2021 is another year that will get filed away as one to remember.
Whether we consider the difficulties of the pandemic the new normal, we all take baby steps into every day as the year quickly comes to a close, which gives me hope that the scary days of navigating COVID-19 are advancing with a plan to vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 years old.
Of course, this does not mean we are out of the woods – but the diligence and cooperation from each of you made it worthwhile.
And as we reflect on this past year, there are many accomplishments to celebrate for our community. We have a lot to be excited about, from main street renewal, small wins on big City planning or looking ahead to 2022.
Our Rideau Street corridor between Sussex and Dalhousie finally received the main street treatment it deserved. Everything is updated, and finishing touches such as custom bus shelters, digital signs make the space welcoming and enjoyable for all. We now have a welcoming and beautiful entrance to the Byward Market via William Street and LRT when it works.
New cycling connections (Boteler) and targeted resurfacing:
Resurfacing was recently completed on St Patrick Street from King Edward Avenue to Dalhousie Street. This work improved safety and connectivity in our community, with a new concrete crosswalk at Cumberland Street and a repaired crosswalk at Dalhousie Street. And a new bike lane for cyclists adds to our active transportation in the neighbourhood. A new multi-use pathway is underway on Boteler Street to create access to the area and connect King Edward Avenue to Cumberland Street. To top it off – we added 12 new trees to the area.
As we know, our City is facing significant challenges related to homelessness, mental health and addictions. Our community feels the significant impact of these challenges due to a historic concentration of services within this community. I have had many conversations about solving these issues, and three common themes continue to emerge. I believe we need to align efforts behind three key actions that will bring relief to our community:
Proactive Community Resource Teams: Advancing the presence of 24/7, proactive City resources. This includes on-the-ground coordination of outreach services and mental health responses; integration of urgent housing response to encampments; responding to drug dealing and drug use in the community; organizing effective needle hunters collection routes; proactive city public works patrolling; integrating the Ottawa Police Neighbourhood Resource Teams.
Health Solutions to Addictions: The Safe Supply program has proven its success. We need to see a doubling of funding for the Safe Supply program. A program that went from a pilot of 25 users to now 355 has shown its success, but the need is much greater. The focus should be to ensure that everyone has a safe supply. Safe supply removes many of the drug use impacts in our community. A clean prescribed drug means no need to commit petty crime to pay for illicit drugs, no need to access from dealers, and reduces the sometimes-deadly effects of these illicit drugs.
Bold Investments in Permanent Housing: We need to invest in permanent housing. We need to flood the City and every community with affordable housing investments under the Housing First and Supportive Housing models. We need to rethink the old model, close temporary shelters by attrition, and open doors to homes.
The City completed its review and renewal of its Official Plan this fall. There were many changes from Cumberland to Carp, but here, in Lowertown, the big wins were finding a path forward for our heritage and our beloved Byward Market. With a proposed addition to the plan, a Special District, I requested to ensure that the Public Realm moves ahead at a pace that realizes in time for the Market’s 200th anniversary. I also asked staff to pay closer attention to transitions from our heritage district properties and the buildings neighbouring it. I am happy to say staff have committed to reviewing this process and ensuring that they consider this when it comes to new buildings that abut the districts and ensuring protection to the heritage characteristics of our area.
The next – and ongoing – battle that is not lost or forgotten is our other main street, King Edward Avenue.
This current truck route needs to be removed. I have requested that staff review the removal of this street once a sixth crossing is determined. Staff have referred this to the Transportation Master Plan, which I commit to working with staff, the province, and the federal government to push for a finite resolution. We currently have a traffic calming plan approved by Council for King Edward Avenue, which remains unfunded.
As the year comes to a close, here we are looking ahead at 2022 and how we, as a City, will fund essential programs, infrastructure, housing and services across our large City. For our community, the budget currently highlights a few items that are on the books, such as improving Bingham Park.
Major gaps in the budget include:
*No funding for Market Public Realm
*Transit service cuts and fare increases
*No improvements to ageing recreation spaces
*Active Transportation, continued gaps in mobility and maintenance
Beyond this list, my priorities for Lowertown include:
Pushing City and other levels of government to bring meaningful solutions to address issues of homelessness, drug use and concentration of services including proactive, on the ground, City resources
Dedicated cleaning team for waste and sidewalks for Rideau and Byward districts.
Developing a permanent strategy for public washrooms.
Ageing in place strategy.
Youth funding for a Boys and Girls Clubhouse for Lowertown and
King Edward Avenue traffic calming plan.
As we come close to the end of this year, I want to thank all of you for your community’s tireless efforts. Whether through a community clean-up, an email to my office informing us about an issue or proactively working with the City on a project that betters this neighbourhood – thank you.