Your input is needed! Help guide our work through 2020 and beyond

Happy New Year, Ottawa! 

We hope your holiday season was relaxing and restorative. Now, it’s time to get to work. There is so much to accomplish together in 2020.

Looking ahead, we’re sure you see many challenges and opportunities. Share what you want to see from the city in the months and years to come.

Click here to take our 2020 Priorities Survey and set the course for a year of progress on local environmental issues. 

How can we respond to the climate crisis in a way that empowers Ottawans to take action in important local projects? What measures should we take to protect our living city – the trees, water, greenspace and living creatures that make Ottawa such a remarkable place to call home? How can we transform Ottawa to promote world-class public transportation and vibrant, walkable and bike-friendly communities?  

Let us know what matters to you. Click on the link to complete the 2020 Priorities Survey.

2020 Tree Giveaways

In 2020, Ecology Ottawa will be distributing 15,000 native tree seedlings free of charge to Ottawa area residents in an effort to re-plant our urban tree canopy. We are doing this because Ottawa’s urban tree canopy is under threat. Since 2008, the emerald ash borer has killed 25% of Ottawa’s trees. In addition to this, climate change, invasive pests, expanding urbanization and infill construction are also major threats to trees. We need to re-plant and keep planting to stay on top of the threats!

Information about the species of trees that we give away can be found here.

At all of the events listed below, our team of dedicated volunteers and staff will be handing out tree seedlings on a first-come, first-serve basis, so check the list of events frequently for one near you:

April

  • Thursday, April 23 to Sunday, April 26 (date to be finalized): Ottawa Grassroots Festival at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (82 Kent Street)
  • Saturday, April 25 (10am-1pm): Dundonald Park Earth Day at Dundonald Park
  • Saturday, April 25: Community Clean-Up in the township of McNab/Braeside
  • Saturday, April 25: Arbor Day at Tanglewood Park Community Centre
  • Saturday, April 25 to Sunday, April 26 (date to be finalized): My Healthy Green Planet Expo at the EY Centre
  • Thursday, April 30 to Sunday May 3 (date to be finalized): PoutineFest (Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave.)

May

  • Wednesday, May 6 or Wednesday, May 13 (date to be finalized): Terra20 Friends and Family Day
  • Sunday, May 17: Blossom Fest at Crossing Bridge Park
  • Sunday, May 17: Cyclofusion
  • Saturday, May 23, 8am to 3pm: Great Glebe Garage Sale

June

  • Saturday, June 6: Velofest (Centre Francophone de Vanier)
  • Saturday, June 6: Carp Farmers’ Market
  • Saturday, June 6: Carlington Community Association Yard and Plant Sale (Two locations: Raven Park and Harrold Place Park)
  • Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7: Doors Open Ottawa (various locations)
  • Sunday, June 7: Women’s Trail Festival (Camp Fortune, Qc)
  • Saturday, June 13 to Sunday, June 14 (date to be finalized): The New Art Festival at Central Park (in the Glebe)
  • Saturday, June 20 or Saturday, June 27 (date to be finalized): Fringe Festival at the Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue)

July

  • Weekly (dates to be determined): Yoga in the Park

August

  • Wednesday, August 5 to Sunday, August 9 (date to be finalized): Asinabka Festival
  • Saturday, August 8 (date to be finalized): Art in the Park (Strathcona Park)

September

  • Saturday, September 5th: Greater Avalon Community Association Barbeque
  • Friday, September 11 (6-8 pm): Rock the Block at the sport field next to Manor Park Community Centre
  • Saturday, September 19th: FrancOrléans Day
  • Thursday, September 24 to Sunday, September 27 (date to be finalized): Ottawa Fall Home Show at the EY Centre

 October

  • Saturday, October 3: SMARTNet Alliance Sustainability Showcase (Horticultural Building, Lansdowne Park)

Six 2020 New Year's resolutions

2019 was an incredible year. Together, we changed the local climate conversation, engaged thousands in work to protect trees and green up neighbourhoods, and worked to make our city a safer place for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

As we head into 2020, we drew up a list of New Year’s resolutions that will shape our work together in the coming months. All of Ecology Ottawa’s work is grassroots and volunteer-driven. Thank you for making this possible with your volunteer time and financial support. We look forward to the exciting year ahead! 

