Mayor Jim Watson’s 2018 State of the City Address
State of the City Address
Mayor Jim Watson
Wednesday, January 31
The beginning of a New Year always brings with it the opportunity to look back and acknowledge what we have accomplished as a City and as a Council.
It’s an exercise I enjoy going through, because it reminds us of the memorable events that have helped define our city in the last year, and gives us an opportunity to remember how our community came together.
With our city growing at a fast pace and so many issues coming before us, it’s easy to lose sight of the great community-building projects that are constantly taking shape around us.
Before I start, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin People, who have lived on these ancestral lands for millennia.
I value our ongoing relationship with the surrounding Algonquin communities – Pikwakanagan, Kitigan Zibi and the Algonquin’s of Ontario – and I look forward to continuing our work together to improve the lives of our residents.
And I want to welcome Chief Kirby Whiteduck from Pikwakanagan who has joined us today.
As I look back on this past year, it’s easy to recognize that 2017 was a great year of celebrations for Ottawa.
Our city quickly became the centre of festivities as our country came together in its nation’s capital to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
And after years of planning, our entire community embraced the celebrations and made 2017 an unforgettable year in Ottawa.
But our community also came together through great challenges, and surmounted hardships like we had rarely seen before.
And I am proud of how we rolled up our sleeves and overcame these challenges together – the way Ottawans usually do.
As we begin the fourth and final year of this Council’s mandate, I want to highlight some of the progress we have made together in 2017 and over the last few years, before I take stock of the work that remains for Council and our staff to achieve in 2018.
As you might have guessed, what really stood out for me over the past year is the success of our Ottawa 2017 celebrations and the boost it has brought to our city and to our local pride.
There is absolutely no question that our Ottawa 2017 events have had a significant impact on our local economy, and our national and international reputation as a destination of choice.
For example, a Conference Board of Canada report published in November indicated that Ottawa-Gatineau’s economy will enjoy in 2017 and 2018 its strongest two-year period in the last 10 years.
The report also forecasted that our region’s GDP would increase by 2.5 per cent in 2017, and another 2.2 per cent in 2018, adding approximately 9,100 jobs to our economy.
The study went on to say that, in addition to an increase in jobs in the federal public service, as well as the benefits of significant infrastructure investments like the Confederation Line, our region’s growth also benefited from an increase in tourism generated by our 2017 celebrations.
It was truly a great year for our city.
As we all know, Ottawa is always a national destination for Canada Day celebrations.
But for 2017, we made it an entire year to remember in Ottawa, highlighted by events that captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors alike.
And our efforts have received international attention.
Ottawa was recognized in the LA Times as being “cool with a capital C,” and the New York Times also featured Ottawa in an article recommending all the hip attractions and best restaurants that tourists with 36-hours to spend in our city should visit.
Ottawa has shed its reputation as a sleepy government town, and is emerging as an exciting and dynamic city for tourism.
With Ottawa 2017, we went from Ottawa the old to Ottawa the bold.
Our 12-month long program of events gave everyone a reason to visit Ottawa.
We kicked off the year with a historic human chain of 400 children from City Hall to the Parliament of Canada.
Each child passed along a sacred Indigenous flame that would see the Governor General reignite Canada’s Centennial Flame, first lit up in 1967 during our centennial celebrations.
We offered our residents and visitors a series of unique culinary events.
During two weeks in July, we lifted groups 150 feet in the air to offer them a gourmet dinner or cocktails with the best views in the city.
More than 3,000 people enjoyed this experience called Sky Lounge, which had a 98 per cent satisfaction rate.
Canada’s Table was another unforgettable culinary evening – a thousand-person dinner served by 20 of the best chefs in Canada, right in front of Parliament.
This event had a 99 per cent satisfaction rate, and this once-in-a-lifetime event sold out in 12 seconds.
Throughout JUNO Week, Ottawa threw a party, and Canada brought the music.
We managed to put a spotlight on Ottawa as a music city by hosting the 2017 JUNO Awards, which were seen by more than 6.5 million viewers nation-wide.
What a beautiful sight to see JUNO Award winner Ruth B. perform beside the incredibly talented kids from Orkidstra.
We also took this opportunity to announce that the City would fund the development of Ottawa’s first Music Strategy, aimed at supporting our local artists, musicians and producers.
Councillor Leiper and the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) have been hard at work consulting with stakeholders and developing this strategy, and I look forward to their recommendations to FEDCO in April.
Of course our sesquicentennial festivities included a celebration of everything winter, as well as our national sport, hockey.
We dedicated an entire weekend to celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, which was first presented in Ottawa by Lord Stanley.
For the occasion, we were joined by Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League, as well as former NHL stars.
We hosted an exciting and scenic Red Bull Crashed Ice competition over the Rideau Canal Locks, between Parliament and the historic Chateau Laurier.
Approximately 200,000 people braved the cold to join the crowd, 31 per cent of whom were out-of-town visitors.
On July 2nd, we held the historic interprovincial picnic on the Alexandra Bridge, offering the best views in the National Capital Region.
This sold-out event was a Canadian first, and 34 per cent of the people who attended were from out-of-town.
It was an honour to welcome the Premiers of Ontario and Québec in the middle of the bridge with my colleague and friend, Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin.
Throughout the year, Ottawa Welcomes the World partnered with over 85 embassies and high commissions to host an impressive 43 multi-cultural events at Lansdowne Park.
These events surpassed our attendance projections and welcomed more than 232,000 students, residents and visitors, all wanting to learn more about other cultures and Ottawa’s rich diversity.
This summer, we welcomed more than 325,000 visitors to Kontinuum, an underground sound and light show designed in the Lyon Station of the O-Train Confederation Line.
And who could forget the last weekend in July, when we hosted La Machine and their two gigantic street performance creatures, Long Ma the dragon-horse, and Kumo the spider.
They battled each other through our streets, as Long Ma sought to retrieve his wings, which Kumo had stolen from him.
It was an incredible four days of performances that attracted 750,000 spectators and captured the imagination of every resident and visitor.
