Environmental organization says it is not fair to ask the city to choose between public transit and clean water
March 7, 2012 (Ottawa) – At a press conference this morning at Britannia Beach, Ecology Ottawa and Community Associations called on the federal government to help the nation’s capital clean up its rivers, and asked that it stop calling on the city to choose between public transit and clean water.
“We’re glad the federal government is supportive of making the Ottawa River Action Plan a priority in 2014, but the feds are planning to spend billions of dollars on jets, jails and oil subsidies, so we don’t think they should be asking the people of Ottawa to choose between light rail and clean water,” said Graham Saul, chair of Ecology Ottawa. “Minister Baird has called this a moral issue, so now is the time to act.”
To illustrate the fact that Ottawa dumps hundreds of millions of litres of untreated sewage into the river, a male model sat on a toilet bowl in Britannia Beach, with his pants around his knees during the press conference.
Ecology Ottawa has collected 750 signatures on a letter to all Ottawa-area Members of Parliament (MPs) urging them to fight to ensure funding for the Ottawa River Action Plan is included in the federal 2012 budget. During a press conference this morning at Britannia Beach, Saul said he was dissatisfied with the response to the funding request received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pierre Poilievre, M.P. Nepean-Carleton, STATED that: “The cleanup of the Ottawa River remains the federal government priority now and for 2014. We wished the city shared that priority.”
“The basic argument from the federal government that if the City is serious about the Ottawa River Action Plan it can just use money from federal transit funding is unfair,” Saul said.
Saul was joined at the press conference by representatives from two Community Associations (Riverview Park and Westboro Beach) upset with beach closures and untreated sewage in our waterways. These representatives also expressed dissatisfaction in the response received from the federal government so far.
“We are asking the federal government to do what is right and fund the Ottawa River Action Plan in Budget 2012,” said Mari Wellman, chair of the Westboro Beach Community Association.
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City Council to decide the fate of “Choosing Our Future”
For more information, contact Graham Saul, Chair of Ecology Ottawa, at 613-558-3368
Feb. 21, 2012 (Ottawa) — The City of Ottawa’s Environment Committee is set to discuss three plans today that fall under the heading of Choosing our Future. These plans are the result of a four-year planning process and, if fully embraced, they would save Ottawa residents billions of dollars a year in energy costs, increase support for local farmers, help protect our parks and rivers, promote high-tech businesses, and build a world class public transportation system, among many other things. However, the staff report to be approved at Committee today does not commit the city to do much more than “receive” the plans.
“Council should be congratulated for coming up with a plan that will save residents money, promote local business, and protect the environment, but it is still not clear if they intend to follow-through with the plans,” said Graham Saul, Chair of Ecology Ottawa, who will be making a public intervention at the Environment Committee meeting today. “The Choosing Our Future reports will be remembered as a bold new vision for a sustainable and healthy Ottawa, or a colossal waste of taxpayer resources, it’s up to Council to decide.”
The plans propose measures that would, among many other things, help: build complete neighbourhoods and communities; retrofit the suburbs; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote public transportation and electric vehicles; encourage high performance buildings and renewable energy; protect and restore green and natural systems; protect the quality of our water; attract new businesses at the leading edge of sustainability; help reduce waste and increase recycling; and support local food and agriculture.
The staff report to Environment Committee states that the plans can be used to guide the soon to be initiated refreshes of the Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and Infrastructure Plan, among others. The three plans also identify examples of actions and catalyst projects that could be taken but, with a couple exceptions, there is as yet no indication of whether or not the Environment Committee intends to proceed with the implementation of these proposed measures.
“This is an opportunity for Council to move forward with a vision that people across the city can rally around and that will make us proud to call Ottawa home,” said Saul. “The city spent four years and presumably millions of dollars consulting people and coming up with these plans, they need to make it count or it will just feed the cynicism that surrounds these kinds of initiatives. Ecology Ottawa is going into the meeting with two questions: How are you going to move forward, and how can we help?”
Ecology Ottawa is a grassroots environmental organization that is working to promote environmental leadership in the City of Ottawa. We have more than 5,000 supporters across the city and over 400 volunteers.
For more information, contact Graham Saul, Chair of Ecology Ottawa, at 613-558-3368.
