Ottawa can and must respond to the global crisis of climate breakdown and to the local shortage of affordable and supportive housing and the challenges of transportation efficiency and affordability. The following is what I believe necessary for tackling climate protection, housing scarcity and costs, road safety and congestion, while increasing low-carbon jobs and stimulating Ottawa’s streets and neighbourhoods.
Rapid completion and roll out of Energy Evolution
Subsequent phases of Ottawa’s community renewable energy transition strategy — Energy Evolution — must be completed rapidly, in close partnership with the hundreds of stakeholder groups and thousands of citizens whose involvement is essential to achieving the ambitious goal of a transition away from all fossil fuels by 2050. Adequate funding and staffing for Energy Evolution initiatives is essential.
We need to put affordable housing and community development at the centre of all transit line and station development. Every station is an opportunity for building neighbourhoods geared to those who need transit most. A North American movement for “Equitable Transit-oriented development” is afoot, and Ottawa must be a part of it. The next Official Plan (and future Transportation Master Plan) must incorporate this concept, and make full use of Inclusionary Zoning.
Photo radar: inexpensive cameras, not highly-trained professional officers
Why would trained, specialized police officers be deployed to enforce traffic speed, when cameras are a proven solution, with none of the risk and at a fraction of the cost? Using cameras also leaves officers free to do work only humans can do. It’s truly a no- brainer, not a tax grab. If you break the law and put lives at risk, you pay; and the money raised can go to traffic safety measures that are currently under-funded.
Light rail to Barrhaven and Kanata
There is no point in building a “partial” light rail system. Kanata and Barrhaven are primary nodes for getting more people out of cars and onto transit (and bikes and on foot). Ottawa must move quickly, in partnership with other levels of government and taking full advantage of the green bond market, to built out a system complete enough to serve much of the city.
Improved core bus service
So much attention has been devoted to light rail that essential bus service in the core has been slipping. It is time for reliability to be addressed, and to look at a range of smaller vehicle options (electric) to increase urban service frequency and reliability.
Cool roofs, permeable lots, cool plazas and rain gardens in the streets
Low-tech solutions exist for keeping the city cool, capturing rain water and improving air quality, beauty and atmosphere. It is time for a cool roofs bylaw (green, solar or reflective) and a cool spaces bylaw (permeable, green, treed) whereby the default choice is the greenest and healthiest.
On-bill financing for building retrofits
Energy retrofits to residential and commercial buildings can be financed through the tax bill, allowing for easy financing, and for the improvements and payback to be “attached” to the building and not the current owner. A major impediment to people making energy retrofits is that they may not own the building for long enough to reap the savings. Now, the financing and benefits stay with the property. Other cities do it; Ottawa should too.
More Green Bonds
In late 2017 the City of Ottawa became the first in Canada to successfully issue a Green Bond. Debentures are green if they are used to finance capital projects that promote environmental sustainability, as part of an effort to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the transition to a low carbon economy. This should be the first of many such bonds.
Divestment from fossil fuels
Now that Ottawa has prudent investor status, it is time to begin the process of divesting from fossil fuels. The risk associated with such investments is high, and having them in the city’s portfolio contradicts the city’s climate commitments and targets.
Enhanced waste diversion and a transition from plastic
Ontario’s Zero Waste Act provides Ottawa with a clear direction for the reduction, re-use and recycling of all products and materials that can be diverted from landfill. The Long Term Waste Plan due in early 2019 must identify how the city will respond, including new and more progressive approaches to limiting residual waste, and to greatly increasing organics diversion with all their associated costs. Single use plastics must be a particular focus, most notably plastic bags and the sale of water bottles in city facilities. Close coordination with the province and the federal government is needed. More funding for citizen education is needed, and innovative techniques employed.
Urban forest protection as a priority
The individual elements of the well-received Urban Forest Management Plan need to be fully funded and given highest priority. Essential early components include the Urban Tree Conservation By-law and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law. Building permits must not be allowed to override tree protection.
Net Zero Carbon buildings
All City of Ottawa buildings must target a higher goal than the current LEED Gold. To meet its climate targets, all new buildings must be Net Zero Carbon.
Complete streets and neighbourhoods
As the concept of complete streets takes hold as a design objective for main streets, so must that of complete neighbourhoods as a planning objective for entire communities. When more people can meet more of their needs within walking, cycling and a short bus ride of their own home, the need for car trips will diminish, and the overall vibrancy of a neighbourhood will increase. The important place of trees, green spaces, plazas and parks, benches and public washrooms must be recognized and promoted.