Councils environment committee approved increases to water bills in 2018. The revenue pays for maintenance of the water and sewer system. CANWEST NEWS SERVICES
Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen
Proposed increases to water and sewer bills received the environment committee’s endorsement on Tuesday, but councillors spent several hours considering the funding of new green schemes as part of the city’s draft 2018 budget.
Public delegates zeroed in on the city’s Energy Evolution program and asked councillors to increase funding for the first phase.
As part of the program, a $500,000 “community energy innovation fund” would be launched in 2018 as part of the city’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 per cent below 2012 levels by 2050. The money would be slotted into the tax-supported budget as a grant program, with the possibility of adding surplus Hydro Ottawa dividends.
Environmental groups, like Ecology Ottawa, want to see $1.5 million spent on Energy Evolution next year, arguing $500,000 won’t do much to reduce GHGs.
“We feel the city is moving too slowly and too gingerly. More has to be done now,” said Bill Eggertson, a member of the city’s environmental stewardship advisory committee.
Coun. David Chernushenko, who has pushed energy conservation and GHG reductions as environment committee chair, is resigned with the money the city is coughing up for Energy Evolution.
“You fight your fights and push. You take your wins where you get them,” Chernushenko said. “I would like more. This is as far as I could get at this time. I have chosen to support what I could get, as opposed to saying, ‘It’s inadequate, I’m voting against it.’”
Chernushenko said politicians and voters are sensitive to how far government pushes the green envelope, even if they talk up a big green game.
“I don’t believe the majority of council or even the city population understands just how urgent and existential the changes that are going to be required are,” Chernushenko said.