My first year in office and the promise of noble failures
One year ago, on November 15, 2022, I was inaugurated as Councillor for Ward 9, stepping into the role previously held by Keith Egli since 2010, and before that held by Gord Hunter since 1980. Having now been in the seat for a full year, I often wonder how my predecessors felt about the job by the time they came to the end of their long terms in office. Those who know me are aware that being an elected public servant is something I’d wanted for a long time. And so, many friends and family members have been asking: “Are you enjoying being councillor?”
That’s not an easy question to answer. It depends on what they mean by “enjoy”.
Success in politics is likely to be defined differently by each politician who holds office. When I look back over the past year, I can recall many occasions where I felt like a superhero, and an equal (or even greater) number of occasions where I felt like a failure.
Some of my failures were the result of not acting quickly enough to address a crisis, or not pushing back with tougher questions in response to evasive answers. Sometimes I failed because I haven’t yet learned all that I need to know. Sometimes failure is inevitable when even a 70-hour week is not enough time to do all that needs to be done. And the failures stick with me longer than the successes, because they’re often tied to a person or a community who will suffer because of my inability to succeed.
But some of the failures are at least noble failures. At those times I’m reminded of a quote that’s always inspired me:
“People don’t fail because they aim too high and miss, but rather because they aim too low and hit.”
Last week’s Council debate over Lansdowne 2.0 was a shining example of aiming too low and hitting the mark. Among the many motions that we debated was one from Councillor Rawlson King to allocate 40% of the revenues that came from the sale of the “air rights” to affordable housing. For those unfamiliar with the term, when you sell the “air rights” for a new building you are selling the space needed to build. It’s quite valuable space.
Our city has a policy that whenever we sell “air rights” over publicly owned land, a minimum of 25% of the sale revenue goes towards our budget for affordable housing. It’s an important policy, based on the principle that the sale of public assets should be conditional on providing the greatest public benefit. But when the city presented its final recommendation for Lansdowne, the finances changed considerably from the previous version. Rather than the standard 25% allocation of air rights revenue to affordable housing, the city had lowered the allocation to 10%. This would’ve resulted in about $6 million less dollars going to affordable housing. And why? Because the costs of construction had gone up. But rather than uphold the policy and put the additional cost on taxpayers, the city abandoned its policy, at the expense of our most vulnerable residents.
That really upset me. What upset me even more was that Councillor King’s motion, a motion which sought to aspire beyond our policy, rather than compromise our principles, failed to pass.
During our first week in office last November, my team and I laid out a set of guiding principles to help steer our efforts. One of those is called “the maximin principle”, as devised by American political philosopher John Rawls. The “maximin principle” addresses societal inequities by seeking to advance public policies that offer the maximum benefit to those with the least (i.e. offering the “max” to those with the “minimum”). While I’m sure it’s politically naïve of me to think this way, I wish our city aspired to this principle more than what is too often in evidence.
There are many things that my team and I have done over the past year that I’m proud of. Our bi-weekly newsletters have set a high bar for transparency and the sharing of information. We’ve fought valiantly on issues like Tewin, or the future of waste management. We’ve made tangible differences when it comes to enhancing pedestrian safety. We’ve successfully lobbied to have the future of Merivale Road as the next big topic of consideration for our city’s planners. We’ve worked closely with Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One to address vulnerabilities in our city’s electrical grid. We’ve even got some of my rudest critics to be a bit more civil and open-minded, which is no small feat.
But there’s many times when it feels like our city and our City Council proclaim success when we aim low and hit the mark. However, if we chose to take on as much new debt for housing as we’ve just committed to for Lansdowne, if we promoted the same densification policies being embraced by other forward-thinking municipalities, if we could support a transportation system that was less car-dependent, if we could properly invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, if we could think of augmenting social services as an asset more than a liability, just think of how much public benefit could be reaped from that level of civic investment.
As I start my next 365 days in service to the residents of Knoxdale-Merivale and the great City of Ottawa, I look forward to your support in aiming high and eventually landing where I hope we all want to go.
Last week, after a multi-day, marathon session, Council voted 16-9 in favour of moving forward with the Lansdowne 2.0 proposal. As the Mayor pointed out in his post-meeting press conference, the plan that was passed is better than the plan that was put on the table in 2022. In the last 18 months, Councillors (led by the determined councillor for Ward 17, Shawn Menard) have been pushing for changes to the plan that would bring it more closely in line with the city’s priorities. The approved plan has more density, more money going to affordable housing, and a commitment to improving the sustainability of the site through transportation and public realm enhancements. That’s the good news.
