10 Ways the City of Ottawa Budget Needs to Change
In the coming weeks, city committees and city council will approve a budget for 2021.
We need to shift our thinking on the budget from tax cuts vs. spending cuts. Instead, we need to think about re-allocating spending so it is more efficient and more effective.
Recently, I wrote an op-ed for the Citizen talking about how the city needs to re-align budget priorities.
There are a number measures we could take to quickly improve city finances—ways we could shift spending to better help residents and create long-term savings for the city.
The 2021 budget will be voted on at city council on Wednesday, December 9 at 9:30 am. Residents can make their voice heard at the various committee meetings when portions of the budget will be debated:
- Planning Committee
Thursday, November 26, 9:30 am
- Information Technology Sub-Committee
Monday, November 30, 9:30 am
- Ottawa Board of Health
Monday, November 30, 5:00 pm
- Finance and Economic Development Committee
Tuesday, December 1, 9:30 am
- Ottawa Public Library Board
Tuesday, December 1, 5:00 pm
- Transportation Committee
Wednesday, December 2, 9:30 am
- Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee
Thursday, December 3, 10:00 am
- Built Heritage Sub-Committee
Tuesday, December 8, 9:30 am
All meetings are held over Zoom and can be watched on YouTube.
For more information on committee meetings and how to speak at them, please visit the city’s website.
As most of you know, the city has proposed a bailout package for the private sector partner at Lansdowne Park. This proposal would extend the deal for an extra ten years to 2054; and would give up future rental income and net retail profits for the city until 2066.
Under the Lansdowne agreement, the original waterfall was expected to deliver further gains for the city and OSEG. Under the proposal in front of Council, here is what it looks like:
Investments in Lansdowne
Estimated New Contributions
Estimated return at end of 30-year agreement to 2044
Estimated return at the end of the 10-year extension (40 Years)
City of Ottawa
*OSEG’s contributions have mostly come from annual operational losses, which are returned to the waterfall as equity which earns interest.
While some short term offer of assistance to get through the pandemic might make sense, the deep, long-term changes being proposed are a question mark for the city. There is no vision behind it right now. And there is no business case supporting it.
We received a report from the Auditor General on Tuesday regarding the Lansdowne Waterfall. It is very concerning and does not bode well for sweetening the deal. You can read the report here.
Our office has also put together a financial assessment of the proposed deal, you can read it here. Lansdowne is a valuable public asset and should be treated as such.
The proposal was supposed to be considered at this week’s council meeting, but the Mayor has indicated he now wishes to move the report to the December 9th Council meeting. This is the same day the budget will be considered.
Bank Street Canal Bridge
What a difference the large pylons on the Bank Street Bridge made this past summer, spring and fall. We were so happy to implement this cost-effective change.
Unfortunately, the large pylons used to create additional space for pedestrians and bicyclists were removed this weekend. We were able to have city staff refrain from removing them on November 2, but they had to be removed ahead of the snowstorm that was forecast for Sunday.
We had discussed other possibilities with staff to replace this space but couldn’t find an affordable solution that would work.
The bridge will be permanently re-configured in the spring of 2021 and further designs should be released soon for discussion.
Sunnyside Library Re-Opening
In a bit of COVID-related good news, our office worked with library staff and the Sunnyside Library has now re-opened, offering contactless returns and holds pickup.
We know how much the branch means to residents, and we’re happy to see it is scheduled to fully open with regular use in January of 2021
Due to COVID-19, the hockey rink in the Mutchmor playground will not be implemented this year. The school requires the space to ensure proper social distancing during recess with designated play areas.
While understandable, this is unfortunate news as we worked very hard with the community and the school to see it re-open last year. From our discussions with the school, the rink is scheduled to return next year.
Activities run by the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group will continue at the rink at Glebe Memorial Park. Check their website for details.
Winter Aquatics Registration
Get ready to make a splash in the New Year by joining one of the City’s COVID-modified winter aquatics programs with select offerings at hub locations to learn swimming and lifesaving skills or get fit. The aquatics eGuide goes online Monday, November 16 and registration starts on Tuesday, December 1 at 9 pm.
