Community will miss The Pantry

June 2016

I had no idea how important The Pantry was in the lives, hearts and stomachs of local residents until the time came for me to sign off on closing the tearoom, which opened in the Glebe Community Centre in 1975. The lease was running out in 2014, and the space was coveted for community and City programming.

But not so fast! Patrons by the hundreds wrote, called me and notified the media to advocate for one last extension to the lease. That would mean delaying other users' plans, tackling the tricky issue of mandatory provincial taxes, and finding solutions to several other obstacles.

All the players came to the table, with the GCA and some prominent community organizers convinced that where there's a will, there's a way. And there was a way to keep the doors open, but only until June 30 of this year. Carolyn Best, David Pritchard and staff got to continue doing what they love for a while longer, patrons got to celebrate The Pantry's 40th anniversary with founder Ilse Kyssa, and I saw how loyal this community is to its institutions.

Ride-sharing innovation needs regulation

May 2016

The debate over how — or even whether — to update Ottawa's Taxi By-law is among the most contentious issues tackled by City Hall in recent memory, thanks to the guerilla actions of ride-sharing company Uber. At the heart of the discussion: The decision to open Ottawa's private transportation sector to "personal transportation companies" (PTCs), and the public's apparent dissatisfaction with various aspects of the taxi industry.

There has been much public pressure to find ways to allow innovators such as Uber to operate legally in Ottawa. Uber, a multinational corporation that first came to Ottawa in 2014, connects riders with freelance drivers at a (usually) lower price than what the City requires registered taxis to charge. As in other cities, the company got its foot in the door by ignoring the existing Taxi By-law — or rather, by claiming that it does not apply because Uber is a technology company, not a transportation company — and by paying the fines racked up by drivers caught violating the by-law.

Bridge a step forward, parkway widening a step back

April 2016

I am pleased the City is making headway in advancing construction of the Fifth-Clegg footbridge. With strong support from all levels of government, and an indication that federal and provincial funding will be made available once the City of Ottawa completes a formal submission, I can foresee construction starting in late 2017 if all goes well.

While nothing is certain until the first shovel is in the ground, the bridge is nonetheless closer than ever to becoming reality. Visit capitalward.ca/canalbridge to see the updated concept and other information that was presented at the most recent public information session.

Airport Parkway Update
On the other hand, there is also "progress" to report on a project that may be less popular among residents of the Glebe. It's certainly less supportive of the City's goals of promoting alternative modes of transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Substance abuse and public health

March 2016

We live in a time and place where self-indulgence is arguably more the norm than the exception – think bacon-wrapped pizza, party drugs, and alcohol in every flavour you can imagine. As a result, guardians of public health face an uphill battle in trying to preach moderation to the masses.

And yet the personal, social and economic costs of overindulging all our cravings are high. Today’s emerging health threats are more about overeating, overdosing and extreme drinking than they are about preventable diseases or even cancer, as much as those remain a concern. With this in mind, and in my role as a member of the city’s Board of Health, I want to share with you some recent research.

Ottawa taking action on environmental front

February 2016

This year, the Environment Committee is set to advance several important environmental initiatives, including the City of Ottawa's Air Quality and Climate Change Plan (AQCCMP) and our Renewable Energy Strategy (RES). Both have taken on renewed importance since world leaders met in Paris to negotiate a global climate agreement.

These issues are on the agenda for the Environment Committee's Feb. 16 meeting, when we debate my motion to strengthen Ottawa's current actions on climate change. Central to this is a commitment to an emissions reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, which will bring us in line with long-term targets already set by the Province of Ontario, while sending a strong signal that the City of Ottawa is prepared to do its part to decrease human impacts on the Earth's climate system.