• State of the City 2015 – Speech

    Good morning.

    I want to wish all Members of Council a very Happy New Year. I hope you had a restful Christmas and holiday season.

    Because – as you know – we have a very busy year ahead of us.

    Much of that work will begin next week as we table our first draft budget of the term.

    I want to thank all Members of Council for providing their input into this year’s budget process.

    I have appreciated hearing first-hand the priorities you have for your ward, and your areas of interest as we work together over the next four years.

    I also want to thank the public for providing their ideas, whether it is directly to their ward councillor or to my office through the consultation process.

    My friends, 2015 will be a year of momentum.

    By this, I mean that we will build on the momentum started in the last few years…

    And we will continue to focus our energies towards building an even better city.

    Let me give you a few examples by looking back at our most recent accomplishments.

    City Council unanimously approved the Stage 2 LRT project and Transportation Master Plan.

    We decided to move forward with Arts Court and the Bayview Innovation Centre.

    And we continued work on key features of the Confederation Line… shaping the future of Ottawa’s transportation system.

    Over that same time, we saw the opening of several significant investments in our city’s quality of life.

    This includes big mobility improvements such as…

    The Vimy Memorial Bridge in Councillor Qaqish’s ward…

    And the Airport Parkway Bridge in Councillor Deans and Brockington’s wards…

    We’ve added new community space in our fastest growing areas, including:

    The Richcraft Sensplex East in Councillor Tierney’s ward…

    The Francois Dupuis Pool in Councillors Blais’s ward…

    The Richcraft Recreation Complex in Councillor Wilkinson’s ward…

    The Minto Recreation Complex in Councillor Harder’s ward…

    The new Greely library in Councillor Darouze’s ward…

    And the expansion of the Goulbourn Recreation Centre in Councillor Qadri’s ward.

    In Councillor Chernushenko’s ward, we can’t forget the beautiful new Lansdowne Park… a magnificent improvement being enjoyed by residents and visitors from all over.

    Looking ahead… 2015 will have no shortage of cranes and bulldozers.

    Signs of momentum are all around us.

    I think you will be able to get a sense of this at our upcoming LRT showcase at Lansdowne Park, taking place in February and March.

    Throughout our history, Lansdowne Park and the Aberdeen Pavilion were witness to significant moments in our country’s and our city’s history.

    Many of these moments had to do with new products and innovations.

    For example, in 1877, Ottawa’s Thomas Ahearn gave the first demonstration of a telephone at Lansdowne Park.

    In 1892, he exhibited a series of new electrical equipment such as an early electric oven and electric water heaters.

    Today, these are commonplace items.

    But at the time, these were life-changing innovations that made the world a better place.

    And tomorrow, another great innovation will be unveiled at the Aberdeen… the world-class Alstom Citadis Spirit train.

    Ottawa residents have heard about this LRT project for more than a decade.

    Only recently, they began to see progress at construction sites in several locations in the city.

    Tomorrow, it becomes truly tangible.

    You will be able to not only SEE the train, but FEEL the train.

    You will be able to sit inside, look out the windows, and get your first experience of the Confederation Line.

    This will be a turning point for LRT in Ottawa, as thousands of people visit the train over the coming weeks.

    Residents and visitors will be able to visit the LRT showcase starting Friday, and it will be open every day from 8 am to 8 pm.

    And I’m so excited that we will be able to share this experience with the public.

    Our vision for light rail has much to do with momentum.

    When we inaugurate the Confederation Line in 2018, we want to turn around and pick up the shovel to break ground on the Stage 2 LRT project.

    As we continue with the Environmental Assessments for the project this year, we will continue to improve our plan to extend LRT farther east, west and south.

    Working with our Transportation Chair, Councillor Egli, we are moving forward with this city-transforming project.

    Ottawa deserves a world-class transportation system like this one, and I would argue that it is long overdue.

    Think about it for a moment.

    When you look at the world’s OTHER G7 capital cities…

    Paris, Berlin, Rome, Toyko, London, and Washington…

    Ottawa has the distinction of being the only one that has yet to build a significant rapid rail system for its commuters and visitors.

    Even domestically, Ottawa is still catching up.

    Over the last 10 years we have spent debating and refining the Confederation Line, Calgary and Vancouver opened a combined 42 kilometres of new rapid transit lines.

    Now, Ottawa has momentum.

    And together, we are delivering better transportation for the capital city of the greatest country in the world.

    My friends…

    When you look at what’s to come over the next 12 months, you get the sense that Ottawa is on the cusp of something special.

    There has never been a more exciting time to be in the nation’s capital.

