2012 Budget Address by Mayor Jim Watson

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Today we begin Budget 2012

I want to thank Council, once again, for allowing me the privilege of working with our City Manager to build this budget and to provide this introduction to our work.

The tabling of the Budget is the single most important step forward we take together each year. 

It is the annual opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made. 

It is our chance to set our sights even higher for the year to come. 

As it happens, this Budget tabling falls on the day after the first anniversary of our election. 

One year ago, the voters of Ottawa made a choice for change. 

One year ago, you woke entrusted as the elected representative of your ward. 

The people of Ottawa voted for a new City Council, committed to progress for the long term. 

They sent a clear message that they wanted a different style of leadership dedicated to living within our means, facing up to the big choices and getting the basics right. 

Building on Success
 

Last year we set in place a solid fiscal framework both for today and for the future.

We set in place the architecture that would deliver on our commitment to keeping annual tax increases below 2.5%

Tax fatigue had set in during the previous term. Increases raced ahead without the resolve to face the pressures down. 

Management and Council lead by example last year, cutting office budgets, freezing compensation for elected officials and reducing discretionary spending across the board. 

I am proposing that these measures stay in place again this year. 

Also, the Audit Sub-Committee, under the direction of Chair Chiarelli and Vice Chair Hubley, and working hand-in-hand with the Auditor General, Alain Lalonde, will continue to keep a close eye on the spending of tax dollars in the coming year.

But even with determination, holding to our tax target is not an easy task. 

And budget success is not measured by a single year. 

The true challenge is to set an enduring fiscal framework that keeps taxes low and predictable. 

Not just last year, and this year, but for years to come. 

This is the test of effective Budget leadership. 

This is the test that clearly exposes the long-term costs of short-term thinking. 

This Council is determined to show that its leadership will meet this test.

This year I am pleased to announce that Budget 2012 once again delivers. 

In fact, Budget 2012 restricts the annual increase to 2.39% for the coming year – the lowest rate in 5 years.

We deliver this modest tax plan while continuing to make the ambitious changes we need to strengthen our finances, assets and services. 

As part of preparing our Budget last year, I made clear to our management team that the staff compliment could not continue to grow.

Forty-seven full time equivalent positions have been eliminated in Budget 2012 contributing to savings of more than $3.4 million each and every year. 

This is the first time since 2004 that the number of City employees is not growing but will instead be reduced.

Budget 2012 continues to hold transit fares in check.

Gone are the days of year-after-year fare increases of 7.5%.

Last year we cut that annual increase in transit fares by two-thirds holding to 2.5%. 

This year even with fuel prices up by more than 12% and ridership up by 6%, we have once again kept fare increases to 2.5%.

I want to be clear about this, while we managed it this year again, if we continue to see fuel and ridership increases at this pace we will need our fares to increase to reflect our costs and keep pace with inflation. 

We took action to remove the inefficiency of the old route plan and curtail the spiraling demands of transit for more and more tax dollars.

I am also pleased to say that once again this year, our Library Board and Police Services Board and Board of Health have all stepped up.

Thank you to Jan Harder, Eli El-Chantiry and Diane Holmes for your work chairing these independent boards. 

The Library, Health and Police Boards have put forward budgets that do their part to meet the challenge. 

I want to thank Barbara Clubb for her hard work on this Budget and also for her exemplary service to the people of this City over 16 years.

Barbara you are literally irreplaceable.

I recently read on an Ottawa Citizen blog that you are planning on learning to drive a motorcycle, resuming your weekly Zumba class and taking up tap-dancing.

You have the City’s respect and gratitude for all you have done for this community.

You will be missed.

And to Chief Vern White, I again thank you for your work this year.

There are always tremendous pressures to manage in the police department and you have done your part, putting in place a sustainable framework to deliver on our communities’ policing needs while restraining the force’s call on precious City tax dollars. 

Last year we stepped up to strengthen our emergency response capacity by adding 24 new paramedics with two new ambulances as well as 25 new fire fighters with full equipment, new fire engines and ladder trucks.

