Welcome Spring... Soon?
As I’m writing this message, on Saturday, March 25th, there’s a mini blizzard outside my kitchen window. This certainly doesn’t feel like Spring. For those of you, like me, eager to see the widening patches of grass emerging from the melting edges of our snow-covered driveways, these last few days have been a slap in the face from Mother Nature. What a long winter! It’s time to move on, snow.
Rest assured that something resembling Spring will show up soon enough, and when it does, all those great outdoor activities and events will come along with it. But along with that comes all the responsibilities with the change of season and the melting of all that snow. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted with news and information, starting this issue!
Cleaning the Capital
The City of Ottawa’s Cleaning The Capital program is one of my favourite annual traditions, where communities across Ottawa tidy up their neighbourhoods. When I was president of the Trend Arlington Community Association, this annual event was one our most widely attended programs. I know that communities across Ward 9 share similar enthusiasm for this great tradition.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Cleaning The Capital, and I’m hoping that several neighbourhoods across Ward 9 participate. If your community does organize an event, please invite me to come and join you!
This year’s campaign runs from April 15 – May 31, with most events happening around April 22, which is Earth Day. Organize a cleanup project with your family, friends or neighbours and help keep Ward 9 clean and green. Register your project by May 1.
And if you’re a high school student, Cleaning the Capital is a great way to complete your community involvement hours AND keep #OttCity beautiful. Own a business? This is a great opportunity for businesses to engage with their employees, make a difference in the communities that support them and help keep #OttCity clean and green. Gather your colleagues and register your project at www.ottawa.ca/clean
All that melting snow must go somewhere, and whether it funnels into overflowing rivers, into backed up catch basins, or seeps into over-saturated ground due to heavy losses to our urban tree canopy, recent history has shown that Ottawa is prone to flood risk. Ottawa residents need to be aware so that we can be better prepared.
For any Ward 9 residents who are concerned or interested, you can join the City of Ottawa’s Spring Flood 2023 Facebook group to access information for those potentially affected by spring flooding, or anyone who wishes to keep up to date with any developments. Residents can also visit www.ottawa.ca/springflooding to get valuable information such as current conditions, road or park closures, planning and prevention tips, and sandbag depot locations.
City Hall Update: Clear-cutting near Tewin
While there’s always a lot going on at City Hall, for this edition of the newsletter we’re going to focus on one specific matter, which speaks to two of my core areas of concern: environmental stewardship, and accountability and transparency at City Hall.
During last week’s Environment & Climate Change Committee meeting, I was proud to have played a critical role in getting closer to the truth about the extensive tree clear-cutting operation that began in mid-February adjacent to the Tewin lands east of Ottawa.
For residents not aware of this story, Tewin is a large tract of undeveloped land that was added to the urban boundary expansion a few years ago in a controversial decision at City Council. The owners of the lands are a business group comprising developers Taggart Group and the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO).
In mid-February, residents of Carlsbad Springs near the Tewin lands started noticing the smell of cut trees and heard logging trucks very late at night. After a few days of this, residents sent a drone camera up and were shocked to see that over 70 hectares of forest had been clear-cut, resulting in the loss of an estimated 25,000 trees.
Residents alerted the media, and CBC News began covering the story, which first broke on March 1. That’s when Council learned of the incident, and when a few councillors began asking questions to staff. Council then received memos from city staff which stated the following:
- That staff first became aware of the clear-cutting on February 17;
- That staff had issued a stop-work order on February 22 which has since been lifted;
- That staff had been provided information by Taggart/AOO that the clear-cutting operation was being done for two completely different reasons: first, that trees damaged during the derecho were being cleared for safety; and, second, that the trees were being removed to prepare the land for farming.
That’s where my concern and curiosity began. If they needed to clear trees for safety, they surely didn’t need to clear 70 hectares worth. And Taggart/AOO were not known to be in the business of farming. And it just so happens that the land that these developers cleared of trees lies immediately south of the land that they are going to be developing as the new Tewin community.
