• Mayor’s Budget 2018 Remarks

    Balanced, Affordable and Progressive: Budget 2018 

    Check against delivery 

    Every fall I look forward to the opportunity to speak to Council and the public regarding their vision for Ottawa’s future and to listen to where residents would like Council to focus our resources.

    Over the last few months, Council has worked with the City Treasurer and the City Manager to deliver a budget that keeps us on a balanced path of fiscal responsibility.

    I am pleased to report that we are bringing forward a budget for 2018 that focuses on securing a sustainable financial framework for the coming years.

    A budget that is balanced, affordable and progressive.

    For the fifth year in a row, the proposed increase in the City of Ottawa property taxes is at two per cent.

    This means that for the average urban household, valued at $404,000, the tax change will be $74.

    For the average rural household, the tax change will be $60.

    Property taxation is the single most important tool our City has to maintain affordability for our residents, and I am proud that Council is delivering on this key commitment.

    It is important to listen to residents through the budget consultation process – and we have built residents’ feedback into the draft 2018 Budget being tabled today.

    Over the last few months, there have been five multi-ward, Councillor-led consultations, as well as four single-ward consultations.

    The City has received budget ideas and feedback from residents, community groups and stakeholders through a variety of ways.

    This includes  the  Councillor-led Budget consultations, the Budget planning tool proposed by Councillor Tim Tierney available on ottawa.ca, and the City’s social media channels.

    As of November 1, there were over one thousand visits to the budget planning tool.

    My office, the City Treasurer and the City Manager’s office have met with every Member of Council and Committee Chairs to hear their budget priorities.

    I have also hosted a series of community breakfasts to hear priorities directly from community leaders and residents.

    It is not always the case, but this year, what we have heard has been clear and consistent.

    Residents understand that the last seven years have seen us focus more heavily on transit infrastructure – which required a massive catch-up effort.

    Today, residents are asking us to shift some of that focus to our social infrastructure and to our other built infrastructure needs.

    What we are hearing – at public meetings or in informal conversations – is the need to continue to do more about the state of our roads, infrastructure, buildings and parks.

    And that the winter maintenance of critical infrastructure, like our roads and sidewalks, must continue to improve.

    The changing weather patterns have created major challenges in maintaining our roads, pathways and community infrastructure.

    The abundance of rain and spring flooding, the extraordinary amount of snow, and the number of freeze-thaw cycles has significantly impacted the quality of our roadways, shoulders, sidewalks and road beds.

    Investing in existing infrastructure is not always the most popular budget approach for Council to take – as politicians we always want to announce something new.

    But I have heard from almost every Member of Council that our roads, facilities and sidewalks need more attention now.

    The infrastructure gap is a significant challenge for municipalities nation-wide.

    In response to these concerns, our total budget contribution for roads, bike lanes, sidewalks and facilities will increase by $12.6 million dollars in 2018, to bring us to $112.4 million in annual funding.

    That’s an increase of 13 per cent.

    Thanks to this increased commitment, we will invest an additional $100 million over the next 8 years for capital works.

    Let me give you a sense of how these additional dollars will be invested.

    First, as I mentioned, we will be responding to the number one request from residents – to put more funding into road resurfacing and renewal.

    In 2018, the road resurfacing budget will be increased by $5.6 million, for a total budget of $39.2 million dollars –  that’s a 17 per cent increase over 2017.

    Secondly, our rural infrastructure investments will reach $42.2 million in 2018, up from the three-year average of $36.8 million dollars.

    This funding includes rural roads and culverts repairs.

    Budget 2018 will allow the City to repair or resurface over 70 kilometres of roads in the rural area.

    Councillor Moffatt will see sections of Rideau Valley South and Fallowfield Road resurfaced while Councillor Darouze will see sections of Stage Coach Road and Van Rens Street repaved.

    In addition, the City will be investing $24.3 million dollars towards bridge rehabilitation in 2018.

    This is an increase from just under $14 million last year.

    This includes projects such as the Fitzroy Harbour Bridge and the Anderson Road Bridge.

    We must also continue to improve our ability to repair potholes.

    Since January 2017, City staff have filled over 253,000 potholes across Ottawa.

    Even with this level of activity, we have heard consistently that we need to do more.

    That is why 2018 budget will make permanent the $400,000 one-time increase in the pothole and minor asphalt repair program introduced in 2017.

    We will add $200,000 in one-time funds to bring the program to $8 million – an 8 per cent increase over 2016.

    This funding will help us deal more effectively with the immediate patching and pothole needs caused by the significant weather fluctuations and increased construction level that have impacted Ottawa.

    We also need to look at innovative ways to improve the condition of our roads.

    That is why I have asked staff to investigate the possibility of running our own asphalt plant in order to ensure quality and price, and to investigate new technologies that may improve the long-term durability of our roadways.

    Ottawa spans more than 90 km from east to west and has one of the largest municipal transportation networks in Canada.

    Maintaining our network is expensive.

    That is why Budget 2018 includes an increase of $2.3 million to the base budget for winter maintenance – bringing the total annual funding to $68.3 million.

    This is in addition to the $4.5-million base budget increase for winter maintenance introduced last year, for a total increase of $11.3 million dollars over the last three years.

    This new base funding meets the level of funding recommended by the independent KPMG audit.

    The winter cycling network will also be expanded, adding O’Connor and Main Street cycling lanes.

    Signs of increased prosperity are all around us as public and private sector investment is booming.

    The Conference Board of Canada has forecast that Ottawa-Gatineau’s real GDP growth will be 2.2 per cent in 2018 following a forecasted 2.5 per cent increase in 2017.

    This is the strongest back-to-back increase since 2007 – 2008.

    But that prosperity is not shared equally by all our residents.

    We need to continue to do more for our most vulnerable residents who rely on our city’s strong network of community-based social services.

    I now want to focus on how we will provide much needed support to the fast growing social infrastructure needs of our city.

    Residents want us to find a way to ensure that both the city and our community partners are ready to respond to the challenges of increasing costs and legislative changes from other levels of government.

    We have heard from community arts, recreation, social and housing service providers who are concerned about budget pressures caused by provincial changes to the minimum wage.

    I am pleased to say that while Budget 2018 will meet the City’s own obligations to address the minimum wage increase, it will also include funding to support our partner agencies, to help them with their increased costs from minimum wage increases.

    We recognize that these service delivery agencies have few options to make up for these funding pressures.

    Without additional resources, they would have little choice but to reduce services while the needs of their clients are growing.

    This is NOT the right time for cuts to our social service agencies.

    For this reason, Budget 2018 will provide an inflationary increase of 3 per cent to our social services agencies.

    This translates into an additional $675,000 in 2018 for a total annual investment of $23.2 million.

    Social service agencies will also see a base budget increase again this year, which, when added to the inflationary increase, will provide a total increase of 4.4 per cent in 2018.

    This represents an annual increase of approximately $1 million for this sector.

    This community funding helps support 93 agencies that run hundreds of essential programs across the entire city.

    There will also be an additional 3 percent or $760,000 going to housing and homelessness agencies, for a total of $26.3 million.

    The City will also be increasing the amount provided for housing programs by $1.7 million to meet the housing sector’s other cost pressures.

    We will also be replacing $1.3 million of funding that lapses with the expiry of federal operating agreements, bringing the total City contribution to $81 million in 2018.

    This is up $3 million from our 2017 Budget of $78 million – a 3.8% increase.

    When combined with funding from upper levels of government, this is a historic investment in housing and homelessness in Ottawa.

     

    With the rate of inflation currently sitting at 1.5 per cent, this is a significant increase to the base operating dollars of these important service delivery agencies.

    I would like to take a moment to tell you some of the other things we will be doing for housing and homelessness in 2018.

    Thankfully, we do not face the housing and homelessness challenge alone.

    The role of the federal and provincial governments in housing is especially important this year.

    The federal and provincial governments are currently in bilateral negotiations on the social and green infrastructure funds.

    We are also expecting the release of the long-awaited National Housing Strategy and the Federal Anti-Poverty Strategy, within a few weeks.

    These anticipated announcements will be followed by detailed contribution agreements, funding conditions and provincial and national priorities and benchmarks.

    But from what we know today, given the increased support from the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada, the planned capital investment in social housing – including retrofits and construction of new units – will increase from $20.6 million dollars in 2017 to $52.6 million dollars in 2018.

    As a result, the number of new units funded will increase from 137 in 2017 to 300 units in 2018.

    It is impossible to understand the City’s housing funding without drawing the whole picture of how the three levels of government are working together towards the same important goals.

    For the most part, these common goals reinforce and support the City’s commitment to our Ten-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.

    The City and its community partners will only be able to achieve these local goals if we continue to work together with our federal and provincial partners towards shared outcomes.

    By the end of 2017, the City will have 401 new affordable and supportive housing units built or underway, including:

    • In Councillor Harder’s Ward: we opened 455 Via Verona in partnership with Multi-Faith Housing – a 98-unit affordable housing community for families;
    • In Innes, Councillor Mitic’s Ward, we built 1900 St-Joseph Blvd in partnership with Montfort Renaissance, a 48-unit supportive housing program for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

    In 2018, the City will be investing more towards housing and homelessness, as are the federal and provincial governments.

    But there is more news and progress to come: the City will be ready to leverage upcoming federal and provincial funding opportunities so that we can best meet the needs of our community.

    The City will also see an increase in provincial funding in 2018 through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, for a total of $37.6 million.

    This funding supports a number of housing and homelessness initiatives for low and moderate income residents at risk of or experiencing homelessness, by providing them with the necessary supports to find and keep their housing.

