Council Watch Updates

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.

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 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.

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. 

City Council recently approved its four pillars that will comprise the strategic priorities for this term, which lasts until 2026: affordable housing, safe, accessible transportation and mobility options, a prosperous and diversified economy, and creating a “green and resilient” city. While these priorities and their implications represent some worthwhile goals from the City, the presence of meaningful and proactive climate action is lacking. 

NIMBYism clashes with Ottawa housing goals

With a housing and homelessness emergency declared in Ottawa in 2020, it is no surprise that affordable housing was a major election issue last fall, with a campaign promise from Mayor Sutcliffe on creation of housing and a refreshed mandate for the Planning and Housing Committee that prioritizes housing affordability. However, when development applications for dense, car-lite residential buildings come to the Planning and Housing Committee, there is often a surprising amount of push-back.

The 2022 Derecho and Trees in Ottawa: Report

So just how many trees on City of Ottawa property were lost in the 2022 derecho?

City staff presented a report on this at today's meeting of City Council. Here's a summary, with the report below!

Ottawa set to sign Montréal Pledge on Biodiversity

The City of Ottawa looks likely to sign the Montréal Pledge on biodiversity. By signing this pledge, the City will make an important commitment to protecting biodiversity. However, along with the commitment, there needs to be accountability.

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