This article is part of the Council Watch series, a volunteer-driven program designed to inform Ottawa residents of environmentally significant decisions at City Hall. Council Watch consists in a systematic and strategic attendance of city council and committee meetings. Our goal is to keep you informed and, together, to hold municipal representatives accountable. The views expressed below belong to the author and are not necessarily those of Ecology Ottawa.
This has been a record year for Ottawa with the Climate Emergency, flooding, Vision Zero, phase 1 of the LRT, Climate Strikes, the Official Plan, and the 2020 Budget. Climate change has been on the lips of federal and municipal politicians and there is unprecedented momentum in the environmental community in Ottawa. Let’s look at some key decisions at City Hall from the end of 2019.
$15 million has been added to the $31 million Ottawa has already invested in community-based housing. Although providing affordable housing units is a top priority among councillors, we have to ask ourselves how we want these units built. In a climate emergency, Ottawa cannot afford to be slowed down by Urban Sprawl.
“the Climate Change Master Plan is not going to be what you think it’s gonna be…” -Scott Moffatt
During the November 14th meeting of the City’s Planning Committee, 10 residents spoke out condemning a 10 subdivision development, which would eliminate the “last remaining greenspace in the community.” The motion to approve this long deferred subdivision development was voted for by 8 out of 9 councillors. Citizens questioned the City’s understanding of what intensification looks like, stating that “the densification of our community should not include the destruction of our greenspaces.” Councillor Scott Moffatt replied that: “the Climate Change Master Plan is not going to be what you think it’s gonna be ... it’s going to promote intensification across the city.”
And yet the City is committed to preserving Ottawa’s parks. Should urban development be at the expense of natural areas?
But more than looking at where we live, the City is also considering how we heat, cool, and electrify the buildings we live in. Close to half of the City’s emissions are from our buildings. As part of the Official Plan, City Council decided to increase energy efficiency in the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing ones. The question is to what extent will this reduce the city's carbon footprint? How radical will these efforts to increase efficiency be? In order to stay on track for its 2050 goal of 80% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from 2012 reference levels the City would need to take bold, concrete measures to increase efficiency.
One more key area the City is hoping to reduce emission is in transportation, which represents 40% of the total of GHG emissions released from Ottawa. Some relatively ambitious initiatives can be highlighted such as freezing the Equipass rate and the $6 million investment for electric buses. The City’s goal is to have the pilot project buses in place by the end of 2020. The opening of the LRT in September is another major change in our city. Still, in order for it to be successful the City must connect light rail with other forms of active transportation, integrating the LRT and other major transit stations into existing pedestrian and cycling networks.
Although the City is investing significantly in the LRT, its investment in sustainability is extremely modest in spite of the fact that it declared a Climate Emergency. The City stated some quite ambitious objectives which is an encouraging start, but councillors are making decisions that undermine their long term GHG reduction efforts. At this rate, we won’t reach our targets.
Written by Clara Cuny
Clara is studying at Sciences Po Rennes (France) in the field of study devoted to sustainable development and transitions. She is doing an internship at Ecology Ottawa until January 2020. She organized the September 27th Global Climate Strike and currently participates in the coordination of events to continue this movement and inform young people about environmental issues. In charge of the Council Watch campaign, she attends City Council and Committee meetings at City Hall.