    The City also received $47 million over four years through the new provincial Social Housing Apartment Improvement Program for repairs and retrofits.

    This funding will improve living conditions, reduce costs through energy conservation, and fight climate change thanks to improvements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The City will also benefit from an additional $4.7 million from the federal and provincial governments to develop new affordable and supportive housing that results in a total investment of $72.2 million from 2014 to 2020.

    The City will also receive $7 million from the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy in 2018.

    Over the last few years, this program has helped 516 people experiencing long shelter stays, move from emergency shelters into permanent housing with supports.

    The City will also receive $30 million for local capital and operating funding through the recently announced Provincial Home for Good Program.

    This new funding will expand the City’s Housing First Program, provide supports for people living in transitional or supportive housing programs, and will allow for peer support workers as well.

    These additional operating dollars will increase the number of rent supplements and housing allowances available.

    This will also provide funding for first and last month’s rent and unit set-up.

    Both of these can be significant barriers for low income residents seeking shelter.

     

    Overall, the operational component of this funding will support approximately 310 households to find and keep suitable affordable and supportive housing in Ottawa.

    The capital component of the Home for Good Program will support the construction, renovation or purchase of approximately 150 new supportive housing units in Ottawa.

    This funding is complemented by the Child Care modernization and social assistance reform.

    For example, the City is receiving additional funding through the Provincial Child Care Expansion Plan and the Federal Canada-Ontario Early Learning and Child Care Plan.

    In 2017, the City received $13.6 million more than was anticipated to support access to licensed child care.

    This funding will help over 1,400 local children access affordable child care and will significantly reduce – and possibly eliminate – the current child care subsidy waitlist for children ages 0 to 6.

    It is estimated that the City will receive an additional $7.3 million in 2018 as part of this commitment.

    Additionally, the Province announced its intention to transform provincially-funded child and family programs into an integrated, cohesive system of services and supports for children ages 0 to 6 and their parents and caregivers.

    These services include free programs such as playgroups, where parents can attend with their child and have access to information and supports.

    In total, the 2018 provincial funding allocation for Ottawa is $8.4 million for Early Years and Family Centres plus the $7.3 million under the child care expansion programs.

    I believe that by working with stakeholders, this additional funding will allow us to continue to transform Child Care and Early Years services in Ottawa.

    I want to thank Councillor Mark Taylor, our special liaison for housing and homelessness, Councillor Michael Qaqish, our special liaison for refugees, Councillor Diane Deans, Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee, and Jan Harder, Chair of Planning, for their strong advocacy for these additional funds and for their continued diligence to implement these new programs moving forward.

    Budget 2018 will provide a 3 per cent increase to our parks and recreation services agencies. This represents an injection of $ 50,000 to their base budgets.

    We will also be providing an inflationary increase of 3 per cent to the Outdoor Rink program to meet the impact of minimum wage increases.

    This will bring the funding for this program to $825,000 in 2018.

    Affordable child care, housing and transit go hand in hand.

    Towards this end, Members of Council and the Transit Commission listened to the calls for the City to find ways to support residents who face economic challenges through a more affordable and equitable transit fare.

    The 2017 Budget introduced the EquiPass, a transit pass for low-income residents.

    To date, the EquiPass has been purchased by about 2,600 eligible transit customers per month, based on the last three months.

    Thanks to the leadership of Commission Chair Stephen Blais, there is funding in the 2018 Budget to introduce a Single-ride equitable Fare.

    Eligible EquiFare transit customers will get the same deep 50% discount as EquiPass customers.

    This means that a new single ride EquiFare will cost $1.75, compared to the 2018 single fare of $3.45.

    OC Transpo is aiming to make the new EquiFare available before the end of June 2018.

    Together, EquiFare and EquiPass represent the single largest one-time increase in the City’s history to support the needs of transit users living below the low-income cut-off.

    In 2018, the total EquiFare and EquiPass subsidy increases to $3.7 million dollars from $2.7 million dollars.

    The City has also made major investments in improving Para Transpo service in recent years, including the modernization of the minibus fleet.

    In 2018, staff will be reviewing Para Transpo’s service eligibility criteria to bring it in line with industry best practices.

    This will expand eligibility for Para Transpo to include persons with developmental or mental health disabilities.

    As you may remember, Uber has agreed to pay a voluntary seven-cent per-trip surcharge for all completed trips, which commenced in October 2016 when Uber became licensed.

    I have asked staff to work with the City’s Accessibility Unit, and the Accessibility Advisory Committee, and to report back to Committee and Council in the new year with a recommended spending plan for this approximately $450,000 in annual funding.

    We have heard from our rural and suburban Councillors that some residents are finding it hard to commute to work or school because their peak-hour buses are full.

    Budget 2018 does a number of things to expand service to growing communities.

    In collaboration with the Government of Canada, we will be introducing 17 new double-decker buses to meet the growing demand, at a cost of $18.4 million dollars.

    Twenty new routes will start this December, which will lay the foundation for future growth in ridership for the Confederation Line and Stage 2 LRT.

    Kanata, Stittsville, Barrhaven, Riverside South, Ottawa South, Orléans, the new development at Wateridge/Village Riverain, are some of the areas that will see new or improved transit service.

    As a result of this funding and the addition of 17 new buses to OC Transpo’s fleet, various routes will see increases in frequency.

    Some will be extended, capacity will be increased on others, and new connexion routes will be introduced to provide faster travel times for customers.

    Budget 2018 also maintains free Wednesday transit service for seniors.

    Budget 2018 will also see an increase in funding for the Community Support Service agencies who provide transportation in the rural areas, for a total base budget of $605,000 – an increase of $100,000.

    This program – designed to improve access to transportation services for rural seniors and disabled residents – provides approximately 15,000 trips annually to residents.

    Thanks to our rural Councillors Steve Blais, Eli El-Chantiry, George Darouze and Scott Moffatt for advocating for this improvement.

    Because of Council’s steadfast commitment to the Confederation Line and Stage 2 LRT, the City, the province and federal government are investing with confidence in the future of transit in Ottawa.

    As a result of the funding from all three levels of government, Budget 2018 includes more funding to build the largest single environmental project in the City’s history – Stage 2 of LRT.

    The forecasted capital spending on Stage 1 LRT in 2018 is about $550 million – for a total investment of $2.1 billion.

    For every $1 billion dollar invested in new infrastructure, 10,000 person years of employment will be generated in Ottawa, including 5,500 new jobs in the construction sector.

    This high level of capital investment will encourage growth, protect jobs, and improve household and business confidence.

    I also want to thank west end Councillors – including Councillors Taylor, Wilkinson, Hubley, Qadri and El-Chantiry, and Chairs Blais and Egli.

    Their strong advocacy efforts led to an investment of 3 million dollars to fund the Bayshore to Kanata LRT Environmental Assessment, which will be completed in 2019.

    By working together, we have accomplished more in seven short years of LRT planning and construction than we ever dreamed possible.

    In 2018, we will see more and more evidence of this dramatic transformation in how Ottawa residents commute and travel within our vast city.

    But we are not done yet – because we still have work to do to reduce the bottleneck of buses traveling inefficiently between Ottawa and Gatineau.

    In early 2018, we will convene our first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Transportation with the City of Gatineau.

    I look forward to working with my colleagues – Chairs Egli and Blais – to explore opportunities for better regional integration of transit services and large transportation projects.

    Budget 2018 also continues our Council’s strong support for active mobility.

    In 2018, we will spend more than $7 million in cycling infrastructure through the Community Connectivity Program and through investments in paved shoulders.

    I am pleased that Kanata North, represented by Councillor Marianne Wilkinson, will see improvements to Campeau Drive from, Teron Road North to Knudson Drive.

    We will also be adding more than 15 km of cycling facilities across the city.

    This will help us reach our goal of adding 72 km of cycling infrastructure to the City’s growing network by the end of 2018.

    A few of the examples that will be funded in 2018 include:

    • A pathway extension along the west side of Woodroffe Avenue connecting the existing pathways at Norice Street to Algonquin College, the College Square shopping Centre. (Ward 8)
    • An upgraded cycling facility approximately 1km in length which will connect the City’s Sawmill Creek pathway to the NCC pathways along the Rideau Canal and Rideau River. (Ward 11)
    • An improved neighborhood connection that allows Lowertown residents to reach New Edinburgh using the Minto Bridges. (Wards 12, 13)
    • A new pathway linkage to inter-connect the existing Hydro Corridor terminating at Pony Park at Eagleson Road to the Ottawa-Carleton Pathway. (Ward 23)
    • Improved linkages for cyclists around Confederation Line Stations, including a pathway from Albert Street to the lower level of Pimisi station. (Ward 14)

    When combined with funding from other levels of government, the city’s total investment in cycling and pedestrian structures within this Term of Council will hit $80 million dollars.

    This represents a 270% increase over the $27 million dollars spent on active mobility infrastructure in the last Term of Council.

    This $80 million is in addition to the cycling facilities that are built as part of road renewal and new road construction programs.

    One such example is the new Main Street cycle tracks, part of our complete streets plan.

    In 2018, we will continue to improve the walkability of our city, with almost $3 million in funding towards various sidewalk improvement projects across the city.

    This is in on top of the $1.5 million that will be spent to implement the Pedestrian Plan Program, which advances our goal of making Ottawa a world-class pedestrian city all year round.

    I wish to thank the many Councillors, including Transportation Committee Chair Keith Egli and cycling advocates Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, Mathieu Fleury, David Chernushenko and Tobi Nussbaum, for their support on this front.

    I would also like to thank Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre and Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Centre, for their support of the new $21-million-dollar Clegg Street Bridge.