It was a very special event – probably the event of the year for our city – and I’m very proud that we could deliver such an experience for the huge crowds.
Last fall, residents and visitors were able to take in Mìwàte at Chaudière Falls and rediscover this stunning site and its spectacular illumination.
This powerful tribute to Indigenous People and the Algonquin heritage of our region was produced in collaboration with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, with the great assistance and support of Christina Ruddy, who represented this community on the Ottawa 2017 Board of Directors and was an important voice for the Algonquin vision on all things 2017.
Approximately 45,000 people experienced Mìwàte over four weeks, with a 98 per cent satisfaction rate.
We were chosen to host the Can-Am League’s All-Star Game at RCGT Park for the first time, thanks to the efforts of the Ottawa Champions, their owner, Miles Wolfe, and their President, David Gourlay.
We then had the honour of hosting the 105th Grey Cup and the Shaw Grey Cup Festival, which were tremendous successes.
This was truly an incredible event – one that brought together CFL fans from right across the country to celebrate Canadian football here in the nation’s capital.
TD Place – which was completely sold-out – was transformed into a picturesque snow globe during the game, which was one of the best Grey Cup games in recent history.
And I don’t think you could have gotten a more Canadian moment than that snowy halftime show, which saw Shania Twain entering the stadium on a dog sled before being escorted on stage by a Mountie.
It was a big boost for our tourism sector as well, with the event generating approximately $100 million in local economic activity.
My thanks to former Mayor Jim Durrell who, together with Bernie Ashe and the team at OSEG, did a terrific job with not only the game, but also the festival.
Ottawa also hosted Canada’s top curlers at the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
This was an epic battle to determine who would represent our country at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
It was a fantastic result for our local team, when Rachel Homan and her squad clinched the gold medal before an ecstatic crowd at Canadian Tire Centre.
These local champions are now headed to South Korea next month, and I wish them the very best of luck in their Olympic journey.
Finally, we capped the year off by hosting a very successful NHL 100 Classic on December 16, which marked the 100th anniversary of the very first NHL game.
This game recreated the historic 1917 match between the Senators and the Montreal Canadiens.
Despite the bitter cold, it was one of the most well-attended sporting events our city had ever.
I have only scratched the surface of all the wonderful activities that took place throughout the city to mark this special year in Canada’s history.
There were many other events that were put on by community associations, local clubs and arts organizations – events that brought our neighbourhoods together.
And I want to thank Members of Council for their support of our Ottawa 2017 initiative over the last few years.
These celebrations would not have been possible without your early commitment and support.
Ultimately, we leveraged our City’s $5.8 million dollar investment to generate significant funding from other levels of government and from our generous private sector partners like CIBC and Bell.
In the end, we delivered a $40 million program of major events and festivities for our residents and visitors.
We all worked together to deliver this memorable year for our city, and our residents are even prouder of Ottawa thanks to our efforts.
And I want to take this opportunity to thank all our Ottawa 2017 volunteers, who put in close to 25,000 hours to ensure these events were a success.
We would not have been able to pull this off without them.
I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the outstanding work of our board of directors and the team at Ottawa 2017, led by our very capable Executive Director, Guy Laflamme.
I know every member of the team put in countless hours to make this a tremendous year in Ottawa, and you have succeeded thanks to your efforts.
Our Executive Director, Guy Laflamme, and his entire team did amazing work, and we owe them all a warm round of applause.
I would like to thank Councillors Jean Cloutier and Mathieu Fleury, as well as Steve Ball, Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, who all played a key role in the planning and the exceptional delivery of these events.
Now with the help of Members of Council, we have managed to preserve a bit of the historic record of 2017.
Your communities have contributed mementos and keepsakes of these celebrations, which have been placed in the 2017 time capsule.
On February 20th, we will be placing the time capsule inside the walls that make up this very building, with instructions for a future Council to open it in 2067 – during our country’s bicentennial year.
I know a lot will have changed by then, but I hope our future residents will get as much enjoyment from their discovery as we did this year.
I also want to recognize our hospitality sector – our hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions – who worked particularly hard throughout the year.
You have been exceptionally busy, and I want to congratulate you on a job well done.
I’m pleased to report that our full-year numbers for 2017 now show an increase of 7 percent in average hotel occupancy rates.
A Smith Travel Research report published this fall confirmed that Ottawa’s hotel revenue growth outperformed every other major city in Canada.
The great news is that hotels, restaurants and shops reaped the benefits right across the city – and let’s remember that Ottawa hotels employ over 6,000 residents.
Hotels in our suburban centres like Orléans, Bells Corners, Kanata and Barrhaven, as well as the airport hotels, saw their occupancy rates increase significantly throughout the year, while those in the downtown were at full capacity on a number of occasions and saw much higher revenues than usual.
2017 has also been a fantastic year for the Shaw Centre, which has welcomed almost double the number of conventions and delegates compared with previous years.
Congratulations to Nina Kressler and her team at the Shaw Centre for their exceptional efforts to solidify Ottawa’s reputation as a great city to visit and to host outstanding events.
And now after 2017, we can add events like the Grey Cup, Red Bull Crashed Ice, La Machine, the NHL 100 Classic, and many national and international sporting events to the list of successful events hosted here in the nation’s capital.
Beyond the festivities and their economic impact, Ottawa 2017 also brought social benefits.
As an example, let me point to the partnership that Guy and his team delivered with the Ottawa Mission at Inspiration Village.
When Guy reached out to Peter Tilley to offer the Mission some space to showcase their programs, he quickly saw an opportunity to do much more – to give some of their former Mission clients a chance to earn money, build their confidence and slowly re-enter the work force.
The Mission hand-picked five individuals who had recently graduated from their custodial program and who were looking for an opportunity to gain some work experience.
What started as a simple work opportunity turned into a story of inclusion, personal growth and self-worth – one that George, Wenyin, Pierre, Noah and Kerry will not soon forget – and one that could change the course of their lives.
Now we must work to sustain the momentum we have worked so hard to build in 2017.
And with that goal in mind, we have already received some encouraging news leading into 2018.
