It’s hard to believe, as we bask in the sun these past couple of days, that just last week and over the Easter long weekend we ended up with a very trying experience for many residents across Bay Ward and our city. It started on Wednesday April 5th when we received freezing rain that damaged trees and power lines across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, causing over 200,000 residents to lose power. In Bay Ward fortunately many residents were restored with power by Friday evening but several large pockets like Glabar Park, Crystal Beach, and Belltown were left in the dark until Saturday afternoon and evening. I understand it was frustrating for many not to know when power would be restored. I know many of you would like questions answered on preparations by Hydro Ottawa for another extreme weather event (more on that below). I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reached out to help support their neighbours during this outage.
This storm comes almost one year after the 2022 Derecho windstorm where many residents in Ottawa were left without power for over a week. My office received many emails and phone calls back then asking why it was taking so long to have power restored while other residents in the city were back on the grid in only a few days. I can tell you that I and my council colleagues relayed these questions to Hydro Ottawa. The response from Hydro Ottawa management was that Hydro Ottawa prioritizes critical infrastructures such as hospitals and water treatment plants first, then focuses on restoring power where it would benefit the greatest number of customers in descending order.
Visit here to review the full report “After the Storm” that was presented by Hydro Ottawa to Council in November 2022, outlining some of the measures that they are undertaking to address issues that came forward as a result of the 2022 May long weekend severe weather event.
Questions about Hydro Ottawa’s power restoration program as a result of the recent ice storm are being raised again. Consequently, I will be holding a public meeting with Hydro Ottawa for Bay Ward residents on this topic. I will post a date and time for the meeting in this newsletter – Bay Ward Bulletin – once we have it. I appreciate that there needs to be an evaluation of how to better address the communities who continue to experience multiple outages and who are often the ones left to be restored last.
I recognize Hydro Ottawa’s efforts to address the findings of last year’s major storm but, as we are experiencing an increase in more frequent and extreme weather events as a result of climate change, we need to get an update on the lessons learned to date and what needs to be done to move forward to develop grid resiliency, faster modernization of the distribution grid, and a timeline for capital investments in grid resiliency.
City Services after the Storm
The City’s Public Works team and support staff received over 2,300 calls for service since last Wednesday’s storm event. Over the next few weeks they will continue to address fallen and damaged trees, coordinate the removal of debris, brush, and non-hazardous waste, and conduct re-inspections across impacted communities, as quickly and safely as possible. This is all in addition to providing the seasonal and everyday waste collection services that our residents depend on. My sincere thanks to General Manager, Alain Gonthier and the entire Public Works team along with their support staff for their dedication and ongoing efforts. This clean-up effort is expected to be a multi-week initiative.
City Council this past week was dominated by two specific files, one was the contentious issue of whether to give a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) grant for a hotel connecting to the Ottawa airport and the second issue was how to deal with the aftermath of the cutting down of over 25,000 trees on land in the middle of the night adjacent to the Tewin lands in the east end of the city.
In the airport hotel decision, it was overwhelmingly decided not to give a CIP grant to the Germain Hotel for connecting to the airport. I agreed with many of my colleagues, including the mayor, who voted down this grant. As the Chair of Ottawa Community Housing, I could not bring myself to using taxpayers’ money to support building a hotel when there is such a need for affordable housing. I respect that a hotel may be needed at this location but that should be a business decision not a municipal supported project.
Many residents expressed concerns regarding the cutting down of thousands of trees on the land adjacent to the Tewin lands (lands proposed but not yet approved for development), without giving the City or the local neighbours advance notice. This action was highly suspicious especially when it was done in the middle of the night. The Tewin group stated that the land was to be used for agricultural purposes. Many questioned the validity of this claim, however since the land was deemed to be in an agricultural zone the City could not challenge this statement. Our current City bylaws exempt working farmers from our new Tree Bylaw that was designed to preserve trees primarily in our urban area. This bylaw exemption was not meant to include clearcutting – to deforest an area that could be potentially used for future development. In response to this situation, I put forward a motion to ask city staff to consult with the Normal Farming Practices Protection Board to get an opinion or evaluation on this questionable action.
On other issues: there was unanimous agreement at City Council for the City to enter into an agreement with Theia Partners and Envari Holdings to connect a Wastewater Energy Transfer (WET) system to the City’s sewer system as a pilot program for the planned Dream LeBreton development. The development at 665 Albert Street features two high-rise residential buildings with 40 per cent affordable units. These are the kind of projects our city needs to see more of particularly in affordable housing.
The renaming of the Kanata Recreation Complex got attention at Community Services Committee when the full name was proposed to be Tony Graham Automotive Services Recreation Complex. I appreciate the compromise of reducing the title name to now Tony Graham Recreation Complex. This corporate sponsorship will bring in revenue of $100,000 per year for 10 years to be used specifically for youth programming at 17 recreation centres across the city.
City Council agreed to extend the electric scooter program and added more safety features to ensure safety, in response to those who expressed concerns in the accessibility and mobile needs community.
As we head into next week’s Special Transportation Committee meeting on Monda, focused on the Transportation Master Plan, I appreciated seeing an update on the 2022 Road Safety Action Plan and approval of the 2023 plan at City Council this week. This is where we can see if our plan to prioritize safe infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is working. Collisions were down significantly in 2021, but that was due in part to less daily travel as a result of the pandemic. The City saw 8,127 reportable collisions in 2021 compared to an average of 13,880 per year over the five previous years. The City delivered most planned 2022 measures and the 2023 plan will continue to focus on vulnerable road users, rural areas, intersections and high-risk driver behaviours. What we really need to do is work towards a Vision Zero plan of no fatalities. This takes investment in safer active transportation infrastructure including sidewalks, slowing down traffic in our neighbourhoods as well as stronger driver education.
Transportation Master Plan
On Monday I will be taking part in a special meeting of the City’s Transportation Committee to go over the draft Transportation Master Plan, which is to guide the development of the City’s transportation network over the next 25 years. There are many solid recommendations to improve active transportation including some specific project proposals and concepts in Bay Ward. I appreciate this but I know there are still gaps. I will be focusing on the importance of connectivity to the new Stage 2 LRT stations in our ward as well as ensuring we have a solid cross-Ottawa cycle network without the current interruptions in cycling infrastructure that leave many cyclists to fend for themselves on unwelcoming roads. Sidewalks are very important to our communities and make it possible to have truly walkable 15-minute neighbourhoods. The City of Ottawa needs to focus on installing sidewalks on key walking routes, especially to transit stations, schools, and public spaces. There is work to be done but the first step is having a Transportation Master Plan that works for everyone particularly those with accessibility challenges. We also need to have this plan mesh well with our new Transit system as we plan for the future. Visit here to review the active transportation project lists that include Bay Ward.