Here’s the bad news: despite the approval, there are still a lot of questions and a lot of concerns around the council table. I was one of the 9 who voted against the proposal. While I have high hopes for Lansdowne and its potential to evolve into a dynamic, attractive, sustainable central event hub for the city, there are still too many questions about its financial viability for my liking. The first version of Lansdowne has struggled to make ends meet. The financial model is heavily reliant on the success of the retail spaces there and I’m not fully convinced that that will continue to be a viable approach in the years to come. There is also an audit of Lansdowne coming from the city’s Auditor General (AG). I would have preferred to wait until we see the results of that audit before proceeding with a $400-million investment of taxpayer dollars. That’s why I co-wrote an op-ed in The Ottawa Citizen, and also why I brought a motion to defer the decision on Lansdowne until after we receive the Auditor General’s report.
This is not the end of the line, though. There are still several key decision points to come. I plan to keep a close eye on this file and, once we have the AG’s report in hand, we have more opportunities to ensure this project does not put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.
Draft Budget: in brief
As if last week wasn’t busy enough with the Lansdowne decision, Council also tabled the 2024 city budget. Over the next month, the various components of the proposed budget will be reviewed by various committees before the whole thing comes back to Council on December 6 for final approval. My team and I will be digging into the details over the next couple of weeks and you can do the same. The budget documents are available on line on the city’s website but I recommend starting with this accessible overview.
Automated Speed Enforcement cameras coming to Ward 9
Ever since taking office, a common concern I’ve heard from residents is the need to address the dangerous speeding on our roads. This is never truer than when I engage with residents in Manordale or in the Glens who are frustrated by the pervasive speeding in front of St. Monica’s School on Merivale, or all along Knoxdale Road. Our speed display data makes it clear that these are some of the most dangerous stretches of road in Ward 9.
I am very pleased to report that, after much lobbying from my office, the 2024 Transportation budget will include two brand new Automate Speed Enforcment cameras at both St. Monica’s School on Merivale and at St. John XXIII School on Knoxdale in spring of 2024. Considering how only 12 new cameras are confirmed for placement across all of Ottawa in 2024, the fact that we got 2 of them in Ward 9 is fantastic news. My thanks go out to our hard-working transportation staff for supporting these recommendations.
Congratulations, Dr. Abray!
On a personal/professional note, I’d like to end this edition of my Councillor’s Message with my heartfelt congratulations to my team member and friend Tim Abray, Doctor of Philosophy. Just yesterday, Dr. Abray successfully defended his thesis at Queen’s Graduate Program of Political Studies, titled “Ghost in the Democratic Machine? Attack ads, voters, and the unconscious mind”. Tim and I met back in 2015 when I was developing my play DAISY, based on the true story of the most infamous negative political television commercial ever made. My entire team shares a passion in using our political platform to elevate our civic discourse. Now I’ve got a doctor on the roster!
My tour of Ward 9 with Mayor Sutcliffe
I finally hosted Mayor Mark Sutcliffe for a tour of Ward 9 Knoxdale-Merivale, where I focused our time together on 4 themes: Traffic Safety, Climate Resilience, Growing Local Businesses & better Urban Planning. We kicked off with the best vegan baking in Ottawa Craig Henry's Keepin’ it Vegan bakery. Not only does Keepin’ it Vegan make mouth-watering croissants (how is there no butter in there?!), but they're quickly becoming a local community hub, and are getting ready to host a small outdoor festival.
We then headed to Tanglewood to meet with the team at Hydro One to showcase their important renovation project, where they're expanding and strengthening a transformer station to help meet Ottawa's growing need for resilient electrical power! Hydro One has been a great community partner on this project, and I'm proud to have negotiated a $200K contribution from Hydro One towards the development of a much-needed new splash pad for Tanglewood in the next 1 - 2 years.
From there, we headed to a local high school to meet with a student who earlier this summer petitioned my office to explore the possibility of getting a new pedestrian crosswalk in front of her school. She was quite thrilled to present her petition to Mayor Sutcliffe.
Next up was a quick stop at 170 Colonnade, the site of the Centurion Conference & Event Centre. This site was just acquired by OC Transpo, and I've proposed this site as an ideal location for the city's new Emergency Shelter Crisis Task Force.