    This new crossing in Councillor Chernushenko’s ward will provide pedestrian and cycling connections between Old Ottawa South, Lansdowne Park and Old Ottawa East.

    There will also be funding for the refurbishment of the Rosemount Library in Councillor Leiper’s ward, and for the purchase of land and design work for a brand new community centre and library in Riverside South, in Councillor Qaqish’s ward.

    Under the leadership of Tim Tierney, Chair of the Ottawa Public Library, Budget 2018 also includes funding to continue the planning and design work underway to deliver our new Central Library.

    Positive discussions are ongoing with the federal government on a potential combined Central Library and Archives Project that could soon become an important landmark along our new LRT network.

    We also heard from residents that access to quality recreational facilities is an important priority for 2018.

    We will be investing more in city recreation and cultural facilities, with an additional $700,000, for a total renewal investment of $16.1 Million in 2018.

    This covers upgrades to our buildings, swimming pools, splash pads, fitness spaces and outdoor courts.

    We will also be adding $250,000 to the park renewal budget, for a total investment of $5.25 million in 2018.

    This funding will lead to improved play structures and equipment and improved park pathway lighting.

    There will also be an additional $2.5 million to improve the accessibility of our parks and playgrounds for all users.

    Councillor Mitic, who is also our Sports Commissioner, has been working hard to have the Blackburn Arena redeveloped and made accessible.

    Budget 2018 includes $1 million dollars for this project and we are working with MP Andrew Leslie and MPP Marie-France Lalonde to secure matching funds from their two levels of government.

    The funding for park renewal is on top of the $7 million for park projects already funded from development charges.

    This funding will see new park development in growth areas such as Riverside-South District Park, and in Gloucester-Southgate, Diamond Jubilee Park (in ward 22) and Hillside Vista Park (in Ward 1).

    We have also identified funding for the City’s own recreational programs to mitigate the impact of minimum wages.

    Without this additional funding, recreation and admissions fees in the City would have increased by 6 per cent.

    With this funding, we will be able to hold the City’s recreation fee increases to 2 per cent for 2018.

    This is after we managed to freeze recreation fees for three years in the last term of Council.

    This increase represents 25 cents on the average swim or public skate admission fee.

    To mitigate the impact of these increases, the Recreation Fee Subsidy Program will also increase to $1.1 million in 2018 – an increase of $35,000.

    This program helps ensure that low income residents can benefit from the City’s recreational programs.

    I am pleased to report that Budget 2018 also heralds some very significant investments in core municipal services that matter most to residents.

    We will hear from our Chair of Ottawa Police Services, Councillor El-Chantiry, that Ottawa Police Services is adding 25 new officers in 2018.

    We will also see an increase of 14 new paramedics in 2018.

    My thanks for the strong advocacy of Councillors Darouze and El-Chantiry on this important new investment.

    We are working to help ensure that these investments in paramedics will lead to improved response times – particularly in our rural and suburban wards.

    There will also be an additional 10 new crossing guards to service areas in need, as identified by the local School Boards.

    This brings the total number of crossing guards in Ottawa to 209 by the fall of 2018.

    We have been proud to partner with our local festivals and arts organizations to make 2017 a year to remember for our residents and millions of visitors.

    There is no doubt that 2017 will have been a tremendous year for our local artists and arts organizations.

    In just a few weeks, we will witness the opening of the new Ottawa Art Gallery, which is approximately three times the size of the existing space.

    In 2018, we will open the redeveloped Arts Court facility, along with the new Black Box Theatre, developed in partnership with the University of Ottawa.

    Budget 2018 includes $2.1 million base dollars to staff and operate the newly expanded Arts Court Facility and Ottawa Art Gallery.

    The OAG Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment project represents a public-private investment of over $100 million, and it will quickly become a new regional cultural destination.

    The public sector component, valued at $43.4million is funded by the City of Ottawa, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and other partners including the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) and the University of Ottawa.

    The City is contributing $17.7 million, the Province of Ontario has provided $7.3 million in funding, the government of Canada has provided $5.3 million through the Canada Cultural Spaces Program.

    Last year we set aside funding to help ensure that 2018 would not become a big “hangover year.”

    I want to thank Councillor Cloutier for chairing last year’s Tourism Summit and for bringing forward several suggestions to ensure that we build on the success of 2017.

    We chose to invest smartly to maintain the momentum of our local arts and cultural organizations into 2018 and beyond.

    That is why I announced $150,000 in base funding to launch the Arts Momentum Fund, aimed at ensuring that we continue to showcase all that Ottawa has to offer.

    After much work and extensive consultation, the arts and heritage community leaders have come together.

    Their recommendation is to use this funding to produce a strategy that will shape the future of the cultural sector for years to come.

    Because of the long-term nature of this goal, I am proposing the same base investment of $150,000 in 2018 towards the Arts Momentum Fund.

    This increases the base funding to $300,000 in 2018.

    I look forward to hearing the recommendations of this coalition of arts leaders in 2018 as they chart a new future for Ottawa’s arts and heritage sector.

    Cultural agencies funded by the City will also receive a 3 per cent inflationary increase, in recognition of the minimum wage pressures in this sector.

    In 2018, the total annual budget for cultural agencies will be $11.3 million, a base increase of $330,000.

    Budget 2018 also continues funding of almost $5 million that has been approved for the Renewed Arts, Heritage and Cultural plan since its inception in 2013.

    These funds include a diverse range of cultural supports, including marketing and promotion of the local cultural scene, the Poet Laureate Program, as well as neighbourhood cultural initiatives, to name just a few.

    In this Term of Council, the arts and culture community has secured municipal investments totalling more than $20.8 million in capital, one-time and base operating dollars.

    This level of investment sets the stage for success for the community-led strategy leading into the next Term of Council.

    Thanks to Councillor Leiper’s leadership, the City has been working with our music industry partners to develop a strategy to strengthen this growing sector of our local economy.

    The group will be delivering its report to Council in early 2018.

    I am pleased to report that we have set aside $100,000 for the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition – to deliver on priorities that will be identified in the Music Strategy.

    One of the key tools Council has to support neighbourhoods in need of investment is Community Improvement Plans.

    I want to commend Councillor Chiarelli for supporting the Bells Corners CIP, which has delivered about $20 million in new investments to date.

    The Orleans CIP, championed by Councillor Monette, is also producing some exciting new businesses and jobs in the East End.

    I am pleased to report that I have been working with Councillor Fleury to ensure that Montreal Road will be the next area to benefit from a Community Improvement Plan.

    Funding in the 2018 Budget will enable us to consult with businesses and property owners to identify what measures would spur investment and bring more businesses to this area.

    Through the leadership of the Chair of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee, David Chernushenko, we have heard the calls to strengthen our investments in environmental sustainability, climate resiliency and energy conservation.

    I am pleased to report that the construction of our world-class LRT system will result in the single largest reduction of air-borne pollutants in our City’s history.

    Stage 1 LRT will reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 94 thousand tonnes by 2031.

    Stage 2 will increase that to over 200 thousand tonnes annually by 2048.

    This will have a direct and positive impact on the sustainability of urban growth in Ottawa.

    And it will lead to improved health outcomes for residents.

    As part of Budget 2018, under the umbrella of the Energy Evolution initiative, the City will be investing more than $2 million in various sustainability initiatives.

    This includes energy conservation, greening our fleet and protecting our environment.

    All of these initiatives will now fall under the mandate of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee.

    Taken together with our investments in public transit, cycling, active mobility and LRT, the City is doing more than ever to improve Ottawa’s environmental sustainability.

    To date, more than 80 community partners such as the City, Hydro Ottawa, Enbridge, Ecology Ottawa, the Museum of Science and Technology and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce have worked together to develop green innovation in Ottawa.

    Later this month, the Environment and Climate Protection Committee will be reviewing the details of the next steps for 2018.

    Energy Evolution also includes $500,000 for Green Fleet initiatives, such as anti-idling, biofuels and hybrid vehicles and $500,000 for new community-based initiatives.

    Under the umbrella of our Energy Evolution leadership, the City’s Building Engineering and Energy Management Team (BEEM Team), has introduced over 120 energy reduction initiatives since it’s inception.

    In 2018, the BEEM group will receive $1 million towards new projects.

    With the conversion of 58,000 streetlights to LED technology, the City is in the process of saving $6 million annually.

    These investments are making tangible changes on the ground.

     

    The Hintonburg Community Centre, which has had numerous mechanical, control, and lighting upgrades, has reduced electrical use by 38 per cent and gas use by 58 per cent, for an annual savings of $29,000.

    The City has provided Electric Circuit with access to its premises to install six charging stations in Ottawa, including at the Terry Fox and at the Fallowfield Park and Ride facilities in Councillor Wilkinson and Harder’s wards.

    In 2018, twelve new electric vehicle charging stations will be installed at City facilities.

    The City of Ottawa is rich in natural areas – this green space and parkland serves as a draw for residents and visitors.

    In 2018, the City will acquire and protect community greenspace valued at $340,000 in the rural areas and $170,000 in the urban area.

    We recently used $1.5 million from the Environmental Resource Area Acquisition Fund to help acquire and protect important community greenspace like Shea Road Woods in Councillor Qadri’s ward.

    In 2018, we will see 125,000 trees planted across the city to increase forest cover in urban, suburban and rural areas.

    Last week, Ottawa successfully issued the first Municipal Green Debenture in Canada – which raised $102 million dollars.

    The City’s Green Debenture Framework is intended to finance environmentally friendly projects across the City that will help us mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change such as our Light Rail Transit.

