The Context for my vote on the City of Ottawa 2022 Budget

As it is with every year, the budget presented at the start of November and the one we debated this week at City Council differ very little, despite my every effort to advance our community and City priorities. 

Simply put, the City of Ottawa 2022 Budget was lacking, with no significant transformations.  

No significant funding for the emerging priorities residents continue to raise. 

Mental health and addictions outreach (365/24/7)

Youth programming

winter road maintenance, road and sidewalk repairs and active transportation improvements

transit affordability and cuts to transit service

climate change actions

And so, for over a month I have taken the time to review; engage with my community; and ask staff essential questions on every aspect of this budget. 

Staff presented a $4.14 Billion budget ($1.9 Billion of which come from property taxes) at City Council on Nov. 3. 

What was approved is a 3 per cent tax increase, on average $119 per household in the urban core. Of note were increases with water rates (additionally $36 on average, per household) transit fare increase of 2.5 per cent, 12 new paramedics, $11 million in transit service cuts, and only a $15 million commitment towards affordable housing.

Typically, when a draft proposal comes to the table, it is just that – a draft. Not a fixed state. I appreciate what staff have managed to get us to this point, however, as a Councillor. I have an obligation to be critical in the best interest of Ottawa residents. 

As we all know too well, we are no longer living in a world we once knew.  I am so proud that this City has continued to work hard during a pandemic; think of the pivot to offer every resident vaccination in their community. But as well, this pandemic has highlighted so many now very obvious gaps. 

These gaps are neither being funded nor prioritized in the 2022 budget, despite our efforts to advance and see investments towards. 

There are gaps with affordable housing investments, youth spaces and programming, social supports, transit service, winter maintenance (sidewalks), ByWard Market Public Realm funding, sidewalk repairs, Sunday library service…

We did improve minor elements in the budget. 

These improvements included reviewing recreation fees for youth, additional bylaw resources, purchasing 74 electric buses, a community engagement pilot team for Lowertown and Sandy Hill,  keeping wading pools open longer and opening beaches earlier times in the summer.

Despite the work I have done – bringing a motion on Climate Change incentives in order to build greener buildings faster; an increase in new affordable housing to match what we spend yearly on shelters and motels (in 2021 at $34M); requesting to reinstate the service cuts for OC Transpo – essential routes in our community – I remain underwhelmed by the status quo investment choices made.

Affordable housing did not get the boost it desperately needs. Transit services and active transportation network or infrastructure repairs were ignored, and my concerns remain about adequate accelerated climate action investments.

We must do better. 

Residents in Ottawa expect City Council to disagree and debate,  but they also want to know that we are working to support a thriving City and bring more value to public investments.  No one should be left behind. I will continue to push for appropriate funding for the gaps that are now so obvious. 

 We are all proud of our City, but we must recognize the wide range of emerging priorities. We are a growing City and the expectations through the pandemic and with the housing and climate emergencies require us to take bold steps. 

 For the reasons above I did not support the City’s 2022 budget.

The City needs to adapt and reflect the realities of the pandemic and help build a Capital City we can continue to be proud of.  

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