Mayor Jim Watson today delivered his annual State of the City address at the first City Council meeting of the year. The Mayor highlighted the City’s major accomplishments in 2020 and outlined plans for the year ahead.
The Mayor focused on the pandemic, noting the City’s quick response in creating the Human Needs Task Force to respond to the needs of Ottawa’s most vulnerable residents and the Economic Partners Task Force to support small businesses. The City also provided $82 million to the social services sector to cover pandemic-related cost increases.
The Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel went into service last fall to help keep the Ottawa River clean and healthy. The Mayor also mentioned notable investments in road renewal, complete streets and segregated bike lanes, including the revitalization of Elgin and Rideau streets, along with the earlier-than-scheduled opening of phase one of the Kanata South Link. He also profiled the Anti-Racism Secretariat, created last year, and its progress to address systemic racism in the community.
Mayor Watson highlighted the City’s $47-million investment in affordable and supportive housing, translating into 359 new units in 2021. Council will consider the City’s new Economic Development Strategy this fall, which will help guide Ottawa’s rebound from the pandemic. The City will also advocate for federal and provincial funding to bring LRT to Barrhaven and Kanata as part of Stage 3.
Other major projects in 2021 include a $37.8-million investment in road safety, a toolkit for rural businesses, adoption of the Women and Gender Equity Strategy and an inventory of urban spaces where trees could be planted.
To help limit the spread of COVID-19, Council approved extending the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law until Thursday, April 29. Masks will continue to be required in enclosed public spaces, on transit and transit property, and in the common areas of condos and apartment buildings.
Council received an update on the Climate Change Master Plan, the City’s plan to transition to clean, renewable energy and make Ottawa more resilient to the effects of climate change. Highlights include approving the final strategy for Energy Evolution, developing climate projections for the National Capital Region, embedding climate change mitigation and adaption policies in the draft new Official Plan, and increasing education and advocacy efforts.
The update includes an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Between 2012 and 2019, community emissions decreased by 12 per cent due to efforts by the former provincial government to phase out coal plants and reduce emissions from electricity generation. During that same time, the City’s corporate emissions decreased by 34 per cent, primarily due to efficiencies at the Trail Waste Facility. The City is currently surpassing its short-term target to reduce corporate emissions by 30 per cent by 2025.
Council approved a framework to draft a community benefits charge by-law that will enable the City to collect revenues from developers to fund a range of community services required because of new growth. The framework includes a process to define the types of projects that will benefit from the new fees.
With the goal of ensuring the ByWard Market remains a unique, pedestrian friendly destination, Council approved a public realm plan to guide the evolution of the market’s public spaces and provide a framework for investment opportunities. The City will establish a working group to lead economic recovery in the market and review governance options next year.
Following initial discussions with our Algonquin partners, Mayor Watson will be seeking Council’s support to rename the Prince of Wales bridge the Chief William Commanda Bridge. Also, based on consultation with residents, Council approved renaming Langevin Avenue in Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward Commanda Way, after William Commanda. Grandfather Commanda was a former Chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and promoted peace, harmony and racial equality for all people. The renaming of these facilities aligns with the City's commitment to reconciliation.