A few weeks ago, Taekwondo Canada announced that Ottawa will host the 2018 National Taekwondo Championships at the EY Centre in February.
This national event is expected to attract almost 1,000 athletes, coaches and family members to the city, as well as hundreds of visitors, generating approximately $800,000 in economic activity.
We will also be hosting the Canadian Track & Field Championships at Mooney’s Bay again this year.
We will continue to focus on major events that will help us stimulate our economy.
Since the launch of our Bid More, Win More, Host More strategy, the winning bids and hosted events have generated approximately $250 million for our hospitality sector and our local economy.
But beyond identifying future opportunities for growth, we must also secure the funds to attract these events to Ottawa and deliver them successfully.
And I’m proud to say we have taken a crucial first step in that direction by working with our partners to implement the Hotel Tax, which will provide greater financial capacity for Ottawa Tourism and the Shaw Centre to attract more major events, conventions and visitors to Ottawa.
I want to acknowledge all our tourism partners who have joined us this morning, and I thank them for their great work in 2017 and their continued efforts to grow tourism to Ottawa.
For the last number of months, a team from Ottawa Tourism, Ottawa 2017 and my office has been evaluating the success and sustainability of our 2017 events to see which ones we can build upon, and which ones could potentially be brought back in future years.
A number of announcements will follow in the coming weeks and months as their efforts come to fruition.
But in the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that Ottawa Tourism has already agreed to set aside funding to repeat Agri 150 in the summer of 2018.
Offered in all four rural wards of the city, Agri 150 was a successful series of culinary events that brought residents and visitors out to farms in rural Ottawa.
There, participants rediscovered how local food is produced, in addition to enjoying farm to table gourmet meals on-site.
I’m also pleased to announce that – after holding 43 very successful events under the banner of Ottawa Welcomes the World at Lansdowne Park – we will be repeating this rich cultural experience over the course of a week in July.
Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement on the official program for 2018.
I have also encouraged our tourism partners to sustain the momentum by continuing to bid on large-scale events like the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in 2021 and beyond.
This type of event attracts great crowds and provides valuable international visibility.
The Ottawa Senators and Ottawa Tourism continue to push on this front, and I wish them luck in their efforts.
Another opportunity I’m excited to announce is that Ottawa was recently selected as Ontario’s host candidate for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games.
These successful multi-sport games with a unique emphasis on Indigenous culture were held in Toronto in 2017, and the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario is excited at the thought of repeating the experience in the nation’s capital.
This event would attract 5,000 athletes, coaches and officials from across Turtle Island to Ottawa in the summer of 2020, as well as more than $40 million in economic activity.
But beyond this significant boost to our tourism sector, it would also be a meaningful way to engage in our country’s Reconciliation efforts and recognize the achievements of Indigenous youth.
The North American Indigenous Games are specifically referenced in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.
I look forward to working with our Indigenous community partners, the Algonquins, as well Ontario’s other First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, along with Ottawa Tourism and the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario to highlight what a great city Ottawa would be to host the 10th edition of the North American Indigenous Games.
The City is also actively engaged in growing other industries that make our city vibrant and economically diverse.
For example, just this fall, we created the new independent Ottawa Film Office.
Led by Bruce Harvey – a former film producer – the Film Office will ignite the development and growth of our local film, television and digital production industry over the coming years.
This is now a $100 million dollar a year industry for Ottawa, creating hundreds of cultural employment opportunities for local students, film crew, actors and set managers.
The new Film Office board of directors – composed of industry stakeholders and tourism representatives – is actively working on a plan to take this sector of our economy to the next level.
And given his leadership and dedication to the Ottawa 2017 board of directors last year, and his experience in the movie business, I’ve asked Councillor Cloutier to serve as the City’s representative on this board.
This unparalleled enthusiasm and confidence in our local economy is spurring the development of new hotels in all part of the city.
Construction will start this year on one of these hotels in Bells Corners – a $20 million dollar project that will play a key role in revitalizing that neighbourhood.
This project was in part made possible by the Bells Corners Community Improvement Plan (CIP), which I committed to in the last election.
This year, thanks to the advocacy of Councillor Fleury and to $100,000 secured in Budget 2018, Montreal Road businesses will provide input in developing their own Community Improvement Plan.
This CIP will help revitalize the Montreal Road streetscape and will generate much needed investments and jobs in Vanier.
With 2017 behind us, Ottawa will also benefit from a series of legacy projects – investments that have helped us strengthen our economy and revitalize our city for generations to come.
Through our partnership with Just Food, we surpassed our goal, and delivered 30 new community gardens across the city, as well as our Canada 150 Maple Groves, where 150 Canadian Maples were planted in each of the city’s 23 wards for generations to enjoy.
The Giver 150 playground at Mooney’s Bay is a great legacy project that was built with the help of kids from our community.
This unique park is a wonderful tribute to our landscape and to the regions of Canada, with stables, moose, fish and snowshoes integrated into the playground.
Since its opening, the Giver 150 playground has been extremely well received by the community in Councillor Brockington’s ward, with dozens of families enjoying the unique play structures every time I go by.
Another facility that opened last year was the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.
After a full year of operations in 2017, this new incubation hub for Ottawa’s entrepreneurs is doing phenomenally well and already bursting at the seams.
It is the new home of Invest Ottawa, and a place where innovative ideas take shape and quickly become promising startups.
And I’d like to share one of these success stories with you.
Joining us in the audience this morning is Corey Ellis, a Telfer School of Management graduate who is now the co-founder and CEO of a company called The Growcer.
Corey and his team at The Growcer have designed a state-of-the-art food growing system inside a sea container, where growing conditions are monitored every few seconds to ensure the greatest yield on their crops.
This innovative agricultural solution reduces the cost of fresh produce and ensures greater food security for residents in these communities.
This turn-key system can be deployed into any northern community where sustainable agriculture would otherwise be impossible.
A system is now in place in seven northern locations, with the latest being recently installed in Churchill, Manitoba, where it is delivering fresh produce beyond the community’s expectations.
