Capital Ward Bulletin: Winter updates and the city budget re-cap

Welcome to the final Capital Ward Bulletin of 2023. It’s been a busy year at City Hall, culminating in the approval of the city budget. It has been a pleasure working with you and representing you for another year, and I hope you all get some time to relax and enjoy the holidays.

You’ll hear from us again in 2024. There’s still a lot of work to be done!

Holiday Hours

Our office will be closed from Monday December 25 to Monday January 1. If any urgent matters arise during that time, you can contact the city at [email protected] or by calling 3-1-1. Otherwise, we will be able to serve you when we return on January 2.

Budget wrap-up

On a vote of 20 to 5, council has approved the 2024 city budget. This included approval of a 2.5% property tax increase for the second year in a row. For the last two years, these increases have been lower than inflation. Coupled with revenue shortfalls resulting from recent legislation imposed by the province (3-3.5% revenue loss for our city estimated from Bill 23 alone), this impacts our infrastructure needs, which are growing beyond inflation.

This is putting pressure on all city budgets. Transit fares were increased as well, while service has been less than optimal. We’ve described the perils of this approach in the past. We know savings can be achieved in areas that produce insufficient outcomes (including urban boundary expansion and road expansions), while we could achieve exceptional quality-of-life improvements with modest budget increases in other areas (like improving our parks).

We were, however, able to make some improvements to the overall budget, including increasing wading pool hours so that wading pools across the city will be open more weekends in June, and allocating more bathrooms for every ward in the city where there is a need. Families with kids will benefit from earlier access to wading pools. The month of June is trending hotter from year to year. Indeed, June 2023 was the hottest June on record for our planet. Greater washroom access is needed so that older adults, and other vulnerable populations, are able to participate in public life more comfortably. We all benefit from this sort of inclusion. Washroom access is a need we all share.

The motion we originally introduced at transit commission to freeze transit fares was reintroduced by other councillors at city council but was defeated, unfortunately. It is imperative that we continue to fight against the toxic combination of raising fares while service worsens. These efforts, alongside mounting public pressure, will make approach to transit politically unfeasible.

Freezing fares would have both avoided a price hike for riders, and generated more trips on transit, according to OC Transpo’s own estimates. Those additional fares could have been put toward much needed service enhancements.

A massive thank you to those of you who signed our joint petition with Councillor Troster to increase the capital budget for affordable housing to $30 million for 2024. We were successful, and the budget will be $30 million for 2024! I’d like to thank community groups for tirelessly campaigning on, and advocating for, a major increase to this budget. Those campaigns created the political context that we needed to see the proposed increase succeed this year.

Some of you emailed to ask us where the money will come from to pay for this, and whether it would go to real affordable housing.

First, let’s be clear on real affordable housing. The capital budget for affordable housing is exclusively earmarked for the creation of not-for-profit (‘non-market’) housing. This is the most meaningful form of affordable housing, as it creates housing outside of the market in perpetuity, and it takes profits out of the equation.

Originally, the proposed budget for 2024 was for $22.8 million dollars (up from the $15 million dollar amount planned for under the long-range financial plan), and we advocated to increase it further to $30 million (a $6.2million increase) using funds that had already been raised for this purpose last year, but not allocated accordingly. The Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) was established with the promise that all revenues would go to the capital budget for affordable housing. New VUT revenue is the reason the proposed budget was already more than $15 million; however, the (approximately) $10 million the VUT generated this year (its first year) had not been allocated, and we pushed to see that invested.

The fight for meaningful investment in real (non-profit) affordable housing has been a long one for this office (and others before it), and it continues. Before we came into office, the capital budget for affordable housing in the city was $0 annually. Shortly after taking office, we worked with local community service providers, housing activists and some of our council colleagues to increase spending on affordable housing. Our first victory was increasing this amount from $0 to $15 million in the 2019 budget. This budget then became the standard, albeit a stagnant one, remaining at $15 million annually for several years, before a small increase last year to $16 million (less than inflation). Moving forward we must ensure that this budget continues to grow. We know that market supply, although important, will not help make housing affordable, not without policy changes from higher orders of government, as leading academics on this issue in Ottawa have demonstrated through their research, and as we have long argued. That’s why investment in non-market housing continues to be paramount.

There were some other important areas in the budget for Capital Ward, which you can find on our website.

Healthy Aging Guide

Residents of Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, the Glebe, the Glebe Annex, Heron Park and Alta Vista have contributed to the development of Your Guide to Health Aging in the Community. The guide identifies issues and opportunities to make our neighbourhoods into age-friendly communities. Through the guide, residents can access resources and offer feedback. It is a great tool for making a more livable community.

There are many people who helped putting this together, and we thank you all for your efforts. I would also like to thank Carolyn Inch who mobilized a growing group of contributors over the past two years, and whose leadership and commitment were integral in producing this guide.

The guide is available through the Old Ottawa South website.

Reversing the provincial expansion of the urban boundary

In September, I was joined by 11 councillors, calling on the Ontario Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner to review the province’s expensive decision to expand Ottawa’s urban boundary. 

In addition, we were able to pass a motion at council calling on the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to conduct his own review, as well.

