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Welcome to the Council Watch webpage! 

Council Watch is a volunteer-powered group coordinated by Ecology Ottawa that 

  • Identifies issues of ecological significance before Council
  • Recommends actions for Ecology Ottawa and/or the Ottawa ecology community to take on these issues
  • Publishes reports for the general public

Our goals with these activities are to increase the public’s awareness of ecological issues that come before Council, to empower the public with information to take ecological action, and to hold City Council accountable for their decisions.

Currently, we’re a group of around 20 volunteers. Apart from meetings of the entire City Council, we also monitor activities of the following committees/commissions: Environment and Climate Change, Transportation, Planning and Housing, and Transit. (See here for a complete list of committees.) We also monitor media and other reports of council activity. Our newest initiative is our Watch Party program. Please join us!

We also develop resources for learning about Council and engaging with it:

If you’d like to join us, find out more about the group, or send feedback, please contact the group’s current coordinator, William van Geest. We welcome a variety of participation, including watching meetings, writing reports, policy analysis, producing media, keeping records, translating, or webpage support.

In the meantime, if you’d like to watch City Council on your own time, here are few resources to get you started:

Council Weakens Ottawa’s Approach to Climate Change

We’re very concerned by a recent effort by a City Councillor to weaken Ottawa’s efforts to combat climate change. Read on to learn what happened, understand why it's problematic, and take actions to help strengthen the climate approach in Ottawa.

 Climate action in Ottawa’s 2024 budget

City Council voted on December 6 to approve their draft budget for 2024. The budget contains some positive action towards addressing some of the crises Ottawa is facing: there is increased investment into housing, for example, and the City is reaching into its reserves to boost spending on affordable housing thanks to a motion from Councillor Kavanagh. The spending on climate, however, is somewhat underwhelming and contradictory.

Ottawa’s Budget 2024: New Year, Same Outdated Perspective on Climate Change

Even though the City’s own Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) projects that “Ottawa will continue to become warmer, wetter and have more unpredictable extreme weather events over the coming decades,” the City of Ottawa’s 2024 Budget reveals a continued lack of ambition for environmental protection and climate action, threatening our ecosystems and communities.

Budget 2024: What We’d Like to See

Ottawa City Council will be determining the budget for 2024 this fall, as they do every fall. A city’s budget is crucial to its operations and the lives of its constituents: the budget represents in very real terms a city’s priorities. In a time of concurrent crises, it is important that real investments are made to protect our environment and our community.

Unambitious Directions for Budget 2024

On September 5, Ottawa City Council’s Finance and Corporate Services Committee met to discuss the shape of the 2024 budget—also known as “budget directions.” This was the first formal, public step in deliberations for the budget, which will be tabled to Council on November 8. The directions were approved with votes in favour by Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and 11 councillors after a presentation from city staff and public delegations.

The “Eyesore” Problem in Ottawa Housing Discourse

One day before the September 6 Planning and Housing Committee meeting (recording here), Councillor Ariel Troster (Somerset Ward) posted on X (formerly Twitter) discussing the demographic trends at these meetings. “The people who come to city committees to speak against new housing development are overwhelmingly older and own their homes. The people who speak in support are generally younger. And they rent.” This message aptly predicted several public delegations at the meeting the very next day, in a discussion of different zoning amendments for the creation of dense, residential high-rise buildings.

The Vacant Unit Tax is also Good Environmental Policy

On August 23, Ottawa City Council voted to maintain the city’s fledgling Vacant Unit Tax (VUT). This tax has the goal of encouraging “homeowners to maintain, occupy or rent their properties, thereby increasing the housing supply.” As such, the VUT can address the affordable housing crisis (a housing emergency declared by City Council in 2020) that Ottawa faces, by adding pressure on individuals to rent out their vacant homes. 

Toronto Approved Multiples Everywhere; Ottawa Should Too

Toronto city council recently approved changes to the city’s zoning by-laws that will allow the new construction of two-, three- and four-unit multiplexes in all residential zones, which were not previously allowed in many parts of the city. Although the housing crisis will not be solved by any one policy or approach, Toronto’s example here is one to follow as the population continues to grow and the cost of living in major cities remains prohibitively high.

A bad case of the Transit Blues(fest)

Celebrating Canada Day in the nation’s capital is, for some, a sight to behold. This year, the evening fireworks show took place at LeBreton Flats, near Pimisi station. For those of us that are transit enjoyers, it represented an opportunity to celebrate the holiday in an accessible area. 

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