    There was strong demand for this new offering which allowed the City to reduce the price of the debenture – saving $400,000 in interest costs over the life of the bond.

    The debenture by-law report will be considered later today at Council.

    I am very proud of the balance we have achieved today.

    I am also very proud that our strong collaboration with the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada is delivering jobs, strong growth and economic confidence for Ottawa residents.

    By working together, we have been able to align mandates to leverage outcomes for residents and to invest in the social and physical infrastructure of our city.

    I want to thank our City Manager, Steve Kanellakos, his office and the entire management team for their hard work and for the countless working meetings on Budget 2018.

    Budget 2018 challenged our very capable General Manager of Corporate Services and City Treasurer Marian Simulik, Deputy Treasurer Isabelle Jasmin, and Brian Flynn Manager of Financial Services, to find the funding for the priorities identified by residents from across the city.

    Thanks to the entire team in Corporate Services for delivering this budget proposal.

    As we prepare for the future – and wait for the details of ongoing bilateral negotiations – we are concentrating on SIX key action items:

    • maintaining an affordable city by meeting our property tax commitment at 2%;
    • increasing our investment in infrastructure renewal, with a strong focus on roads, cycling and pedestrian connections;
    • helping our partner agencies manage their cost pressures, which will help to keep Ottawa affordable for all residents;
    • investing in the renewal of our City’s arts and culture sector, with strategic capital and operating investments;
    • building a green, sustainable future thanks to record investments in environmentally sustainable transit and energy evolution investments;
    • strengthening our commitment to core services with the addition of police and paramedic first-line responders.

    I am very proud that this Council is keeping its commitment to Ottawa residents on property taxes.

    This is the cornerstone of our commitment to keeping Ottawa affordable for our residents.

    I am also proud that we are proposing a balanced, affordable and progressive path forward for 2018.

     

    I want to thank all Members of Council who contributed ideas to the 2018 Budget process, including many ideas from their residents.

    I also want to thank all the Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Committee members for their input to date, and for the work ahead to facilitate their respective budgets through their committees.

    I would like to close by thanking my own team in the Mayor’s Office for working closely with the City Manager and City Treasurer on Budget 2018, in particular Serge Arpin, Robyn Guest, James Armbruster, Mathieu Gravel, Danielle McGee, Livia Belcea and DG Stringer.

    Budgets have and will continue to be about setting priorities and being prepared for what is to come.

    It’s about being up front with residents, and it requires an honest accounting of where we are at – we simply cannot be all things to all people.

    It’s also about setting priorities – and I believe that Budget 2018 balances those key priorities in a manner that will broadly secure our residents’ support:

    Balanced, affordable and progressive.

    This is a budget we can be proud of.

    I am looking forward to your input and the public’s input in the weeks ahead.

    Thank you.

     

  • Council approves 2017 Budget – improving core services and maintaining two per cent tax commitment

    Today, City Council approved the 2017 Budget, focussing on strengthening core municipal services and long-term affordability. The budget maintains Council’s commitment to limiting the property tax increase to two percent.

    The budget also places emphasis on supporting core community priorities such as social infrastructure, safety, the environment, support for the arts and efforts to promote economic growth. Substantial investments are also made in active transportation, improved transit services, and programs that support our most vulnerable residents.

    Taking into account the provincial upload of social services, the city is increasing the level of investment in the Community and Social Services budget by $5.92 million in City money, which is a 3.1 per cent increased investment over last year. This includes the money for the EquiPass, Community Sustainability Fund, and increasing the inflationary funding from 1.5 to 2 per cent for community agencies.

    One of the key social investments is the introduction of the new EquiPass, which provides residents living below the low income cut-off with a 50 percent discount on a monthly adult transit pass. When it comes into effect this spring, a single person will see a $56 savings every month (close to $672 per year) – leaving more household finances for necessities – such as food, clothing and accommodation. EquiPass is the largest one-time increase in financial support for public transit in the City’s history.

    In addition, the City’s ongoing efficiency reviews – which included the recent corporate alignment – helped secure accumulated savings for both 2017 and 2018. The new alignment enabled the City to operate within its means and optimize its ability to deliver programs and services in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

    The budget also includes a 1.25 percent increase in the total amount generated from transit fares and limits the surcharges for water and sewer services to an increase of five percent. In addition to capping the residential property tax at two percent, the transit levy was set at 2.5 percent, and the garbage fee rose slightly by $2, amounting to approximately $72 per year for an urban home assessed at $395,400 and $60 per year for a rural home assessed at the same amount.

    Budget 2017 continues Council’s commitment to strengthen the long-term vision of an affordable, caring, sustainable and prosperous city. City-wide highlights include:

    An Affordable City
    • Limit the proposed tax revenue increase for the City-wide levy to two percent
    • Continue setting money aside to reduce the funding gap for the maintenance of City assets
    • Maintain the Rate-Supported Water and Sewer Charge increase at five percent

    A Caring City
    • Introduce the new EquiPass, a transit pass to assist residents earning below Statistic Canada’s low income cut-off
    • Invest in city-wide safety by adding 24 new paramedic positions and five new emergency response vehicles to maintain our Paramedic Service’s ability to meet legislated response time targets
    • Maintain our $16-million investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs
    • Invest in community agencies currently receiving Community Funding that deliver a wide range of programs and services
    • Improve road safety by expanding the red-light camera program and funding new street lighting, traffic control devices and crossing-guards
    • Strategic investments in parks and recreation infrastructure and support to recreation programming
    • Increase funding for arts infrastructure and programs that support the long-term marketing and growth of our festivals and other arts, culture and heritage projects that will be chosen by the community

    A Sustainable City
    • Continue improving the City’s cycling infrastructure network with a focus on safety and convenience, featuring buffered bike lanes, enhanced cycling crossings and wider sidewalks for pedestrians
    • Invest in measures to protect the urban tree canopy
    • Build the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel – the largest Ottawa River Action Plan project
    • Rehabilitate the communal well system that serves rural Ottawa

    A Prosperous City
    • Bid on the 2021 Canada Summer Games to bring tourism dollars into the local economy
    • Continue work on the O-Train Confederation Line project
    • Invest $1.75 million to improve and expand bus service for customers in growing areas of the city
    • Invest in transportation infrastructure to support growing neighbourhoods in the west, east and south
    • Support for special events in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary

    For further information on Budget 2017, visit ottawa.ca/budget.

    Quotes

    “Affordability and inclusiveness are the building blocks of Budget 2017,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “That means keeping the property tax increase at two percent, ensuring equitable access to transit for low income earners, and providing assistance to the most vulnerable members of our community. These steps compliment our budget investments in growth, mobility, economic development, safety and the environment – creating a vibrant city and strong local economy.”

    “The City has worked hard to find efficiencies across the entire organization,” said City Manager Steve Kanellakos. “We are creating a dynamic organization that will strengthen our core municipal services to residents and deliver on the Council priorities that enhance the lives of residents and our city’s future.”

  • Budget 2017 Speech

    Budget 2017- An affordable and caring City

     

    Last June, Council directed that I work with our new City Manager, Steve Kanellakos, to deliver a budget that keeps the City on a path of fiscal prudence.

    I am pleased to report that we are bringing forward a balanced budget for  2017  – while also setting the table for a balanced budget in 2018.

    We have listened to residents through the budget consultation process and we have built that feedback into the draft 2017 Budget.

     

    What we heard so far is that residents want progress on a number of fronts, including:

    • An affordable City for all Ottawa residents;
    • A caring City that uses its assets and resources to help residents succeed;
    • A sustainable City – with a commitment to transit, and active mobility as central pillars of our current and future quality of life;
    • A city that is re-focused on strengthening the core municipal services that residents rely on;
    • A prosperous and vibrant City, where the arts, culture and festivals play a dynamic role in diversifying our region’s economy – particularly as we head into 2017; and
    • A City that has an investment plan for innovation and job creation.

     

    Although we are looking forward to continuing our ongoing discussions on the budget — I am pleased with the level of public consultation that has occurred to date.

    There have been six multi-ward, Councillor-led consultations, as well as two single-ward consultations, in September and October.

     

    To date, the City has received budget ideas and feedback from residents, key partners and stakeholders through a variety of ways, including the Councillor-led Budget consultations, the Budget planning tool available on ottawa.ca, the City’s social media channels, through 3-1-1 and via email at budget@ottawa.ca.

    As of November 3rd, there were 1419 visits to the budget planning tool, with 245 completed responses. My thanks to Councillor Tim Tierney for initiating this new public engagement tool.

    All of the feedback, from all of the channels, has been consolidated and reviewed in the development of the 2017 Draft Budget.

     

    There are a number of new initiatives in Budget 2017 that will strengthen our social safety net – investments that will help residents succeed tomorrow and for years to come.

    Over the course of the last two years, we have been part of a meaningful debate about the challenge of providing residents with a more affordable transit pass.

    Members of Council and the Transit Commission have listened to the calls for the City to fill this funding gap for residents falling through the existing support programs offered by OC Transpo.

    Today, I am pleased to announce that the City, working closely with the Chair of our Transit Commission Stephen Blais, will introduce a transit pass for residents with low incomes.

    The regular adult general pass will cost $113.75 in 2017.

     

    The new pass will cost $57 a month – a 50% discount from the cost of the adult monthly regular pass.

    This new pass will be called the EquiPass.

    A single person using the EquiPass will save $56 each month — or about $672 each year — leaving more money available for other basic necessities such as food, clothing and accommodations.

    A family of two using the EquiPass will save $112 each month, for an annual savings of $1,344.

    An estimated 4,700 transit users below the low-income cut off currently use a monthly pass and would be eligible for the EquiPass.

