November 8, 2017
(OTTAWA) - The City of Ottawa's draft 2018 budget touched on all three of Ecology Ottawa's main priority areas - action on climate change and clean energy, strengthening Ottawa's tree canopy, and moving forward on active transportation. Ecology Ottawa's reactions to the draft budget's announcements in each of these areas are below.
Climate change and clean energy:
Ecology Ottawa has been calling for at least $1.5 million in new money for the Energy Evolution strategy - a plan to help Ottawa transition away from its dependence on fossil fuels by promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. Ecology Ottawa was disappointed to see that the 2018 draft budget adds only $500,000 in new money for Energy Evolution and no new full time staff positions. Ecology Ottawa will seek additional clarification on the City's spending priorities when the Energy Evolution update is provided to the Environment and Climate Protection Committee on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.
"What the City is calling new Energy Evolution money appears, for the most part, to be a new label slapped on old funding streams," said Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, Ecology Ottawa's Renewable City Organizer. "We will find out more when the City provides a detailed update of the Energy Evolution strategy later this month, but for now it appears the City is falling behind on making the investments we need to cut carbon, save money and generate local jobs."
"The Mayor's budget presentation was clear on the fact that extreme weather caused by climate change is already wreaking havoc with our city," said Robb Barnes, Ecology Ottawa's Acting Executive Director. "Bold climate action is needed, but so far we're only seeing half-measures from City Hall."
Ottawa's tree canopy:
The 2018 draft budget continues the City's annual commitment of planting 125,000 trees. This is part of a continuing strategy to replenish Ottawa's urban tree canopy in the wake of the emerald ash borer crisis.
"Ottawa has been losing millions of trees, including a huge amount of mature trees, to the emerald ash borer," said Velta Tomsons, Ecology Ottawa's Living City Organizer. "To counter this threat, we need a sustained investment to replenishing our tree canopy. While there is much more work to be done, we are happy to see that the tree investment proposed in the 2018 draft budget will continue the City's tree replenishment efforts."
The 2018 draft budget marked a shift in Ottawa's investment prioritization from light rail to other forms of infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks and cycling facilities. $4 million was included to improve cycling facilities across the city, while $2.3 million has been added to renew sidewalks and pathways. At the same time, the City has pledged to spend $39.2 million on road resurfacing.
"This budget promises additional funding for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. But compared to what it's promising for sustainable forms of transportation, the City is spending vastly more on road building, widening, paving and resurfacing," said Robb Barnes, Ecology Ottawa's Acting Executive Director. "The City continues to have its spending priorities largely oriented around the car. While we are pleased to see the implementation of a complete streets vision and a better network for cyclists and pedestrians, much more work needs to be done for the City to reduce its transportation emissions and to prioritize sustainable transportation options."