Our New Year’s resolutions:

1. Accelerate Ottawa’s climate ambition. Just a few weeks ago, the City of Ottawa drew up more ambitious climate targets that reflect the requirements of the international scientific consensus. Ottawa needs to ramp up its climate efforts like never before, and this will make the next decade the most transformative in our city’s history. The good news is, powerful local solutions are becoming increasingly clear. The urgent need is to organize the Ottawa community around them. In January, we will survey supporters to determine the next major rallying cry for our climate advocacy work. 

2. Hold the line on urban boundary expansion. One of the most important climate decisions council will make in 2020 involves the urban boundary. The choice is clear: we can either continue business-as-usual development patterns and worsen urban sprawl, or we can hold the line on urban boundary expansion while protecting greenspace and enhancing transit affordability. We can only succeed if we organize. Sign our petition, join us as a volunteer, and be there for our Hold the Line rally at city hall in March.   

3. Engage 15,000 Ottawans in tree planting, protection and promotion. In 2020, we will scale our tree promotion work to its largest size ever. We are giving away 15,000 trees at community events, festivals and at the door. Beyond their many environmental benefits, each tree provides an entry point to meaningful conversations about protecting Ottawa’s environment and taking action at the local level. Get in touch to organize a tree event near you

4. Push forward an urban biodiversity strategy for our city. Cities around the world are racing to tackle the biodiversity crisis with action at home. We know that urban areas – with their bright lights, road networks, tall buildings and pollution – can have serious impacts on a wide range of species. We also know that many biodiversity solutions are within cities’ grasp. To protect our living city, we need a real plan with resources attached. In 2020, we will organize to accelerate the City of Ottawa’s level of ambition on urban biodiversity protection. Join us! 

5. Launch a local air quality monitoring initiative. We are pleased to announce a groundbreaking local air quality monitoring initiative in 2020. With teams of volunteers, we will collect and map air quality data – especially in areas close to day care centres and seniors’ residences, where vulnerable populations are concentrated. This project is the beginning of a city-wide conversation on the links between transportation, climate change and public health. Let us know if you’d like to get involved.  

6. Continue to push for Vision Zero. 2019 proved that the City of Ottawa still has a long way to go to make its streets safe and accessible for all users, especially pedestrians and cyclists. While Ottawa is making progress, it is unacceptably slow and incremental. There is a better way. Beyond more ambitious investments, the City can take bold policy steps to achieve Vision Zero – that is, to eliminate severe injury and death on our streets. In the process, we can build a more livable and climate-friendly city.    

2020 can be a landmark year for our city, but only with your support. Join us as a volunteer, become a monthly donor or make a year-end gift today.

Wishing you a happy and green 2020, 

Robb, Velta, Emilie, Clara, Jaclyn, Erik, Ginette and the entire Ecology Ottawa team

Innovative Financing – Reducing greenhouse gases in Ottawa's built environment

At 47% of Ottawa’s community emissions, buildings make up the largest-emitting sector in our city. This has clear implications for municipal climate action. If Ottawa wants to meet its greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% below 2012 levels by 2050, emissions from buildings must be a major target.

Ecology Ottawa has published a report supported by The McLean Foundation exploring the ways in which Ottawa’s buildings could be retrofitted to improve their condition and, ultimately, their impact on climate change.

We must invest in making Ottawa’s buildings vastly more efficient and powered by renewable energy. But improvements cost money. Even in cases where energy efficiency investments yield profit over the medium-term, many homeowners and large institutions like governments, hospitals, universities and schools find it hard to prioritize these investments over competing demands. The challenge lies in creating the right set of incentives in order to engage consumers in investments that can dramatically improve Ottawa’s emission performance.

Read more here.

Contact Robb Barnes, author of the report, for more information at robb.barnes@ecologyottawa.ca

The year the ground shifted

As we approach the end of 2019, we can’t shake the feeling – this was the year the ground shifted in the fight for climate action. We know that with all environmental efforts, progress can often be slow or halting. But too many good things happened in 2019 to be ignored. As part of the growing Ottawa environmental community, your efforts are the reason for the progress we’re seeing.