These resources are now in place and contributing to our community’s safety.

To the head of our Paramedic Service Tony DiMonte and to our Fire Chief John deHooge, thanks to you, and to the men and women you lead, for your work this year.

Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Levy, has also coordinated the transformation as we have moved to our new Board of Health and he and his staff merit our thanks.

Once again I am proposing we freeze fees for city recreation programs that, in the past, have increased significantly.

Thank you Councillor Taylor for your work with the Community and Protective Services Committee this year and to the dedicated staff in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department.

By working together you have found efficiencies while advancing the planning and construction of important new recreation facilities and parks. 

This year we will open 17 new parks across the City.

Construction will begin next year on the recreation centre in Barrhaven and thanks to the leadership of Councillor Harder it will be a very impressive facility.

Construction will also begin next month on the Kanata North Recreation Centre, which is scheduled for opening in 2013 and will serve the residents of Councillors Wilkinson, Hubley, El-Chantiry and Qadri. 

The Potvin Arena is also the subject of very exciting plans.

Councillor Tierney is bringing real energy and creativity to this project – he is recommending that we involve the private sector in the proposed expansion of the Potvin arena.

By doing so, we would achieve much more than a basic and badly needed renewal but instead achieve Councillor Tierney’s vision for an East-end sportsplex. 

We will be tabling this exciting proposal for Council’s consideration in the coming months.

Again this year, we are moving ahead with green technology in both our buildings and our fleet of vehicles.

For example we are investing in our ice rinks to replace aging cooling systems with more energy efficient refrigeration technology.

Through our green fleet program we’re buying electric ice resurfacing machines to get rid of the engine exhaust and improve the air quality for the parents and children who play in our rinks. 

Budget 2012 devotes $3 million in the coming year to green building retrofits and $500,000 a year to expanding our green fleet program.

So far our Smart Energy initiatives have achieved annual savings of $800,000 each year.

We saved this by retrofitting City facilities with lighting upgrades, controls for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, reducing our water consumption, and converting from electric, oil and propane to natural gas.

The major push funded in Budget 2011 through Service Ottawa to improve service and save money is starting to pay off. 

This year the online rental and payment for all facilities from rinks to community centres will become available, lowering costs while increasing convenience and use.

My thanks go to the members of the I.T. Sub Committee for all their work. 

In 2011 the Community and Social Services Department put in place a single point of access to services like Employment and Financial Assistance, Child Care, Long Term Care and Housing resulting in a reduction of $900,000 in staffing costs over two years. 

Some changes are already making us more efficient in a number of small ways that the public won’t directly notice but that save money just the same.

We transformed our fleet management last year with a new parts management system, a new standardized light fleet tender process and a new wireless garage network.

Together these and other new processes have reduced costs by over $800,000 annually and have lead to fewer vehicles experiencing down time.

The various Mobile Workforce initiatives have resulted in another $690,000 in savings so far. 

We are saving money in parking reimbursement, overtime and on-call costs because staff have the troubleshooting tools available in the field to respond to calls.

We are also taking action to reinforce our social fabric in Ottawa at the same time. 

We took action on housing.

Not having a home to call your own, especially for families with children, is a terrible thing.

Imagine going to sleep as an eight-year-old child not knowing where you will be sleeping the next night.

Imagine the anguish of a parent struggling to provide that certainty. 

That is what drives me to take the lead on building the bridge of affordable housing.

I call it a bridge because it is just that, a route back from a terrible reality faced by too many who work hard to make ends meet and don’t have a safe and affordable home to call their own.

Last year, despite the financial challenges left to us, this Council chose to make an unprecedented commitment to affordable housing in our community.

In 2011, we made $14 million in new annual funding available which is producing results.

Budget 2012 continues this vital funding.

Long-needed renovation to existing social housing is under way.

New affordable housing for large families, including units which are fully accessible, is being built.

