Ottawa’s Next 4 Years – Think Big
With the most recent municipal election in the bag, it’s time to look forward.
First and foremost, congrats to the many Ottawa residents who threw their hats into the political ring: your personal commitment to our community is deeply appreciated! Kudos to the winners, from Mayor Watson to the 23 other members of City Council, including many new Ward representatives.
In the next few months City Council will set out priorities for the next four years; beginning with the 2015 budget process, ramping-up Council Committees (and selecting Chairs), and focusing staff efforts.
Here’s my Top Dozen Wish List, just in time for Christmas …. opportunities to be catalyzed, not just by Mayor and Council, but on the part of all civic-minded residents. Some suggestions are a bit bold, others reinforce major initiatives in mid-stream development. In sum, the represent my take on getting Ottawa to Think Big!
- Re-Engineer Ottawa’s transport infrastructure by completing the first stage of Ottawa’s LRT system and secure funding to implement the City’s complete rapid transit plan. LRT is a game changer for Ottawa; we need to take it all the way from A to Z.
- Re-Energize Ottawa’s transport system by introducing policies and infrastructure that truly promote sustainability mobility, including: i) parking and road access policies that push commuters towards rapid transit; ii) investing in the next generation of biking trails and lanes ($100 million over 5 years seems about right to me); iii) adding value to LRT with user-friendly consumer services (and good coffee!) at all stations.
- Renew action on affordable housing. It is a crying shame that we have too many homeless people seeking stable accommodations; and the waiting list for affordable housing is nearing 10,000 Ottawans. Building new affordable housing capacity will require City and provincial leadership, and major land and capital contributions from Ottawa residents, faith organizations, businesses and institutional bodies. Keep a watch out for a new affordable housing initiative called ‘Broadening the Base’.
- Re-Invest in Ottawa’s Economy: In these economic doldrums, Ottawa companies have been doing OK. But that’s not good enough. We need to ramp our innovation and global marketing efforts. Expect more from Invest Ottawa with the Ottawa Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards. It’s imperative we promote a higher business/tech profile - befitting a Capital City.
- Re-Tree Ottawa. Sadly, we’re going to lose 25 million trees to emerald ash borer across the City’s urban and rural zones. Yikes! Ecology Ottawa’s Tree Ottawa initiative is a positive force for the Protecting, Planting and Promoting tree Habitat. The City and dozens of groups are partners. Tree Ottawa is for everyone. Sign on to plant a tree and be a part of the effort to put 1 Million Trees in the ground, as Ottawa’s “gift” to Canada celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary.
- Re-Ignite community efforts towards a clean energy future. Kudo’s to President Obama for catalyzing climate action with the US-China deal. The Canadian government? Meh, underwhelming to be kind. The City of Ottawa can do better. Supporting solar power on City buildings, and the Ottawa Renewable Energy Coop are great opportunities. And, energy efficiency has a huge rate of return given rising electricity rates. We need new clean energy ideas. I also believe Hydro Ottawa can kick it up a notch and take things to the next level.
- Re-Engage with Aboriginal communities, particularly the Algonquin People. All of Ottawa is indigenous land. There are vibrant local opportunities to forge closer relationships with the Algonquins of Ontario and Kitigan Zibi that deliver social/environment benefits for First Peoples. That would be fundamentally respectful and reflective of Canadian values.
- Restore the ecology of the beautiful Ottawa River: The City and senior governments have made major commitments to building infrastructure diverting sewage/storm water to protect the Mighty Kitchissippi – the Ottawa River. Fantastic! Let’s keep it going with ecological efforts put forward by Ottawa Riverkeeper such as protecting the American Eel.
- Re-Connect with youth, particularly current students and recent graduates. What vitality the students of our colleges and universities – Carleton, Ottawa, Algonquin, St. Paul’s, Citè Collegial - bring to Ottawa. But they’re seem to be hidden away. These youth need our help with forging careers. Let’s all be mentors, through organizations like Hub Ottawa.
- Remember and celebrate Artists! A big hand to the City on expansion plans for Arts Court and policies integrating art into local developments. Let’s recognize and include performing, visual and literary artists in all facets of City life – political, environmental, business, and more.
- Re-Build the Ottawa Main Library: As a community hub, a new Main Ottawa Library can be a citizen-dynamic, knowledge-centred, literacy-affirming and Wow Factor; bringing new energy to the downtown core.
- Re-Integrate the place of nature in our City, in parks, in urban developments and neighbourhoods. We can design more vibrant, soul-restoring buildings and neighbourhoods if we make Nature an integral part of development; in the core, suburbs and even rural zones. We need Leadership from Ottawa developers, notably in major projects such as the Isles, and the Rockcliffe and Oblate lands. A new green/eco standard for development perhaps?
A long list. But hey, you gotta Think Big, Eh!
But, seriously, I think all of the above priorities are doable and should be on Ottawa’s “A” List for the next four years.
Reality check. Like many ratepayers, I like keeping tax increases under control, but moving on the above Top Dozen Wish List will be a challenge if we stick to a 2%/year tax increase. However, many of the above opportunities are long-term investments in a liveable, caring, resilient, vibrant and competitive Ottawa. Perhaps it’s timely to consider a Canada’s 150th Anniversary Legacy Investment Fund for Ottawa!
Thanks for reading, and loving our City.
Eco-Entrepreneur & Community Leader