    Together, we are building new institutions that will shape and define our city for generations to come.

    This year, construction will move forward on two major facilities: the new Arts Court and Bayview Innovation Centre.

    Located in the wards of Councillors Fleury and Leiper, these will be truly regional facilities that will be enjoyed by residents across the city.

    With these, we will support and celebrate our city’s most talented creators.

    They will be unique community gathering places where we can nurture Ottawa innovation.

    On the canvass or on the drawing board… in the theatre or in the marketplace…

    Our artists and entrepreneurs tell the story of Ottawa we all know and love.

    A city that is dynamic, progressive and capable of great things.

    We need to create places that are worthy of our city’s talent, ambition and potential.

    In 2015, we will embark on a new project that will do many of the same things: A new central library.

    With the right plan and the right partnership, I believe we can deliver a truly world-class facility for the nation’s capital.

    This will be a complex project that we want to do right.

    As a first step, Councillor Tim Tierney and I, along with the library board, will host a public engagement meeting in March of this year.

    We will bring together the community, as a first step, to begin this important conversation.

    What features does it need?

    What opportunities can it bring?

    How can it build on our strengths?

    This will be one of several community engagement opportunities as we take these steps forward as a city.

    I want this process to represent everything our new library should be: Open, collaborative and dynamic.

    I’m pleased to also announce today that we will make the Mayor’s Rural Expo a permanent event.

    Working with Councillor Moffatt, Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, we will work to make this the best year yet.

    We launched this event two years ago, which seeks to bridge the rural-urban divide by showcasing the outstanding people and products of our rural areas.

    And we do so in conjunction with Food Aid Day, in support of the Ottawa Food Bank.

    City Hall will also host a Tourism Summit in 2015.

    The purpose of this summit will be to develop long-term growth strategies for our city’s third-largest industry.

    We know 2017 will be a banner year.

    But how do we avoid the “2017 hangover” in 2018 and beyond?

    As the private sector builds more hotels… and our event organizers host larger events… how do we ensure our tourism industry can continue to attract large numbers?

    In 2015, we’ll also continue to roll out our Ottawa 2017 brand across the city in order to build local momentum.

    Under the leadership of our new 2017 Co-Chairs, Councillors Fleury and Cloutier, we will continue to raise awareness and excitement among our residents and visitors.

    Ottawa 2017 has established a strong presence at the Ottawa Train Station in recent months, and you will see similar signage go up at the airport, city streets and local businesses.

    This will also include an exciting expansion of our 417 underpass mural program.

    This year, we’re seeking MTO approval to create murals at two new locations under the 417:

    At Bank Street between Councillor McKenney and Councillor Chernushenko’s wards…

    And at Carling, west of Kirkwood, between Councillor Leiper and Councillor Brockington’s wards.

    As we saw from the first set of murals this past year, this program provides us with an easy way to brighten up our neighbourhoods.

    We’ll build momentum towards building a more liveable city this year as well.

    We will open a pedestrian and cycling bridge over the 417 near Coventry Road in just a few weeks.

    This will connect Councillor Cloutier’s ward with Councillor Nussbaum’s ward.

    Councillor Fleury will be happy to see construction continue on a much-needed bridge over the Rideau River to connect Somerset and Donald Streets.

    It will open next year, providing an important east-west connection to existing active transportation infrastructure.

    These two bridges I’ve mentioned will close gaps in our transportation network.

    They’re also how we’ll make walking and cycling safer, more convenient options.

    Families in West Carleton will see the Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre expansion open later this year.

    Councillor El-Chantiry and the community have worked hard on this project, which will see new library space, a multi-use room and a fitness room added.

    We make community improvements like these… we will make environmental investments as well.

    The City of Ottawa is proud to partner with Ecology Ottawa on its “Tree Ottawa” project over the coming years.

    Together with the community, we will plant 1 million trees in time for 2017.

    I think this will be a wonderful way for our community to work together… and pass along the gift of cleaner air and better tree cover to the next generation.

    Whether it is on the environment or other on issues, we can do more when we work together.

    A great example of this has been the strong collaboration we are seeing on addressing guns and gangs in our city.

    The Ottawa Police Service has been working with Crime Prevention Ottawa and other community groups to take action.

    I’d also like to thank Councillors Chiarelli and Taylor for bringing together residents in their wards to speak openly and honestly about the challenges we face as a city.

    We all have a role to play, and the City will continue to show leadership on this file in the months ahead.

    Also in 2015, I look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the City of Gatineau.

    I have been working more closely with the Mayor of Gatineau, Maxime Pedneau-Jobin, than ever before.