Ninety-six additional families have been moved off of waiting lists and into homes in the five months since our new housing strategy was put in place.

Thirty-nine families have been moved out of motels and shelters and into proper homes. 

The new Cornerstone Facility is open on Booth Street and forty-two long-term homeless women have moved in.

There is more to do, but with the leadership of our Housing Board Chair Steve Desroches and Jo-Anne Poirier at Ottawa Community Housing working with the major boost in base funding provided last year we have what it takes to ensure continued progress in the years to come. 

Last year we launched an $8 million campaign over four years to improve the accessibility of city buildings, the largest investment in accessibility in the City of Ottawa’s history.

The importance of these improvements as our population ages really became clear at our Seniors Summit this year.

This effort is now in full swing, opening doors and new possibilities for seniors and disabled members of our community.

We will also continue to move forward supporting our arts and culture communities through the exciting redevelopment of Arts Court.

We’re also addressing long-term community needs and facing up to long-ignored realities.

Last year, Council stepped up to fix the fundamentally unsustainable public transit system that we inherited.

The financial demands of the transit system were far outpacing the available funding.

The growing cost of providing public transit threatened our ability to fund other vital services that we must provide.

 Action was needed to set public transit on a sustainable financial footing.

This Council met the challenge. 

The network optimization has not been without its challenges for some transit users. 

For most, the bus routes are now more straightforward and direct.

The winding milk runs through back streets are gone. 

But for some there is farther to walk to get the bus.

We still have one of the shortest standards for acceptable walking distance as shown during the independent peer review release last year.

We are working to fix routes where we are seeing capacity issues, but it is important to remember that capacity standard on our buses is almost 20% lower than Toronto’s standard.

Change is always difficult and I want to thank transit riders for working with us to build a truly sustainable transit system, and for letting us know what is and is not working for you. 

Now that we have a new and more efficient route structure, Budget 2012 devotes an additional $3.2 million to boost service to deal with growth in ridership.

So throughout the coming year we will be adding some 66,000 service hours in a targeted way to address these growing demands on our system.

This increased service will begin as soon as it can be scheduled, by January 1st of 2012.

In addition to growth, Budget 2012 provides a targeted $2.3 million in funds to boost capacity on routes like the 87, 94, 95 and 96.  

More trips and more high-capacity buses will be added to these busy routes.

Measures will also be taken to improve the reliability of service and to reduce capacity issues when buses run late.

The details of how to deploy these additional resources will be the purview of the Transit Commission.

I want to thank Chair Deans, Vice Chair Egli and the members of the Commission for their steady and sensitive leadership. 

The toughest part is over.

Now we can reap the rewards of the optimization through a renewed ability to expand and improve service. 

We have a collective agreement for this year with the Amalgamated Transit Union 279, at a reasonable cost, backed by a strong 83% ratification.

This was important to safeguard our riders from the pain of another winter strike.

Now we will move forward to negotiate a longer-term agreement.

Our new double-decker bus fleet will begin to arrive later in 2012, adding further high-capacity service.

Work will begin so that frequency and capacity of the O-Train can double in 2014 as the new trains we purchased to serve the north-south route take their place on the line.  

We are expanding our park and ride network.

Last year the Riverview Park and Ride was expanded by 210 parking spaces to a total of 365.

We expanded the Fallowfield Park and Ride by 579 spots to a total of 1,665.

Thanks to some entrepreneurial thinking by Councillor Qadri we have an agreement to add 100 Park and Ride spaces at Scotia Bank Place.  

In the coming year the Trim Road Park and Ride will expand by an additional 380 parking spots. 

Council also acted in 2011 to get light rail back on track. 

We pushed for, and got a faster delivery schedule.

We pushed for, and got a more feasible and affordable alignment, abandoning the 12 story deep-dive of the cross-country alignment. 

Last Friday, we announced the short-list of three very impressive teams that will vie for the right to construct the biggest and most transformative project this city has undertaken since Colonel John By set out to build our historic canal

I think you will all agree with me that each of the teams that we have attracted to this competition is truly impressive in scope, capability and track record.  

