My Tenacious Predecessor
On April 28th the Ottawa Citizen published a powerful and extremely personal op-ed by my predecessor Keith Egli. If you haven’t read it, please do. In it, Keith courageously reveals his history of being sexually abused as a youth, and the chronic pain he experienced as a result of keeping his trauma a secret. The article tells the story of the tattoo that Keith got recently to remind him of the tenacity that his wife Kristen says is part of what helped him get through this most challenging experience.
I’ve spoken with Keith a couple of times since this news broke. He told me that soon after his op-ed was published many people contacted him to share their own experiences of abuse, and telling Keith how his courage helped them deal with their own trauma.
As I told Keith shortly after reading his story, he continues to provide a great public service even after he left elected office. Thanks, Keith, for your bravery and vulnerability.
Ottawa gets unfair funding allocation from the province
On April 26th, Ottawa City Council debated our official response to the unfortunate news that we had received from the Province of Ontario.
The 2023 Ontario budget had committed an additional $202 million each year in new funding for supportive housing and homelessness programs across the province, with the majority of these funds being directed to the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP).
While we applaud the province for having made such a significant investment in the HPP fund, City Council was shocked to learn that Ottawa’s allocation of these funds for Ottawa was only $845,100. This is a staggeringly low amount. For comparison the City of Toronto is receiving $48 million, 60 times more than Ottawa’s allocation.
This decision by the province will leave Ottawa with a massive funding gap that would lead to the cancellation of much-needed supportive housing units and programs.
This is not the first time that the province of Ontario has acted in an arbitrary manner when it comes to its relationship with municipalities in general, and Ottawa in specific. Not only was Ottawa left without any additional provincial funding to cover our projected transit budget deficit, but Ottawa is still waiting on Ontario to fulfill its promise to make us whole in the wake of budgetary gaps resulting from Bill 23 and 109. While we wait, our city’s financial health is in jeopardy, just as our city’s most vulnerable residents are imperiled by the reckless decisions of the province.
Ever since we received this news, several councillors, including myself, have been meeting with each other and the mayor to devise a cohesive and effective response to the Ford government. For now, the mayor has taken a diplomatic approach, issuing a letter to Premier Ford appealing to his sense of fairness, and having multiple conversations with various members of the Ford government to see if the premier can revisit this matter.
While I support Mayor Sutcliffe’s approach, I have also communicated the need to have an effective “Plan B”, should the current strategy not work out as expected. To that effect, I’ve been working with my team and a small group of councillors to prepare a more forceful approach to reckless treatment of our city by the province.
The City’s Waste Diversion Recommendations
By now many residents will have heard about the City of Ottawa’s partial pay-as-you-throw program for garbage collection. Information about this proposed program was released last week at a technical briefing for councillors and media.
Let’s get one thing straight to clear up any misconceptions. Household residents are not being charged additional fees for all their curbside waste.
This program is intended to address how Ottawa performs very poorly when it comes to diverting our solid waste which has led to an acceleration of how quickly our city’s landfill is reaching its maximum capacity.
The proposed policy is part of the much larger Solid Waste Master Plan that staff will bring to Council this fall. The partial pay-as-you-throw program is meant to address issues with curbside waste management, which is the waste collected from individual households.
After extensive study, city staff found that 82% of the city’s solid waste comes from curbside collection, and that 58% of what goes into curbside trashcans could be diverted into blue or black bins for recycling, or into green bins for organics collection.
The Ontario government has said that it aims to ban all food and organics from landfills by the end of the decade, and that municipalities collect 70% of food and organic waste in curbside green bins by the end of this year.
As a city, we are falling far short of our targets, and so changing residential waste behavior is a big challenge.
According to the city’s current policy, residents are allowed to throw out 6 garbage items every 2 weeks. This number is far too high, and this policy should’ve been changed a long time ago. Based on the city’s analysis, almost two thirds of households are throwing out less than 2 garbage items every 2 weeks.
Should Council approve the proposed recommendations, households receiving curbside garbage collection could set out 55 garbage items each year at no additional cost, beginning in Spring 2024.
- All garbage items placed at the curb would need a tag to be picked up.
- A garbage item could be a garbage bag, container or bulky item. Households can put several smaller bags in containers up to 140 litres with no need to purchase additional bags or tags.
