Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin – https://unsplash.com/photos/NqOInJ-ttqM
It has been a dark week for local democracy in Ottawa.
Last Wednesday, council green-lit an Old Ottawa East development that violated a years-old neighbourhood plan. The original design was rooted in thousands of hours of community consultation and engagement with city processes, but no matter. In the end, the developer pulled the rug out from under the community. Planning committee refused to stop the process, and council gave its stamp of approval with a 14-9 vote in favour of the project.
Earlier that morning, one of the city’s most powerful committees blocked a non-member councillor from asking a simple question. While the councillor’s question was about a baseball lease, the move speaks volumes about Ottawa’s decision-making process on environmental matters. It points to a council whose decision-making process has been centralized around the mayor. This concentration of power has clear, negative implications for the areas of the city with councillors outside of the mayor’s inner circle.
If we needed further evidence of this point, last week’s Château Laurier decision made it crystal clear. Kelly Egan has pointed out that Ottawa’s urban councillors have been on the losing end of planning decisions for some time now. The root cause is committee composition, which stems from mayoral decisions. Immediately after the 2018 election, the mayor cut out urban councillors from key decision-making roles impacting Ottawa’s environment. In this way, the causes behind the “radiator-shaped goiter” on the Château Laurier are the same as those behind environmental crises like climate change, tree decimation and urban sprawl.
So what can be done?
Put simply, we can’t let cynicism induce us to inaction. We need to stand up and be heard. Even when we feel that residents don’t have a voice, we won’t be silenced. Even when our councillors push for what’s right, and risk being sidelined when they run afoul of the mayor, we won’t be silenced.
Now, more than ever, we need to bring the pressure of mass mobilization to bear on city council. Ecology Ottawa is uniquely positioned to amplify your voice to demand better from city hall. We must continue to organize in communities, pressure council at key moments and keep all council members accountable to the public.
We cannot do this without your support. Donate today to join thousands of other Ottawa residents who stand up for our environment. Your contribution will go towards building a better, greener city for now and for future generations.
Ecology Ottawa is looking for an Election Organizer. Reporting to the Executive Director, the Election Organizer will provide support for Ecology Ottawa’s outreach campaigns on climate change. This goal is pursued by:
This position is for 40 hours/week. The vast majority of this time includes outdoor work on evenings and weekends in targeted areas of the city.
Successful candidates will have the following:
The successful candidate will be conducting outreach in Kanata. Candidates living in Kanata or nearby areas, therefore, are encouraged to apply.
If you are interested in working with Ottawa’s leading grassroots environmental organization and contributing to our efforts to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada, please send a cover letter outlining your motivation for applying along with your resume to: email@example.com. We thank all those who apply, but only short-listed candidates will be contacted.
Period: 40 hours/week. Starts ASAP. This contract runs from until October 31.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into our atmosphere from human activities is the leading cause of climate change. Over the last 200 years, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere has increased and to a level which is now 1.4 times higher than at any time over the previous 200,000 years. If we don’t reduce our emissions very rapidly, the consequences for our planet will be catastrophic.
Transportation is responsible for 44% of emissions within the City of Ottawa. This means tackling the climate crisis involves changing how we move around our city. We have found that most drivers are unaware that
the average car driven 20,000 kilometers per year emits over 3 tonnes of CO2 (4.5, in fact!).
The Know CO2 stickers, designed to be affixed to bumper stickers or other clearly visible surfaces, aim to make sure that all drivers are aware of the CO2 impact of their vehicles. Every time a following driver or pedestrian sees your sticker :
There are many ways you can take action in your daily life to reduce the carbon footprint related to transportation. The list below, although nowhere near comprehensive, is a good place to start.
The easiest and most affordable step is to switch to other modes of transportation, including walking, cycling and public transit, when you need to get around.
The more we design sprawling car-centric communities, the more we make transit unaffordable and walking or cycling unsafe. Consider writing your representatives and let them know you care about the future of active transportation and that you want to see more investments in walking and cycling networks and accessible and affordable public transit. We also need compact, complete communities and neighbourhoods, where walking and biking for daily needs is safe and convenient.
The majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change and would be happy to purchase a CO2-free vehicle provided it was economically
competitive and met their transport needs. However, while the number e-vehicles in Ottawa-Gatineau is growing, it remains a tiny fraction of the total vehicle population of over 0.5 million.
The main barriers to purchase are the high initial cost of electric cars and chargers compared with their gas powered equivalents, range anxiety and concern with access to charging facilities. The auto industry and governments are making large investments in transport electrification. New models are being launched, range is increasing, costs are coming down and the charging network is growing. Progress will come faster if drivers show they care and that they want action. Our stickers are one way of doing this. Voting for politicians with strong climate platforms at every level is another.
If you are looking for ways to reduce your impact on our environment and help fight climate change in your daily life, consider purchasing an electric car the next time you need to buy a new vehicle. For more information on options and incentives to go electric, click here.
Even after a cyclist was killed outside of City Hall on May 16, and over 200 gathering outside City Hall a few days later to demand safer streets, it was not enough for councillors to take a stance and adopt Vision Zero policy.
