In April 2019, I put a motion forward with Councillor McKenney to allocate $57 million of the federal gas tax funds to help close the infrastructure renewal gap. Gas taxes are paid by drivers filling up their vehicles. I believe federal gas taxes should be spent repairing our roads and infrastructure. It only makes sense. Up until now, this was not the case. Gas taxes were spent solely on transit. I’m happy to report that City staff are recommending that the $57 million, which I requested be spent on repairing Ottawa’s infrastructure, will be included as part of their budget recommendation to Council. This is a huge win for Ottawa’s drivers and taxpayers, and a significant change to the “business as usual” mindset of Staff and Councillors.
COVID-19 has hurt Ottawa’s finances worse than first predicted. Council was told Wednesday that the City is running a 192 million dollar deficit. The Senior Management team explained its plan to balance the books, while staying within a 3 percent tax target for next year.
Money will be borrowed from our reserves funds and infrastructure projects will be delayed and hiring frozen. But the key to solving our money problems lies with the Federal and Provincial governments.
The Mayor says he is confident the two other levels of government will help us recover from the devastation of COVID-19. I had to ask what happens if they don’t.
His response is that we will face a double-digit tax increase and program and service cuts. City Councillors have been challenged to come up with ways to save money.
It is certainly an interesting time to be a member of the Ottawa Police Services Board. I can only speak for myself, but I believe the OPSB is about to oversee much needed change in the way we police our city and ensure the safety and dignity of all our residents. There is discrimination in the Ottawa Police Service, people are being victimized because of their colour and their sex. We all know it, but changing the culture is difficult. This time however seems different. We are also hearing demands that Police be defunded.
Chief Sloly, at our meeting on Monday, addressed that by saying it’s not totally realistic, especially in Ottawa where we have begun to address changes to policing policy. The Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Police Services Board are committed to change before the calls for defunding.
We hired Peter Sloly as our new chief largely because he had a reputation for shaking things up. In the short time he has been here, he has already made changes such as re-introducing neighbourhood resource teams that work with members of social service agencies to address community needs. He has introduced an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action plan as well as a Respect, Values and Inclusion Directorate that will tackle sexual harassment and discrimination, among other issues.
On July 10, 2019, Council had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of our Nations Capital, by revoking the Heritage Permit granted by the previous Council in 2018. Unfortunately, 13 Councillors followed the Mayor’s lead and voted against Councillor Fleury's motion. I am proud to say I voted with Councillor Fleury.
OC Transpo, Ottawa Public Library, Ottawa Public Health, Tourism Ottawa, and now our Paramedic Service. Each of these organizations has suddenly found out that provincial funding they counted on won’t materialize as the Provincial Government carries on with its deficit reduction plan.