.9 million for integrated road-water-sewer reconstruction projects
- $15.7 million for culverts (stormwater structures)
New and continued major projects include:
- Bank Street renewal
- Carlington Heights Pumping Station upgrade
- Chief William Commanda Bridge
- Greenfield/Main/Hawthorne reconstruction
- Montreal Road revitalization
- Stage 2 Light Rail (O-Train construction)
- Strandherd Drive widening
Councillors Tour Ottawa Fire Services and Ottawa Paramedic Services
Last week Councillors were invited to attend the training centre for Ottawa Fire Services, as well as the headquarters for Ottawa Paramedic Services. Not only were these sessions extremely valuable in helping Councillors get a better sense of the day-to-day experience of our first responders, but we also discussed the significant operational challenges they are currently facing. And at our Ottawa Fire Services session, Councillors and Councillors Assistants got to try out some of the training exercises.
The photos below include Councillor Devine rappelling down from a 3rd storey ledge, and Councillor's Assistant Alexandra Seymour putting out a controlled fire.
During our tour of Ottawa Paramedic Services, what was made very clear was the increasingly perilous situation that Ottawa residents are facing when it comes to Ottawa being in a state of “Level Zero”. These are the times when there are zero ambulances available to transport residents to emergency care. While there will be some budgetary demands in 2024 to help our Ottawa Paramedic Services department increase their resources, the ultimate solution to this crisis rests with the Ontario Ministry of Health to address the administrative and logistical delays for paramedics to offload their patients at hospitals. The information that Councillors were shown at Ottawa Paramedic Services revealed multiple daily instances where paramedics were spending 2 – 3 hours at an emergency department waiting to hand over their patient. These are valuable hours when they are needed back on the road attending to other residents.
Ottawa Fire Services knocking on doors for the biannual Wake Up! Program
Firefighters will be visiting homes across the city from June 5 - 12 as part of the spring Wake Up! program to ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are present and working. Firefighters will ask to inspect and test alarms and provide information on fire safety and home escape planning. Residents who do not have working smoke alarms may have one installed for them or be provided with new batteries. Ottawa Fire Services will provide these services to residents for free. Visits will take place between 6 and 8 pm on weekdays and between 2 and 4 pm on weekends. Firefighters will be in uniform, and residents are not obligated to provide them access to their home. This is a courtesy call only, and firefighters will only visit select areas. They will leave fire safety information in the mailbox if no one is home. To learn what is involved in a firefighter home visit, watch the Wake Up! video. Visit ottawa.ca/fire for more information on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
The Ottawa Public Library is a treasure trove of materials and resources at your disposal... for FREE! Visit any branch across the city to discover books, movies, magazines and more. In addition to these in-person resources and services, visit OPL’s website to engage with all they have to offer online.
On Saturday, June 10th at 2:30pm come join the Lego Block Party at the Emerald Plaza Library! This is a drop-in program for children and families. Details here.
Update on Trees
After lots of advocacy (and some pressure), our office is pleased to report that the tree debris collection from the ice storm is now complete for Ward 9. Our Public Works staff have informed us that it will now be each homeowner’s and resident’s responsibility to ensure that any new debris is packaged in accordance with the Leaf and Yard Waste program, which means small bundles of no greater than 4 feet in length left at curbside. Other large debris will need to be managed by residents as was the practice prior to the April 5th ice storm.
Public Works has informed Council that the end of curbside cleanup operations does not mean the end of their overall work. Forestry Services continues to address service requests related to recent storms. Forestry is aware of 105 tree stumps that have been identified as requiring removal from the April storm, and that number will rise as crews address the remaining service requests. As Forestry is still focused on stumps from last year’s derecho (490 remain), stumps from April will be scheduled for the second round of stumping later this year. Subject to availability of resources, that work could extend into 2024.
Councillor Devine will soon be working with Councillor David Hill on initiatives to help promote and expand the City’s plans for re-planting trees, both on private and public property. For homeowners that lost trees, or who simply want to have a tree planted on their front yard, we encourage you to apply to the City’s Trees in Trust program. Please note that the City has now reached the capacity of Trees in Trust requests for fall of 2023. New requests will be processed for the Spring 2024 planting season.
Graham Creek Update
Residents of Trend Arlington may have noted that a lot of work has been done over the past few weeks to clear the fallen tree debris that had been blocking the culverts and causing Graham Creek to rise to historic levels. After some steady pressure on City of Ottawa staff as well as the Rideau Valley Conservation Agency, Councillor Devine is happy to see that the creek bed is now clear along much of Graham Creek. Of course, there will still need to be a program of annual maintenance involving the City and RVCA, along with the Trend Arlington Community Association and local residents and volunteers.