There is going to be a stiff competition among these teams and we have made the private sector entirely accountable for building this system on time and on budget – something we need to do more of in the future.

The successful team will put their money on the line to finance part of the cost.

It is that skin in the game that will make all the difference in ensuring quality and performance. 

When in place, the backbone of our City’s light rail system will provide high-capacity links through the core, carrying more passengers, more quickly, in more comfort, and for less. 

Ottawa on the Move 
 

As we prepare for the construction of light rail, it is more important than ever to have a transportation network that works well.

The capital review we undertook this year is now complete and Budget 2012 will begin to make the changes that we need. 

In meeting with each of the members of Council in preparation for Budget 2012 and in joining you at community events, I heard a clear, consistent theme.

What I heard as your chief concern was certainly underscored by the public comments that came in through my Budget 2012 email address and it is this:

We need to take care of the roads we have before we expand further and the amount of money available to address safety and road quality is not sufficient to meet this Council’s expectations.  

Budget 2012 takes action through a comprehensive initiative called Ottawa on the Move.

Through Ottawa on the Move we will triple our road investment over the next two years.

In total we will now devote $340 million over three years in resurfacing, road reconstruction, sidewalk improvements, cycling infrastructure and rehabilitation of aging structures.

This program will be enabled by $125 million in new tax-supported debt.

Because of the boost provided by Budget 2012, in the coming year alone we will complete all of the work that would have taken until 2015 and beyond.

Then we will go on at the same pace in 2013 and 2014, advancing nearly half a decade of projects and completing them before the end of this term of Council.  

Over 2012-2014 we will resurface more than 200 km of paved roads.

Of that 200 km, more than 70 km will see added bike lanes and paved shoulders to improve active transportation.

We will also address 20 km in sidewalk needs.

As Canada’s Capital, we will suffer more from potential federal downsizing.

It makes sense to support our economy through the challenges we see coming. 

It also makes sense to look ahead and work now to ensure that our streets are in good shape for the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada in 2017.

We’ll be hosting the nation and we want that to be an event to remember.

Roadwork tenders are coming in at competitive rates.

We need to take advantage of the fact that it has never been less expensive to borrow funds to make infrastructure improvements.

The City’s top credit rating allows us to access the lowest interest rates in 40 years and lock these low costs in for the long-term. 

Earlier this month, for example, we went to market with a $75 million bond offering at a rate of 2.87% that is locked in for a decade.

It sold out in the blink of an eye. 

Compared to the expected inflation rate for planned construction projects that is running at 3.25% in our region, it is clear that it makes sense to invest now.  

Sometimes inaction costs more than action.

In this case, inaction would cost a lot more than moving forward with prudent investment.

Over the course of Ottawa on the Move we will save at least $12.9 million by accelerating more than 150 needed infrastructure and rehabilitation projects, including the rehabilitation of nearly 30 bridges and culverts. 

In the east we will be resurfacing Ogilvy road.

We will realign Trim road, repair Princess Louise Drive, sections of Jeanne D’Arc and deal with over a dozen other roads requiring attention.

We will renew parts of highway 174 to alleviate growing safety concerns.

This project would have been too large to take on for many years without our investments through Ottawa on the Move.

And our four east-end Councillors – Councillors Bloess, Monette, Tierney and Blais – made  clear that waiting for years to address the 174 was not an option.

In the west we will do the Stonehaven and Eagleson widening, the Eagleson turn lanes at Fernbank, intersections at Bridlewood and Steeplechase, improvements to Baseline, Huntmar, Carp Road and more than a dozen other resurfacing projects.

In the south and Nepean we will move forward on Admiral Avenue, Crerar, Cambrian, Davidson, River, Baseline, Woodroffe, Albion and other main arteries and transit routes.

In the downtown we will reconstruct or resurface Main, Bronson from the canal to the downtown, Albert, Rideau, Churchill, Gladstone, Scott, and complete works along Carling and Heron Bridge, undertaking over two dozen capital projects that would not have otherwise been possible for years. 

