• Mayor’s City Builder Award – Daniel Richer

    Mayor Jim Watson today presented the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Daniel Richer, Town Crier, for his dedication and support of many notable causes in the city over the years.

    Since 1981, Mr. Richer has proudly represented both sides of the National Capital Region. He was Ontario’s Provincial Herald from 1984 to 1993. He has refined his art into a science and given workshops on the techniques of proper breathing and projection, formed new town criers for other communities and attained an international reputation.

    Mr. Richer has worked across Canada, the U.S. and around the world and has won several Town Crier Championships at the North American and International level. He has proclaimed in more than 20 languages at a variety of events ranging from ambassador’s evenings to rock concerts.

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  • Ottawa to host 2012 JUNO Awards Primary tabs

    juno-awardsOttawa – The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), along with their broadcast partner CTV, announced today that the City of Ottawa will host THE 2012 JUNO AWARDS and JUNO Week events and festivities, March 26 – April 1, 2012.

    “This is great news for our City and for our tourism and hospitality sectors in particular,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “The JUNO Awards not only bring visitors to our hotels and restaurants, they also help us to spread the word about Ottawa and enhance our reputation as a convenient and friendly host city for major events of all types.”

    Hosting the JUNOS is expected to generate $5 million in direct expenditures from out-of-town visitors; create 82 jobs and inject $5.3 million into the local economy.

    “The JUNO Awards and events like it provide the perfect backdrop for Ottawa’s entire tourism industry to stand out,” emphasized Noel Buckley, President & CEO of Ottawa Tourism. “This is a major opportunity for us to further develop the Ottawa brand that is so critical to the long-term success of destination marketing.”

    “This is great news for the local hospitality sector,” said Dick Brown, Executive Director of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association. “Canadians from coast-to-coast will be welcomed to our Nation’s Capital with all the world-class facilities and amenities we have to offer.”

    The JUNO Awards history dates back to 1970 when the inaugural Gold Leaf Awards were held in Toronto as an industry awards event. In 1971, it became recognized as the JUNO Awards in honour of Pierre Juneau, the first chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC). The JUNO gala was last held in Ottawa in 2003.

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  • Mayor’s Address on Transit

    CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

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    Today, I am very pleased to talk about the results of some dedicated work done over the last few months to deliver light rail transit in Ottawa.Putting Ottawa on a financially stable footing has been a key priority for me and our new Council since we were first elected 8 months ago. This meant ending the excessive property tax and transit fare increases that taxpayers have faced in recent years.

    We set a new course during Budget 2011 that holds tax increases to 2.5% or less. This also ensured our ability to invest in the infrastructure this city needs where it makes the most sense. We have a good plan and, if we stick to it through the budgets this term, we’ll have delivered on the predictable, prudent and responsible city government people voted for last October. An important part of that plan is the ongoing review of affordability of capital spending plans our city has built up over time.

    I came to office with a commitment to finally make light rail happen after too many delays and false starts. I am determined, with my Council colleagues, to deliver Light Rail in a financially sustainable way. To ensure this project would be affordable and managed tightly, I asked for two reviews.

    First, during Budget 2011, we initiated a detailed review of the capital and operating budgets for providing public transit in Ottawa. Were our plans affordable into the future? Would we have the money to operate the expanded system we planned to build? Would this new infrastructure continue to serve our residents for the rest of the first half of this new century?

    I wanted to be satisfied that our plans were realistic. I wanted assurances that we could build everything we planned, and operate everything we planned, without exorbitant fare increases and within the capital budget for public transit in Ottawa.

    I set a fiscally prudent challenge:

    – Live within the transit levy and adhere to our tax target of 2.5%

    – Keep fare increases at no more than a 2.5% annual increase

    – Assume no growth in provincial or federal gas tax revenues

    This challenge was also informed by my commitment that the development community be expected to pay its share. The City Treasurer, assisted by Price Waterhouse Coopers, OC Transpo, Infrastructure Services, as well as Planning and Growth Management have mapped all transit spending over the next 38 years and put forward this information in a report to be released this afternoon.

    This is the most comprehensive look at the financial sustainability of Ottawa’s public transit in our city’s history.

    These projections cover:

    – New investment;

    – Expected bus lifecycle;

    – Renewal of assets; and

    – Projected operating hours for bus and trains along with the impact of increasing population and ridership

    This study and our treasurer are crystal clear – we have the ability to fund our plans for this phase of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit project and through the other phases of bus and rail improvements in the Transportation Master Plan (TMP). We are planning ahead responsibly now and the operating model we have established not only makes sense, but is financially sustainable into the foreseeable future. We will also be positioned so that when the provincial or federal governments are able to provide additional infrastructure funds, we are ready to secure our share.