Garbage Alerts for Recreation Perks! - Contest
What does racquetball at the Sportsplex have to do with remembering what day to put your green bin out? We’re happy you asked! The City of Ottawa is encouraging residents to sign up for recycling and garbage collection reminders for a shot to win a one-year all-inclusive individual fitness membership or a six-month household membership. To enter, residents can sign up for curbside reminders, and then stay tuned for the contest link which will be published in a reminder message the week of June 4 and June 11. Full contest rules can be found here.
O-Train Line 1 Service Adjustments due to Maintenance
From Monday, June 5 until Monday, June 19, Rideau Transit Group (RTG) will be performing work on O-Train Line 1 at varying times for two weeks. Where possible, maintenance will occur during the evening hours to minimize impacts on customer travel. Regular O-Train Line 1 operations will resume on Tuesday, June 20.
During the work, O-Train Line 1 service will continue, but will be partially closed in some sections of the line at specific times. R1 replacement bus service will be available and will run frequently to provide service coverage during the partial closures. For more information and a schedule of service adjustments, please click here.
Community Engagement Series
Our office wishes to apologize for mishandling the June 4th Sunday Soiree. As that event was scheduled the night prior to the decisive June 5th Environment & Climate Committee meeting, our office was pre-occupied with the various motions that were being debated at that meeting. Here are some of our upcoming Community Engagement Series events:
- On June 15 we’re hosting our next Thursday Night Think Tank (sneak peek: the subject will still be on mobilizing a civic-minded “volunteer brigade”)
- On June 19 we’re holding our next Ward 9 Office Hours
- On June 25 we’re hosting a Sunday Soiree
Merivale Transformer Station Update & Hydro One Funding
Ward 9 residents, and especially those that live in Tanglewood, are likely aware of the upgrades currently underway at the Merivale Transformer Station. This multi-year project is meant to expand the station’s power output capacity, as well as enhance the infrastructure’s resilience in the face of increasingly powerful storms.
As this project will have a significant impact on the neighbourhood of Tanglewood, the Councillor was insistent on leveraging a financial contribution from Hydro One for the community’s use. We are therefore happy to announce that Councillor Devine has secured a contribution of $200,000 to be used for a community amenity (the Councillor will soon be discussing options with City staff and the Tanglewood-Hillsdale Community Association), as well as a $10,000 contribution to be used for a small project to enhance emergency preparedness systems across all of Ward 9’s community associations.
We also wanted to share a quick update on the progress of the Merivale Transformer Station modernization project:
- Hydro Ottawa distribution line relocation work is on track with June 9 as the target completion date.
- The next step involves Hydro One to install a temporary fence around the perimeter of the work area for public safety during active construction. This work is planned to begin next week. Map of the temporary fenced area attached.
- Hydro One will reach out to the Tanglewood Hillsdale Community Association to provide a similar update about the next steps of construction in case they wish to share this in their next newsletter.
Knoxdale-Merivale Council Meeting Update
Last week Councillor Devine and and Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris attended our first meeting of the Knoxdale-Merivale Council (KMC), a group which consists of the presidents of all of Ward 9’s community associations. These meetings are a fantastic opportunity for the Councillor to share information that can be relayed back to the communities, but also to engage with community leaders on the key issues and concerns impacting Ward 9 residents, whether locally or city-wide. The Councillor is looking forward to a regular schedule of these KMC meetings.
The City of Ottawa’s Trees and Forests Outreach and Engagement Strategy – Request for Input!
The City is in the process of developing a dedicated Trees and Forests Outreach and Engagement Strategy, as directed by the Council-approved Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). We are requesting your input through a survey available on Engage Ottawa, which will be live for the month of June 2023. This is an opportunity to provide valuable information that will help shape this strategy and allow you to better support Forestry-related initiatives that matter the most to you and your community.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Levels of respiratory viruses in Ottawa largely remain stable. Influenza and RSV activity is similar to the week prior, while COVID-19 wastewater activity has increased and percent positivity is high.
- Influenza: Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: Low levels and similar to last week.
- RSV: Low levels and similar to last week.
- Influenza: 0.3 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: 15.2 percent. High levels and increasing since last week.
- RSV: 0.0 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
This information and much more can always be consulted on Ottawa Public Health’s website under the Respiratory and Enteric Surveillance Report.