We then took a trip to Merivale Road to discuss my exciting long-term plans for the complete transformation of this street over the next 5 - 15 years. I'm proud to have lobbied successfully for a new Merivale Road Secondary Plan to start in 2024.
It was imperative to discuss the traffic safety concerns at Merivale & Viewmount, where a student was severely injured in a pedestrian collision last month. I pushed my goal of integrating effective safety enhancements through a historical opportunity to re-design this road.
We then headed to Thrive, an amazing social enterprise thrift store run by the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Ottawa, where my friend and predecessor Keith Egli gave us a rundown on all the community benefits coming out of this great local business.
Along Meadowlands Drive we talked social equity issues & how city-funded organizations like NROCRC provide great value for money through programs like their Income Tax Support Service where a $100K investment helps bring in $9M into the local economy.
We then headed to the site of the Lonestar development. My office has been working for months to help bring in much-needed density and growth to this area, but in a way that reflects the local community's concerns.
We ended at the famous Casa Mexico restaurant, to talk with co-owners Sylvia and Marco about their 10-year journey from immigrant entrepreneurs to owners of 3 restaurants. It's a tough business, and they're excited about all the development coming to Merivale!
It was a great two hours with Mayor Sutcliffe, and I'm glad to have focused his attention on some important developments in the ward that I'm proud to serve. Thanks for coming out to Knoxdale-Merivale, Mayor!
OC Transpo Bus Route Review
As many of you know by now, OC transpo has conducted a route review and put forth proposed changes. OC Transpo is saying that these changes are focused on increasing the reliability of their service. Our office has reviewed the route adjustments and implications for our ward residents. We have also listened to a lot of your feedback. A big concern was the removal of route 282, which serves Trend Arlington during peak hours. The Councillor is working closely with OC transpo to help ensure that residents that depend on the 282 will not experience a loss of service. The Councillor was also successful in preventing the 82 from seeing its service level diminished to “weekday peak hours only”, and we’ve confirmed that the 82 will continue to run all week long throughout the day.
One route change which we were happy to see was the extension of the 86. Residents of Country Place and Pineglen will be happy to know that the 86 to Tunney's Pasture will now begin at Antares/Auriga, serving as a direct North/South connection to access the LRT.
These changes have not yet taken effect, and our office will continue to engage with residents on the matter and provide further updates as more information becomes available.
Your city, your ideas
Are you passionate about affordable housing, accessible mobility options, a prosperous economy and living in a city that is green and resilient? We want you to participate and share your ideas on how we can serve you better and save money.
Ottawa City Council has committed to conducting service reviews as part of the annual budget process. This exciting opportunity is aimed at harnessing the incredible collective wisdom of our city’s residents. We understand that residents bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table, and we want to tap into that diverse pool of knowledge.
As of November 15th, the city has launched an online portal where residents can submit their ideas on how to help the city serve you better. For more information, and to submit your own ideas, please visit the city’s Your City, Your Ideas website.
Hydro Ottawa Update
After a prolonged delay due to this year’s labour disruption, Councillor Devine is looking forward to a long-anticipated meeting on November 15th with Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad and other senior staff to discuss the ongoing concern of the power grid reliability in much of Ward 9. This has been a process that the councillor has been pushing hard for over the past several months. The questions and information that Councillor Devine will be seeking is the following:
- What is the frequency and severity of power outages impacting certain sections of Ward 9, and how does this compare to other parts of the city?
- What are the circumstances and causes that lead to these areas’ abnormally high vulnerability?
- What solutions, measures and investments are Hydro Ottawa proposing to address this?
Here’s some additional information that Hydro Ottawa has shared in their own newsletter, which may be of interest to Ward 9 residents:
Back in October, Hydro Ottawa’s online outage map received some exciting upgrades. Here are a few of the new features that customers can now see and use during power outages:
- Address search functionality
- The ability to “bookmark” multiple locations
- The ability to view the map and outage summaries by location, city ward, neighbourhood, or across Hydro Ottawa’s service territory
- The ability to toggle the maps view by road view, satellite view or a hybrid of both
And as of November 1, Hydro Ottawa customers may now take advantage of Hydro Ottawa’s ultra-low overnight rates. Similar to time-of-use rates, with ultra-low overnight, the price depends on when you use electricity. With this pricing, consumers are charged according to the day of the week and time of day they use electricity. This plan could be beneficial to those who consume a major portion of their electricity overnight, or to those who charge an electric vehicle overnight. For more information on the various rate plan options as well as the new rates, visit Hydro Ottawa’s Electricity Rate Selection page.