    This study shows that our plans for public transit are affordable and prudent. In fact the move to light rail is a key part of establishing a financially sustainable and efficient transit system. At the moment, we have a downtown transit bottleneck that is slowing trips, and will strangle the bus system over time if it is not fixed. Moving ahead with light rail saves money when measured against the alternative of attempting to push more buses through the downtown, while also greatly increasing capacity to accommodate projected ridership increases.

    For the second review, I asked for a reassessment from the ground up of the plans approved by the previous Council on light rail with an eye to reducing risk and ensuring we meet the budget. These large projects are prone to growing price tags. I gave clear direction that every light rail assumption should be examined again for budget implications.The project needs to work within the original budget set.I specifically asked that we revisit the so-called “cross country” route. This deep dive tunnel below the foundations of very large buildings like the Sun Life building and World Exchange Plaza is an expensive proposition with all of the risks inherent in gauging the conditions at that depth.

    As design review progressed, it became clear that the costs of this deep dive approach would have exceeded the proposed budget. Some members of Council, including Councillor Peter Clark, expressed serious concerns with the deep tunnel proposal. Councillor Clark specifically suggested that Council consider a shallower route under a city street, for several reasons including depth. It also became apparent that private bidders would not deliver a truly fixed price contract to construct this light rail project when it included a deep dive tunnel plan.

    We had to find a better way.

    The engineering teams have worked very hard over the last few months rethinking assumptions and defining a better light rail system that can be built within the initial budget. And I am very proud to tell you today that there is a better, more affordable and more reliable way to build light rail. The key improvement of all this hard work is a new and improved alignment of the downtown tunnel. This new alignment for the most part will follow the Queen and Rideau Street right-of-way through the downtown, avoiding the need for deep tunneling under buildings and limiting the amount of dollars required to acquire subterranean rights. And, there will be much more information available to bidders than geotechnical drilling that the deep routing could ever provide.

    When you are between the foundations of deeper buildings along an alignment that has already been extensively excavated, the information available is significantly increased and risk is dramatically reduced. This is how Vancouver’s Canada Line was able to achieve a fixed price in the end. A more practical tunnel route, closer to the surface, with reduced risk, will improve cost certainty significantly.

    The stations and tunnel downtown will now be more customer friendly and less expensive to build. Instead of waiting for a tunnel-boring machine that can take a year to order and assemble, construction firms can now choose from a much wider range of mining and excavation techniques. Estimators can pin down prices with more precision. Each station will be less costly to excavate. Each will also be less expensive to operate with fewer concourses, elevators and escalators.

    The plan released today has a new alignment and approach to the tunnel in the downtown core that makes a lot more sense. The resulting product is a significant improvement compared to the previous plan. Overall, the tunnel will be les than half the depth of the previous alignment. Instead of having to go 12 stories down to access the platform, riders will only have to descend 4 stories.

    Just as importantly each station will take half as long to descend into from the surface to the platform. The feeling will be far less subterranean with more potential access to natural light and a better rider experience. Dissatisfaction with the depth of the stations was the number one complaint we got back from public consultations and discussions with public advisory groups. The system will be better linked into the existing network of underground building concourses throughout the downtown. With the previous approach we would have been far below existing basements and unable to tie into as many buildings without prohibitive costs.

    This change and some exciting designs for this new solution are all outlined in the OLRT Project Cost and Design Update and I would encourage everyone who has an interest in this project to please visit our project website at www.ottawalightrail.ca and take a firsthand look at the report for themselves. As you know we have already accelerated the project by one full year – for completion in 2018. This is great news for two reasons: our residents will be riding this new system sooner than expected and we will save the City one year’s worth of inflation costs.

    So today, let me share some very good news with you and all the residents of Ottawa – I am pleased to report that with all these improvements, the Light Rail project budget remains at $2.1 billion dollars. Ottawa needs LRT and we now have plans that match our means The report released today shows that high quality light rail transit service can be delivered within the budget envelope that was set out.

    This price-tag includes inflation from 2009 through the anticipated construction and full completion in 2018. When it is complete this investment will pay dividends for years to come: It will help to keep transit affordable – by converting the most heavily used part of our bus system to LRT, OC Transpo will be more productive. Instead of busses clogging up on Albert and Slater, light rail trains will be speeding by just underneath the surface of Queen St.

