HELLO FROM YOUR NEW COUNCILLOR
As of the inauguration on November 15th, it is my honour to be serving as your new Ottawa City Councillor for Ward 9. I’m excited to be a new voice on what I believe will be a a collaborative council working together in our city’s best interests.
My family has lived in the ward’s Trend-Arlington area since we moved to Ottawa in 2014, but over the past several months I’ve come to know every neighbourhood of our ward, and it is the privilege of a lifetime to represent our diverse communities.
This is the first edition of the Ward 9 newsletter for the 2022-2026 term of Council. As we are still getting our systems and communications in place, this first edition of the newsletter will be quite simple. We are aiming to enhance the features of this newsletter over the coming weeks and months. During the campaign I got to hear from many residents about how much they appreciated their newsletter from my predecessor Keith Egli, and I want to maintain that high standard!
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank Keith Egli for his three terms of dutiful service to the residents of Ward 9. I’ve got big shoes to fill. Keith and I have been friends for many years, and he has been very supportive and helpful during this transition.
To learn more about your new councillor, you can read my official bio on the City of Ottawa’s website.
THE WARD 9 TEAM
I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my excellent team of Councillor’s Assistants who are already at work setting up our offices and systems so that we can hit the ground running. Tim Abray is currently wrapping up a teaching position at Queen’s University, has several decades of experience as a political communications professional, has been a senior manager in provincial ministry offices, was a former journalist, as well as a former Chair of the Planning Committee on the Centretown community association. Alex Harris was the deputy campaign manager and voter contact organizer for my Ward 9 municipal campaign, was a campaign lead for Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Chandra Pasma’s provincial election campaign and earned bachelor’s degrees in Law and Psychology from Carleton University. Alexandra Seymour has already served as a Councillor’s Assistant at City Hall, was a Digital & Communications Manager on Catherine McKenney’s mayoral campaign, worked as a freelance writer for iPoliticsINTEL, and got her bachelor’s degree in Communications at University of Ottawa.
CONNECTING WITH US
We’re currently working on our Ward 9 website, which is where residents will soon be able to access our archived newsletters, information on local and city-wide issues, as well as obtain information on how to contact us or set up a meeting.
For now, the best way to reach is by email at [email protected] which is the main address that our entire team will be using. You can also call our offices at 613-580-2479. While some residents do send us messages on Facebook and Twitter, it’ll be much more effective to send us an email or to get us on the phone.
Our City Hall office is located at 110 Laurier Avenue West, on the 2nd Floor at Councillor’s Row.
We’re very excited to announce that we’re also going to have a Ward Office, although it’s not technically in the ward. The ward office is to be at Ben Franklin Place, located at 101 Centrepointe Drive, on the ground floor. We’ll be sharing an amazing suite of offices with Ward 8 Councillor Laine Johnson (College Ward). We’ll soon post a schedule of ward office hours for residents.
Residents or interested parties requesting a meeting at either our City Hall office or our ward office should contact us at the email address or phone number listed above.
Finally, we are planning to hold “pop-up office hours” at public spaces across the ward. We are compiling a list of potential facilities for these purposes, and these may include coffee shops, libraries, community centres, etc. Our goal will be to hold two sessions of “pop-up office hours” per month, on a rotating schedule of locations across the ward. If you’ve got a suggestion for a possible facility, please send us an email!
SENDING CONTENT FOR NEWSLETTERS
If you represent a community association, service group, place of worship or any other community organization and would like something posted in our Ward 9 newsletter, please send us the content to Alexandra Seymour at [email protected] If you’re able to send your own graphics, please send them in PNG, JPG or PDF form. While we aim to promote and support local business, we will not be using our newsletter for promotional and commercial purposes.
One of my goals before the end of 2022 is told hold preliminary meetings with various community leaders, including the executives of the ward’s community associations, leaders of our ward’s many places of worship, our community resource center, other elected officials, and other community groups. I want to establish an open channel for dialogue with these community leaders, so that I might best serve the specific interests of each of their communities. Then, in early 2023, our plan is to hold regular discussion groups and town hall meetings with communities across the ward.
BILL 23 & THE OFFICIAL PLAN: MORE HOMES BUT AT WHAT COST?
You may have heard about Bill 23, the province’s new legislation to supercharge the building of new housing across the province. The Bill is intended to streamline the development process and make it easier to get more units built, faster. This legislation, combined with the recent, unilateral changes the province made to the city’s new Official Plan, will significantly alter the future of development in our city. There is no question that more homes are needed in Ottawa—of all shapes and sizes and for all budgets—but the province’s approach causes me great concern, particularly for those already struggling to find decent housing for themselves and their families.
A lot has been written about the Bill, including a couple of great summaries from my fellow Councillors, Glen Gower and Jeff Leiper, as well as a thorough summary in the Ottawa Citizen, which draws on the comprehensive analysis of the Bill carried out by the city’s planning department. I encourage you to have a look at those. Together, they do a great job of highlighting the things we should all know about how this Bill will change our city. But I also want to draw your attention to a couple of other important issues the Bill raises—one general and the other very specific.