- Households would be given 55 tags per year as a part of their Solid Waste User Fee, included on their tax bill.
- This allocation of 55 tags per year would allow households to dispose of an average of 2.1 garbage items per two-week cycle, at no additional cost. If households run out of tags before the end of the year, they would have the option of purchasing extra tags for $3 each.
- There would continue to be no limit to how much residents can set out through curbside recycling and green bins.
While I am generally supportive of the proposed policy’s objectives, I have concerns about the “one size fits all” approach of 55 tags for each household. Whereas a small household should have no problems keeping to 55 tags per year, larger households could be adversely impacted by this policy, even if they are already properly diverting their recycling and organic materials. And while it’s certainly possible for small households to share their excess tags with the neighbours, the city should be very proactive in communicating this as part of the program’s education campaign.
I am also concerned about our city’s long-term waste management plans. We have learned that this new bag tag policy will only extend our city’s landfill capacity by an additional two years. While it’s important that we do that, and while it’s vital that we start changing behaviors immediately, this is a band-aid solution to a much larger problem.
As part of my work on the Environment & Climate Change policy, I will be spending the next several months learning about the various options before us for a long-term waste management strategy, including exploring new innovative technologies in waste incineration.
I know that this is a controversial proposal, and my email inbox is filled with residents expressing their concerns. Please continue to communicate with my office about this and know that my staff and I are absolutely committed to advancing a policy that is in the best long-term interests of Ottawa’s residents.
Tree Debris Chipping
Our office has received a lot of emails and phone calls from residents asking for an update about when the city will collect the remaining tree debris from the ice storm. We very much appreciate just how patient residents have been and recognize that this has become a frustrating situation.
Councillor Devine has spoken to our Public Works department several times on this issue, and they have admitted that it has taken them longer to deal with this debris than they had originally thought. Part this is due to the large amount of tree debris across the city, and part of it is since many of our Public Works crews and vehicles have bene diverted to assist with other pressing emergencies like the flooding situation on the Ottawa River.
Many wards across the city, especially wards that were hit harder by the ice storm, have already had tree debris cleared. I am told that Ward 9 / Knoxdale-Merivale is in the next batch of wards to get cleared. Until then, residents are asked to keep their debris in neat bundles on their lawns. Here is the info we received from the city this week:
Here’s the work that’s been done where city crews are currently deployed:
- Alta Visa – 100% complete
- Bay – 95% complete
- Stittsville – 91% complete
- Rideau-Vanier – 60% complete
- College – 60% complete
- Rideau-Rockcliffe – 47% complete
- Capital – 35% complete
- River – 32% complete
- Kanata South – 25% complete
- Riverside South-Findlay Creek – 24%
- Kitchissippi – 16% complete
- West Carleton-March – 18% complete
- Kanata North – 13% complete
- Osgoode – 8%
- Rideau Jock – 7%
- Barrhaven West – 5% complete
- Somerset – no data yet
- Beacon Hill-Cyrville – no data yet
Here are the wards that are still to come
- Orléans West-Innes
- Orléans East-Cumberland
- Orléans South-Navan
- Barrhaven East
Vacant Unit Tax Update
As most property owners in Ottawa will already be aware, we are in the first year of implementation for the new Vacant Unit Tax.
As of April 28th, the City of Ottawa had received 320,074 completed declarations, representing 99 percent of residential properties required to submit a declaration. The late declaration period closed on April 30. Late fees are being waived this year.
If a declaration was not received by April 30, the property will be deemed vacant, and the Vacant Unit Tax will be charged on the final Property Tax bill due in June. A two-stage appeal process is available to property owners who wish to have their VUT charge reviewed.
The program is designed to ensure that Ottawa is making the best possible use of its existing housing stock to help deal with the housing crunch we are facing. If you have questions about why the tax was applied to your property or believe it was applied in error, you can appeal the decision. To learn more about the VUT and the appeals process, visit the city’s VUT web page or call 613-580-2444 to make an appointment to speak to someone in the revenue department.