This Giving Tuesday, we’re asking you to keep up the momentum. Power the movement to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada by becoming a monthly donor or contributing a one-time gift of $50, $100 or $250 today.

So, what happened in 2019? First, the City of Ottawa declared a climate emergency
. The Ecology Ottawa community was there every step of the way – from providing input on policy, to rallying outside of city hall on the morning of the crucial vote. Over the coming weeks and months, we expect to see the City take unprecedented steps to strengthen and deepen its level of climate ambition

Next, we made sure climate was an issue our federal leaders couldn’t ignore. Whether this meant thousands of climate conversations as part of our election campaign, 20,000 of us in the streets as part of a youth-led climate strike, or 1,000 of us at federal environment debates in every corner of our city, the message was the same: climate change is the fight of our lives. We demand a safe planet for our children, and we will not let up.  

2020 can be the year we build from strength to strength.
 Beyond action on climate change, we are excited to launch a series of initiatives aimed at making our city more livable, vibrant and dynamic. From urban biodiversity, to air quality monitoring and protecting our trees and greenspace, there is so much we can accomplish together with your support. 

Let’s make Ottawa a green leader. Join us as a monthly donor or make a one-time gift today.

Thank you for powering the movement to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada. 

Robb, Jaclyn, Ginette, Marie-Lou, Jay, Clara, Erik, Emilie, Velta and the entire Ecology Ottawa team

A citizen audit of green factors in Ottawa's light rail stations

The City of Ottawa launched the first stage of the light rail transit system in September 2019. Multiple issues arising soon after the inauguration, Ecology Ottawa and The Ken and Debbie Rubin Public Interest Advocacy Fund saw an opportunity to assess and shed more light on how light rail stations perform across a range of social and sustainability-related concerns. As a pilot program, Ecology Ottawa sees a need for further study of the challenges and opportunities surrounding the implementation of light rail in Ottawa, ongoing monitoring of the Confederation Line network, as well as for content that will help ensure the successful delivery of the second stage of the light rail. This is a first attempt at delineating several lines of evaluation, studying only two stations.

Follow this link to access the final findings and recommendations on opportunities to improve Rideau and Parliament stations in order to make commuting safer, more accessible and more convenient for all users.

One major finding stemming from Ecology Ottawa’s analysis and public conversations around transit and active transportation is the critical role of the development of light rail transit in determining the way Ottawans choose to commute.

The audits of the Rideau and Parliament light rail stations revealed important issues that had not yet been discussed in the media. Ecology Ottawa is confident that the results of the audits support other studies conducted by partner organizations in the sector such as the Council on Aging of Ottawa with their Snow Mole audits, and the Ottawa Transit Riders. Ecology Ottawa encourages the City of Ottawa to acknowledge and fix the issues with the first stage of the LRT, as well as urges both the City and the Rideau Transit Group to consider the recommendations stated above to avoid similar problems in the second stage. While some constitute significant investments, such as implementing better weather-sheltered bus stops, others are simple fixes that will make the Ottawa transit system much more appealing. Ranging from suitable bike ramps, sufficient bike parking, and an increase of users’ sense of place with improvements of the access to greenspace and green infrastructure, we hope the City sees the co-benefits involved in implementing these suggestions, such as reduced road traffic and better air quality. The advantages involved in improving the light rail experience for transit users is multifaceted and is directly linked to the ability Ottawa has of being a leader in its response to the climate crisis. Ecology Ottawa is hopeful that further steps will be taken to have a bigger and better impact, both on the transit riders’ point of view, but also on the climate front.

If you would like to continue auditing light rail stations, please use this document as a template and send us your results. We will continue to accept reports and will communicate issues with city staff and councillors when relevant. Thank you for your continued support and help with transportation issues!

Read more here.

Contact Emilie at emilie.grenier@ecologyottawa.ca for more information.

Vision Zero nowhere in sight as city dithers with new Road Safety Action Plan

On Monday, November 25, Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Stephen Blais launched the 2020-2024 Road Safety Action Plan.