    OC Transpo will introduce the EquiPass beginning in April  2017 with implementation details coming early in the new year.

    This is the City’s largest one-time increase in financial support to residents living below the low income cut off for public transit in the City’s history.

    I strongly believe that this is a big step forward in building the type of City that we all want – a city that gives residents with low incomes the opportunity to benefit from public transit at a deeply discounted monthly fare.

     

    It will also create an even more affordable City for residents seeking employment, single parents, recent immigrants settling in Ottawa and for those residents temporarily out of work due to injury.

    And we are able to accomplish this — while maintaining existing prices for other transit customers and while keeping our 2% tax cap commitment.

    This year’s budget will include a $500,000 reserve to respond to demands that might outpace our budget projections.

    The new EquiPass will cost the City $2.2 million on an annual basis when fully implemented.

    The new pass will enable more residents to use our public transit system – and we are prepared to deal with this anticipated growth.

     

    As you may remember, earlier this year Council asked the province to contribute funding for the transit pass for residents with low incomes – and we will continue to seek provincial funding moving forward.

    However, due to the result of assessment growth beyond what was forecasted, we are in a position to jump start this program – and we will do this while continuing our efforts to encourage the province to help us provide an even deeper discount in the future.

    We are able to fund the new EquiPass without eliminating other supportive passes. For example, some have suggested getting rid of the seniors pass or increasing the price for adult fares – and I do not support these proposals at all. Our proposal doesn’t punish one group to help another.

    Budget 2017 also enacts Council’s decision to eliminate the Express Pass premiums effective January 1, 2017, for 28,000 transit customers.

     

    This will lead to a reduction in fares for many residents from Kanata, Barrhaven and Orleans who previously had to pay express pass premiums.

    I want to thank suburban councillors who advocated strongly on this issue in particular Stephen Blais, Allan Hubley, Bob Monette, Marianne Wilkinson,  Jan Harder and Michael Qaqish.

    I would like to now return to the important issue of better serving our transit customers as we prepare for the opening of the Confederation Line in 2018.

    We have heard from our rural and suburban Councillors that too many residents are finding it hard to commute to work or school because their peak hour buses are full.

    Budget 2017 does two things on this front.

    • In collaboration with the Government of Canada, we are acquiring 17 new buses to meet growth demands, at a cost of $18.4 million dollars.
    • And secondly, we will be protecting $1.75 million dollars in the base budget to provide approximately 950,000 new customer-trips each year.

    These new peak hour routes will serve the fast growing communities of:

    • Stittsville / Kanata South
    • Kanata North
    • Barrhaven South
    • Barrhaven and Riverside South
    • Leitrim, Findlay Creek, and Blossom Park
    • Lowertown and Sandy Hill
    • Rockcliffe Lands and
    • Orléans, Chapel Hill South and Avalon

    These investments will provide transit customers from growth areas with more options to get into and out of the downtown core more easily at peak hours.

    These new routes will start in late 2017 after we take delivery of our new buses and will lay the foundation for future growth in ridership for the Confederation Line and Stage 2 LRT.

    This expanded service will support the City’s investment in the Confederation Line by increasing capacity to get to and from the LRT from busy parts of the City.

    As we move to increase the number of buses and improve bus routes, we are also keeping a steady focus on our long-term affordability plan.

    Because of Council’s steadfast commitment to the Confederation Line and Stage2 LRT, both the Provincial and Federal Governments are investing with confidence in the future of transit in Ottawa.

    As a result of the funding from all three levels of government, Budget 2017 includes the important planning and design work needed to build Stage 2 LRT– a $90 million dollar investment – of which $67 million will be spent in 2017.

    Ottawa residents will be watching LRT come to life over the next few years.

     

    We are working hard to maintain the momentum to extend LRT – farther west to Bayshore and Algonquin College, farther east to Trim and farther South to Riverside South and Bowesville, with a link to our International Airport.

    We all know that a connected City will support our region’s economic success for generations to come.

    Stage 2 will enable us to expand Ottawa’s LRT network with more than 50 kilometres of rail.

    Budget 2017 also commits $3 million dollars to the Bayshore to Kanata LRT Environmental Assessment – a critical milestone in the future expansion of LRT farther west.

    I want to thank West end Councillors – including Councillors Taylor, Wilkinson, Hubley, Qadri and El-Chantiry for their strong advocacy. I would also like to thank Member of Parliament Karen McCrimmon for helping to secure the federal funding for this Environmental Assessment.

    We will also continue work on West Transitway Extension with $47 million in funding. It will give transit customers a better experience between Bayshore Station and Moodie Drive, thanks to new dedicated transit lanes, which will get buses out of mixed traffic.

    I want to thank all Members of Council for the tremendous teamwork that has allowed our City to make so much progress in such a short amount of time.

    We have accomplished more in 6 short years of LRT planning and construction than we ever dreamed possible.

    Thanks to this level of cooperation and commitment, we are able to speak with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence to our provincial and federal partners.

     

     

    But transit is only one piece of keeping our City moving and improving our quality of life.

    Budget 2017 also continues our Council’s strong support for active mobility.

    • It includes over $8 million of investments in cycling infrastructure through the Community Connectivity Program, the Transportation Master Plan, the Cycling Strategic Initiative and through investments in paved shoulders.

    This will add more than 38 km of cycling facilities to the City’s growing network.

    • Budget 2017 also includes $1.5 million to implement projects in the Pedestrian Plan.
    • Over $52 million for active mobility investments through the (Public Transit Infrastructure Fund); and,
    • $5 million for various sidewalk improvement projects across the city.

    When combined with funding from other levels of government – $73 million will be invested in cycling this Term of Council vs. $27 million in the last term.

     

    This represents a 270 per cent increase over the last Term of Council – something we can be very proud of.

    This partnership is allowing the City to advance a number of key cycling projects that will connect the existing cycling network to our public transit network.

    I wish to thank the many Councillors including Transportation Committee Chair Keith Egli and cycling advocates Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, Mathieu Fleury, David Chernushenko and Tobi Nussbaum for their support.

    2017 will also see us break ground on the new $21 million dollar pedestrian and cycling bridge at Clegg Street.

    This project is possible thanks to a strong partnership with the Government of Canada and we are confident that the Province of Ontario will also commit to this project in the near future.

    My thanks to local Minister Catherine McKenna for her advocacy on this important community link and to Councillor David Chernushenko for his strong support of this bridge.

    The Clegg Street bridge will not only provide pedestrian and cycling connections to Lansdowne Park; it will also improve access to Hurdman and Lees Light Rail Transit Stations.

    The bridge will create an alternate crossing to the Bank Street Bridge, connect the downtown bike network to Old Ottawa East and Main Street and will improve access to the Old Ottawa South North-South Bikeway via Riverdale Avenue.

    I am pleased to report that Budget 2017 also heralds some very significant investments in the core  municipal services that matter most to residents.

    We have already heard from our Chair of Ottawa Police Services, Eli El-Chantiry, that Ottawa Police Services is adding 75 new police officers over three years – including 25 officers in 2017.

    Paramedic services will also see significant investments of 43 new front-line service providers between 2016 and 2018 – with Budget 2017 delivering 24 new paramedics in 2017.

     

    We anticipate that this will lead to improved response times – particularly in our rural and suburban wards.

    Through the consultation process, we also heard that winter maintenance is an important issue for residents.

    I am sure that you can all remember last winter as our public works staff grappled with extreme weather events that delivered one quarter of our total annual snow fall in just 18 hours.

    Ottawa spans more than 90km from west to east and has one of the largest municipal transportation networks in Canada.

    To meet this challenge, Budget 2017 delivers a $4.5 million dollar increase to the base budget for winter maintenance for a total increase of $9 million dollars over the last two years.

    Maintaining our roads is not only a quality of life issue for commuters and transit users, it is also critical to the long-term success of our economy.

    Budget 2017 also invests $23 million for upgrades to rural roads – allowing the City to repair or resurface over 110 kilometres of roads in 2017 in the rural area.

    This will include just over $2 million in matching funding by the Federal Government to provide facilities for safer cycling routes for rural residents.

    My thanks to the rural councillors, Scott Moffatt, Stephen Blais, Eli El-Chantiry and George Darouze for their advocacy.

    City-wide funding for tax supported assets, including roads, structures, buildings and parks, continues to increase in line with Council’s Comprehensive Asset Management direction from $79 million in 2015 to $97 million in 2016 and $104 million in 2017.‎

    There is also an additional $1 million top-up over the next two years to our Rural Road upgrades, allowing us to repair more roads in our four rural wards.

    In total, the City is forecasting that $1.1 billion will be spent on capital – or City building – projects in 2017. For every $1 billion invested in new infrastructure

    10 000 person years of employment, including 5,500 new jobs in the construction sector are created in the local economy.  This level of capital investment provides strong and immediate support to the local economy and will encourage growth, protect jobs, and improve household and business confidence.

    We also heard loud and clear from residents, including the tens of thousands of families who use our City’s Parks and recreation facilities on a weekly basis, that access to quality recreational facilities is viewed as a core municipal service.

     

    Budget 2017 increases the 4-year investment in parks and recreation capital renewal to $16.5 million, up from $6 million in the last Term of Council. My thanks to Councillor Riley Brockington for making sure this significant increase is included in the draft budget.

    There will also be funding for growth projects funded by development charges to improve facilities across the City, from the building of the Francois Dupuis Recreation Center, to the addition of new facilities including Canterbury Covered Outdoor Rink, the Greely Skateboard and BMX Park, and the Riverside South Recreation Complex.

