Focused budget consultation on cycling, transit, social agency funding gets big audience

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New format eschewed general discussion on budget for more curated conversation on 3 topics

An unusually high number of people showed up to a budget consultation meeting on Thursday night. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

More than 130 people poured into City Hall Thursday night for a budget consultation on social issues, boasting a larger attendance than the combined audiences of all the other public meetings held so far this budget season.

Indeed, it was the best-attended budget consultation in recent memory, likely because of a new format that eschewed the usual general discussion about the budget for a more curated conversation on three specific topics: affordable transit, increased funding for social agencies and improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

The meeting was hosted by five inner-city councillors: Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum; Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury; Capital Coun. David Chernushenko; Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney; and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper.

They took turns introducing a specialist who spoke briefly on each topic, after which participants discussed the issues in small break-out groups at round tables set up in Jean Pigott Hall.

Although it will take days for councillors' staff to organize the ideas generated during the meeting, some high-level requests included the introduction of a low-income transit pass that costs — at a maximum — the same as a community pass (about $42 a month), an additional $500,000 added to the base budget for social agencies and speed-reducing measures such as photo radar, physically raised intersections and roundabouts.

Six councillors call for changes to Ontario Municipal Board

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Either change it, or abolish it, letter says

By Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa Community News

Six Ottawa councillors are calling for large-scale changes to the Ontario Municipal Board.
A letter from the six councillors – sent as part of a review process by the provincial government – calls on Queen's Park to either allow municipalities with their own in-house planning departments to opt out of the process. Failing that, they’d like to see the board abolished. The OMB is a provincial board that can be used by developers and by residents to overturn municipal planning decisions.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper was the instigator – though the letter also bears the signatures of Couns. Catherine McKenney, Riley Brockington, David Chernushenko, Tobi Nussbaum and Mathieu Fleury.

Leiper said that his work with the Hintonburg Community Association highlighted the need for reform.

“It some cases (the OMB) can be stacked against residents,” he said, adding you have to present witnesses and experts – often with a hefty price tag.

“In cases when community members seek to engage the board as participants, their testimony is given less weight than the expert planners and lawyers engagement by developers,” the letter reads.

River Coun. Riley Brockington said the experience can be daunting for the average resident and the aim would just be to level the playing field.

#ParlonsBudget – 13 octobre

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BudgetSpeak Thumbnail FR Oct 13

Je souhaite inviter les résidents à se joindre à moi et à mes quatre collègues représentants les quartiers urbains pour « ParlonsBudget » — une consultation qui se concentre sur comment avancer les priorités identifiées par les résidents pour le budget 2017.

En vue des budgets municipaux de 2015 et de 2016 pour la Ville d’ Ottawa, j’ai co-organisé avec les conseillers Fleury, Leiper, McKenney et Nussbaum une série de consultations avec les résidents afin de mieux comprendre leurs priorités et de discuter des options de financement.

Les centaines de résidents qui ont participé aux séances ont systématiquement classifié l’abordabilité du transport en commun, la prestation des services sociaux et la sécurité des déplacements pour tous les modes de transport come leurs priorités principales.

Avec ces priorités bien définies, cette année la consultation portera sur la méthode et le « comment » plutôt que sur le contenu et le « quoi ». La consultation consistera  de courtes présentations en plénière sur les trois priorités, de discussions en table ronde et de recommandations spécifiques pour les Conseillers quels initiatives pourraient être inclus dans leurs délibérations budgétaires 2017 en Comités et en Conseil.

Veuillez s.v.p. confirmer votre présence


Holiday shopping allowed in Glebe after OMB rejects labour appeal

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Stores in the Glebe, including those at Lansdowne Park, can open on six holidays after a tribunal Thursday rejected an appeal by the Ottawa and District Labour Council.

The Ontario Municipal Board’s decision takes effect immediately, which means retailers on the commercial strip can turn on their cash registers Thanksgiving Day.

Other shopping days can include New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day and Labour Day. The decision still rests with each business if it wants to open on those holidays.

“I think it’s a loss for workers, for sure,” labour council president Sean McKenny said Thursday after the OMB sided with the city.