This innovative idea has become a reality because of a local entrepreneur, and thanks in part to the business coaching of the team at Invest Ottawa.
Several success stories like this one have materialized at Invest Ottawa.
Since we opened Invest Ottawa in 2012, the team has facilitated the creation of more than 5,500 jobs locally.
They have also led more than 100 missions abroad, which has helped 600 local companies grow their business in the global marketplace.
The team at Invest Ottawa has also helped 25 international companies to setup shop or grow their footprint in Ottawa.
In their quest to help local entrepreneurs start and grow a business, they have worked with approximately 350 startups annually, with more than 30 every year finding themselves in the accelerator program at the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.
Another initiative spurring community collaboration is the House of Sport at the RA Centre, which we officially opened on January 18.
The House of Sport was developed jointly with the City and Ottawa Tourism to offer a home to a number of sporting organizations that help us attract national and international events to Ottawa.
A successful sports industry strengthens our local economy by hosting major events, stimulating tourism and attracting talent to Ottawa.
I’m proud that the City of Ottawa supported this project with funding, which made this project possible for Ottawa Tourism and the RA Centre to deliver.
The House of Sport will help Ottawa maintain a competitive edge over other cities, and it will assist Ottawa Tourism in its future bids to attract major sporting events.
I want to thank Councillor Mitic, our Sport Commissioner, who was an early supporter of this initiative.
The new Ottawa Art Gallery building, which is three times larger than the existing space, welcomed its first tenants in early January.
I’m pleased to announce that the Ottawa Art Gallery will have its official opening on April 28.
And later this year, many local arts organizations will be able to take over their new facilities at the redeveloped Arts Court.
This includes a new Black Box Theatre, developed in partnership with the University of Ottawa.
This $100 million redevelopment is a lasting investment into arts and culture – one that will become a hub for Ottawa’s arts community for decades to come.
This represents only part of the growth that we will help the arts community achieve this year.
Thanks to Budget 2018, the Arts Momentum Fund will receive a renewal of $150,000 in funding so that arts and culture organizations can work together to create a strategy that will define the future of Ottawa’s cultural sector for years to come.
There is also great potential awaiting Ottawa with the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.
I look forward to working with all our partners in the coming years to ensure that this prime, undeveloped downtown site becomes a major city attraction for all to enjoy.
I am pleased that, just last Thursday, this project passed a significant milestone when RendezVous LeBreton and the NCC reached an agreement in principle to move forward with the development of the site.
It was a very busy year for the National Capital Region.
Even with all the 2017 celebrations going on across the city, Members of Council remained busy making important decisions and delivering progress for our residents here at City Hall.
Our Planning Committee, under the leadership of Chair Harder, has a number of accomplishments to be proud of.
Last year, the Committee dealt with 107 development applications involving either Zoning By-law or Official Plan amendments.
Those applications often involve large-scale projects that help residents have sufficient housing options and keep the cost of living affordable.
In 2017, Council approved a strong mix of new residential developments, from infill to subdivisions, and everything in between.
We approved several high-rise condo towers in areas near O-train stations, delivering on our objectives to promote transit-oriented development.
For example, the 22-storey tower at 1960 Scott Street will offer 149 residential units near Westboro Transit station.
On Preston Street, in Councillor McKenney’s ward, we approved a 25-storey, 175-unit residential tower, close to the Carling Avenue station and the planned Gladstone Avenue station.
This is in the same vicinity as the new site of the Civic Hospital – one of the largest projects in our city’s history, and one that will transform health care delivery in Ottawa, to be located in Councillor Brockington’s ward.
We also approved the redevelopment of two urban mixed-use areas to revitalize the aging Westgate and Elmvale malls.
These shopping centres have reached the end of their lifecycle, giving us the opportunity to redevelop the sites with transit-oriented residential projects and better-planned public spaces.
The Planning Committee also paved the way for a number of new residential subdivisions in all corners of the city:
- Two in Stittsville in the west end;
- Two in Barrhaven and Findlay Creek in the South;
- And Avalon West in the east end of the City.
The Committee also invested many hours in developing revitalization strategies for existing neighbourhoods in need, such as Heatherington and Vanier South-Overbrook.
This was part of the Building Better Revitalized Neighbourhoods initiative, and detailed plans have been adopted to help invigorate both neighbourhoods.
Despite this busy year at Planning, I’m proud to report that in 2017, there were only six contested hearings at the OMB involving the City of Ottawa, down from 19 in 2015.
That’s a decrease of roughly 68 per cent over two years.
This speaks to the City’s successful collaboration with residents, applicants and community groups on development projects.
I want to congratulate and thank Chair Harder for her leadership on this front – she should be very proud of these accomplishments.
I want to point out that the projects that go before Planning Committee also play an important role in stimulating our economy, since they represent thousands of well-paying construction jobs across our city.
Private sector employers are expanding their presence in our region.
A recent report by CBRE Real Estate Brokerage showed that the industrial vacancy rate in Ottawa now sits at 4.6%
This is the tenth straight quarter of declining vacancy rates in our city, and the lowest since 2006, which has the sector looking to build new capacity to meet the demand.
And the residential sector is following suit, with residential building starts up 35% in 2017 compared to the year before.
And the City is also investing record amounts in public infrastructure projects, playing a critical role in creating jobs in our city.
Later this year, we will take major steps on building the exciting Central Library Project at Booth and Albert.
Thanks to the leadership of Councillor Tim Tierney and his work with the Ottawa Public Library board, his team is currently evaluating outstanding proposals from some of the most respected architecture firms in the world.
Five shortlisted designs will move on to the final round of the procurement process once partnership funding has been secured.
In the coming months, the Ottawa Public Library team will be bringing forward a report to its Board and City Council for approval on project funding.
But in order for us to finalize the budget for the new Central Library, we will first need to know if our partnership with Library and Archives Canada has been both approved and funded accordingly by the federal government.
Councillor Tierney and I had a very positive meeting on Monday with Finance Minister Bill Morneau to discuss this exact point.
I am very much looking forward to the next step in this community-building project for our city.