I am happy to say that after our efforts helped to get this decision—a decision made in secret with no public input—reversed. Sprawl is incredibly costly to our city. It is good that we have taken this one step to limit it.

Your Capital Ward

Photo by Roderick Young

If you have a photo you’d like to share in an upcoming bulletin, please send it to [email protected], with the subject line Your Capital Ward. Please give us your name for attribution…or tell us if you’d rather not have your name shared.

Ottawa ACORN’s Eco-Tenant Survey

Please complete this survey if you are a tenant living in Ottawa! Information gathered by this survey will help inform Ottawa ACORN's work on tenant rights, retrofits, climate change and healthy homes. Additionally, there is an ACORN Eco-Tenant Union in Brookmill Gardens that is sending an Open Letter to their landlord calling for retrofits as a solution to ongoing disrepair in units and renovictions. Add your name in support here.

Response to Extreme Cold Weather

The OPH Cold Weather webpage provides information about preventing cold related injuries, such as frostbite, as well as medical emergencies such as hypothermia, and includes links to resources in our community to help people access winter clothing, hot meals and other food, obtain assistance with home heating costs, and find emergency shelter (including transportation to shelter). The webpage also has an interactive map of places to warm up, including City of Ottawa operated community centres. These are places throughout the city where people are welcome to go to warm up during the cold. They are open during business hours throughout the year and access is free of charge. Locations included on the map are validated at the beginning of the season.

Based on recent feedback, OPH has updated the Cold Weather webpage to make it easier to navigate.

Residents can call 2-1-1, the Community Navigation of Eastern Ontario, to obtain information about services and locations of drop-in centres, community and health resource centres, food banks and community food programs, and where to obtain winter clothing, and financial assistance for their utilities.

Procedures for 3-1-1 staff related to extreme cold weather are regularly reviewed by OPH subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and consistency in 3-1-1 messaging. In addition to existing procedures, 3-1-1 staff receive up-to-date information via media advisories and public service announcements related to extreme weather to relay to concerned residents.

Winter snow clearing update

Between November 15 and April 1, the city may declare a Winter Weather Parking Ban for inclement weather including freezing rain or when Environment Canada forecasts 7 cm or more of snow in the Ottawa area. This includes any forecast for a range of snow more than 7 cm, such as 5 to 10 cm. The Winter Weather Parking Ban will be called to support clearing operations and will continue until the City issues notice that it has been lifted.

When a winter weather parking ban is called, the City issues a special advisory to the local media and posts it on ottawa.ca. 

With the exception of significant weather events, our Roads and Parking Services team will be aiming to:

  • Make the Winter Weather Parking Ban call by 9 am for an overnight parking ban – overnight parking bans will be from 7 pm to 7 am.
  • Make the Winter Weather Parking Ban call by 3:30 pm for a daytime parking ban – daytime parking bans will be from 10 am to 7 pm.

Vehicles without a residential parking permit that are parked on the street during a parking ban may be ticketed and towed.

If you have a residential parking permit, your vehicle is exempt from winter weather parking bans. Removing your vehicle from the street helps City crews clear the street faster.

The City of Ottawa has added an additional 18 parking lots for residents to park during a parking ban, including the parking lot of the Sunnyside Library. I would like to thank our neighbour Laurie Wilson for her advocacy on this.

Vehicles may remain parked at these sites for the duration of the ban and must be removed after the city announces that the ban has been lifted. Information on all parking options during a winter weather parking ban is available on Ottawa.ca/winterparking

If you have experience issues with snow clearing, please contact Service Ottawa at [email protected], by calling 3-1-1 or by visiting the city website at ottawa.ca/en/3-1-1.

Recruitment for the Transit Advisory Working Group

Are you passionate about public transit and want to help improve Ottawa’s transit system? If so, we would love to hear from you! 

OC Transpo is recruiting members for a new Transit Advisory Working Group. This ad hoc advisory body will provide volunteer opportunities for residents to advise OC Transpo’s leadership on a wide variety of matters relating to the operation of public transit, including Para Transpo, conventional bus service and the O-Train. This could include topics like: 

  • Ways to improve service to customers.
  • Planned or potential changes to how we deliver service.
  • Consulting on new technologies or innovations being considered.
  • Improving the safety and security of the transit network. 
  • Improving communications to customers and the public.

In addition to these topics, members may also be asked to participate and provide advice on targeted and specific transit-related matters.

We are looking for members who represent a wide variety of lived experience and perspectives.  Our goal is to have representation from Para Transpo customers as well as having at least 50 percent plus one of the members made up of individuals self-identifying as women, non-binary, transgender, and/or gender non-conforming persons. We invite everyone interested to apply. 

Applications will be reviewed by Transit Service’s General Manager and the Chairs of the City’s Transit Commission and Light Rail Sub-Committee. Following the recruitment period, successful candidates will be notified and receive additional information. 

Meetings will generally be held in the evenings and may be held both onsite and virtually. The Working Group will meet as required with at least 3 to 4 meetings held annually and will be chaired by senior members of the Transit Services Department.  

If you are interested in providing a voice on the future of our city’s transit services, please complete the application form before 5:00 pm on Friday, December 22, 2023. Questions can be sent to [email protected].

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