On June 12, City Council discussed the motion brought forward by Councillor Catherine McKenney on May 22 asking for the city to adopt Vision Zero policy and framework for eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injury while promoting safe, healthy, and equitable transportation. The motion asks staff to report back with recommendations for the Road Safety Action Plan with respect to traffic lights, putting vulnerable road users first, options to eliminate ‘revert reds’, criteria to eliminate ‘beg buttons’, criteria for the elimination of right turns on red in the presence of bike lanes, identify the floating bike lanes and criteria to turn them into safe segregated bike lanes, and review requirements and costs to impose a city wide 30 km/h speed limit on residential streets.
The push back from some councillors was concerning. Councillor Stephen Blais, also chair of the Transportation Committee, pushed back and moved to refer the motion back to Transportation Committee. The general question surrounded the reason why Ottawa needs Vision Zero if road safety is already on the agenda. John Manconi, General Manager of Transportation Services asked council to refer the motion, reassuring council that staff already supports Vision Zero, and that referral to committee will give staff more time to find funding to implement the measures proposed by the motion. He reiterated that “Vision Zero is just a brand.”
Councillor Leiper reminded his colleague of the death outside City Hall, as well as two more cyclists being struck by cars that morning, and requested a clear direction in what we want to see in the Road Safety Action Plan. Councillor Menard pointed out that if the motion is referred, then it will delay the actions to make streets safer. Both urge council to vote against the referral. In her closing statement, councillor McKenney reminded us that our roads are unsafe, and delaying meaningful action on Vision Zero sends a message to road users and the public that we “normalize deaths on our streets”.
Before Council voted on the referral motion, Mayor Watson pointed to the City’s $80 million investment in cycling infrastructure, reminded his colleagues that “we can’t just get rid of beg buttons”, and urged council to vote to refer the motion to allow the public to have a say.
Council then voted to refer the Vision Zero motion back to transportation committee, with 15 yays and 9 nays. The nays were councillors McKenney, Leiper, Menard, Fleury, Kavanagh, King, Deans, Meehan, and Gower.
A second motion by councillor Leiper to allocate the federal gas tax towards cycling infrastructure was also referred to the City Treasurer to be considered with other competing priorities. Councillor Laura Dudas moved the motion, which passed 19-5. The nays are Leiper, McKenney, Menard, Kavanagh, and King.
City Council also discussed in depth the ramifications of the latest LRT-Stage 1 delay on current OCTranspo services. Councillor Allan Hubley moved to freeze transit fares until the LRT Stage 1 opens, and councillor Diane Deans provided an amendment to reduce fares by 30% from July to September 2019, funding to be taken out of Rideau Transit Group’s contract. In a passionate speech, councillor Deans criticized OCTranspo’s poor and unreliable services and disrespect for transit riders. “The very principle of fairness would suggest that we should not be charging full fares for a partial or unreliable system,” she says to Council. Mayor Jim Watson on the contrary refers to the fare reduction motion as “one of the most ridiculous motions” he has ever seen.
Councillors Brockington, Cloutier, Blais, were among those who objected to the fare reduction, citing the financial costs ($29 million lost in fare revenue), the low likelihood of RTG covering the cost of fare reduction, and that it doesn’t help improve service. The vote to reduce transit fare failed 6-18, with councillors Deans, McKenney, Menard, Chiarelli, Kavanagh, and King. The vote to freeze transit fares until LRT opens passed unanimously.
Do you enjoy being outdoors?
Are you passionate about environmental issues and comfortable communicating with others?
Ecology Ottawa is seeking self-motivated environmentalists to join our door-to-door canvass team! Our outreach canvass raises awareness of our issues on the doorstep, and raises funds to support our projects and campaigns.
Please send your resume and cover letter to:
Ecology Ottawa is the city’s leading grassroots environmental organization. We are working to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada and our environmental Canvassers play a critical role in helping to build a truly city-wide voice for the environment at City Hall.
Dear Mayor Watson,
We are writing in the aftermath of the tragic death of a cyclist on Thursday, May 16. While the cyclist’s identity remains unknown at the time of writing, many in our community are grieving his loss and the death of yet another vulnerable Ottawa road user.
This grief is giving way to deep frustration. Years after the City of Ottawa’s declaration of a Complete Streets policy and implementation plan, it remains clear that our streets are largely hostile to cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. Even within several metres of our city’s flagship separated bike lane, another vulnerable road user has died.
The word “accident,” however well-intentioned and commonly used, is inappropriate in these circumstances. This cyclist’s death – just like the death and severe injury of dozens of Ottawa residents each year on sidewalks, in bike lanes, in crosswalks, at bus-stops or on buses – is a product of inadequate policy and poor transportation infrastructure design.