     

    In our efforts to attract more visitors and business to our city post 2017, we will turn our attention to hosting major national and international events.
    This past spring I hosted a Tourism Summit, with Councillor Jean Cloutier, to look for opportunities to sustain our momentum in the years to come.

    Towards that end, Budget 2017 includes funding to support Ottawa’s bid to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games, spearheaded by our Sports Commissioner Jody Mitic.

    This could be our next 2017, and winning the Canada Summer Games would see us leverage funds from the Provincial and Federal governments to invest in our aging sports infrastructure while we get ready to host tens of thousands of visitors in July and August of 2021.

    I want to take a few moments to outline how Budget 2017 will help support the economic transformation of our City.

    More and more, Ottawa is being promoted for its quality of life; as a hub that’s attracting people who want to enjoy all that our City has to offer.

    Budget 2017 will invest in Canada’s 150th anniversary, allowing us to proudly celebrate the greatest City in the greatest Country.

    I don’t have to tell any of you that Ottawa really is the greatest city to raise a family, to work in, to invest in, or simply to visit.

    Next year, the world will be watching as we celebrate 2017, and these celebrations will bring lasting economic benefits to our city.

    With what we have planned, we are expecting a 20 per cent increase in tourism in 2017, which translates into an additional 1.75 million visitors.

    This influx will bring a significant boost for our local hospitality and retail sectors.

     

    For every dollar that Budget 2017 invests in our nation’s 150th anniversary, other partners are coming to the table with more than 4 matching dollars.

    I call that a pretty good deal for Ottawa taxpayers – one that will create jobs, fill hotel rooms and restaurants, and forever transform the way we see our City and ourselves.

    This investment is part of a bolder and more aggressive vision of how we see our City’s future – and a stronger vision of how we see ourselves.

    Ottawa is no longer the sleepy government town where restaurants in the core used to close shortly after dinner time.

    Instead, we have become a City where people are excited to visit – they linger to enjoy the vitality of our downtown core – because there are now so many interesting things to see and to do in Ottawa.

     

    For too many years, we accepted the notion that the Federal Government alone would drive our economic prosperity.

    There are tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators who call Ottawa their home.

    In 2017, we officially open the Innovation Center – a showcase for our City’s best and brightest – creating the jobs of tomorrow today.

    Many are in high tech, many are in government and many are in the tourism and service sectors.

    And more still work in the increasingly dynamic arts, culture, heritage and festivals networks.

    Working with our partners at Ottawa 2017, we were able to create two special funds to help nurture and grow our local talent and events through these celebrations.

    In partnership with Ottawa 2017, $500,000 in funding will be provided for two new initiatives, the first $250,000 fund will support the long-term marketing and growth of our festivals, while the second $250,000 fund will support exciting arts, culture and heritage projects chosen by the community.

    We heard from the arts communities that they need our support and we listened.

     

    We are proud to partner with our local festivals and arts organizations to make 2017 even more memorable for our residents and visitors.

    There is no doubt that 2017 will be a tremendous year for our local artists and arts organizations.

    For over 30 years, local arts leader Peter Honeywell – along with thousands of artists and art enthusiasts – hoped and worked for a new municipal art gallery and a new hub for the local arts scene.

    In 2017, we will proudly witness the opening of the new Ottawa Art Gallery, which will be approximately three times the size of the existing space.

    Many of the City’s hidden gems, including the donated works of the Firestone collection, will be enjoyed by Ottawa residents and visitors alike when the new OAG opens in the fall of 2017.

    In the following year, we will open the redeveloped Arts Court facility, along with the new Black Box Theater – developed in partnership with the University of Ottawa.

    The OAG Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment project represents a public-private investment of over $100 million.

     

    The public sector component, valued at $38.8M is funded by the City of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario, and other partners including the Ottawa Art Gallery and the University of Ottawa. The City is contributing $17.67M, drawn from the city-wide reserve fund.  The Province of Ontario has provided $7.3M in funding.

    It is my hope that shortly we will hear from the Government of Canada on our request for federal funding for the Arts Court project, which will allow us to advance this project even further.

    Because there is so much happening in Ottawa in 2017, a number of groups have shared their concerns that we don’t want 2018 to be a big “hangover year.”

    Of course, we won’t be able to replicate the excitement of 2017 – we may not see this level of excitement again in our lifetime.

    However, we can be smart about how we invest to maintain the momentum of our local arts and cultural organizations into 2018 and beyond.

    That is why I am pleased to announce that Budget 2017 will contribute $150,000 in base funding to launch the Arts Momentum Fund – aimed at ensuring that we continue to showcase and promote our region’s finest talent not only locally, but to the Province, to Canada and to the world for years to come.

    This fund will serve to bring out the best in Ottawa’s arts, culture, heritage and festivals.

    We are ready as a community to shine on the world stage.

    The Arts Momentum Fund will be adjudicated by local community leaders on the same model as our Ottawa 2017 partnership for funding arts, culture and heritage projects.

    Given the long-term nature of this goal, I am also proposing the same base investment of $150,000 in 2018 through this new Arts Momentum Fund.

    With Council’s support, the Arts Momentum Fund will mean a total of $300,000 annually in new base funding for the arts by the end of the 2018 fiscal year, an investment that will be rapidly recouped by increased tourism to Ottawa and increased economic activity in our City.

    This is in addition to the proposed increase of 1.5% or $145,000 in new base arts funding for 2017.

    So in addition to the Ottawa 2017 funding and the new Arts Momentum Funding, we will invest a record $11.2 million in on our arts and festivals programs this year.

     

    Under the leadership of the Chair of Ottawa Public Library, Councillor Tim Tierney, Budget 2017 also includes $2 million in funding to enable us to continue the important work of planning our new Central Library.

     

    In Ottawa, we work in concert with community agencies who are valued partners in the delivery of essential, basic services to residents in neighborhoods across our city.

    Although we are an affluent city, at some point in our lives – for many of us – accessing the most basic necessities can be a challenge.

    That is why we invest $22 million in community funding to 94 agencies that run hundreds of essential programs across the entire City – and this funding is leveraged by dollars from other sources, including investments from donors and other levels of government.

    Through the efforts of these agencies, the City also leverages over 23,000 community volunteers.

    Hundreds of thousands of residents are helped through these crucial community programs and services each year.

    We have heard from community service providers that a growing number of pressing needs of families and individuals are going unmet because of our city’s rapid growth.

    That’s why the 2017 draft budget includes an increase of $610K in new base funding for the 94 agencies that run these vital services. The $110K is to increase the inflationary provision from 1.5 to 2 per cent, and $500K to help funded agencies sustain services while dealing with growing needs and pressures.

     

    This additional funding will support people in need with things that many of us take for granted, such as a hot meal, laundry services or a hot shower, a safe place to get away from violence or simply for clothing like mittens, hats and scarves.

    This funding will also support agencies that deliver health care referrals, street outreach, counseling, employment services and mental health supports.

    This funding is complemented by our ongoing $16 million annual commitment towards the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, in addition to the Child Care modernization and social assistance reform.

     

    I want to thank in particular Councillor Mark Taylor, our special liaison for housing and homelessness, Councillor Michael Qaqish, our special liaison for refugees and Chair Diane Deans for their strong advocacy for these additional funds.

    Ottawa will also benefit from recent federal and provincial funding for housing.

    Specifically, Ottawa has received from the Federal and Provincial Government: $2.8 million from the homelessness Partnering Strategy; $16 million for Social Housing Repairs; $19 million for the Investment in Affordable Housing Program; $12 million through the Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program; $3 million for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and almost $4 million for a Survivors of Domestic Violence Pilot.

    We will also be working to reduce youth homelessness through the provisions of rent supplements and unemployment supports.

    Just last week, the province of Ontario announced an additional $38 million for Ottawa through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative in 2019-2020.

    Ottawa has demonstrated local leadership within the housing and homelessness sector, fostering strong partnerships, and implementing progressive initiatives.

    We are well positioned to leverage new funding opportunities that may be rolled out as part of the federal Phase Two Social Infrastructure Program.

    With Budget 2017 Ottawa will also be taking action on the Environment.

    The City of Ottawa has targets to reduce electricity consumption by 6% and natural gas by 15% by 2020.

    Towards that end, the City of Ottawa supports Energy Evolution, a community-led plan to transform Ottawa into a thriving city powered by clean energy.

    Energy Evolution includes more than 80 community partners such as the City of Ottawa, Hydro Ottawa, Enbridge, EcoDistrict, Ecology Ottawa, Museum of Science and Technology and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

    Energy Evolution – formally known as the Renewable Energy Strategy — is a Term of Council priority aimed at increasing energy conservation, energy efficiency, and supporting renewable energy in Ottawa – including solar and wind generation.

    Budget 2017 will provide $300,000 in strategic funding that will be used to build on existing stakeholder initiatives, and leverage provincial and federal climate change investments expected in 2017 and 2018.

    Examples of specific projects could include, but are not limited to:

    • Implementing a Heat Recovery Plan for City Hall that would draw excess heat from the data centre and Rink of Dreams and redirect it back into the building; and,
    • Piloting a community financing program for a complete energy retrofit of an Ottawa Community Housing multi-unit residential building.

    These are just a few examples of partnership opportunities that could be enabled through the Energy Evolution Strategy. Potential projects will be confirmed in a Progress Report to Environment Committee in early 2017 under the leadership of Councillor Chernushenko.

    The second major environmental initiative that will be funded through Budget 2017 is the Urban Forest Canopy Cover project.

     

    A healthy urban tree canopy not only helps to reduce the urban heat effect during our hot summer months, but it also absorbs odors and pollutant gases, and filters particulates out of the air we breathe.