This afternoon, the Environment Committee is set to receive the final results of Choosing our Future, an initiative of the City of Ottawa, in partnership with the City of Gatineau and National Capital Commission, to guide Canada’s Capital Region towards a more liveable and prosperous future. The initiative includes three long-range plans that have been created as the culmination of the initiative. They are as follows: A Plan for Sustainability and Resilience Plan in Canada’s Capital Region, An Energy and Emissions Plan for Canada’s Capital Region, and A Risk Prevention and Mitigation Plan for the City of Ottawa.
These plans are the outcome of a five-step process beginning in 2008 that included: the commission of a series of papers, and public forums; the establishment of advisory groups and preparation of baseline analyses; extensive modelling to explore the implications of some of the strategies; the production of a series of discussion papers and a series of workshops to discuss them; the production of the final plans. Ecology Ottawa does not know what the full cost of this process was but it presumably ran into the millions.
You can view the staff report to Council here: HTTP://OTTAWA.CA/CALENDAR/OTTAWA/CITYCOUNCIL/EC/2012/02-21/03-ACS2012-ICS-CSS-0005%20FEB%202012.HTM
Links to the extensive supporting documentation can be found at the bottom of the staff report. The documents include:
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Feb. 14, 2012 (Ottawa) – More than 500 people across the city have written to Ottawa-area Members of Parliament (MPs) in recent days urging them to include funding for the Ottawa River Action Plan in the 2012 federal budget, but Conservative MPs have not yet responded.
While responses have been received from local NDP and Liberal MPs (see below), the signatories have not yet had the courtesy of an answer from the Government of Canada representatives— Hon. John Baird, Royal Galipeau, Gordon O’Connor, Pierre Poilievre and Pierre Lemieux.
“People are taking the time to voice their concerns, the least they can do is respond to the letter,” said Graham Saul, Chair of Ecology Ottawa.
Every year, the City of Ottawa dumps hundreds of millions of litres of untreated sewage directly into the Ottawa River. The City of Ottawa has developed a plan that will solve the problem, called the Ottawa River Action Plan, and both the province and the city have agreed to put up their share of the money. But in order for the plan to move forward, the federal government needs to approve its share of the funding in the upcoming 2012 federal budget.
Ecology Ottawa has launched anon-line letter writing campaign to encourage Ottawa residents to show their support for the Ottawa River Action Plan. More than 500 people have already taken the time to send letters, and the letters keep coming in.
“This is a concrete opportunity to cleanup our river and help build a better city,” said Saul. “We want our MPs to fight for this funding, and we think they should be taking the time to let everyone who writes to them know exactly where they stand.”
To read the responses received from Paul Dewar and David McGuinty, please visit the Ecology Ottawa website:
Jan. 26, 2012 (Ottawa) — Ecology Ottawa praised the National Capital Commission (NCC) today for its plan to further expand Ottawa’s greenbelt and denounced members of the development community who are already working to undermine this responsible move.
“The NCC’s intention to add a 10 per cent expansion beyond the existing Greenbelt over 50 years is exactly that type of visionary idea that Ottawa needs more of,” said Graham Saul, chair of Ecology Ottawa.
The local environmental organization denounced those in the development community that are speaking out against the plan.
“These businesses and associations seem to be acting like the opposite of good corporate citizens,” said Trevor Haché, the group’s policy coordinator. “Greedy agendas driven by vested interests should be outright rejected by the National Capital Commission, Ottawa city council, and Ottawa’s citizens.”
“Developers already cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars appealing the previous council’s decision to limit the expansion of the urban boundary,” added Saul. “And now they are suggesting that we should pave over our parks and farms instead of focusing on building a world class city that we can all be proud of.”
Ecology Ottawa believes that the NCC’s plan will further allow the city to become both environmentally and financially sustainable. Indeed, sprawl’s destructive effects are well known. It promotes pollution and excess energy consumption from car traffic, and increases run-off of polluted water from miles of asphalt. It is also expensive, creating far-flung infrastructure that is costly to service and maintain.
“The success of the city’s light rail plan depends on greater density inside the Greenbelt—not more sprawl,” Saul said. “Compact and walkable neighbourhoods, a concentration of residential development around public transportation corridors, and the preservation of green spaces and rural areas are critical to ensuring our nation’s capital realizes its full potential.”
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Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Subject: RE: Please commit to funding the Ottawa River Action Plan
Thank you for your email regarding the Ottawa River Action Plan.
I have repeatedly called on the government to take action to protect the Ottawa River, which is now designated a national heritage river.