Among my many concerns over the implications of Bill 23, one core element is how it will further limit the voices of city councils in the planning and development process and prevent your elected officials from having adequate input into shaping the physical future of our city. While I am all for getting things done, there is a limit to how far we should go in our efforts to speed up the work. And, in my view, Bill 23 crosses that line. By dramatically limiting the ability of city councillors to provide input and direction on planning and development, the province is, in effect, silencing your voice and limiting your ability to influence the future direction of the city we live in. You deserve to be heard and, without effective representation on planning and development at the council level, it will be difficult to ensure that Ottawa grows and thrives in a way that respects and serves your needs, the residents of Ward 9.
The second concern is much more specific. The current housing crunch is most devastating for families with limited incomes and stretched budgets. Many residents are increasingly having a tough time finding and securing affordable homes. On the surface, Bill 23 looks like it could be a part of the solution by speeding up the approval of smaller, more affordable projects. But a look into the finer details shows that the Bill would also free developers from minimum limits on the size of the affordable units they build and prevent the city from setting any limits of its own. That’s a concern. How small is too small? Who will determine that? Will this mean families of four trying to make do in tiny apartments, barely large enough for one person? The drive to build more homes should not come at the cost of the dignity and comfort of residents who are already struggling to make ends meet. Standards are important and your city council should absolutely have a voice in setting and upholding those standards. Bill 23, as it stands, would make that close to impossible.
The Bill is now making its way through the provincial legislature. I will continue to monitor its progress and continue to advocate for the interests of you, the residents of Ward 9.
One of the priorities of my office will be to facilitate authentic and engaging forums for consultation with residents. One area for such consultation is the city’s annual Budget Consultation Process. This is an important consultation where residents help to determine what kind of city we want to be. As the saying goes “Show me your budget and I’ll show you what you value.”
The City of Ottawa has a standard process for annual budget consultation, but this process differs in election years. The process for engaging residents on the 2023 annual budget will be less robust than the process for the 2024 budget.
There is more time and opportunity for robust community consultation on the 2024 budget. Council will receive a Budget Direction Report for the 2024 budget in June or July of 2023. The consultation process will take place throughout the late summer and fall of 2023, including councillor-led public consultations as well as online through Engage Ottawa. The draft budget will then be tabled in early November, followed by committee and board deliberation meetings on their budgets throughout November and December. The 2024 budget will then be adopted by Council in December.
Please stay tuned to an upcoming newsletter for more detailed on the Budget Consultation Process.
HELP FAMSAC – SUPPORT A FAMILY THIS HOLIDAY
FAMSAC is a local food cupboard operating since 1969, and which provides emergency food assistance to several communities in West Ottawa, including the Ward 9 communities of Trend Village, Craig Henry, and Manordale. In my previous capacity as president of the Trend Arlington Community Association I’ve partnered with FAMSAC for several years and have seen the good work that they do in our community.
For every food cupboard serving Ottawa, the holidays are always a time of increased need. But with the rising cost of food and other living expenses, 2022 is likely to be the most challenging year of all for these charitable organizations and the families they serve.
As we do every year, my family donated to FAMSAC to sponsor one local family with the purchase of a food hamper. For your tax-deductible donation of $100, you’ll help brighten the holiday season for one local family struggling with food insecurity. To make a contribution please visit the FAMSAC website.
And if you live in FAMSAC’s catchment area and you or your family needs a little help this holiday season, please call FAMSAC at 613-820-5428 before December 2 and leave a message on their answering machine to register for their Christmas Campaign. One of their volunteers will be in touch with you to confirm the arrangements.
Ottawa’s wastewater testing signal and testing percent positivity for COVID-19 remain moderate and high respectively. Additionally, national trends indicate an extremely active respiratory illness season. Locally, this trend is plainly seen in CHEO’s current unprecedented volume of younger patients, who are arriving sicker.
- The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Ottawa is 13.6 %. (7-day trend based on information extracted from the provincial Case and Contact Management (CCM) solution.)
- Ottawa Public Health is strongly recommending mask use in all indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings to help limit transmission, protect the capacity of pediatric care, and reduce risks for severe illness requiring hospitalization.
- To prevent and protect against exposure to airborne and respiratory viruses, remember to: wash your hands often, cover your cough, avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, stay home when sick, wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, and stay up to date on vaccinations.
Stay Up to Date on Vaccines
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and over. This year with the presence of COVID-19 circulating in the community, it is especially important for high-risk groups to get the flu vaccine to reduce the potential risk of having COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. Getting your annual flu vaccine is an important way to help protect yourself, your family and high-risk groups in your community against seasonal flu.