This modern, collaborative facility will be located near LRT’s Pimisi Station, making access easier for all its users.
And we will work with Councillor McKenney to ensure the facility has state-of-the-art connectivity to our pedestrian and cycling networks to better serve residents.
Towards that end, 2018 will see 15 kms of new cycling infrastructure added to our cycling network, helping us reach our goal of adding 72 km of cycling facilities to the City’s growing network by the end of 2018.
Over this Term of Council, we will have invested $80 million dollars to expand our cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in all parts of the city.
These are historic investments in cycling and active transportation, and I want to thank Councilor Egli for his leadership and commitment to improving active mobility in our city.
We know that cycling can become an important link for commuters wanting to use our new LRT system when it opens later this year.
These investments can also help us increase safety for both cyclists and drivers who share our roads.
For example, a recent safety audit of the Laurier Avenue bike lanes revealed that overall, segregated bike lanes in our city have reduced collisions involving pedestrians by 50%, collisions with other cyclists by 30% and, and motor vehicle incidents have decreased by 10%.
I’m pleased that construction has started on the Rideau Canal cycling and pedestrian bridge that will like Fifth Avenue to Clegg Street.
This facility will be a great asset to improve connectivity for old Ottawa East and Main Street residents wanting to get to and from Lansdowne Park.
This $21 million dollar project is a great example of what we can accomplish when all three levels of government work together to fund important infrastructure projects.
And I want to thank Ministers Catherine McKenna and Yasir Naqvi for delivering on this exciting project that will benefit their Ottawa Centre residents.
Another great example of what can be achieved by working together with our federal and provincial counterparts is our light rail transit project.
Thanks to the collaboration of all three levels of government, not only will Stage 1 of LRT come into service later this year – but we have already secured the funding for Stage 2 of this city-building project.
Because of Council’s commitment to the Confederation Line and Stage 2 of LRT, the provincial and federal governments are both investing with confidence in the future of transit in Ottawa.
And we had the pleasure of welcoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at our train assembly plant at Belfast Yard in June for his announcement of the $1.16 billion federal share of funding for Stage 2 LRT.
This project is not only the most transformative since the Rideau Canal – it will also be the most environmentally valuable project in our city’s history.
Once fully implemented, LRT Stages 1 and 2 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 200,000 tonnes annually by 2048.
This investment will assist in the sustainable urban growth of our city, and will lead to a healthier future for many of our residents.
I also want to thank Councillors Taylor, Wilkinson, Hubley, Qadri and El-Chantiry, as well as Chairs Blais and Egli, for their efforts in committing $3 million dollars to fund the EA for LRT from Bayshore to Kanata, a study that is underway this year.
Thanks to the leadership of Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon, this study is being cost-shared with the federal government.
This year, we will finally see the results of our work and our investments.
Although this will be a big year for transit transformation in Ottawa, we maintain our efforts to plan for the future.
In just over a week, Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin and I will hold our first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Transportation, here at City Hall.
I look forward to working with Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin, as well as my colleagues Chairs Blais and Egli, to see how our two cities can better integrate our transit services and large transportation projects.
But building our city is not just about new construction – it’s also about preserving and protecting our heritage and what makes Ottawa a great place to live.
On this front, I’m proud of the work that Councillor Nussbaum, Harder and I have accomplished in the last year working with the Heritage Matters Taskforce on behalf of our heritage community.
The Taskforce has been meeting to review the progress of important heritage issues, and helps set priorities and establish next steps.
Later this year, with the guidance of the taskforce, staff will be bringing forward a recommendation to Council regarding possible heritage incentives that would help prevent demolition by neglect, as well as enhance and modernize the current heritage grant program to streamline the process and cut red tape.
And the City’s conservation efforts are not limited to buildings – they are also about preserving our city’s natural heritage and environment.
Thanks to Councillor Qadri’s efforts, the City recently used $1.5 million from the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Acquisition Fund to protect roughly five hectares of Shea Road Woods, a recreational greenspace that is very popular with residents.
Our Environment and Climate Protection Committee, under the leadership of Councillor Chernushenko, has been hard at work, focussing its efforts on reducing the City’s energy consumption and carbon footprint in the fight against climate change.
This year, we will be investing more than $2 million into energy conservation, greening our fleet and protecting our environment.
Along with our investments in Stage 1 and 2 of LRT, new buses for our transit system, and our cycling network, we will be investing more than ever to become more sustainable and protect our environment.
The City has worked with more than 80 community partners, including Hydro Ottawa, Enbridge, Ecology Ottawa, the Museum of Science and Technology and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, to develop Energy Evolution, a plan to transform Ottawa into a leading city powered by clean energy.
In Budget 2018, Council agreed to invest a total of $2 million into Energy Evolution and the City’s own environmental projects, which include energy efficiency, greening our fleet and supporting renewable energy use in Ottawa.
And I want to reiterate that these energy-conscious decisions are not only good for the environment – they make great financial sense, with long-term cost savings being generated for taxpayers.
As an example, our recent conversion of 58,000 streetlights to LED technology will generate savings of $6 million annually.
Our residents can also enjoy some of the highest quality and safest drinking water in the world.
For the fifth year in a row, Ottawa’s drinking water system has received a perfect grade of 100 per cent.
In addition to this, we’ve adopted new procedures that have led to a reduction in the number of times residents are without water during watermain breaks.
These are significant accomplishments, since drinking water is one of our most important core services.
We also want to enhance the quality of the water in the Ottawa River.
To this effect, I’m pleased to see that construction on the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel is well underway.
This project will help us protect the environment while improving the accessibility and enjoyment of residents at our beaches, and allowing them to safely practice activities like canoeing and fishing downstream.
On this note, I want to recognize the ongoing efforts of Deputy Mayor Bob Monette, who has worked tirelessly over the last two years to support the Petrie Island Canoe Club in its quest for better, more permanent storage facilities at Petrie Island.
And as you know, it was Councillor Monette who helped initiate the Ottawa River Action Plan that will be completed and operational in the next Term of Council.
