Community group hopes to make further progress with city hall in 2012
November 30, 2011 (Ottawa, ON) – Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa’s city councillors were congratulated today by Ecology Ottawa for passing a fairly good budget, from an environmental perspective.
“This is the greenest budget in years, but unfortunately it lacks a clear vision on the greatest challenge facing the world today: climate change,” said Trevor Haché, policy coordinator of Ecology Ottawa.
However, the local environmental organization was impressed by the investments made in cycling (70 kilometres of paved shoulders, an additional $12.1 million of funding for cycling infrastructure over three years) and pedestrian infrastructure, and the commitment to establish a “Green Express Lane,” for those builders who strive to be more energy efficient and who set the bar high 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.
As Mayor Jim Watson said in his budget speech:
“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.”
Ecology Ottawa has been calling for such an express lane since at least March 2009 and we look forward to working with staff and elected representatives at city hall to ensure that bar is set high with regard to which projects will qualify for this expedited service.
“We are also glad to see money ($1.4 million) dedicated toward the Environmentally Sensitive Land Fund created last year,” said Haché.
There were, however, numerous things in the budget that Ecology Ottawa was opposed to, including:
“Ultimately, the city needs to move in the direction of having the services used by personal vehicular users paid for by those drivers,” said Haché. “Parking is currently the only user fee of this sort. Why are there not fees for the use of roads, when fees exist for almost every other service the city provides? In the case of transit, users are expected to cover 50% of the cost of service directly through fares. Something along the lines of road tolls, a municipal gas tax, a vehicle tax, and increases in parking rates are clearly needed if the city is to balance its budgets in a way that is equitable and consistent across service areas.”
- another 2.5% fare increase to OC Transpo, we already have some of the most expensive fares in the country, if not the most expensive
- a decision to increase the cost of the U-Pass to $180 per semester, which could lead to the program being voted down in students’ referendums in 2012
- despite some $5 million in targeted investments to reduce congestion and over-crowding, the $22 million cut earlier this year in annual funding from OC Transpo’s operating budget was not restored
- millions of dollars committed to widening roads
- millions of dollars committed to building new roads
Ecology Ottawa sent a letter to the Mayor’s Online Pre-budget Public Consultation and made a presentation on the draft budget to the Environment Committee, asking for city council’s support for three programs (Municipal Financing of Energy Retrofits, Community Owned Solar Power Systems on City Facilities, and a Low Income Energy Efficiency Assistance Strategy), none of which had funding dedicated toward them in Budget 2012.
We hope to work with city staff, the mayor and city councillors to find funding in the existing envelopes to make progress on these issues in 2012. And, if no progress can be made with the existing funding, we will be back when the 2013 Budget is being discussed to ask for them again.
“Overall, this budget is a good first step in charting a new course of action for the city of Ottawa, environmentally speaking,” Haché said. “We hope the nation’s capital will soon become a nationwide leader in taking action on climate change, by doing more to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, and building a world-class, affordable public transportation system. We also want to see progress on waste diversion, as Ottawa can do a better job at reducing, reusing and recycling, and should be involved in pushing for individual producer responsibility, i.e., make individual producers fully responsible for meeting waste diversion requirements for both residential and IC&I waste.”
With the city’s Environmental Strategy, Choosing Our Future, and Phase 2 of Ottawa’s Waste Plan all scheduled to be released in 2012, Ecology Ottawa looks forward to working with the mayor, all city councillors and staff to build on the environmental successes of this year’s budget.
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 Ecology Ottawa. “Building Ottawa’s Energy Revolution: How the City of Ottawa Can Encourage Greener Building Practices.” March 2009. Available on-line: http://ecologyottawa.ca/2009/03/04/building-ottawas-energy-revolution/
 Ecology Ottawa. “Ecology Ottawa 2012 Budget Recommendations on Greening Ottawa’s Homes and Buildings.” Letter to Mayor Jim Watson’s Online Pre-budget Public Consultation. October 5, 2011. Available on-line: http://ecologyottawa.ca/2011/10/05/ecology-ottawa-2012-budget-recommendations-on-greening-ottawas-homes-and-buildings/
 Association of Municipalities of Ontario. “Waste Diversion should be among the Province’s Top Environmental Priorities States Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner‘s Annual Report.” AMO Breaking News. Website text. 29 November 2011. www.amo.on.ca/AM/Template.cfm?