Approximately one million people use the Ottawa River as their source of drinking water. However, the watershed is impacted by several sources of pollution including municipal sewage and industrial wastewater.
Our municipalities are facing a growing infrastructure deficit, which means they face significant challenges in keeping contaminants out of the river.
I released an action plan and motion in the House of Commons that calls on the federal government to commit to setting regulations to protect and preserve the integrity and natural environment of the Ottawa River.
This action plan calls for strengthened environmental regulations from the federal government and enforcement of the Federal Fisheries Act, as well as an increase in funding to municipalities to improve their infrastructure. Compliance records should be published and there should be a public right to know when untreated sewage is spilled into the river.
Furthermore, my plan calls for regular monitoring of ecological indicators and more funding for research. As it stands, water quality information for the Ottawa River is not integrated or consistent.
The federal government should establish a watershed management plan for the Ottawa River now, instead of waiting for pollution levels to reach the same catastrophic levels observed in the Great Lakes.
I will support a budget proposal that increases funding to municipalities to help them improve the water quality of the Ottawa River. We can’t wait any longer to protect its ecological and environmental integrity.
Thank you again for writing to me on this important issue.
Paul Dewar, MP | Député Ottawa Centre
879 Edifice Confederation Building
Sent: Jan 19, 2012
Subject: RE: Please commit to funding the Ottawa River Action Plan
Thank you for your email regarding funding for the Ottawa River Action Plan.
I find it extremely encouraging and heartening to have received over 200 emails from concerned citizens on this critically important matter.
I have spent my career committed to sustainability issues and to the quality of Canadian rivers; I will continue to encourage the government to fund such worthy projects.
The Ottawa River Action Plan is indeed very deserving of support from the Federal Government and I am hopeful it will be included in Budget 2012.
Member of Parliament
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 11:44:01 AM
Subject: RE: Your correspondence – Please commit to funding the Ottawa River Action Plan
Thank you for your message.
Through the Economic Action Plan, the federal government provided the City of Ottawa with an unprecedented 600 million dollars to spend on its priorities. The City decided it would use the funds for its stated number one priority: transit.
The federal government is open to considering redirecting some of our government’s transit contribution to the Ottawa River Action Plan should the city now be identifying that as its priority.
The cleanup of the Ottawa River remains the federal government priority now and for 2014. We wished the city shared that priority.
Pierre Poilievre, M.P. Nepean-Carleton
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Community group hopes to make further progress with city hall in 2012
November 30, 2011 (Ottawa, ON) – Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa’s city councillors were congratulated today by Ecology Ottawa for passing a fairly good budget, from an environmental perspective.
“This is the greenest budget in years, but unfortunately it lacks a clear vision on the greatest challenge facing the world today: climate change,” said Trevor Haché, policy coordinator of Ecology Ottawa.
However, the local environmental organization was impressed by the investments made in cycling (70 kilometres of paved shoulders, an additional $12.1 million of funding for cycling infrastructure over three years) and pedestrian infrastructure, and the commitment to establish a “Green Express Lane,” for those builders who strive to be more energy efficient and who set the bar high on water conservation, incorporate reused materials, minimize waste from construction and demolition, and work to reduce strain on our roadways by being close to transit.
As Mayor Jim Watson said in his budget speech:
“We will examine and pre-approve the new Better Build techniques we want to give priority to and we will support them. Builders and homeowners who include these Better Build techniques such as solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic systems, storm and gray water re-use systems will not face barriers, they will instead get express lane service.”
Ecology Ottawa has been calling for such an express lane since at least March 2009 and we look forward to working with staff and elected representatives at city hall to ensure that bar is set high with regard to which projects will qualify for this expedited service.
“We are also glad to see money ($1.4 million) dedicated toward the Environmentally Sensitive Land Fund created last year,” said Haché.
There were, however, numerous things in the budget that Ecology Ottawa was opposed to, including:
- another 2.5% fare increase to OC Transpo, we already have some of the most expensive fares in the country, if not the most expensive
- a decision to increase the cost of the U-Pass to $180 per semester, which could lead to the program being voted down in students’ referendums in 2012
- despite some $5 million in targeted investments to reduce congestion and over-crowding, the $22 million cut earlier this year in annual funding from OC Transpo’s operating budget was not restored
- millions of dollars committed to widening roads
- millions of dollars committed to building new roads
“Ultimately, the city needs to move in the direction of having the services used by personal vehicular users paid for by those drivers,” said Haché. “Parking is currently the only user fee of this sort. Why are there not fees for the use of roads, when fees exist for almost every other service the city provides? In the case of transit, users are expected to cover 50% of the cost of service directly through fares. Something along the lines of road tolls, a municipal gas tax, a vehicle tax, and increases in parking rates are clearly needed if the city is to balance its budgets in a way that is equitable and consistent across service areas.”