Thanks to his work, hundreds of kids and families will be able to enjoy the beauty of the Ottawa River and discover the magnificent wetlands that make up Petrie Island and the Ottawa River.
I also want to recognize the Ottawa River Keeper, Meredith Brown, for her ongoing work and dedication to keeping our river clean.
Many of the systems that increasingly help us achieve these energy savings are powered by Smart City solutions.
That is why we adopted our Smart City Strategy – Smart City 2.0 – this past November – to give us an overall view of how we can improve our systems to better serve residents and leverage cost savings.
And I want to thank our three sponsors – Councillors Hubley, Tierney and Harder – for their commitment to realizing this initiative.
Smart City 2.0 is centered on three goals: Connected City, a Smart Economy, and an Innovative Government.
It’s a city-wide approach that seeks to offer our residents the very best in terms of connectivity and innovation.
In 2017, the City continued to grow its Open Data program, adding 15 new data sets, which brings the total to 150 currently available through the City’s Open Data Catalogue.
As a specific example, the City recently issued an RFP to procure a city-wide mobile application in 2018.
The first release of this mobile application – which will be available for both Android and Apple devices – will allow residents to report any service request, like a damaged streetlight or a pothole, from their phones, while including photos and enabling the tracking of those requests.
From a client perspective, this means being able to access City services through their mobile device – anytime, anywhere.
Our investments in innovation also help us stimulate our economy.
It means tapping into the amazing potential we have here in Ottawa’s technology hub.
Last March, I led a mission to Queen’s Park, and along with our partners in the tech community and our colleges and universities, we highlighted Ottawa’s potential in the development of next generation networks and autonomous vehicles.
And we’ve had impressive results so far.
In October, Ottawa became the first Canadian city to launch testing of an on-street autonomous vehicle communicating with live City infrastructure, and I want to thank Councillor Wilkinson for her support of this project in the Kanata North Business Park.
And if we can count on a recent statement by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, humans will eventually be banned from driving because we’re apparently too much of a danger to ourselves.
Another example of our potential is the project that Councillor Harder has been leading over the last year – Ottawa’s involvement in the Smart Agri-food Supercluster.
Councillor Harder’s small but mighty team – made up staff from the City, Invest Ottawa and a few federal government agencies – has learned that Ottawa is capable of supporting the tech-driven agri-food revolution that is currently underway.
As you may have heard, global food demand will increase by 70% between now and 2050.
Our region – because of its talent base, our roughly 2,000 farms, and our proximity to the federal government – can support the cross-sector innovation this industry needs.
The key challenges in this sector include the need for rural connectivity, big data analytics, open platforms, autonomous solutions, and innovation to reduce the environmental impact of farming.
Councillor Harder’s group has come across the perfect site for an innovative test site: the NCC’s 1,800-acre Greenbelt Research Farm, located at the corner of Woodroffe Avenue and Hunt Club Road.
There is tremendous interest in this site from a growing number of partners from across Canada and around the world.
The NCC recently signed a letter to permit the City’s first private autonomous vehicle test track on the site, and this initial step will bring to the site a number of key investors needed to address issues of rural connectivity and 5G technology.
I am very excited about this opportunity and about its potential for our local economy.
I want to thank Councillor Harder for her passion and dedication to advancing this project.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that have a lasting impact in our communities.
For example, I want to recognize the good work of Councillor Darouze in improving the safety of his residents through the replacement of the old, often rusted 911 Blade signs in his ward.
911 Blade signs are more than a way to identify addresses in our rural communities – they are a tool used by our front-line Emergency Response workers to quickly identify a location in need of assistance.
After hearing concerns from residents, Councillor Darouze acted quickly and secured the funding required to have the rusted signs replaced.
This initiative is an important public safety priority with a big impact, and I want to thank him for his efforts and his service to his residents.
In 2018, I look forward to celebrating a milestone anniversary with Councillor Moffatt and his community, as we will mark the 200th anniversary of the Village of Richmond.
There are festivities taking place throughout the year for the occasion, with the big celebration weekend taking place from June 15 to 18.
I hope many of you will join Councillor Moffatt and I in marking this historic moment in our city’s history.
Last spring, some of our rural residents and their homes were badly affected as the waters of the Ottawa River rose to levels that we see only once every 100 years.
These floods lasted for weeks and demanded a sustained response from our emergency workers, as well as the thousands of volunteers who came out to lend a hand.
Thanks to the leadership of Councillors El-Chantiry, Blais and Taylor, our community came together like never before to help families in their time of need.
Whether it was filling sandbags or bringing in supplies, residents rolled up their sleeves and helped neighbours whose homes were in the path of this massive flooding.
I want to thank our City staff and our front-line emergency personnel, who coordinated an effective and courageous response to this natural disaster.
I also want to recognize the thousands of residents who came out to help their neighbours.
To recognize their efforts, I’m pleased to announce that, in collaboration with Councillors El-Chantiry, Taylor and Blais, the City will be holding a community gathering later this year, both to mark the first anniversary of these events and to offer a sincere thank you to our dedicated volunteers for their assistance.
This type of community effort requires the support of many City services, and we need to make the right investments to ensure we can respond and help our residents when they face this level of hardship.
And I’m proud that the we have continued to increase our investments in our core services.
Although Ottawa remains one of the safest cities in Canada, we have witnessed a recent increase in gun violence, and we need to do more to keep our streets and our residents safe.
In light of this, I’m pleased that we are strengthening our commitment to public safety by hiring 25 additional police officers this year, for a total of 75 new officers this Term of Council.
Our women and men in uniform play a critical role in the lives of our residents – in keeping our children and families safe.
In light of the recent shootings, I called a meeting last Friday, along with Councillors El-Chantiry, Deans, Harder and Qadri, for Chief Bordeleau to outline our City’s ongoing efforts to tackle this issue.
Chief Bordeleau took the opportunity to assure us that his members from across the force are actively engaged on the issue of guns and gangs, and we know they are sparing no effort.
We will keep a close eye on their hard work over the coming months and by working together with the community, I am confident that we can fight the violence that is affecting our community.