Graham Creek Water Levels
Residents who live along Graham Creek in the Trend-Arlington neighborhood have noticed a surprising rise in the creek’s water level of the last few weeks, which has caused significant erosion to the shoreline, and has left a large pile of tree debris at the culvert intake behind Banner Road. Councillor Devine has spoken with many affected residents who live along the creek and has also brought senior city staff to view the site, as we work towards a plan to address the current debris blockage while also putting into place annual creek bed maintenance programs to prevent future recurrences of this problem.
The two photos below show the backyard of one house along the creek, with the first photo taken early one morning last week, and the second photo taken only three hours later. Based on conversations with residents and city staff, it’s clear that there are many reasons for this year’s unusually high water levels:
- A higher-than-normal snow accumulation led to greater levels of water runoff
- Last month’s ice storm led to a lot of tree debris falling into the creek
- Lack of proper and regular maintenance by all parties responsible
And when it comes to lack of maintenance, this involves several stakeholders. The Rideau Valley Conservation Agency (RVCA) has an agreement to maintain the creek bed. The City’s responsibility is to maintain the culvert and the area in front of the intake grate. And it’s the responsibility of residents whose properties run along Graham Creek to maintain their properties right up to the point where the RVCA’s responsibility takes over.
Over the coming weeks and months, my office will be working with city staff, with the RVCA, with residents and with the Trend Arlington Community Association to come up with a plan for solving the immediate issue of clearing the debris that’s already accumulated. Along with that immediate work there will need to be an education campaign to arrive at a common understanding among all parties responsible for Graham Creek for who is responsible for long-term maintenance. Otherwise, we’ll be right back where we started.
Rain Ready Funding Opportunities
Last Wednesday night, Councillors Devine and Johnson (Ward 8 – College) co-hosted an info night on the various city programs that are in place to help you manage stormwater on your property. The residents who attended were given an overview of how Ottawa manages its rain and stormwater as well as a quick tour of some of the resources that are available to help residents tackle the challenge on their own properties.
Of particular interest, are a series of rebate programs that help residents to defray the costs of various water management strategies. Individual homeowners can quality for up to $5000 in rebates for things like installing a rain barrel to collect gutter run-off or planting a rain garden.
If you want to learn more about how you can be Rain Ready or want to get in touch with the Rain Ready team, visit the program website at ottawa.ca/rain. There is also a series of online courses you can watch to help bring you up to speed on the various rain water management strategies. You can sign up for those courses here: Rain Ready Ottawa's eLearning Program.
OC Transpo Bus Route Survey
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been significant changes to how customers use transit. Considering this, and the upcoming opening of Stage 2 O-Train extensions, there is a need to review the service planning principles that are used to shape OC Transpo’s bus route network to better match customer travel patterns.
These principles include things like how far you walk to get to a bus stop, how frequently the bus runs, and the maximum number of people on the bus. Once this route review is complete, OC Transpo will have an updated service planning framework. This will help guide potential changes to the bus route network in 2024, and beyond, that may be considered in light of changing travel patterns and the O-Train expansion.
Your feedback is important throughout this project. You can get involved today by completing a short survey about how you use the transit system and what you think the future of our transit system should look like. You can also provide additional comments and feedback directly by emailing [email protected].
OC Transpo Helps
Starting last week, “OC_TranspoHelps” and “OC_TranspoAide” replaced the “OCTranspoLive” and “OCTranspoDirect accounts. These new customer service-focused Twitter accounts are managed by customer service representatives who are empowered to quickly respond to customer inquiries and provide support.
Detours, major disruptions, and other important service alerts will continue to be shared on these accounts. This complements OC Transpo’s organizational account, “OC_Transpo”, which provides system-wide updates and general information for customers, such as links to the Next Stop Blog posts.
Customers can continue to find specific bus trip information, like bus departure times, by:
- Visiting octranspo.com and using the next departures widget on the homepage
- Signing up for MyAlerts
- By texting 560560
- Using the Travel Planner.
City of Ottawa Budget Survey
Do you get involved in the City’s budget process? If not, why? Is there a better way to help you understand the budget? Are we offering appropriate opportunities to get involved? We want to hear from you!
Residents can now provide feedback on the City’s annual budget process by completing a short survey that will be used to help inform how the City engages residents. The survey is open until Wednesday, May 24 and won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. Visit Engage Ottawa for more information.
