Community Newspaper Columns

Ottawa feeling the heat, must seize the moment

September 2016

Cities around the world are feeling the heat. Temperature records and extreme weather events continue to increase, and the window of opportunity to act is closing fast. Without decisive action and fundamental changes, the planet will be in a state of ecological collapse in less than a generation — maybe within the decade, if the latest indicators (that you have likely not heard) continue their trend. California has 66 million trees dead or dying from prolonged heat and drought. Global fish stocks are approaching complete collapse. Water supplies for hundreds of millions of people in East Asia are close to depletion. It is truly now or never.

It's hard to make such a statement without being accused of fear mongering, and harder still to acknowledge the truth in it, and commit to doing something about it before it is too late. And it is nearly too late. So I will take that risk, once again, and try to be a leader in the very serious quest to make a transition to 100% renewable energy by or before 2050. The real risk lies not in pushing for such a transition, but in not doing so.

Failure to move away from fossil fuels in a clear and sustained way represents a very great ecological risk, and carries with it substantial financial and social consequences. Major banks, defence departments, investment advisors and public health advisors — to name just a few sectors — are all saying this, and politicians of every stripe and political leaning must do so too.

To anyone who questions why Ottawa or even Canada — as relatively small players — should bother, I respond: Because we can and must. And I'd add: Because there is real economic and employment opportunity in shifting away from energy sources purchased from far away in favour of energy produced much closer to home, and towards conservation and efficiency-related projects and products sourced locally.

Energy Evolution: Ottawa's transition strategy

The City of Ottawa is currently developing a renewable energy transition strategy with the wide participation of major players and members of the public. Still very much in draft form, the Energy Evolution strategy will likely come to Council for endorsement in early 2017. So far more than 100 contributors from more than 50 organizations have been involved. Broader public involvement is slated for later this fall.

Its vision is: "Ottawa is a thriving city powered by clean, renewable energy."

We can get there with this approach: "Achieving this vision will require residents, businesses, organizations, and governments to make a sustained transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels by:

  • Reducing energy use through conservation and efficiency
  • Increasing the supply of renewable energy through local and regional production
  • Prioritizing the procurement of clean, renewable energy"

I hope Energy Evolution will receive full endorsement and support for implementation. What better way to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday than by ensuring another good 150 years or more!

Urban Forest Management Plan

One important element of Ottawa's work is the completion of its first comprehensive plan for protecting, enhancing and managing our urban forest. Trees — critical to absorbing water and air pollutants, providing shade in the urban "heat island" and so much more — are both a contributor to and a profound symbol of the health of the city.

The City began developing its Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) in 2015, and the draft version is nearing completion and will be available online in October. Phase 2 public consultations will follow in late November.

The final version will be completed this winter, and should be presented to the Environment Committee and City Council for approval next spring.

LED street lighting

Ottawa's recent move to convert 58,000 street lights to LED technology will save money as well as energy.

Street lighting accounts for 17 per cent of the City of Ottawa's electricity use. The conversion is expected to reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent per fixture. It will also reduce maintenance costs, provide better control of light through dimming, and decrease light pollution — which, in addition to being wasteful, harms people as well as wildlife.

Capital Ward Cruise

When I attended the launch of the Queen Elizabeth, Ottawa's first electric Rideau Canal tour boat, I had the idea to revive my Capital Ward Walks, but this time as a cruise that continues the tradition of offering educational and social components.

Join me for a ride aboard this clean and quiet vessel as it travels along the Rideau Canal. We'll hear from expert speakers on a variety of energy-themed topics, including the state of rooftop solar, residential energy efficiency programs, and the electric vehicle experience, .

The cruise leaves downtown on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 1:30 p.m. It's free, but space is limited, so you must reserve in advance. First preference will be given to Capital Ward residents. Visit capitalward.ca/going-electric for details and to reserve.

Green Energy Doors Open

Green Energy Doors Open will be held across the Ottawa region from Friday, Sept. 9 to Sunday, Sept. 11. This province-wide showcase of individual, community and commercial sustainable energy projects, organized by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, aims to showcase advancements in the sector and to demonstrate that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100% clean, sustainable energy system.

The Energy Showcase and Electric Vehicle Exhibition takes place at Lansdowne Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 10. There will also be tours of homes, businesses and green energy projects — including my own family's home on the afternoon of Sept.11.

All activities are free to the public. Visit ottawagedo.org for more information.

Nominations for Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers

On another topic, do you know any Glebe residents who deserve to be honoured for their volunteer work?

The City of Ottawa is partnering with the Office of the Governor General of Canada to recognize 150 outstanding local volunteers with the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers in 2017. I have been asked to nominate six worthy individuals in Capital Ward, and I need your help to identify potential candidates.

Please forward the names of candidates, and why they deserve this honour, to my office by Friday, Sept. 30. An email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. would be best.

The Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers celebrates living Canadians who have made a significant, sustained and unpaid contribution to their community. Visit caring.gg.ca for more information.