Planned Power Outage: Manordale
Hydro Ottawa will soon be conducting work in Ward 9 which will result in a planned power outage. On November 17, from 9:00am – 1:00pm, Hydro Ottawa will be replacing electrical equipment that will impact customers located on Fairhill Crescent, Headingly Crescent, Kirkstall Avenue, Newhaven Street and Skipton Road. Hydro Ottawa’s goal with this work is to maintain the electricity system so they can prevent larger and longer unplanned outages from occurring in the future. Please be assured that scheduling of this power outage has been reviewed and will move forward with our customers’ best interest in mind.
Residents may notice increased construction presence throughout the day. Traffic control and lane reductions will be implemented to ensure that roads and sidewalks remain safe for residents and staff. Construction activities will take place on an easement - a legal right of access for Hydro Ottawa to a portion of a residential property for the purpose of installing and maintaining its electrical distribution system.
All affected customers will be contacted by phone, text or email - depending on the communication preferences indicated on their account - and informed by a written notice delivered to their door, if applicable. Our qualified staff and contractors will conduct this work safely and efficiently, ensuring that any inconvenience is minimal.
It has been a while since the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) completed a full evaluation of property assessments in Ontario. But now, MPAC is preparing to release the results of their 2023 Province-wide assessment. For most residents, this process will not lead to any changes. But for some, it will. As a result of this re-assessment, 715,000 Ontario households will receive change-of-assessment notices in the next few weeks. If you receive a notice and have any questions about it or the process, generally, you can visit the Understanding Your Assessment page on the MPAC website for more information.
Woodroffe Watermain Repair
The City of Ottawa received findings from watermain electromagnetic inspections, and a repair is required of the Woodroffe watermain. The repair to the Ottawa South Watermain is going to be completed prior to the Woodroffe watermain construction, as both watermains cannot be offline at the same time. The Ottawa South watermain repair (in Ward 17) is currently underway. It’s now anticipated that late November/early December would be the earliest that the Woodroffe watermain construction will start. However, there remains possibility of delay until early 2024, depending on the Ottawa South watermain repair.
HWY 417 Offramp at Pinecrest
Over the past few weeks we’ve received questions from residents asking for a status update on the west-bound Highway 417 off-ramp at Pinecrest, which has been closed for multiple years as part of ongoing construction of LRT Stage 2.
After speaking with senior staff at OC Transpo, we can report that while the contractor is very motivated to complete the work this year, the schedule is at potential risk if there are significant weather events over the coming weeks that delay the ongoing steel and concrete work. OC Transpo will provide an update at the end of November, but they are currently working towards a late December opening of a single lane off ramp. If the weather turns bad, then the re-opening would be delayed until April 2024.
Provincial legislative changes implemented through Bill 23 have amended the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA). As a result, the City of Ottawa is currently undertaking a review of the approximately 4,600 non-designated properties listed on the City’s municipal heritage register.
The intent of this project is to gather information on the heritage conservation interests and priorities of Ottawa residents. We are interested in hearing from individuals, community associations, historical societies and others about historic places across Ottawa that you think can contribute to telling the Ottawa story. Heritage properties can include resources such as buildings, landscapes, bridges and barns.
The information gathered through this project will support the City’s review of the municipal heritage register and inform the identification and prioritization of heritage designation candidates from the properties currently listed on the City’s heritage register.
Public Meeting: Graham Creek Info Session (Trend Arlington)
As published in the last newsletter, impacted residents who live on the Keppler Crescent, Parkmount Crescent, Canfield Road and Banner Road in Trend Arlington are invited to a public meeting to be held at 6:00pm on November 21st, at the Trend Arlington Community Centre at 50 Bellman Drive. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the Graham Creek Storm Infrastructure Renewal Project, as the City will soon be undertaking some work in this community to clear the Graham Creek shoreline. The meeting will provide more information on this clean-up effort, as well as solicit residents’ permission for city workers and contractors to access properties for the clean-up effort. For more information, please email [email protected] with the subject line GRAHAM CREEK.
Parthia Park Consultation Results
The public consultation period for Parthia Park play structure replacement is now complete. Thank you to everyone who took the time to review the materials and complete the survey.
A strong majority of survey respondents (16 out of 24) indicated their preference for play structure Option B. Another 3 people indicated that both play structure options were acceptable.
