November 6, 2019
OTTAWA - Yesterday, Mayor Jim Watson presented the City of Ottawa's draft 2020 budget to council. While the budget makes headway in some areas, it largely continues status quo investments on environmental initiatives in the city. At a high level, its tone and level of urgency are at odds with the global push for ambitious action in the face of the escalating climate emergency.
"From an environmental lens, yesterday's budget may have been serviceable in some other era," said Robb Barnes, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. "But in the context of an escalating global climate crisis, it is out of sync and out of step."
In terms of improvements and new initiatives, the draft 2020 budget features expansion of light rail ($4.7 billion), money for an electric bus pilot ($6 million), a rate freeze for EquiPass and the first increase in on-street parking rates in over a decade.
In other areas, it continues business-as-usual spending on tree planting ($1.5 million), energy efficiency retrofits ($3 million) and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure ($9.1 million for Cycling and Pedestrian Plans; $500,000 for the Pedestrian Crossover Program).
In terms of spending reductions, the budget features a substantial reduction in funding to Energy Evolution, the City's renewable energy strategy ($70,000, down from $150,000 in 2019 and $500,000 in 2018). It also features a massive investment in the wrong direction: $66.2 earmarked for road growth projects, including a project in Ottawa's Greenbelt. Ottawa’s continued expansion of its road network creates serious challenges for future budgets, in terms of maintenance, clearing, and managing induced demand from additional vehicles.
"Cities around the world are responding to the climate crisis with innovative policies that tackle emissions while enhancing livability, community connections and public health," said Mr. Barnes. "This means massive investments in transit, green infrastructure, electrification, and active transportation networks. It also means a concerted effort to cease the continual expansion of road networks, along with the sprawl that entails. By contrast, Ottawa's 2020 budget is tepid and tentative. It fixes small issues at the margins while aggravating many of the environmental challenges currently facing our city."
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