It’s important that the budget process is transparent and engaging for residents. Feedback from the survey will help inform our process and how we share important budget information. Results from the survey and the accompanying changes will be shared during the budget tabling in fall 2023. Thank you in advance for your participation!
Meadowlands Re-Paving Noise Exemption
A note to residents that the City has provided a noise exemption to contractors so that work may begin on Meadowlands drive between Fisher and Prince of Wales. You can expect construction noise (i.e., paving equipment, triaxles, milling equipment, backhoes etc.) to begin May 14th to June 16th from 10pm until 7am (Sunday nights to Friday morning, not every day) Meadowlands Drive between Fisher and Prince of Wales. This noise exemption allows the work to be done in a smaller allotted time frame than otherwise would be required.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT UPDATE
Community Engagement Series
We continue to draw a diverse array of residents into our various discussion and meeting events. Sometimes the conversation is very random, and sometimes it is very focused. But the vibe of these events is always fun, honest, and welcoming. Here are some of our upcoming Community Engagement Series events:
- On May 11 we’re hosting a Thursday Night Think Tank (Sneak peek: the subject will be on how to mobilize a civic-minded “volunteer army”)
- On May 21 we’re hosting a Sunday Soiree
- On May 23 we’re hosting our next Ward 9 Office Hours
The Councillor in the Community
Councillor Devine continues to try to attend as many community events and meetings as possible, and we expect to see the Councillor out and about much more often as the weather gets nicer. This past Saturday was a particularly busy weekend day, as the Councillor attended five separate events. He ended up calling it Big Community Day and made a series of videos that you may appreciate. The day started off with the Manordale Cleaning the Capital event, which was followed by the Knox United Rummage Sale. Following that, it was off the the 60th anniversary of the ORAPEX National Stamp Exhibition, and then off to the Craig Henry Cleaning the Capital event. The day ended with a trip out to Constance Bay where the Councillor joined dozens of volunteers to help fill sandbags for the ongoing flood relief efforts.
Volunteer Ottawa Awards Nominations
The VOscars Volunteer Awards is the highlight of the year for the city’s volunteers and nonprofits. The event celebrates Ottawa’s vibrant volunteer spirit and gives special recognition to those individuals, organizations, and businesses who have made a difference in the community.
Nominations for the VO Oscars are now open! Do you know someone who deserves special recognition for their gifts of time and talent? Submit nominations for the 2023 VOscars Volunteer Awards from now until June 12.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE
Covid-19 & Health Update
The World Health Organization ended the global emergency status for COVID-19 last Friday more than three years after its original declaration. The WHO said that countries should now aim to manage the virus that killed more than 6.9 million people worldwide.
Levels of respiratory viruses in Ottawa largely remain stable. Influenza, COVID-19, and RSV activity are similar to the week prior.
- Influenza: Data unavailable. Levels for the week prior were low.
- COVID-19: low levels and decreasing since week
- RSV: Data unavailable. Levels for the week prior were low.
- Influenza: 1.5 percent. Low levels and similar to last week.
- COVID-19: 8.9 percent. Low levels and decreasing since last week.
- RSV: 0.6 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.
Hydro Ottawa Information Workshops
On May 24th Councillor Devine will be facilitating a workshop for Ward 9 residents being presented by Hydro Ottawa on the subject of emergency preparedness and how it pertains to our electrical grid. We know that this is a very critical and sensitive issue for Ward 9 residents, especially those in some of our ward’s areas which appear to be far more prone to extensive power outages. We are still waiting for further details about the May 24th workshop, as well as other workshops that we are looking to host in Ward 9. These workshops are in addition to the informational meetings that Councillor Devine will be holding with senior leadership at Hydro Ottawa, along with Councillors Laine Johnson and Riley Brockington.
Temporary Traffic Calming Proposals
Spring is here, and that means over the next little while you will notice seasonal traffic calming measures being implemented throughout the ward. Some of these temporary traffic calming measures will be items re-instated from previous years, while other areas may see new measures implemented. Our office worked diligently to gather information regarding some of the most problematic areas in Ward 9, and through discussions with community associations and residents we have submitted a list to the department which we hope delivers safer traffic conditions on our residential streets.