Through Ottawa on the Move, rural roads in need will get specific attention that would not otherwise have been possible.

In fact, more than a third of the road resurfacing and upgrade projects will be undertaken in rural wards where distances are greater.

Work needed on Parkway, Old Prescott Road, Kinsella, Donnely Drive, McCordick, Ottawa Street, Colonial, and more than 60 other rural roads will be dealt with through this expanded program.

Councillors Thompson, Moffatt, Blais and El-Chantiry have been relentless about our rural roads and I am glad to say that Ottawa on the Move will meet these rural needs.

To give you a sense of the scale of this effort - where we would once have been able to address fewer than 40 roads in the rest of the term of Council, Ottawa on the Move will enable us to tackle over 150 bridge and resurfacing projects alone. 

Ottawa on the Move is about more than investing in roads and structures.

Across the city our sidewalks will get a lot of attention they would not otherwise get.

Where last year there was little funding designated for sidewalk renewal, Budget 2012 provides $4 million for improvements.

Councillors Holmes, Chernushenko and Hobbs have been championing this need, and Ottawa on the Move will make a big difference when it comes to our sidewalks.

Ottawa on the Move also advances our cycling network - building on last year’s acceleration of the program.

There is no point in creating cycling paths in isolation of one another.

They need to be part of a network.

We will be working hard to fill the gaps in our cycling network to improve interconnections and safety so you can get where you are going by bike.

Off road pathways near the Aviation Museum, through Hampton Park, along the O-Train corridor from Carling to the Ottawa River, and extending the Sawmill Creek path from Walkley to Brookfield will be completed.

Over the next three years, we will also put an East West Bikeway in place to provide safer and more comfortable commutes for those looking for alternatives to traveling by car or transit.

Work on the design to implement a pedestrian bridge over the Rideau from Donald to Somerset will also get underway.

This is a project that I know has the support of Councillors Clark and Fleury and many of their residents.

In total, Budget 2012 provides an additional $10 million over three years for cycling infrastructure.

This funding is on top of the $8 million over four years provided in Budget 2011 and does not include an additional estimated $6 million in new bike lanes and paved shoulders that will be done through Ottawa on the Moves’ road renewal program.

In total, this term of Council will provide the largest financial commitment ever put towards building our cycling city, some $24 million in new money devoted over this term.

Finally, Ottawa on the Move provides the funds to undertake the most needed safety and traffic management projects that have remained unfunded on the books over fifteen years.

This is a term of Council priority and while I support the goal, Budget 2012 does not provide for the $690,000 to fund $30,000 in each ward.

I do not support that approach.

A penny in everyone’s cup leaves us all paupers.

Instead, we have provided $2.5 million in immediate capital authority as part of Ottawa on the Move to make the most needed traffic fixes happen as quickly as possible. 

Council will be asked to select a strong package of sensible measures that will happen this year and next. 

You, as Council, will set priorities. 

The public wants to see action on this, not more studies.

Ottawa on the Move provides you the resources to create that action. 

Sustainable Ottawa
 

Building municipal infrastructure isn’t enough.

Stimulus is important when it is needed, but it is not sufficient to ensure a sustainable future. 

It is a vibrant private sector that really drives our economy.

That is why in this past year we have brought increased focus to economic development and more coherence to our collective efforts to boost Ottawa’s prospects. 

Our business leaders rallied around the creation of Invest Ottawa and put in place a new road map for prosperity.

We made the decision together to fund this important work as part of our term of Council priority setting.

The strong economic development plan we now have boasts the support of partners across the City. 

We are finally rowing together again in the same direction – like the powerful economic development team Ottawa deserves.

A sustainable future means enabling smart growth.

It means removing unintended barriers to investment and unleashing those who want to build our city in a sustainable way. 

Which brings me to the second major priority I heard from you during my discussions with Council this year.

Our planning process is not working the way we need it to work.