Several councillors, including myself, asked staff why Taggart/AOO had been granted permission to cut trees without applying for a permit, which is the usual practice under our Tree Protection By-law. We were told that Taggart/AOO did not need to obtain a permit because they met the criteria for an exception. Under Section 82.7 of the Tree Protection By-law states: “A tree permit is not required where the injury or destruction of trees is a normal farm practice carried out as part of an agricultural operation by a farming business.” We were told by city staff that Taggart/AOO had signed a lease with a local farmer.
I had a lot of questions for staff pertaining to whether this tree-clearing was a “normal farm practice”, and whether it was part of an “agricultural operation”. I certainly was not clear on how Taggart/AOO was being seen as a “farming business”, since neither Taggart nor AOO have a history of farming.
But my biggest questions pertained to the lease itself. On what date was the lease between Taggart/AOO and the local farmer signed? And when did city staff first get to see that lease?
The answer I received was as shocking as it was disappointing. It was signed on March 3, which is the same day that the city was first made aware of the lease.
In other words, on February 17 when the tree cutting began, and without a lease between Taggart/AOO and a farmer, there was no legal farming business to speak of. And so, it’s reasonable to argue that the exception to the Tree Protection By-law should not have been granted, at least not without an application for a permit. After making this information public, my first question to staff was: “Would you not agree that having a lease in place between the landowners and a farming operator would be the minimum prerequisite for this being a farming business in the first place?”
Here’s a video clip from the speech I made at Committee (you can also watch the entire segment here). I certainly caused a few heads to spin, and I was glad to have earned praise from some of my more experienced colleagues.
By asking tough questions I was able to get closer to the truth of what happened, and ensure that the public was made aware of what really happened (“Tewin owners signed farming lease weeks after clear-cutting the area.”)
But this is not yet a victory. As far as we can tell, Taggart/AOO still has permission to cut trees. Several of my Council colleagues are continuing to investigate this matter, and have requested to view the lease documents. We’re also aware that a submission to the provincial Farm Practice Board may soon be made to assess this operation. I’ll be sure to keep residents notified of any new developments.
Stay vigilant, folks!
FEATURE ARTICLE: “I am broken. Completely broken.”
On March 18, I received an email that had been sent from a devastated mother to several councillors. The email began like this:
“I am broken. Completely broken. Yesterday, I buried by 2-year-old son Brantly who developed respiratory issues possibly linked to my current living conditions inside the motel used as a shelter by the city of Ottawa for homeless refugees like me and other families who don’t have a place to call home.”
By now, many residents may have read the news about this tragedy in our local media.
The mother who wrote to me, Gloria Luhaka Mangaza, is a Congolese refugee who fled from violent sexual abuse and came to Canada looking for a better life for herself and her 5 children. Since our city’s waiting list for affordable housing is extremely long, Gloria and her family were lodged in one of the hotels/motels that our city rents as emergency overflow shelters.
After spending more than 7 months in the motel, her son Brantly, an “otherwise healthy 2-year-old boy”, entered CHEO with difficulty breathing on February 26. He died on March 8.
Accounts of the living conditions at this shelter are troubling. The lobby is filled with children, since many large families occupy this motel. None of the units are equipped with kitchens, and the level of maintenance is reportedly poor. From the article listed above:
“Conditions [included] a window that could not close...a space heater to compensate for lack of in-room heat, a mouse trap containing a dead mouse & insect, exposed insulation in the ceiling, dirty carpets in the rooms & hallways, and a strong, foul odour in the air...Although it is unclear if Brantly's living conditions caused his illness (autopsy results are forthcoming), there is a high probability the environmental factors of the living space contributed to Brantly's illness," read a letter dated March 14 from a CHEO social worker assigned to this case.
The motel is one of many commercial properties the city uses for overflow shelter accommodation. The City spends approximately $3,000 per unit per month at these kinds of hotels. In 2021 the city provided such shelter to nearly 7,000 people for an average of 100 days each. Those numbers include 884 individual families with an average stay of 144 days. We are spending tens of millions of dollars annually on “emergency overflow shelters”.