The applicant for a new residential development at 1509 Merivale Road has now resubmitted a revised site plan application. The nine-story residential building will sit on the property now occupied by a multi-unit strip mall, just north of Capilano Drive. Residents interested in this development can review the plans on the city’s development applications portal. If you have planning-related comments on this development that you want the city’s planning department to consider, there is a link on the application page that will allow you to do so.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Parkwood Church Lunch & Learn
Parkwood Presbyterian Church is holding their next “Lunch and Learn” this coming Monday, May 15. Lunch is served at noon with the workshop commencing at 1:00pm. This month’s workshop topic is advanced care planning. People of all ages are welcome to register in advance by calling 613-225-6648 ext. 114 or by emailing [email protected].
Both the meal and workshop are free, but participants are welcome to make small donations to help cover costs and may bring food contributions if they would like to.
St. Mark’s Anglican Church: Coffee, Company & Conversation
Coffee, Company & Conversation (CCC) is an outreach initiative that began at St. Mark’s as a seniors’ activity to provide a welcoming gathering place for social and informative activities, along with coffee and goodies. It takes place every Thursday morning, except for holidays, starting in September and breaking for summer at the end of June. It is a non-denominational gathering of neighbours near and far to enjoy the company of others and/or guest speakers, and we occasionally are fortunate to have various performances by local talent.
Fisher Heights Park Cleanup
The Fisher Heights & Area Community Association is looking for volunteers to join them on May 13th (rain date, May 14th) for a fun-filled day of community spirit at their spring neighbourhood parks clean up! It's a great opportunity to meet your neighbours, enjoy the fresh air, and make a tangible difference in your community. It's also a great way for those high school students to get their volunteer hours! Interested participants can sign up online.
Nepean Horticultural Society Spring Events
This week we invite you to take in the spring events that the Nepean Horticultural Society has to offer. On Saturday, May 13 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm stop by 6 Epworth Avenue to see their Spring Flower Show. On Thursday, May 18 at 6:30pm at the same address you can find their Plant Auction and Sale where you are sure to find a good deal.
Let's Talk About Money Workshops
The Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres along with the Credit Counselling Society are offering a series of FREE Financial Literacy workshops aimed at helping residents better understand their own financial situation. Registration is required. Please follow the instructions listed on the poster.
Safe Wings Ottawa: Help protect migratory birds from window collisions
Spring migration has begun and thousands of birds who fly through or choose Ottawa as their summer home are arriving daily until late June. Safe Wings Ottawa, a nonprofit volunteer-based organization working to prevent fatal collisions with glass, estimates that over 250,000 birds in Ottawa alone collide with windows every year, including Species At Risk. Birds don’t perceive glass; what they see are reflections of trees or sky and they will fly towards them at full speed. The first four stories of buildings tend to have the most collisions, and they can occur at any type of building, including residences and cottages, or with clear deck railings.
World Migratory Bird Day 2023 (WMBD) is taking place on Saturday, May 13 and Safe Wings Ottawa is launching a Residential Bird Collision Solutions Spring Campaign to share information about various small-scale solutions, which residents are invited to read about on its website. One collision solution proven to work by scientific studies and local users is Feather Friendly window markers installed on the outside surface. From May 13 to 28, residents can take advantage of a 15% discount on Feather Friendly products from Wild Birds Unlimited by purchasing online or in store at their Ottawa and Kanata locations.
Should you find an injured or dead bird, please call Safe Wings Ottawa at 613-216-8999.
BBBSO Pickleball Open
On June 16th support the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Ottawa in their Pickleball Open! All proceeds from the tournament will go towards supporting the important mentoring programs and services provided by the BBBSO. By participating in the tournament, you’re helping to create positive change in the lives of children and youth in our community!
Knox United Church and Community Garden Compost Sale
Give your garden that deserved spring energy... Get your compost on sale at Knox’s Community Garden! Compost will be on sale Saturday 13th, and 20th from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Bags of compost can be bought for $5.00 in the parking lot at 25 Gibbard Avenue.
High Tea & Tunes at Just Older Youth
The JOY (Just Older Youth) Committee at Arlington Woods Free Methodist Church invites you to join them for a Victorian Tea on May 18th at 1:00pm, at 225 McClellan Road.