West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease in Ottawa
When ticks and mosquitoes are active, they have the potential to spread dangerous infections to Ottawa area residents.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), most commonly during the spring, summer and fall months. If a person finds a tick on their body, they should remove it as soon as possible. The risk of Lyme disease increases the longer the tick is attached. Because blacklegged ticks in Ottawa are known to carry this bacteria, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends that, if a person finds a tick on their body that has been attached more than 24 hours, they speak to a healthcare provider or pharmacist. The healthcare provider or pharmacist will provide recommendations on what to do, which may include monitoring for symptoms for the next 32 days and, if appropriate, taking post-exposure prophylaxis (antibiotics). Early signs of Lyme disease occur three to 32 days following a tick bite. This may include an expanding, circular rash, which may look like a “bull’s eye,” but is not present in all cases. Other symptoms can include fatigue (tiredness), fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle and joint pain. If untreated, the infection can cause additional rashes on other areas of the body, fatigue, weakness, and may harm the heart, liver, nerves and joints.
What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus (WNV) is a disease primarily spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, especially the Culex type, become infected after biting a bird with the virus and then spread the virus to humans. It can take between three and 14 days before symptoms occur after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people infected with WNV will remain asymptomatic, but approximately 20% will develop symptoms of usually mild (through to sometimes debilitating) febrile illness, which may include headache, fatigue, body aches, rash, nausea and vomiting. Less than 1% of those infected may develop severe neurological illness. In Ontario, locally acquired WNV occurs in the summer months, with the majority of cases occurring in August and September.
How can individuals protect themselves from these infections?
- Apply a Health Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin to exposed skin and clothing
- When possible wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks to cover exposed skin
- Tuck your pants into your socks
- Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks more easily; this is also appropriate for mosquitoes as they are attracted to darker colours
- If possible, stay on the trails when hiking in the woods and other natural areas. Enjoy mowed and maintained areas in parks and playing fields but be mindful of the borders adjacent to natural areas that may be suitable tick habitat
- For ticks, do a "full body" check on yourself, your children, and pets. Pay careful attention around your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp
- For mosquitoes, avoid being outside during dusk and dawn - periods when they are most active - and at any time in shady, wooded areas – remembering to use repellent and protective clothing if you must be out during these periods
- Make sure all windows and doors in your home have well-fitting screens that are in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from entering
- Mosquitoes need water to breed. Eliminate mosquitoes around personal property by reducing or eliminating areas or objects that can accumulate or retain water
Stunt Driving & Fireworks
Dangerous stunt driving has certainly been in the news lately, and there are numerous instances of high-speed stunt driving along several main roads and arterial corridors in Ward 9 (e.g., Hunt Club, Woodroffe, Meadowlands).
Residents in the Craig Henry area have long complained about dangerous stunt driving happening in the rear parking lot of Sir Robert Borden off Greenbank. But members of the Craig Henry community have begun alerting the Councillor’s office of a rather extraordinary example of dangerous driving, where vehicles are circling each other at high-speed while also launching fireworks from one car to the next. This is an extremely dangerous and downright stupid practice that is putting many people at risk.
The Councillor has forwarded this and other such videos to Ottawa Police Service and Ottawa By-law in the hopes of getting some targeted enforcement of this, as it’s likely that this kind of behavior will repeat during the Canada Day weekend, when fireworks are permitted.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Changes to Planning & Consultation Arising from Bill 109
On July 1, 2023, new rules governing planning applications will take effect in Ontario. The province, through a series of new laws passed last year (including Bills 97 and 109), has shortened the time a municipality is allowed to take to process a zoning by-law amendment (90 days) and a site plan control application (60 days). This revised timeline also comes with a number of restrictions on council and resident input into these processes. The bottom line is that these applications will need to be approved more quickly and with less opportunity for input from City Council or the public.
In response, the city has designed a new process for receiving and processing these types of applications to help meet the timelines. It means much of the dialogue between the city and the developer will happen in the pre-application period, and much of the input from the community will come during the pre-consultation process. It will be important for residents to be aware of the more limited influence councillors can have on these decisions and adjust their expectations accordingly. We will continue to monitor applications in Ward 9 and we will do everything we can with the more limited tools we have to ensure that developments are carried out in the best interests of the community and the city as a whole.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Scoliosis Awareness Day & National Cancer Survivors’ Day
Last week Councillor Devine was happy to stand in for Mayor Sutcliffe, who was out ill, to present proclamations for Scoliosis Awareness Day (June 1st) and National Cancer Survivors Day (June 4th.)
Tanglewood Young at Heart
Take in the expertise and knowledge of historian Vera Hamman at the next meeting of "Young at Heart" on Monday, June 26. Stop by the Tanglewood Community Centre (30 Woodfield Drive) at 1:00pm to take part.
Fisher Heights Community Garage Sale
Come out to the Fisher Heights Community Garage Sale this Saturday, June 10th. The sale starts at 9:00am and a map of participants will be available at www.fhaca.ca prior to the sale.
Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer Call