Additionally, it was requested that some of the existing play amenities be retained in the park- namely the tunnel, seesaw and monkey bars. Unfortunately, all of the existing play amenities need to be removed in order to meet current City Park accessibility standards. Construction is anticipated in the Summer of 2024.
We also heard some good news from city staff about the Gilbey Park playground replacement. We’ve been told that construction work is going well, the play equipment delivery is planned for next week, and crews are trying to get this project done this year. However, being able to achieve substantial completion this year will still depend on weather conditions.
Volunteer Call: Craig Henry Community Association
The Craig Henry Community Association is looking for new community members to join their organization's Board of Directors. As former leader of his own neighbourhood’s commujnity association, Councillor Devine is hopeful that some new leaders in Craig Henry will eagerly take up this rewarding opportunity to make a real difference in this wonderful community.
The Craig Henry Community Association’s Board of Directors helps to shape the future of this neighbourhood, and they’re looking for fresh faces! Are you passionate about your community? Do you have innovative ideas, skills, or a burning desire to contribute your time and expertise? Here are some of the benefits of being a board member:
- Influence positive change in your neighbourhood
- Connect with fellow community enthusiasts
- Develop leadership skills
- Make lasting friendships
- Have a direct impact on community projects
No experience is required, just your enthusiasm and commitment to making Craig Henry an even better place to live. If you’re interested or have any questions, please reach out to [email protected].
NROCRC Early On
Calling all families with children aged 0 – 6! NROCRC offers free EarlyON playgroups from Monday – Friday. Check out poster details below for dates, times, and locations.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Ward 9 Immunization Clinic
Looking to get your Covid-19 and Flu vaccines? Ottawa Public Health has an upcoming clinic in Ward 9. On November 22nd at St. Rita Catholic School (1 Inverness Avenue) from 3:30pm – 7:00pm.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the annual flu vaccine and the updated XBB 1.5-containing COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are particularly recommended for people at high risk of severe illness from flu and/or COVID-19.
Vaccines will be offered for all ages on a walk-in basis only. No appointment is needed. Please note that masks are required at all OPH vaccination clinics.
Stand by Your Pan
Earlier this month Ottawa Fire responded to a kitchen fire in Ward 9, where the situation could’ve been much worse. The cause of the fire was a pot that was left on the stove unattended. Thankfully there were no occupants found in the home and no injuries were reported. Ottawa firefighters would like to remind residents to stay in the kitchen while cooking as unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires.
Assaulted Women’s Help Line
November is Women Abuse Prevention Month and Family Violence Prevention Month. For over 30 years, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline has served as a free, anonymous and confidential 24-hour telephone and crisis telephone line to all women in the province of Ontario who have experienced any form of abuse. They provide crisis counselling, safety planning, emotional support, information and referrals accessible 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Residents may call the Assaulted Women's Helpline toll-free at 1-866-863-0511 (toll-free). Deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
This past Friday, we learned that the re-zoning application for 780 Baseline will be going to the Planning and Housing Committee at the November 29th meeting. The application was recently updated and you can see those details on the city’s development site. Even though the application is going to committee this month, the conversations around its final form are continuing. Councillor Devine has been actively working with the city, the developer, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to ensure the development provides the greatest benefit to the city while limited the potential harms.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Here are some reminders of some upcoming Christmas craft & bazaar events:
- On November 18th from 9:00am – 2:00pm, Merivale United Church is hosting their Christmas Craft Market & Luncheon. This is also when you can pick up a Christmas wreath, so long as you reserve by November 5th.
- Also on November 18th from 10:00am – 1:00pm, you can head over to the Knox United Church Christmas Bazaar.
- On November 23rd from 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Just Older Youth (JOY) is hosting their Christmas Melodies and Tales event at Arlington Woods Church.
- On December 16th from 9:00am – 1:30pm, take in the Tanglewood Holiday Party & Craft Fair. Children can share their wish lists with Santa and take photos, create holiday crafts, and decorate cookies! If you have a craft that you wish to sell, please contact [email protected]
Tanglewood Hillsdale Community Association’s AGM Luncheon
On November 18th at 11:30am Councillor Devine will join with residents of Tanglewood-Hillsdale for a luncheon and the association’s annual general meeting.
City View United Church Bazaar
Thinking of giving modern square dancing a try? Meri Squares is hosting their Open House event in the new year, and it is free and for everyone, couples or singles. Check out the poster details below for more information.