To say this document was eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. For years, Ecology Ottawa and other local groups have been advocating for Vision Zero – a plan to eliminate severe injury and death on Ottawa’s streets. Yet when tangible policy reforms for Vision Zero have been proposed – as in June 2019, with a motion from Coun. Catherine McKenney – council was told to trust in the process. The June 2019 Vision Zero motion was ultimately rejected by council. The reasoning was that road safety was already a city priority, and that Vision Zero was “just a brand.”

In other words, council didn’t want a policy declaration that failed to amount to meaningful progress on road safety. Council chose to wait for meaningful action, and the upcoming Road Safety Action Plan was the vehicle for that action.

If the new Road Safety Action Plan was designed to signal that the city was finally prioritizing the safety of vulnerable road users, it has badly missed its mark. While we commend the staff that worked diligently and consulted widely, the document lacks ambition at a time when cities around the world are re-thinking their transportation networks to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists.

The Road Safety Action Plan lacks ambition in two major ways:

  • First, it advances a piecemeal target on road safety – a 20% reduction of severe injury and death by 2024 – rather than a meaningful path to zero. Even if we were to accept the argument that the city has to start somewhere (which begs the question of why the city hasn’t started in the first place), we would expect to see recommendations for long-term reductions to zero somewhere in this document. This language was nowhere to be found.
  • Second, this document tinkers at the margins when it should be addressing meaningful policy changes to disrupt the overwhelming dominance of cars and trucks in Ottawa’s transportation and design regime. The document offers well thought-out solutions, or “safety countermeasures,” at the level of engineering, education and enforcement. Some of these touch on important policy directions, such as speed reductions and no-right turn on red restrictions. It does not venture anything more ambitious, even as a thought experiment. Bolder ideas such as car lane reductions, car-free zones, mandatory changes in street design and vehicle type restrictions (e.g., banning large trucks from downtown) are not even hinted at. And yet other cities are experimenting with these, and much more ambitious ideas, as we speak.

Beyond this high-level summary, here are a few other notable aspects of the report.

The authors say the City of Ottawa has not yet demonstrated adequate political will, and worry if it ever will

As the report points out (and contrary to some public statements made by the mayor and Councillor Blais), Ottawa still has a long way to go if it wants to take meaningful action on road safety. Ottawa’s fatality rate of 2.7 per 100,000 population is many times higher than that of leading cities like Stockholm, with 0.4 fatalities. So, while Ottawa may compare favourably to national averages (like Sweden’s), its level of ambition remains far behind leading cities.

The Action Plan clearly states that a business-as-usual approach to road safety will not result in reductions to severe injury and death. The authors write, “If the current safety efforts by the City and its partner agencies are maintained but not altered the likelihood is low that a significant reduction in either the number or severity of [Fatal and Major injury] collisions will be achieved, especially in the context of increasing traffic volumes” (pp. 17-18). Importantly, in order to effectively reduce collisions through safety programs, “significant additional resources are required” (p. 18).

The focus on cost, while important, misses the broader conversation about meaningful policy solutions

Increased investment in safety countermeasures, such as the ones proposed in this document, would certainly be money well-spent. The report authors offer a range of safety ideas, such as roundabouts, better signals and red light cameras.

But are these proposals – and the $4 million price tag associated with them – enough? Leaving cost aside for a moment, let’s talk about what the report fails to mention: policy reforms that would address safety challenges at a systemic level and allow the city to avoid future investments in retroactive fixes to the system. Imagine that streets and communities were systematically designed in a way that made safety “countermeasures” less necessary; that streets were built to prioritize vulnerable road users rather than motorists, and did not have to be retrofitted after the fact and at great cost. Imagine ambitious policy was the primary means by which the City of Ottawa sought to institute sweeping reforms to road safety.

While the authors reference the importance of existing city policies such as the 2015 Complete Streets Implementation Plan, they fail to mention that this policy still lacks the “teeth” needed to fundamentally change how roads are built in Ottawa. The Complete Streets framework is designed to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over motorists, but because of a wide range of possibilities for what the City might consider “complete,” we’re still seeing roads built without sidewalks in school zones, and new arterial roads being without segregated bike lanes. The policy gaps in the current transportation system will not be addressed by the few measures proposed in the document, such as lower speed limits and some right-turn-on-red restrictions.