    The Urban Forest Canopy Cover project will produce the tools necessary to guide decisions, and ultimately maximize investments in urban trees across the City.

    By protecting our tree monitoring and reporting, we can make more informed decisions to protect and expand our urban canopy cover.

    In 2017, the City has 125,000 new trees planned to take root, increasing the forest cover in urban, suburban and rural areas.

    These trees will also assist in replenishing areas that were ravaged by the Emerald Ash Borer.

    We will also be making a one-time contribution of $200,000 to the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Acquisition Fund.

    In addition, the City will mark 2017 with the 150 Maple Grove Project – planting a grove of 150 Canadian maple trees as a living legacy of our celebrations in every ward.

     

    Other investments include: the expansion of light rail transit projects; investments in Transportation Demand Management Strategy for employees in the National Capital Region; and of course, the continuation of sustainably-designed neighborhoods where residents have access to multiple transportation options including safe active transportation routes. Councillor Jan Harder should be commended for the excellent work she and her team have undertaken in Building Better Suburbs.

    Hydro Ottawa, our key partner in environmental initiative, is the largest municipally-owned producer of green power in the province of Ontario, generating enough renewable energy to power 62,000 homes annually.

    Through a partnership with Energy Ottawa, the LED street light conversion project will continue city-wide.

    This project will reduce the City’s electrical use for street lighting by 50% and will reduce our annual electricity costs.

    By the end of this project, up to 58,000 street lights will have been converted to LED.

    The Federal and Provincial governments have recently been making some exciting new investments in municipal infrastructure and services.

    In addition to the federal gas tax funds, both the federal and provincial governments have announced new program funding for transit, for water and wastewater and for housing.

    These funds enable the City to move forward on Council’s long-term plans and address some priority  needs.

    So far, Ottawa has received commitments for $311 million in new or enhanced transit projects, $115 million in water and wastewater projects, and $35 million in affordable and social housing projects – all of which must be substantially completed by the end of 2018.

    This is in addition to the June, 2016 commitment by the Province of over $1 billion for Stage 2 LRT and  for the Trim and Airport extensions.

     

    As you know, City Council nurtures ongoing, formal relationships with many community partners and stakeholder groups like the Alliance to End Homelessness, the Community Health and Resource Centres, the Council of the Arts, Arteast Ottawa and the Aboriginal Working Group, just to name a few.

    Our commitment to long-term planning and the strength of these ongoing partnerships has positioned Ottawa to respond quickly to the federal and provincial calls for projects.

     

    For the 2017-2018 horizon, federal and provincial funding is allowing much-needed public transit infrastructure to proceed ahead of schedule, including $1.5 million for new sidewalk links to improve connections with public transit, and another $3.5 million for sidewalk renewal across the city, $4.3 million for Multi-Use Pathway Renewal, $30 million for Transportation Demand Management and Bus detours during LRT construction, to name just a few.

    Budget 2017 shows what we can accomplish as a City when we work as a team and set clear goals.

    I am very proud of the balance we have achieved.

    I am proud of the degree of collaboration we have shown as a City team to develop this budget.

    This year, we have also witnessed a renewed sense of cooperation with stakeholders and other levels of government.

    By working together, we have been able to align mandates to leverage outcomes for residents and to invest in the social and physical infrastructure of our city.

    These investments have been designed to be inclusive for all residents.

    We challenged our City Manager – Steve Kanellakos – to deliver a balanced budget for the remainder of this term.

    The new management team and our very capable General Manager of Corporate Services and City Treasurer, Marian Simulik and Deputy Treasurer, Isabelle Jasmin, worked diligently  to find the funding for these important priorities.

    I want to thank you Steve, Marian, Isabelle and  your teams for your hard work and for the dozens of meetings we had on Budget 2017.

    I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to thank the entire team in Corporate Services for delivering this balanced budget.

    Steve – I want to personally thank you for your work and leadership in helping to balance the City’s books and for making what I know were tough decisions in an open and responsible way.

    You were able to find the required savings while impacting less than 1% of the City’s workforce.

    The work of your team has reset the foundation of our budget so that Council and the City can reinvest in the core city services that matter most to Ottawa residents.

    And you have followed Council’s guidance of delivering a balanced budget within the framework of a city-wide 2% tax cap.

    I want to take a few minutes to reflect on what this means to Ottawa residents.

    Striving to maintain an affordable City is not a slogan.

    Living within your means is a challenge for thousands of Ottawa residents on a daily basis.

    In Ottawa, there are 293,065 individuals or families that receive a municipal tax bill.

    I don’t know many that pay their taxes in two lump-sum payments…

    Most people pay their taxes in installments or as part of their mortgage payment.

    We all know that the City of Ottawa can’t control how much taxes increase from other levels of government or the rate of inflation – but the biggest element we have direct control over is property taxes.

    That is why I am very proud that this Council set and is honouring its 2% tax cap.

    I am proud that we are keeping our promise on taxes because there are tens of thousands of seniors living on fixed incomes in our City…

    And the last thing any of us want to hear about is a senior being  evicted from their home due to high property taxes.

    I am proud that we are keeping our 2% tax cap promise because there are thousands more – young homeowners just starting out – who are being hard hit by MPAC market value assessment that will already increase their taxes significantly. This is happening in many wards across Ottawa such as Kitchissippi, Rideau-Gouldbourn, Capital, Stittsville and Kanata North.

    In fact, the hardest hit ward is Kitchissippi, where the average MPAC increase is over 7%.

    Budget 2017 is proof that we can have an affordable City for all, while investing in the things that matter most to our residents.

     

    We are showing that we CAN and WILL balance the competing demands of being both an affordable city and a caring city.

    I want to thank all Members of Council who contributed ideas to the 2017 Budget process, including many great ideas from their residents.

    I also want to thank all Chairs and Committee members for their input to date and for the work ahead to facilitate their budget through their respective committees.

    Your leadership has been instrumental in getting us to this draft 2017 Budget.

    I want to remind all Councillors why I am so adamant at keeping our budget and our city affordable.

    Many Councillors in fact campaigned on keeping taxes at or below the rate of inflation.

    Inflation is now running at 1.3%.

    What I am proposing is a reasonable compromise between those who want no specific limit on taxes and those who want less than two per cent.

    I would like to close by thanking my own team in the Mayor’s Office for working closely with our City Manager on Budget 2017.

    Budgets have and will continue to be about setting priorities. It’s about being up front with constituents and not trying to be all things to all people.

    Budgets are about the kind of City we want to strive for – one that is thoughtful and progressive — and one that is affordable.

    I believe that Budget 2017 achieves these goals and I look forward to our ongoing public consultation and your input as we begin the budget process.

    Thank you

     

  • Building a Caring and Affordable City

    Ottawa – Earlier today, City Council tabled a balanced budget. Draft Budget 2017 is affordable, fiscally responsible and has a balanced plan to ensure the City operates within its means.  Draft Budget 2017 focuses on strengthening core municipal services to residents with a continued commitment to long-term affordability.

    The draft budget introduces the new EquiPass to support residents living below the low-income cut off and includes a 50 per cent discount from the cost of the regular monthly adult pass. This is the largest one-time increase in financial support for public transit in the City’s history. A single person using the EquiPass will save $56 each month — or about $672 each year — leaving more money available for other basic necessities such as food, clothing and accommodations.

    The draft budget also includes funding for core community priorities such as social infrastructure, safety, the environment, support for the arts and efforts to promote economic growth. Substantial investments in active transportation and improved transit services are key priorities of this budget, and securing funding for consistent service delivery and programs that support our most vulnerable residents.

    As City Council directed in October, the draft budget caps the residential property tax at 2 per cent.

    “We have listened to residents through the budget consultation process over the last year, and we have built their feedback into the draft 2017 Budget,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “We have created a balanced approach that is both inclusive and affordable. We have also worked hard to ensure that Budget 2017 reflects the priorities identified by residents.”

    As part of the City’s ongoing efficiency reviews including the recent corporate organizational alignment, accumulated savings have been achieved for both 2017 and 2018. Structural financial issues have been addressed to better serve residents by redeploying resources to deliver core municipal services. These efficiencies help ensure that the City operates within its financial means to deliver programs and services in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

    “The City has found efficiencies across the organization balancing the requirement to meet Council priorities without disrupting City services,” said City Manager Steve Kanellakos. “By solving our budget gap in one year the City is able to reinvest in core municipal service areas that improve the lives of residents across Ottawa.”

    The draft budget also includes a 1.25 per cent increase in the total amount generated from transit fares and limits the surcharges for water and sewer services to an increase of 5 per cent. The draft budget caps the residential property tax at two per cent, the transit levy at 2.5 per cent and a slight increase of $2 for the garbage fee, which amounts to approximately $72 per year for an urban home assessed at $395,400 and $60 per year for a rural home assessed at the same amount.