“It got our city talking about common pause, talking about the importance of holidays and statutory holidays. It’s a loss for small business, quite frankly.”

But the Glebe BIA is excited about businesses having the option to open on six extra days in the year.

“We’re ecstatic,” BIA executive director Andrew Peck said. “We’ve been working on this since 2014. We are just thrilled that the hearing decided in our favour. We felt we put forth a strong case because we really took our time to make a strong application that the city staff supported and recommended.”

Ontario Municipal Board important for democracy, says Jim Watson

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Mayor Jim Watson says the Ontario Municipal Board is needed for democracy after six councillors send a letter to the province suggesting its powers be limited.

By Emma Jackson, Metro

Like it or not, Ottawa needs the Ontario Municipal Board, Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday.

"In a democratic society, you need some mechanism to appeal a decision, and if it's not the OMB, it's the court system, which is significantly more expensive," Watson said after council. "Are there ways to improve it? Certainly. But not throwing it out, because you need to have some mechanism for people to appeal a bad decision by city council."

Watson's comments follow a letter sent by six Ottawa city councillors to the province suggesting the unelected municipal appeals body, if not outright abolished, should be limited to judicial review when dealing with the planning decisions of major cities.

Councillors Riley Brockington, Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Mathieu Fleury, Tobi Nussbaum and David Chernushenko sent the letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs last week as part of the province's ongoing review of the board, which can overturn council decisions, including parts of the Official Plan.

The councillors argued that large municipalities like Ottawa spend millions each year on transportation and land-use planning and employ experts in those fields, but the threat of an OMB appeal can undermine how vigorously staff pursue the city's goals.

"Even where a municipality may wish to deny a zoning application, the uncertainly and cost associated with appeals may lead decision-makers down the path of least resistance," the letter said.

Leiper said they all recognize the need for oversight, but the OMB may not be the answer anymore.

The councillors also argued the status quo "freezes out community participation," and suggested that, if the OMB does remain, the province should help residents participate more fully in the hearings.

It can cost community associations $40,000 or more to hire legal and planning help, and the councillors suggested the province consider financial support for groups tackling issues of public interest.

Holiday Shopping in the Glebe upheld

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The Ontario Municipal Board has rejected an application from the Ottawa and District Labour Council to reverse city council's decision to grant a tourism designation to businesses in the Glebe and Lansdowne Park.

The designation allows businesses to open on statutory holidays.

The Labour Council had argued the area wasn't a tourist destination.

But Andrew Peck, with the Glebe Business Improvement Area, says that position was rejected by the board.

"We demonstrated that our area is not only currently a destination for tourism, but we are also perfectly positioned to contribute to the ongoing maintenance and development of the tourism industry in Ottawa," he said.

Peck noted that, with the ruling coming into effect immediately, retail outlets in the Glebe and Lansdowne will be able to open this Thanksgiving Monday.

Two councillors who opposed the move say they're disappointed with the Board's decision.

Riley Brockington maintained that, outside of the tourist downtown, one area should not be favoured over another -- it should be all businesses or none.

Rick Chiarelli called it the 'slippery slope,' saying council will have difficulty saying No to other areas of the city.

Cruising the Canal

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The Queen Elizabeth Dr is Canada's largest fully-electric, solar-powered tour boat (photo: Parks Canada).

On a misty September day, 80 Capital Ward residents participated in a cruise along the Rideau Canal on Ottawa’s first solar-powered electric boat. They heard from guest speakers on a variety of topics related to energy efficiency, renewable energy production in the city, electric vehicles and the progress of Ottawa’s Energy Evolution — a renewable energy transition plan.

While my staff captured video footage and interviews, we've had to delay posting this material due to technical problems. We will post it as soon as possible.

– David Chernushenko

Ontario Municipal Board letter

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I recently worked with a number of my Council colleagues on a joint position regarding the reform of the Ontario Municipal Board. The provincial government is currently reviewing the OMB, and considering possible modifications to its mandate, terms of reference, etc. Here is our joint letter.

David Chernushenko