If we want to focus on cost, we must address spending priorities at the City of Ottawa

While the road safety action plan proposes $31.5 million in measures and initiatives, only a small portion of this is new money. The city was already spending $25 million in 2019, and was budgeting a similar amount for 2020 before the new funding announcement.

2020 will only see a one-time cash infusion of only $4 million. And while spending increases on road safety are welcome, the $4 million addition must be put into the broader context of the city’s spending priorities. As we have discussed elsewhere, the city is making this marginal increase in a budget that overwhelmingly favours investments in road growth projects, to the tune of $66.2 million.

Ottawa’s addiction to road growth projects is more than a misallocation of precious resources that indirectly creates budget pressures in other areas. At a fundamental level, there are trade-offs between designing and building a city for cars, and doing so for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Every new car-oriented community means more cars on the road, which makes our streets more dangerous. These trade-offs are not acknowledged in the report.

So, while cost is a consideration here, it shouldn’t be the major one. The root problem is political prioritization, and it’s clear that the City of Ottawa continues to disproportionately favour cars over other modes of travel in our city.

The authors are ambivalent about whether the City of Ottawa actually wants Vision Zero, or accepts Vision Zero principles

In the document’s opening pages, there are some reassuring words that indicate that Ottawa shares Vision Zero objectives while using different language. This Road Safety Action Plan is the third iteration of a model – called “Towards Zero” – that is “built on the integrated approach and adopted the Swedish Vision Zero model” (p.1). As with Vision Zero, the “Towards Zero model holds the understanding that no loss of life is acceptable from motor vehicle collisions” (p. 1). The document also claims to have adopted the “Safe System Approach to road safety” (SSA), which has the principle that “human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system (i.e., life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society)” (p. 1).

Yet, it’s also clear that Road Safety Action Plan doesn’t hold these views. After all, this is the same document that essentially establishes an “acceptable” level of severe injury and death in Ottawa. That is, a 20% reduction from today’s levels by 2024.

The document also seems to reject the Vision Zero premise that severe injury and death is a product of bad design, and that choices about design are fundamentally political ones. In other words, a Vision Zero perspective states that deaths are not accidental – they are preventable, and it is incumbent upon society and policymakers to take this into account. Instead, the Road Safety Action Plan states, “Serious injuries and deaths are an emotional subject, especially when they are preventable” (p. 48, emphasis added).

It would be helpful to know the degree to which the authors, and city officials, think road deaths are preventable. If their fundamental assumption is – as it seems to be – that a certain amount of death and severe injury is an inevitable feature of the transportation system, while others are preventable, why do they even claim adherence to Vision Zero ideal in the first place? City officials have cautioned about the “empty rhetoric” that might come with a Vision Zero declaration not backed by meaningful measures. This document is guilty of a similar charge – declaring adherence to Vision Zero while failing to follow through on what that vision entails.

Connecting light rail transit with active transportation

In spring 2019, as Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit system readied for launch, Ecology Ottawa began an audit to assess the state of active transportation (i.e. walking and cycling) connection points to two stations (Blair and Baseline).

Follow this link to access the final findings and recommendations on opportunities to build active transportation infrastructure, in order to make walking and cycling safer, more accessible and more convenient for all users.

One major finding stemming from Ecology Ottawa’s analysis and public conversations around transit and active transportation is the critical role of the development of light rail transit in determining the way Ottawans choose to commute. This will also play a major role in shaping the future of our urban environment. By the time the second stage of the light rail is completed, 70% of Ottawans will live within a five-kilometre radius of a light rail station1. This provides a unique opportunity to ensure that active transportation connection points are built into the ever-evolving network. By identifying challenges and opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists to access to light rail stations, Ottawa can be at the forefront of the global urban movement to make ambitious strides on climate action, public health and community well-being.