Over the last number of years, there has been an important dialogue between municipalities and upper levels of government on how best to coordinate efforts that will lead to a reduction of overdose deaths across Canada, including Ottawa.
What is clear is that we need to see real change by working with our community partners on a nimble and responsive strategy that includes mental health promotion, prevention of drug use, as well as community withdrawal and treatment services for those who want and can benefit from them.
I firmly believe we need a holistic approach to tackle this crisis from a variety of angles and with many partners in order to reach all of our vulnerable populations and to meet people where they are in their journey.
This includes early supports for parents raising young children; mental health and resources to promote resiliency; equipment and training for first responders and front-line service providers; community withdrawal and treatment options for those who seek them; harm reduction services for those who need them; safe and adequate housing for those who are struggling.
If we continue working together, I believe we can make a major difference.
I want to thank Councillor Qadri and the Board of Health for their leadership and capable handling of this complex file.
Although our efforts to date have played an important role in reducing overdoses in our community, I believe that there is more that can and must be done to get our most vulnerable residents back on their feet.
I have always believed that we need to do more to offer addiction treatment options to residents that need them.
That’s why later today, I will be bringing forward for Council’s consideration a notice of motion to encourage the Province to increase the number of detox and treatment beds in our region.
In 2018, our police officers may face a new challenge and additional budget pressures, as they take on the implementation and enforcement of the incoming legalization of marijuana.
Their new duties stem from federal and provincial policy decisions, and I believe the responsibility should rest on those levels of government to fund the impact of this legislative change on municipalities, especially since they will be collecting significant taxes on the sale of cannabis.
And although the bulk of the impact will be felt by the Ottawa Police Service – Bylaw, Fire Services and Ottawa Public Health will also be asked to do more.
City staff believe that the implementation and enforcement of marijuana legalization will cost the City approximately $8 million dollars.
With this in mind, I have recently written to Premier Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa to highlight these budget pressures, and to ask them for their support in tackling this challenge.
Following a recent federal-provincial ministers meeting, it was determined that provinces would keep 70% of all taxes collected, and we believe a portion of those revenues should go to helping municipalities fulfill their new responsibilities.
My hope is the Ontario Government will acknowledge that this new mandate has indeed been downloaded on to municipalities, and that adequate funding should follow to help cities meet the challenge at hand.
On another matter, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the work of the Ontario Government and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, who intervened swiftly last year to protect the safety of women accessing important abortion services in our city.
After Councillor McKenney and I wrote to him to raise our concerns with the intimidation perpetrated by protesters and the absence of a safety bubble around abortion clinics, Minister Naqvi acted quickly to table legislation that has created new safe access zones around these facilities.
This new law will be effective starting tomorrow, and will prevent protesters from coming within 50 to 150 metres from a facility that offers abortion services.
Women seeking medical help and counselling should not be spat upon or heckled on their way to an appointment.
I have confirmed with the Police Services that they are ready with an implementation plan to support this legislative change and keep women safe in these areas.
Beyond our women and men in uniform, technology can also play a crucial role in making our community safer.
In the last election, I committed to installing 20 new Red Light Cameras.
I’m pleased that we have successfully installed 14 of those, and that the remaining six are currently being implemented and will be installed by the fall.
Red Light Cameras installed at key intersections have led to a reduction of more than 50 percent in dangerous right angle collisions, as well as an overall decrease of 43% in injuries.
And they are more than a simple deterrent to running red lights – they provided roughly $5.1 million dollars that was reinvested in the City in 2017.
I will propose that the next Council allocate 100% of this revenue to the Police Service and Safer Roads Ottawa for further enforcement and to strengthen road safety initiatives.
This will also free up revenue for more pressing issues like the work underway to reduce gun violence across our city.
Since this Term of Council began, we have also delivered improvements in terms of social services for our residents.
Since the beginning of this Term of Council, we have also delivered social progress for our residents.
Progress on affordable housing; progress on affordable transit services; progress on active transportation, all of which make our city more affordable and more livable.
Last year, the City welcomed three new affordable and supportive housing facilities with approximately 200 beds, thanks to funding from all levels of government.
We also received $30 million through the Provincial Homes for Good Program, funding which will expand our Housing First Program and support residents living in transitional or supportive housing.
This operational funding will support approximately 310 families to find and keep suitable affordable and supportive housing in Ottawa.
And the capital portion will support the construction, renovation or purchase of approximately 150 new supportive housing units in Ottawa, which is much needed progress on this front.
And with the announcement in November of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, which will help us leverage funds from both the federal and provincial governments, we can expect to make even greater strides in the years to come.
I look forward to continuing our work with all our housing partners and agencies to offer our most vulnerable residents a better and more stable life in Ottawa.
I want to thank Councillor Taylor, our Council Liaison on Housing and Homelessness, and the Chair of CPSC, Councillor Diane Deans, as well as our staff at the City and Ottawa Community Housing, for their work and leadership on this complex and challenging file.
At an upcoming CPSC meeting, we will be reviewing our progress on the City’s Ten-Year Housing Strategy, and I look forward to this important discussion with the community.
Housing is a necessity of life, and everyone should have the right to a roof over their head.
This is on everyone’s mind. And two students from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School in Councillor Monette’s ward – Hammad and Zmarak – recently wrote in to bring this issue to the forefront.
They conducted some research as part of their civics class, and were shocked to learn that 140 of 770 homeless veterans in Canada were here in Ottawa.
They emphatically told me: “We must change this!”
These two high school students recognized the sacrifices that these men and women in uniform have made to defend our country and want to find a way to help them.
They also pleaded with me to bring attention to their plight by raising the issue in a high-profile speech – and I’m pleased that I can lend them a hand today.
And thinking about this and about the importance of the DND’s presence in our city, I have asked Councillor Mitic to become the City’s first ever Liaison for Veteran and Military Issues.
With an active service population of 23,000 members, and more the 53,000 veterans and their families living in our city, I think it is more important than ever that we make sure that this important community is receiving the support it needs from the City.