The City’s winter aquatics programs provide select offerings of COVID-modified water activities for you and your family – including swimming lessons, one-on-one private swimming lessons, lifesaving and leadership certifications and pre-competitive power swimming. Swimming programs start the week of January 4, 2021 for most locations.
All City aquatics programs and facilities have implemented COVID wise safety-protocols for a safe and fun environment to keep you and your family active. This includes no hands-on instruction, parental accompaniment for younger swimmers, mask requirements outside of the pool, and low-ratio programs that support physical-distancing measures. Visit ottawa.ca/recreation for more details on City safety protocols.
Supporting Small Business
Overflow Brewery is a great business in our ward. Located at 2477 Kaladar Avenue, Overflow was launched in 2018, and offers enjoyable craft beers, good food and—when there’s not a pandemic—great live entertainment.
Despite COVID-19, you can still order Overflow beer, as well as fully cooked BBQ meals packaged and ready to re-heat at home.
You can check them out at their website, overflowbeer.com.
Winter City Grant Program for Businesses
The city is pleased to announce the 2021 Winter City Grant Program funding opportunity.
The 2021 Winter City Grant Program provides up to seventy-five percent (75%) in funding contributions to a maximum of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) to Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), incorporated/registered Business Associations, and membership-based business organizations for small capital projects that enhance the public realm and support main street vibrancy and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual businesses and informal business groups are not eligible for the program as the City is prohibited under the Ontario Municipal Act from funding private businesses. In addition, projects on private property cannot be considered.
Ottawa’s main streets and small businesses continue to face significant hardship as a result of the pandemic. This program will support small public realm improvements to enhance the resident and visitor experience and/or support improved public mobility/business access along the city’s main streets.
Examples of eligible public realm capital projects include improvements such as:
- Gateway signage
- Banner hardware
- Feature lighting
- Permanent art installations (not murals for Business Improvement Areas)
- Additional City infrastructure (i.e. street furniture), etc.
Applications for the City of Ottawa 2021 Winter City Grant Program will not be accepted after Friday, December 4, 2020 at 5 p.m. All projects must be completed on or before April 30, 2021.
For more information, please contact [email protected].
Shutdown Relief from Property Taxes and Utilities
The Province reconfirmed $300 million assistance to businesses affected by the 28-day lockdown restrictions in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region. The relief measures focus on property taxes and utilities including gas and electricity. Online portal applications open November 16, 2020 and businesses can find information on the Province of Ontario website here.
COVID-19: Seeking Community Feedback
Ottawa Public Health, in collaboration with the City of Ottawa, are continuing to explore how best to support residents and businesses as provincial and local COVID-19 restrictions are modified, while aligning with the Province of Ontario’s Response Framework to Help Keep the Province Safe and Open.
- NEW survey for members of our community
Phase 4 of our engagement strategy launches today and includes a new survey and forum questions available on Engage Ottawa in English or Participons Ottawa in French: https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19. Please promote this widely to members of our community.
- What We Heard reports
At the beginning of May, we launched a public engagement strategy to gather feedback from the public on their experiences during the pandemic. Since then, we have completed three separate public surveys. The full reports are available here:
Phase 1 https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19/news_feed/what-we-heard-phase-1
Phase 2 https://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19/news_feed/what-we-heard-phase-2
Phase 3 http://engage.ottawa.ca/covid19/news_feed/what-we-heard-phase-3
This feedback is incredibly valuable to us and will help us meet the needs and expectations of our community. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Inclusive Community Grants
The Province has announced the new Inclusive Community Grants program, which provides $2 million (up to $60,000 per recipient) to municipalities and organizations for projects that increase accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Municipalities and local organizations can use the funding towards projects such as:
- Undertaking local needs assessments to determine gaps in existing supports for seniors and people with disabilities;
- Developing action plans and implementing virtual programs;
- Retrofitting buildings with ramps and accessible washrooms; and
- Installing self-serve kiosks with software that people with vision or hearing loss can use.
The deadline to apply is December 21, 2020.
Hydro Pole Replacement on Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues
Hydro Ottawa is undertaking to replace aging hydro poles on Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Bronson Avenue and Chrysler Street. The project start date is November 9, 2020 with an estimated completion date of December 18, 2020.