I am not raising this matter purely for the sake of a political agenda, but we must politicize this. We must humanize this. As a city, we need to do better. We must make it a priority to do better. As a city blessed with economic stability and privilege for so many residents, we cannot accept this.
As a city, if we are to share pride in our collective accomplishments, we need to share ownership of our collective failings. We are accountable to one another. We rise and fall together. On March 8, we fell a great step down.
When the time comes soon to talk about the priorities that we as a city wish to uphold, and the budget that we put forward to meet those priorities, please remember Brantly.
As our office begins to take a sharp focus on addressing the matter of critical infrastructure and essential services, we’re Introducing a new segment to our bi-weekly newsletter. This CITY WORKS segment will focus on providing info and updates on local projects, provide tools for residents, as well as draw attention to the need for greater investment in our essential services and infrastructure to protect our city’s future.
With the arrival of Spring comes the arrival of Pothole Season. You only have to drive through your neighborhood to see the dire state of many of our streets and roads. And if you’re wondering if the state of our paved surfaces is getting worse, there are several good reasons for that. Many of Ward 9’s streets haven’t been re-paved for decades; the quality of asphalt used for patching potholes has a history of quality challenges, and recent studies have shown a link between climate change and increased severity of potholes.
Over the next several weeks, city crews will be out filling thousands of potholes with temporary patches. While we realize that we’d all prefer longer lasting and more resilient solutions, it’s still imperative that we get these treacherous holes filled, not only to prevent damage to vehicles, but out of safety for drivers and pedestrians.
Residents can play a vital role in this work by submitting reports on the City of Ottawa’s Report a Pothole website.
Our office team is helping to advance several Ward 9 infrastructure projects, many of which unfold over several years of consultation, planning, design, planning, and construction. For residents who wish to get a sense of the various infrastructure projects taking place across Ward 9 or even across Ottawa, the city has a simple-to-use interactive website where you can pinpoint local projects for additional information. Any questions about local infrastructure projects should be sent to Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris at [email protected]
OC Transpo Back to the Office
Last week OC Transpo launched its “returning to the office” campaign, which aims to incentivize and provide better service options for office workers. While our office shares the concern of many across the city that OC Transpo must continue to invest in improving its overall service reliability, we welcome the opportunity to help promote this initiative to attract new riders.
OC Transpo has affordable and flexible options for travelling to your office and back, any day of the week. Together, OC Transpo and Gatineau’s STO provide service to all major Government of Canada workplaces and major employers within the urban boundary with fare options for everyone.
Did you know that Presto cards are shareable? OC Transpo has fare options for frequent and occasional riders. You can find the one that fits your travel needs on OCTranspo.com.
If you are using Para Transpo, you can book, cancel and track your trip online with My Para Transpo. If you’re heading into the office on regular days, OC Transpo also offers the convenience of recurring bookings. You can find out more information by connecting with a Customer Service representative by calling 613-560-5000 or on the website.
OC Transpo Park & Ride lots are located across the city, providing a free and flexible alternative to expensive parking passes.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT UPDATE
Recent & Upcoming Events
This month we launched the new components of our Community Engagement Series, and the results have been very promising so far, with a few glitches. So far, we’ve held two editions of our Sunday Soiree, one edition of our Thursday Night Think Tank, and one edition of our Ward 9 Office Hours. The crowds that have shown up for these online group sessions have been significantly larger than our previous formats. Of course, since we were publicizing the details for these ZOOM meetings, this means that some uninvited guests showed up who then began posting irritating (and at times inappropriate) comments. This means that we’ll have to be a little more careful in how we post information for these online meetings.