Councillor Mitic’s mandate will be to solidify our important relationship with the military and our veteran community, by attending their events and association meetings to hear their concerns, as well as becoming their champion at City Hall.
I want to thank Councillor Mitic for taking on this important mandate – I know he will be dedicated to the cause and will deliver for this community that has always been dear to him.
As a City, we have also been able to deliver progress for residents falling through the existing support programs offered by OC Transpo.
Last year, we introduced the Equipass, a monthly transit pass for low-income residents.
Thanks to the leadership of Transit Commission Chair Stephen Blais, in 2018, we have been able to expand this service with the introduction of the single-ride 50% discounted EquiFare.
And we are investing a total of $3.5 million dollars in these programs to make transit services more affordable and accessible to our community’s low-income residents.
This new measure allows us to build the type of city we all want—a city that makes access to public transit more affordable for residents in need.
This month alone, 3,100 low-income residents benefitted from their monthly subscription to the EquiPass.
In total, 6,800 residents have registered as eligible EquiPass users, and hundreds of them have already made single-ride EquiFare trips in the first few weeks of January.
And I’m proud that we have been able to accomplish so much at City Hall because of the eight years of unprecedented labour peace.
This period of collaboration with our 17,000 employees and their unions is no small feat, and I would like to thank our staff in labour relations, human resources and our management team, as well as our union leaders, for their commitment to this open dialogue.
With the help of our dedicated staff, under the leadership of City Manager Steve Kanellakos and his very capable Senior Management Team, we are making our community more affordable and welcoming for all our residents, and this is especially important for the most recent members of the community.
In the fall of 2016, the City and its partners led a successful United for Refugees campaign that really saw our community coming together in compassion and humanity.
Our efforts included a Welcoming Syrian Refugees Forum, which saw the creation of Refugee 6-1-3 and brought to City Hall more than 1,000 residents wanting to learn how they could help.
As a result of these efforts, last year, our residents opened their arms and our community welcomed more than 2,100 Syrians in need – families and children who had fled their country to escape a brutal war.
We also raised $1 million dollars to support their resettlement.
And I’m very pleased to say that the Syrian community has found a new home in Ottawa, and they are enriching our city with their culture, which I have the pleasure of experiencing regularly at community events.
I want to acknowledge the good work of Councillor Qaqish in engaging with our social service partners and the Syrian community to facilitate their resettlement.
I’m also proud that we could help the Somali community host their first ever Somali Festival here at City Hall, which was a great success and will be held again in July of 2018.
Events like these at City Hall have made this a destination for residents, and a real people place.
Last year, City Hall hosted 363 events, an increase of more than 50 percent over 2013 numbers, with more community organizations thinking of City Hall to hold their meetings or festivities.
The Barbara Ann Scott Gallery welcomed over 17,000 visitors in 2017, while more than 27,000 stopped to look at the chains of office of our former municipalities.
We also have two wonderful art galleries and the Sports Hall of Fame.
On March 8, in celebration of International Women’s Day, I will have the pleasure of welcoming approximately three hundred of our city’s leading women to a breakfast reception at City Hall.
We will take the opportunity to mark a first in Ottawa’s diplomatic landscape, as the representatives of France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States are now all women, and will be speaking at this special event I look forward to every year.
We have also had an opportunity to pay tribute to our most accomplished residents who have changed the face of our city.
The Key to the City recipients now have their own display at City Hall, to which we added the names of six illustrious citizens and institutions last year.
This year, I’m pleased to announce that I will be presenting the Key to the City to Peter Herrndorf, the outstanding CEO of the NAC, to their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston and Sharon Johnston, and finally to Ms. Hélène Campbell, one of Canada’s most unrelenting advocates for organ donations.
And City Hall is also more open and accountable than ever, inviting residents to participate in the debates that shape our city and welcoming them around the table at committee meetings.
We have added four citizen commissioners – dedicated transit users – to provide their input at the Transit Commission.
Our Board of Health and Built Heritage Sub-Committee also now have voting public members.
I’m also proud that this Council has held fewer in-camera meetings than Councils of the past.
Another new way I will be opening up City Hall this year is by holding a ‘’Mayor for a Day’’ contest, which will run from February 2nd to the 28th.
This contest was suggested by Youth Ottawa’s Youth Engagement Committee, and will be open to Ottawa high school students in grades 9 to 12.
Those who want to participate can submit their best three ideas to improve the City of Ottawa in a three-minute Youtube video or a 1,000 word essay.
Two contestants will be selected to join me at City Hall to experience a day in the life of the Mayor of Ottawa.
I truly believe that there is no better time to be living in Ottawa.
In fact, our quality of life is the envy of many cities around the world.
A report published last year by Deutsche Bank ranked Ottawa the best Canadian city to live in, based on eight factors like cost of living, health-care, safety, commute time and pollution.
Our region added 3,300 net new jobs in December, and this hiring by local employers brought our unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent, the lowest rate since April 2017.
Money Sense Magazine crowned Ottawa the best place to live in Canada for a second year in a row.
In explaining why to its readers, Money Sense stated, and I quote: ‘’There are some cities that simply have it all. And for the second consecutive year, that place is Ottawa.’’
And we have garnered many of these recognitions by keeping the cost of living in Ottawa affordable for our residents.
That affordability relies on many factors – reasonable rents and housing prices, good paying jobs, low inflation – but governments must also do their part to ensure low taxes for their residents.
And I’m proud that we are doing what we can to maintain tax increases at a low and predictable level.
I also want to thank Councillors Hubley and Cloutier for their hard work as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee – and the important follow-up work they are engaged with to ensure best value for taxpayers’ dollars.
Budget 2018 marked the fifth year in a row that we have kept our commitment to capping tax increases at two per cent, a promise we all made in the first year of this mandate.
I believe we have made great progress and the right investments to improve the lives of our residents.
Ottawa’s future is promising, and I look forward to working with all Members of Council in 2018 to keep up this progress and the momentum we have created together.
Ladies and gentlemen – the state of our city is very good, and its future potential is unlimited.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote: ‘’The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’’
Let our dreams ignite our future for an even better Ottawa.