Everyone six months or older at the time of their appointment is currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To find out if you are eligible for a booster dose, use the provincial Booster Dose Eligibility Tool. It is safe for individuals aged five and older to receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. However, individuals aged six months to under five years who received the Moderna Spikevax or the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should not receive another vaccine including the influenza vaccine on the same day or 14 days before or after. This is a precaution to help to determine if a potential side effect is due to the COVID-19 vaccine or another vaccine.
- Flu vaccines are available at participating pharmacies and health care providers for anyone 6 months of age or older. Vaccine availability may vary by provider.
- To schedule an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at your local community clinic, you can use the online provincial booking system or call the Provincial booking system at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007.) The vaccine is also available at neighbourhood health and wellness hubs, mobile pop-up clinics, and participating pharmacies.
MERIVALE TRANSFORMER STATION MODERNIZATION
Over the past few weeks our office has been approached by several residents in the Tanglewood area expressing concern over a project to renovate and expand a Hydro One facility known as the Merivale Transformer Station. Since that time, we have held multiple discussions with Hydro One, spoken to several residents, and attended an Open House community meeting hosted by Hydro One. As this is a major project that will impact residents in Ward 9 and the entire city, we wish to provide some preliminary information in this newsletter.
Why is the upgrade needed, and why the Merivale station?
As Ottawa’s population is projected to grow significantly over the next few decades, so is the need to supply power to that growing population. And recent infrastructure failures from several powerful windstorms have exposed a need to make our electrical infrastructure more resilient.
The Merivale Transformer Station currently connects 20 stations throughout the City of Ottawa and is responsible for servicing 60% of our city’s power needs. The planned Merivale Transformer Station Modernization includes the addition of two new transformers, the refurbishing of an existing transformer, and upgrades to other station equipment, to ensure that the station can meet our city’s future power output and resiliency needs.
This is a multi-year project currently in the consultation and assessment phase, which will continue through to early 2023. Construction is slated to begin in Spring 2023, with new equipment to be in service in 2026, and construction completed in 2028.
Soon after the election, Hydro One and Councillor Devine held their first meeting, at which point the councillor had already heard the concerns of several residents. Councillor Devine and Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris then participated in a well-attended community open house on November 15th hosted by Hydro One, where residents were presented information on the project and were able to speak with Hydro One staff about concerns. Councillor Devine is also in the process of facilitating a working group of Tanglewood residents, including a site visit with local residents to hear their perspectives on the anticipated local impacts.
What we’ve heard so far
One concern that has been raised frequently is the new access road which will eventually provide vehicle access to the station via Nestow Drive. There had been the initial perception from members of the community that this new road is to be a main access road to the facility, as well as to be used throughout the lengthy construction period. We have been informed by Hydro One that this access road (which can be seen in the proposed layout) is to be used as an emergency access road only once the project is completed. This kind of access road would be used to implement facility repairs after severe windstorms, as happened after the May derecho. Hydro One has assured our office that no workers or trucks will be using the access road as a primary entry point to the station. Our office will continue to reinforce this as one of the community’s primary concerns.
There will be a multi-year interruption of use of a bike path that passes through the area where Hydro One’s construction vehicles will be using. Hydro One and the City of Ottawa will be partnering to divert pathway users to an adjacent bike path, and our office will ensure that the community is made aware of the changes.
Another point of community concern is the loss of trees and footpaths that will result from Hydro One expanding the station over areas currently in use by residents. Hydro One will ensure re-planting opportunities following construction. They will also invest in a community beautification plan to provide tangible benefits to reflect the interests and needs of the community.
Our goal is to ensure that this project serves the needs of our community and growing city, while also respecting the concerns and requirements of the residents most closely impacted by the project. We will continue to dialogue openly and in good faith with all stakeholders. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Councillor Devine’s office if you have any questions or concerns.
As many residents in Fisher Heights and the surrounding communities are aware, there is significant concern over the proposed development at 780 Baseline. As of November 22nd, there have been updates to the application, now proposing to make the three towers even taller than in the original plans. Understandably, this change has increased the concern of residents. I want to assure residents that my staff and I are paying close attention to this application and will soon be holding meetings with all stakeholders involved so that we can provide the current and future residents of Fisher Heights with the advocacy they deserve. We’ll aim to provide a more fulsome update on this application in an upcoming newsletter.
VACANT UNIT TAX
On May 11, 2022, City Council approved the Vacant Unit Tax (VUT). This tax is intended to encourage homeowners to maintain, occupy or rent their properties to increase the housing supply. Revenues collected from the VUT would help fund affordable housing initiatives, in accordance with the City’s Ten-Year Affordable Housing and Homeless Plan, which commits capital funding for the construction of up to 500 new units annually.
Although the intended use of the tax revenue has merit, residents have expressed concern over how the tax is assigned. In order to not be charged the tax, homeowners are required to declare the occupancy of their properties annually.
An important Vacant Unit Tax letter will be sent to homeowners over the next week. In the new year, owners will need to submit the occupancy status declaration for each property owned. The letter that homeowners receive next week will explain the process. To learn more about the VUT and the annual declaration, please click here.