    We attended each other’s inauguration ceremonies and together placed a wreath at the War Memorial this past Remembrance Day.

    In 2015, we’ll continue to collaborate on issues of mutual interest including transportation and transit between and within our two great cities.

    I will be meeting with Mayor Pedneau-Jobin again in Gatineau in the first half of 2015 to continue strengthening our partnership.

    2015 will be a big year for baseball and other sports.

    Our CanAm baseball team will take the field at the Ottawa Baseball Stadium, thanks to the support of Members of Council such as Councillor Monette.

    We look forward to cheering on our Ottawa Champions during the warmer weather in May.

    The Miracle League of Ottawa’s fully accessible baseball field will also be completed this year in the ward of Councillor Mitic, our Sports Commissioner.

    We’re very proud that Canada’s second fully accessible baseball facility will open for children and young adults with special needs.

    Of course, Ottawa will host the Canadian Little League Championships this summer in Councillor Harder’s ward.

    This will be yet another event to showcase our city to families from across the country.

    On an even larger scale, we can’t forget the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming to Lansdowne in June.

    This will give Ottawa a priceless international audience, as we host some of the best soccer players in the world.

    This exposure is so important for our city’s reputation and the long-term growth of our economy.

    We remain optimistic in on our outlook for economic growth for the coming year.

    In December, the region’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent, still below the national rate of 6.6 percent.

    But we are reminded by the departure of retailers such as Target that no city is immune to bumps along the road.

    We must also remember that our population is growing faster than the national average, and with it comes the added pressure of ensuring there are good jobs and a high quality of life.

    I believe we are on the right track.

    Invest Ottawa is continuing to do great work as it approaches its third anniversary.

    Our entrepreneurs and startups are being given the support they need to prosper and grow.

    Our Economic Development and Innovation department will renew its strategy in 2015.

    It will begin to introduce new tools and programs, to ensure City Hall can be a true partner with the private sector in its mission to create jobs and grow our economy.

    To reflect on two briefly…

    We will soon create a way for local businesses to pilot their technologies or products in municipal operations.

    This program was inspired from an inquiry raised by Councillor Hubley during the last term of Council and I think it is a great one.

    Soon our Economic Development department will act as the point of contact for any local startup business that wishes to pilot new technologies.

    From there, they will choose a select number of innovations annually.

    If we can help a business refine a technology before it moves into mass production, by acting as a test case, I think we should carefully consider it.

    The benefit to the City can include reduced costs and an innovative way of delivering services.

    The benefit to our local entrepreneurs could include the ability to test and refine a technology before it goes to market.

    I think this will be a win-win.

    A second new economic initiative will have to do with taking a serious approach to attracting and retaining talent.

    In 2015, we will begin to do this by developing a strategy and talent attraction toolkit

    This will allow us to market our city more clearly as a great place to live and do business.

    We need to remember that we’re competing against other cities for the best and the brightest.

    Why should a family choose to come to Ottawa instead of Toronto, Montreal or Calgary?

    How do we appeal to the interests of the most highly coveted, highly educated worker, as well as their spouse and children?

    Ottawa is very good at tourism marketing – the kind of messaging that will attract someone for a long weekend.

    But THIS kind of message will be focused on attracting people for a lifetime.

    Ottawa has a great story to tell, but I think we need to do a better job of telling that story.

    I want to close my remarks by sharing two significant civic projects coming up in 2015.

    The first has to do with the terrible bus-train crash of 2013.

    In partnership with Councillor Harder, we will begin the process of creating an appropriate memorial for the six neighbours we lost on that fateful September day.

    We will approach this project carefully and respectfully, as we understand that emotions are still very raw.

    The second civic recognition has to do with Daniel Alfredsson, former Captain of our Ottawa Senators.

    As you know, Daniel retired last month after 18 years in the NHL.

    On the ice, he was our captain.

    In the community, he was a leader.

    From the Ottawa Senators Foundations, to the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, he devoted his time and his energy to making our city a better place.

    He embraced Ottawa the same way that we embraced him.

    And for that…

    Today, I’m pleased to announce that Daniel has accepted my offer to receive the Key to the City in a ceremony in March.

    This is our city’s highest civic honour, and one that he has earned for everything he has done for Ottawa.

    Colleagues…

    2015 will bring us challenges and projects both big and small…

    The effects of which will define our city for generations to come.

    I look forward to collaborating closely with you on these important steps over the year to come.

    And together, we will build momentum towards a more livable, caring, vibrant and prosperous city.

    Thank you.