Ecology Ottawa sent a letter to the Mayor’s Online Pre-budget Public Consultation and made a presentation on the draft budget to the Environment Committee, asking for city council’s support for three programs (Municipal Financing of Energy Retrofits, Community Owned Solar Power Systems on City Facilities, and a Low Income Energy Efficiency Assistance Strategy), none of which had funding dedicated toward them in Budget 2012.
We hope to work with city staff, the mayor and city councillors to find funding in the existing envelopes to make progress on these issues in 2012. And, if no progress can be made with the existing funding, we will be back when the 2013 Budget is being discussed to ask for them again.
“Overall, this budget is a good first step in charting a new course of action for the city of Ottawa, environmentally speaking,” Haché said. “We hope the nation’s capital will soon become a nationwide leader in taking action on climate change, by doing more to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, and building a world-class, affordable public transportation system. We also want to see progress on waste diversion, as Ottawa can do a better job at reducing, reusing and recycling, and should be involved in pushing for individual producer responsibility, i.e., make individual producers fully responsible for meeting waste diversion requirements for both residential and IC&I waste.”
With the city’s Environmental Strategy, Choosing Our Future, and Phase 2 of Ottawa’s Waste Plan all scheduled to be released in 2012, Ecology Ottawa looks forward to working with the mayor, all city councillors and staff to build on the environmental successes of this year’s budget.
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 Ecology Ottawa. “Building Ottawa’s Energy Revolution: How the City of Ottawa Can Encourage Greener Building Practices.” March 2009. Available on-line: https://ecologyottawa.ca/2009/03/04/building-ottawas-energy-revolution/
 Ecology Ottawa. “Ecology Ottawa 2012 Budget Recommendations on Greening Ottawa’s Homes and Buildings.” Letter to Mayor Jim Watson’s Online Pre-budget Public Consultation. October 5, 2011. Available on-line: https://ecologyottawa.ca/2011/10/05/ecology-ottawa-2012-budget-recommendations-on-greening-ottawas-homes-and-buildings/
 Association of Municipalities of Ontario. “Waste Diversion should be among the Province’s Top Environmental Priorities States Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner‘s Annual Report.” AMO Breaking News. Website text. 29 November 2011. http://www.amo.on.ca/AM/Template.cfm?
Ecology Ottawa grades mayor and city councillors for 2011
November 23, 2011 (Ottawa, ON) – Ecology Ottawa today released the 2011 edition of its environmental report card of Ottawa City Council. This fifth annual report card is the first for Mayor Jim Watson and many first-time councillors.
The majority of councillors received grades in the B & C range. Only Councillor Doug Thompson earned a lower grade, coming home with a D. Councillors Chernushenko, Fleury, Holmes and Hume each netted an A. Mayor Jim Watson earned a respectable B, which represents a dramatic change from his predecessor, Mayor Larry O’Brien, who consistently scored at the back of the class. The closer grouping of grades in this year’s report card is reflective of a less divided, more unified council and the tighter governing style of Mayor Watson. Council members’ grades are based on how they voted on key environmental decisions made at City Hall during the past year.
“Under Mayor Watson and the new Council, Ottawa has enjoyed some positive environmental decisions related to cycling and renewable energy,” said Alison Harman, co-chair of the 2011 Council Watch report team. “However, Ecology Ottawa is concerned that cuts to OC Transpo’s budget and service levels, together with spending on new roads, is failing to make Ottawa a leader in combating climate change. Ottawa is being left in the dust by other Canadian cities like Vancouver.”
To read the full report card, PLEASE CLICK HERE. The grades of each councillor and the mayor are as follows:
|Steve Desroches||Gloucester-South Nepean||B|
|Eli El-Chantiry||West Carleton-March||B|
|Allan Hubley||Kanata South||C-|
|Peter Hume||Alta Vista||A-|
|Tim Tierney||Beacon Hill-Cyrville||C+|
|Marianne Wilkinson||Kanata North||B|
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