If done well, light rail investments could make a meaningful contribution to a city-wide effort to tackle climate change. The City often states that investments in light rail reduce emissions from the bus network and displace car emissions as people opt to use light rail service. The drop in bus traffic along major streets such as Albert and Slater means more space for segregated bike lanes and walkways, which could then incentivize greater use of active transportation modes. Finally, with well-planned Transit Oriented Development projects, more and more Ottawans will live within close range to an LRT station and will incorporate travel by light rail into their daily commutes.

Read more here (updated December 4th, 2019).

Contact Emilie at emilie.grenier@ecologyottawa.ca for more information.

Climate Solutions and Ottawa’s Official Plan – Executive Summary

On November 15th and 16th, Ecology Ottawa, Greenspace Alliance, Community Association for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES) and the Youth Climate Ambassadors hosted a workshop on Climate Solutions and Ottawa’s Official Plan. Individuals and organizations from all areas of the city, from the downtown core to the rural wards discussed and co-created targeted climate solutions that can help shape the Official Plan.

The City declared a climate emergency last spring. It is now in the process of developing its new Official Plan, which will frame land use in Ottawa over the next 25 years.  Effective climate action must be central to the new Official Plan.

Over 100 participants from environmental groups, community associations and the general public worked together to develop a climate action message. It is organized around the four building blocks (nature, food, buildings/infrastructure and transportation) and the priority actions defined by the working groups at the event. It also draws on ideas presented at the workshop and in prior documents developed through the People’s Official Plan (POP).

Visit this link to read a Declaration, which is a more contextual and strategic summary of our demands, and here for a graphic summary that was created at the workshop.  

 We have also posted to the internet the outstanding video by Diane Saxe (https://youtu.be/773nlW13agw).

In the meantime, we need your help! Please use any of these materials to engage urgently with your neighbours, your neighbourhood associations and with your Councillor on this topic. There is little time left to influence members of the joint Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee meeting in March 2020.

Please contact emilie.grenier@ecologyottawa.ca if you want to join a team of residents from your ward and meet with your councillor, participate in our phoning campaign or help with our petition.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tepid and tentative City of Ottawa budget out of sync with the climate crisis

November 6, 2019

OTTAWA – Yesterday, Mayor Jim Watson presented the City of Ottawa’s draft 2020 budget to council. While the budget makes headway in some areas, it largely continues status quo investments on environmental initiatives in the city. At a high level, its tone and level of urgency are at odds with the global push for ambitious action in the face of the escalating climate emergency. 

“From an environmental lens, yesterday’s budget may have been serviceable in some other era,” said Robb Barnes, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. “But in the context of an escalating global climate crisis, it is out of sync and out of step.” 

In terms of improvements and new initiatives, the draft 2020 budget features expansion of light rail ($4.7 billion), money for an electric bus pilot ($6 million), a rate freeze for EquiPass and the first increase in on-street parking rates in over a decade. 

In other areas, it continues business-as-usual spending on tree planting ($1.5 million), energy efficiency retrofits ($3 million) and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure ($9.1 million for Cycling and Pedestrian Plans; $500,000 for the Pedestrian Crossover Program).

In terms of spending reductions, the budget features a substantial reduction in funding to Energy Evolution, the City’s renewable energy strategy ($70,000, down from $150,000 in 2019 and $500,000 in 2018). It also features a massive investment in the wrong direction: $66.2 earmarked for road growth projects, including a project in Ottawa’s Greenbelt. Ottawa’s continued expansion of its road network creates serious challenges for future budgets, in terms of maintenance, clearing, and managing induced demand from additional vehicles. 

A more detailed breakdown of the draft 2020 budget and what is means for Ottawa’s environment is available here.

“Cities around the world are responding to the climate crisis with innovative policies that tackle emissions while enhancing livability, community connections and public health,” said Mr. Barnes. “This means massive investments in transit, green infrastructure, electrification, and active transportation networks. It also means a concerted effort to cease the continual expansion of road networks, along with the sprawl that entails. By contrast, Ottawa’s 2020 budget is tepid and tentative. It fixes small issues at the margins while aggravating many of the environmental challenges currently facing our city.” 

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For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: 

Robb Barnes
Executive Director
Ecology Ottawa
613-276-5753 (cell)
robb.barnes@ecologyottawa.ca