Here are some of our upcoming events:
- On March 30 we’re hosting our next Thursday Night Think Tank
- On April 13 we’re hosting another Thursday Night Think Tank
- On April 23 we’re hosting our next Sunday Soiree
- On April 24 we’re hosting our next Ward 9 Office Hours
Climate Resilience Strategy – Virtual Event
In the last few years, Ottawa’s temperature has increased, and we’ve experienced extreme heat, a derecho, tornadoes and flooding. Climate change is here, and we need to be prepared. The good news is that there are solutions we can all take to ensure Ottawa is ready for these ongoing changes.
On April 4th at 6:30pm, join Joanna Eyquem from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation and City staff to learn how we can prepare for the realities of climate change and how you can get involved in shaping the City’s Climate Resiliency Strategy. Register now for this online meeting. Participants will receive a Zoom link when registering. The event will be held in English. Translation will be available for questions being asked in French.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE
Covid-19 & Health Update
Levels of respiratory viruses in Ottawa largely remain stable. Influenza and RSV activity is similar to the week prior, while COVID-19 activity is increasing.
- 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: 0.5 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: 12.2 percent. High levels and increasing since last week.
- RSV: 3.0 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.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
Zoning By-law Review
Earlier this month the City of Ottawa launched their public consultation process for the development of a new Zoning By-law with the release of seven discussion papers, available on the City’s Engage Ottawa page. These papers address key issues relating to the implementation of the new Official Plan, including:
- climate change, resiliency, public health
- neighbourhood character
- neighbourhood zones
- new approaches to regulating land use
- trees intensification and the urban tree canopy
- equity, diversity and inclusion
- rural zoning issues.
This release marks the first chance for the public to consult on the implementation of the recently approved new Official plan through the development of a new Ottawa Zoning By-law. The City welcomes feedback and input from members of the public and will summarize their responses in an "As We Heard It" report in Summer 2023. Consultations on the discussion papers will inform development of the first draft of the new Zoning By-law. We encourage members of the public to review the discussion papers and share their thoughts and ideas, as their input will play a critical role in shaping the future of our city.
Merivale Transformer Station Modernization Project
This past we heard from several residents in Tanglewood who were surprised to find Hydro Ottawa construction work commencing on Nestow Drive, which is adjacent to the Merivale Transformer Station (TS).
Residents may recall that both Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa are working jointly on this large infrastructure work, known as the Merivale TS Modernization Project. To date we have had excellent communications with Hydro One, but only limited contact with staff from Hydro Ottawa about their elements of the project. In our last newsletter, we relayed information sent from Hydro Ottawa about how their project was set to commence on March 27. And so, we were surprised to hear from residents that construction vehicles were driving up and down Nestow Drive a week earlier than planned, just as we were surprised about the scale of the operation (including as many as seven heavy construction vehicles and requiring the construction of an access road).
We have communicated our concerns both to Hydro One and Hydro Ottawa, as we wish to get greater clarity on the project timeline, information about traffic safety management, and confirmation that the area affected by this new access road will be restored upon project completion.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Nepean Economic Development Roundtable
Last week Councillor Devine was proud to join Councillors Laine Johnson, Wilson Lo, David Hill and David Brown, along with several local business leaders, at a Nepean Economic Development Roundtable hosted by Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod. Councillor Devine spoke to several initiatives for spurring local economic development, including getting the province to help support Ottawa’s booming film, television and animation industries.
Nothing says it’s Springtime like a series of luncheon meetings! Ward 9 residents may be interested in attending the following events. On April 25th the Council on Aging is hosting a Spring 2023 Luncheon with keynote speaker Andre Picard delivering a talk about accessible, inclusive cities. And on April 29th Merivale United Church is hosting a Spring Market & Luncheon which will feature a craft bazaar.
And for those of you looking to celebrate the religious holiday of Easter, here’s some information on upcoming Easter Weekend services in Ward 9. Knox United Church will be hosting their Maundy Thursday service on April 6 at 7:00pm, followed by a Good Friday service on April 7 at 10:00am. And Woodvale Pentecostal Church is hosting a Good Friday service on April 7 at 10:00am, followed by Easter Sunday services on April 9 at 9:00am, 10:30am and 12:00pm.