This project will include closing Fourth Avenue from Percy to Chrysler on Tuesday, December 1, from 7:00am - 7:00pm. The street needs to be closed in order to set up a crane.
Pole replacement involves excavating and replacing existing poles located on your street and/or in your backyard. Tree trimming will also be required. This work is necessary to ensure reliability of the electricity distribution system in the area.
Excavated areas will be restored in accordance with Hydro Ottawa’s obligation under the Conditions of Service and the applicable grant easement.
Residents may notice increased construction presence throughout the duration of the project, including excavation activities and construction vehicles. Sidewalk and bicycle closures will be required during certain construction phases of the project.
Traffic control and lane reductions will be implemented when required to ensure that roads and sidewalks remain safe and accessible to staff. In order to minimize noise concerns, the majority of the work is completed weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Customers impacted by power interruptions related to this project will be contacted by Hydro Ottawa at least 72 hours prior to the power interruption taking place, by phone, text, email.
Belmont Avenue Construction Update
Underground infrastructure works on and nearby Belmont Avenue should be temporarily completed by next week. More work is scheduled to resume in this area in 2021.
Snow Clearing Survey
The city is currently reviewing its Winter Maintenance Quality Standards (WMQS). These standards determine when snow clearing begins on city streets during and after a snow storm.
Between now and early 2021, the WMQS Project Team will be reviewing and developing new options for winter maintenance and they want to hear from you! For more information on the WMQS Review Project and ways to get involved please visit engage.ottawa.ca/wmqs
The city is seeking public feedback on the E-Scooter Pilot’s first season. Whether or not you rode a shared e-scooter, please complete this survey by December 7, 2020.
Free Cihan Erdal
Cihan Erdal is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, and a resident of Capital Ward. He had recently returned to Turkey to visit family and conduct fieldwork with Turkish and European youth for his doctorate.
Cihan was arrested and detained by the Turkish government on September 25 along with dozens of other academics and activists and has been imprisoned since. He has been cut off from the outside world and held in solitary confinement.
His arrest relates to a letter written in 2014, asking the Turkish government to help Kurds in Syria. Cihan denies any wrongdoing.
Carleton University has contacted Canadian and Turkish officials, trying to get Cihan released. You can send a letter of support to your MP, the minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian and Turkish embassies, asking them to help bring Cihan home by clicking here.
geoOttawa continues to be the City of Ottawa's primary interactive public web-mapping tool. This popular public-facing website allows users to access a variety of information layers on the map, such as parks, schools, City facilities, property parcels, zoning and air photos dating back to 1928. geoOttawa also includes a valuable tool set for internal use that supports a range of City business lines and services.
After having successfully launched the beta geoOttawa application earlier this year, the final public geoOttawa application was launched on November 3, 2020.
- Next generation map tools to search and view map layers about Ottawa
- Mobile friendly
- Web accessible tools
- Ability to view information about properties, including a new property report
- New draw and measurement tools
Changes to the Bronson Avenue-Queensway Interchange
The province has begun the Design and Construction report for the Bronson Avenue-Queensway interchange. You can review the report and provide feedback at the province’s website.
Ottawa Children’s Storytelling Festival
The Ottawa Children's Storytelling Festival presented by Ottawa StoryTellers and Ottawa Public Library for children 3- 12 years is free and on-line at the OPL website November 16-21. Stories told in English and stories told in French by outstanding Canadian Indigenous, Francophone, and Anglophone tellers. Rhymes and rhythms for the very young. Traditional stories shared by Indigenous StoryKeepers. Tales of adventure, laughter, cultural history, and magic for all children and families.
Development Consultation: 178-200 Isabella
Our office is hosting a consultation on Zoom, in concert with the Glebe Community Association and Minto, on a development proposal for 178-200 Isabella. Full details of the proposal can be found here. Summary of proposal: a Zoning By-law Amendment application to permit a 16-storey high-rise mixed-use building with a rooftop enclosed amenity area projection. A four-level underground parking garage with approximately 172 vehicular parking spaces is proposed.
Please RSVP here.