Nobody is happy with the situation.

Communities are frustrated.

Industry is frustrated.

Staff are frustrated.

We need change—a renewed energy and focus to create a service culture in planning again.

We need to provide the support to our planning group to be the principled, accountable and effective force we all want.

Nobody has been more aggressive with me about the need for change than our highly effective Chair of the Planning Committee, Peter Hume. 

I am not happy with this situation and neither Council, are you.

But this is not new.

It has been going on for some time. 

This is the year it ends.

With the leadership of the City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick, Deputy City Manager Nancy Schepers and our General Manager of Planning and Growth Services John Moser, Budget 2012 devotes the resources to step up our game.

Where we need to add resources to fix this, we will. 

Equally, there is a need for a cultural shift in the development industry in Ottawa.

Understand me clearly - these next sentences are for the developers and builders listening. 

Some are treating zoning and community design plans as mere suggestions and that will end. 

Our Urban Design Panel is here to stay. 

We are going to make infill work. 

This Council will be asking more of builders.

Developers will be expected to pay for the full cost of the growth in infrastructure they cause.

We will be starting this winter with a Planning Summit hosted by myself and Councillor Hume.

We will kick off the review of our 2014 Official Plan, and the refresh of our Infrastructure Master Plan and Transportation Master Plan. 

As a Council we share an aspiration and ambition for a greener city with a greener development industry.

When Council met to decide on its priorities, it focused on the concept of financial and environmental sustainability. 

In truth, finances and the environment are intertwined.

We can’t build without the certainty that we can afford to maintain what we have built.

We can’t continue to build without proper regard for the strain on our City’s roads, water, electricity and natural environment. 

In the last election, I proposed the formation of a Green Team to improve the City’s green coordination across the board.

Councillor McRae is driving this on solid waste, water, sewers and a host of other environmental services that the City offers.

Councillor Hume is driving this initiative in planning, approvals and building permits. 

With Budget 2012, we provide the resources to take the next giant step forward.

Starting next year we will provide a Green Express Lane for developments that strive for more. 

We will set a tough standard for housing, buildings and renovations to qualify for the Green Express Lane.

For those who strive for more in energy efficiency, set the bar higher on water conservation, incorporate reused materials, minimize waste from construction and demolition and work to reduce strain on our roadways by being close to transit – you will notice the difference.  

We will examine and pre-approve the new Better Build techniques we want to give priority to and we will support them.

Builders and homeowners who include these Better Build techniques such as solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic systems, storm and gray water re-use systems will not face barriers, they will instead get express lane service. 

We will add to the Environmentally Sensitive Land Fund we created last year, dedicated to making sure we have the resources to buy key parcels of land that make sense.

Already there is $4.4 million in the fund now and will be adding approximately $1.4 million in an additional contribution this year.

And, we will continue to seek funding from our federal and provincial partners so we can complete work on the Ottawa River Action Plan.

I am very proud of this Council and the year of accomplishments we have had together.

We are moving in the right direction with respect and teamwork.

I want to thank you again for entrusting me with the responsibility to table Budget 2012 with our City Manager and to work to ensure we have a package that delivers on your priorities.

I believe that, together with staff, the financial blueprint before you does just that. 

I also want to thank our city officials and especially our outstanding City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick and City Treasurer Marian Simulik for your work in putting together Budget 2012.

It is a budget I am proud to table.

My thanks as well to our two highly competent and dedicated deputy city managers – Nancy Schepers and Steve Kanellakos, for their tremendous contributions. 

Once again this year we will have consultations in every part of the city.

Once again I will ask you to make adjustments – in committee - where you think it right to do so, while respecting the budget envelope provided in the Budget 2012 framework. 

I look forward to completing this budget and getting on with an exciting year ahead.

My Council colleagues – we’re only getting started! 

We have three more years to move this City forward together and I, for one, look forward to hearing from you and your constituents as we help shape our city’s financial future.

Thank you. 

Merci Beaucoup.