    This project will generate over 20,000 person hours of employment and over $3 Billion in related economic activity during the construction period alone at a time when the Federal Government is downsizing and this city needs a boost.

    This first phase of light rail will:

    – Reduce green house gases in our city by at least 38,000 tonnes a year;

    – Reduce fuel consumption by 10 million litres a year; and

    – Eliminate 5,600 tonnes of salt per year from our winter maintenance program

    The new system with its 3 minute 15 second service, interlinked with our expansion of O-Train service to 8 minute frequency, will make a huge difference to connect our universities providing 18 minute connection from campus to campus. Students will easily be able to take courses at our two excellent universities, or use the libraries at either, without concern for parking or needing a car. This will help our city gain an advantage as we strive to reinforce the appeal of the nation’s capital as an international education destination. And thanks to LRT, people with wheel chairs or mobility problems will gain a new level of freedom.

    Instead of having to make scheduled appointments to move around between shopping centres, people can move freely between the World Exchange Plaza, the Rideau Centre, St. Laurent Shopping Centre, Gloucester Centre, and with the O-Train, South Keys Shopping Centre. Business people will be able to walk into a climate controlled light rail system connected to buildings throughout the downtown and go from the west-end of downtown to the market for a lunch appointment.

    We will finally solve the significant bottleneck of our transitway that currently has a negative impact on our entire system on Albert and Slater. Consistent with Council direction, we have also been negotiating with Infrastructure Ontario to lead the procurement process for this project. Infrastructure Ontario is a Provincial Crown Corporation with extensive experience in ensuring strong competitions that produce best value for the taxpayer.

    The City, and Council, will be in charge. But the clout and experience of Infrastructure Ontario in dealing with public-private partnerships will be a tremendous asset. Infrastructure Ontario has an exceptional record of ensuring major infrastructure projects stay on time and on budget – experience that will provide tremendous value to our project team. As you may recall, including Infrastructure Ontario in the procurement process was a key campaign commitment I made in last year’s election. And just last week, we released the request for qualifications documents and to date 71 companies have accessed the information – a good sign of how competitive this tender will be.

    In fact, we will ask bidders for proposals starting at the end of this year. With all of this in mind, I want to remind you that Council will be considering this report and its recommendations next week and, if approved, we will be moving full steam ahead to start the Request-for-Proposals this fall. Like everyone else, I am eager to see what type of ideas will come forward from the private sector competing to build this project.

    As they are preparing their bids, we will challenge the private sector to think about how this system can be built as quickly as possible while maintaining the strict and frugal cost controls that Council and I will expect. We will be inviting fixed price bids that harness private sector management and finance to deliver LRT on time and on budget. And ultimately the final price tag will be known to Council and the people of Ottawa when the bids are unsealed in late 2012.

    The City of Ottawa has come a long way on Light Rail and we are one very big step closer to seeing all of our efforts finally come to fruition. This plan makes sense, and carries with it a lot of benefits. This first light rail project will be the heart of a system that delivers financial stability. Transit Systems are not built in a day – nor in a single increment. This project is a tremendous step forward in building a transit system for Ottawa, but it is only the first step. It sets the stage for our planned future of Light Rail and rapid transit extensions to the East, West and with the O-Train to the South of our city.

    By moving forward now we enable all of the extensions and improvements to come over the next two decades as we build a modern public transit system for the next century. As stewards of this city over the next four years, we have before us a great opportunity today to get behind a project that will have benefits for our residents today and long into the future.

    The public sent a very clear signal to me and Council last October. Cancelling the last light rail project was a costly error. Get your act together and move forward with a realistic and affordable plan. Get a shovel in the ground – sooner rather than later. This Plan achieves this goal and I look forward to the public’s input and the Council debate. Together, we will help reshape our city for generations for come.

    There will always be naysayers when it comes to city building.

    We saw it in 1916 when fire destroyed the Parliament buildings and there were those who said, we can’t rebuild the same – let’s just make the building functional and less expensive – a series of bland towers. We saw it in the 80s and 90s when others said why invest in a new convention centre – let’s do with what we have. Thank goodness the naysayers and doubters were ignored and we moved forward, not backward.

    So my message today is – let’s move forward with a Transit plan we can be proud of and that we can afford. This plan puts Ottawa on the right track, now let’s get moving.

    Thank you.