    The Draft Budget 2017 continues Council’s commitment to strengthen the long-term vision of an affordable, caring, sustainable and prosperous city.  City-wide highlights include:

    An Affordable City

    • Limit the proposed tax revenue increase for the City-wide levy to 2 per cent
    • Continue setting money aside to reduce the funding gap for the maintenance of City assets
    • Maintain the Rate-Supported Water and Sewer Charge increase at 5 per cent

     A Caring City

    • Introduce the new EquiPass, a transit pass to assist residents earning below Statistic Canada’s low-income cut-off
    • Invest in city-wide safety by adding 24 new paramedic positions and five new emergency response vehicles to maintain our Paramedic Service’s ability to meet legislated response time targets
    • Maintain our $16-million investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs
    • Invest in community agencies currently receiving Community Funding that deliver a wide range of programs and services
    • Improve road safety by expanding the red-light camera program and funding new street lighting, traffic control devices and crossing-guards
    • Strategic investments in parks and recreation infrastructure and support to recreation programming
    • Increase funding for arts infrastructure and programs that support the long-term marketing and growth of our festivals and other arts, culture and heritage projects that will be chosen by the community

    A Sustainable City

    • Continue improving the City’s cycling infrastructure network with a focus on safety and convenience, featuring buffered bike lanes, enhanced cycling crossings and wider sidewalks for pedestrians
    • Invest in measures to protect the urban tree canopy
    • Build the Combined Sewage and Storage Tunnel – the largest Ottawa River Action Plan project
    • Rehabilitate the communal well system that serves rural Ottawa

    A Prosperous City

    • Bid on the 2021 Canada Summer Games to inject tourism dollars into the local economy
    • Continue work on the O-Train Confederation Line project
    • Invest $1.75 million to improve and expand bus service for customers in growing areas of the city
    • Invest in transportation infrastructure to support growing neighbourhoods in the west, south and east
    • Support for special events in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary

    Public engagement and feedback are important elements in the budget process, assisting the Mayor and Council to make key decisions to guide and direct the investment of public funds. As part of the pre-budget consultation process, Councillors conducted information sessions from September to October – providing information on the municipal budget process to residents and gathering views on the priorities for this budget.

    In addition to the Councillor-led sessions, online resources were available to raise awareness on the budget process, including an interactive consultation tool which allowed residents to plan a simulated municipal budget.

    With the 2017 Draft Budget tabled, there are still opportunities for the public to offer input before the final budget goes to Council for consideration on December 14. Residents can:

    • Register as a public delegation at a committee, board or commission budget review meeting.
      • Members of the public can make a five-minute presentation to standing committees, boards and commissions at meetings taking place from November 10 to December 8. A list of upcoming meetings is available at ca/budget2017
    • Contact your City Councillor
      • The public can still contact Councillors directly to express views about the 2017 Draft Budget.
    • Email budget@ottawa.ca
    • Tweet @ottawacity using hashtag #ottbudget
    • Call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). Rural residents call 613-580-2400.

    For further information on the 2017 Draft Budget, visit ottawa.ca/budget2017.

  • Budget 2016

    2016 promises to be a big year in our city and before embarking on a year of important work to build a better Ottawa, I wanted to take a look back on the year we have just left behind.

    October of 2015 brought with it Council’s one year anniversary since our election as well as the 5 year anniversary since my election as Mayor in 2010. Your continued support remains an honour which I never take for granted and I am committed to working hard to maintain your trust moving forward.

    One of our guiding principles as a Council this past year – as it has been in the 4 that preceded it-  is to find the balance between being prudent with taxpayers dollars in the present while making the necessary investments to ensure our city’s enduring prosperity. This means being rigorous in setting our priorities and honest in understanding that we cannot be all things to all people.

    On December 9, Council passed our 2016 budget which adheres to this principle. With a 2% tax increase – consistent to what I promised in the 2014 election – we continued record investments in social housing, arts, cycling, roads (both urban and rural), and sidewalks. We also moved ahead on the single largest infrastructure investment in our city’s history since the building of the canal: our Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

    2015 saw important milestones reached as the first phase of LRT continues to be built on-time and on-budget. 2015 also brought with it commitments from the two other levels of government to fund second phase of LRT which will see extensions east to Place d’Orleans, south the Riverside South, and West to Bayshore and Baseline at Algonquin College. We have never been closer to being a city fully connected by LRT and I am looking forward to finishing the work needed to realize this in the coming years.

    2015 was an incredible year for sports in Ottawa. First, our city was swept up by the excitement of the Senators improbable run to the playoffs. Second, our new professional baseball team, the Ottawa Champions, took the field for their inaugural season. Third, our Ottawa Fury soccer team made it all the way to the NASL championship game after a great season. Finally, our Ottawa REDBLACKS made it to the Grey Cup after a late touchdown in the Eastern Final that few will forget. Our team may have fallen short in that final game but they made our city proud and I join many in anxiously awaiting next year’s season.

    I hope that you have all been able to spend time with your families over the holidays and I look forward to continuing to serve as your Mayor in 2016.

  • City Council approves 2015 budget

    Ottawa – City Council today approved the 2015 Operating and Capital Budgets, limiting the total residential property tax increase to 2 per cent, while moving ahead with significant city-building projects such as Light Rail Transit, Arts Court, and the Bayview Innovation Centre.

    “This budget was designed to ensure Ottawa maintains momentum on the major initiatives already well underway across the region that are helping to enhance our reputation as a progressive, thriving and growing city,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “A new crime prevention strategy and increases to affordable housing are also among the budget’s centrepieces.”

    The 2015 budget promises investment in affordable housing, community facilities and crime prevention, while keeping taxes and user fees affordable. The transit fare increase has been capped at 2.5 per cent and recreation fees will increase by no more than two per cent. The garbage fee remains frozen for a third consecutive year.

    “The 2015 Budget does a good job of balancing competing interests and desires, while ensuring the provision of day-to-day services and important infrastructure,” said City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick. “I want to thank residents, the Mayor, Councillors and staff for all their input and effort in the development of the budget.”

    Budget 2015 promises key investments that improve Ottawa’s reputation as a liveable city for all residents and businesses:

    A Caring City

    – Fund a strategy for crime prevention and gang activity.
    – Increase funding for maintenance of Ottawa Community Housing Corporation assets.
    – Enhance and increase funding for the School Crossing Guard Program.
    – Deliver funding for commemoration of the victims of the tragic September 2013 bus-train collision.
    – Involve the City in the renewal of the Ottawa Pride Festival.

    A Sustainable City

    – Support the 2013 Ottawa Cycling Plan, which will see the expansion and improvement of cycling networks and multi-use pathways across the city to make cycling a safe and convenient option for residents.
    – Move the Ottawa River Action Plan forward with the construction of the central storage tunnel, putting in place the last elements of funding from federal partners to match investments from the City and Province.
    – Increase funding for tree planting by $125,000 to $1.3 million.

    A Prosperous City

    – Modernize Ottawa’s transit system through Light Rail Transit (Stage 1 and Stage 2).
    – Continue the construction of the Confederation Line, the light-rail transit line from Blair Station to Tunney’s Pasture, which is the backbone of the City’s planned light rail network.
    – Prepare for the transition from construction of the Confederation Line to full operations in 2018.
    – Launch the Western Transitway expansion as the City continues to seek funding for Stage 2 of the Light Rail Transit system that will extend to neighbourhoods in the east, west, and south.

    An Affordable City

    – Limit the Rate-Supported Water and Sewer Charge increase to 6 per cent, as approved in the latest Long Range Financial Plan.
    – Freeze garbage fees for the third consecutive year.
    – Limit the average OC Transpo fare increase to 2.5 per cent, while also providing a $4.2-million investment in new and improved service, including increasing bus routes and approximately 5,700 more Para Transpo trips.
    – Reduce 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) City positions, excluding the Ottawa Police Service.

    For more information about the Budget, visit ottawa.ca/budget2015.

  • Blog: 100 Days

    First of all, I want to thank the residents of Ottawa who have sent me their well-wishes over the past few weeks. It has not been easy for me to be away from City Hall while I recover but the phone calls, letters, emails, Twitter and Facebook messages, and kind words have meant a lot to me.

    Although I have been away, the work of Council continues and I’m happy to note that we have now marked 100 days in office.

    In November, the students of Algonquin College voted to join the OC Transpo U-Pass creating one of the largest and most inclusive U-Pass programs in Canada.

    In December, Council supported two of my governance-related election commitments with the elevation of the Audit Committee to a full standing committee and the creation of the position of Sports Commissioner.

    On these endeavours and others, I have been encouraged by the constructive, collaborative tone around the Council table. Working together, we are keeping life affordable, while investing in key community needs to ensure Ottawa remains the best place to live, raise a family, and grow a business.

    Doing so requires predictability from our tax system and I am proud to have kept my electoral promise of low tax rate changes in the recently passed 2015 budget. This budget ensures our continued financial stability while pushing forward on several significant city-building projects like LRT, the revitalized Arts Court, and the Bayview Innovation Centre.

    The top priority for my second term remains our LRT system and two project milestones were reached in these first 100 days: We opened the new pedestrian and cycling bridge near Coventry Rd. and unveiled a model LRT train at the Aberdeen Pavilion. The former will connect Overbrook residents to the coming LRT station at Tremblay while the latter is giving residents a taste of what the future of transit in Ottawa holds in store. I’m happy to report that construction on the Confederation Line remains on time and on budget and that the Environmental Assessments are ongoing for Stage 2.

    Speaking of which, the 100 day Western LRT Working Group that John Baird and I began reported last week that they had agreed upon a route for the Western LRT extension. This is an affordable and pragmatic route that will serve the residents of Ottawa well and enhance access to the Ottawa River. My thanks to the members of the 100 Day Working Group along with Minister Pierre Poilievre for their hard work and commitment to this project.

    Looking ahead, on March 31 the City will host and important public engagement session to hear from residents about a new central library. Later this year, tourism and hospitality stakeholders will gather at City Hall for a Tourism Summit, another one of my election commitments.

    Over the coming months, I am looking forward to working with Council to set the Term of Council priorities. I will advocate for economic development, road safety, and affordable housing to be central in these priorities.

    Our term is off to a great start and I am confident that working together we will build a more liveable, caring, vibrant, and prosperous city over the next four years.