As a city, we can and must do better for vulnerable road users of all types. Fundamentally, this means policy that systematically prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. It means making the hard decisions that lead to design improvements – improvements that prioritize safety for vulnerable road users above all else. We must make our streets safe for our city’s children, elderly and mobility impaired. We must make it safe for people walking to school or work, biking to appointments, trying to get from home or work to a bus-stop, taking transit, and otherwise trying to live their lives safely in a car-centric world. We firmly believe that our city benefits when it is safe and accessible for all who reside within it. We can stop the injuries and deaths.
In light of the above, we, the undersigned, call on the City of Ottawa to enact a strong Vision Zero policy. Around the world, cities are implementing Vision Zero policies designed to eliminate injury and death on their streets. From their examples and lessons learned, we can develop a comprehensive policy that is ambitious, coherent and uniquely suited to the Ottawa context.
We urge the City of Ottawa to follow suit as quickly as possible. As you know, Councillor Catherine McKenney has given notice of a motion on Vision Zero to be put toward council on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Her motion will include substantial measures to make our streets safer, such as:
At the same time, Councillor Jeff Leiper has proposed a motion to dedicate the $57 million one-time federal gas tax infrastructure transfer to making our cycling network safe. We believe that more funding for vulnerable road users is essential for improving road safety in Ottawa.
We see both funding and strong policy as vital to eliminating severe injury and death on Ottawa’s streets. We urge you to show leadership in boldly implementing an ambitious Vision Zero vision for our city.
Robb Barnes, Executive Director, Ecology Ottawa
Sam Boswell, Ottawa Transit Riders Group
Jean Mullan, Co-President of Bel-Air Community Association
Érinn Cunningham, Bike Ottawa
Michelle Perry, Healthy Transportation Coalition
Neil Thomson, President of Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association
Annie Boucher Rimes, President of Lincoln Heights Parkway Community Association
Stelios Togias. President of Lindenlea Community Association
Liz Bernstein, President of Lowertown Community Association
Sybil Powell, President of McKellar Park Community Association
Heather Marie Scott, President of Pineview Community Association
Marilyn Read, Secretary of Overbrook Community Association
Jeff Westeinde, President of the Zibi project
June has arrived and things are heating up at Ecology Ottawa! Join us by signing up for one or more of the volunteer opportunities below.
1. Bring trees to every corner of the city
This summer, we aim to give away 12,000 native tree seedlings to Ottawa residents across the city. We need volunteers to table at community events and engage with people, as well as volunteers to help us ‘bag and tag’ our tree seedlings in the office to prep them for events. To sign up, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Canvass with us to promote green infrastructure in Britannia
We need your help going door-to-door and discussing green infrastructure with residents, handing out splash guards, and downspout redirects. You will gain communication and community outreach skills, and no experience is needed. To sign up, email: email@example.com.
3. Make climate change a priority in the upcoming federal election
In the last three years, Ottawa has seen catastrophic floods predicted to occur only once every 100 years. We have 11 years left to take bold climate action before this becomes the new normal.
The upcoming federal election is a chance to create a movement for change, one that will transition us to a clean economy and resilient world. We can’t afford to wait. The time is now.
Join us to make a difference this election. To get started, join us for a volunteer training.
4. Come to our Blair station bike and walk audits
We are working on a project to improve active transportation connectivity at Blair station, and we need your help! Together with a group of volunteers, we’ll walk and bike predetermined routes near the station and take notes on what we encounter along the way. Both audits take place on July 6, 2019.
Join us for our upcoming active transportation audits by clicking here.
5. Hold Ottawa City Council accountable with the Council Watch team
We are bringing back Council Watch, a campaign that keeps an eye on environmental decisions made at Ottawa City Hall. We’re looking for volunteers to attend council and committee meetings, track councillors’ votes and write blog posts. If you have been looking for an opportunity to engage in municipal affairs and local politics, this might be the opportunity for you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Interested in getting involved in the Federal Election campaign? Did you miss the first volunteer training? Here’s your second chance!
Join us on June 5 from 6-8pm at the Ecology Ottawa office. You’ll be given all the tools you need to help make a difference this election season.
Make sure to RSVP here:
Can’t make it but still want to get involved? Email email@example.com!
In the last three years, Ottawa has seen catastrophic floods predicted to occur only once every 100 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the highest accepted scientific authority on climate change, estimates that we have 11 years to avoid catastrophic damage.
The upcoming federal election is a chance to create a movement for change, one that will transition us to a clean economy and resilient world. We can’t afford to wait. The time is now.
Sign our petition to demand that all federal parties adopt a strong climate action plan in line with the science of the IPCC report. Share with your friends on social media! Let’s get mobilized.
Be a part of the funding strategy and strategic partnership forming process as we solidify the community led plan to help reduce emissions from buildings by 80% by 2050! This work will culminate in a variety of funding proposals to federal, provincial and municipal programs all aligned to the same vision – a Vibrant Ottawa Built Together! We need you as leaders of building and renovation companies, non-profits, progressive financiers, Invest Ottawa, The City of Ottawa planning and finance, to join us in this great work for the future!
We want to lower GHG emissions and kickstart the Green Retrofit Economy in Ottawa!
When: June 5th – 9:00-4:00
Where: Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave