Speech: 2014 State of the City

 
 
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Good morning and Happy New Year.

This morning, I want to speak about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going as a city.

Because what takes place at City Hall this year will be a direct result of the actions we’ve taken around this table over the last three years.

And when you look back, those actions have been substantial.

Each and every day, this Council is showing that we’re focused on more than just talk.

We’re focused on action.

And in Ottawa, we have acted decisively.

Four years ago, our residents didn’t see themselves in City Hall.

When they looked at City Hall, it was a building that you only visited when you had to pay a parking ticket.

So, we changed that.

We added the Barbara Ann Scott Gallery and the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.

We have the Rink of Dreams, which was a great community gift from the Ottawa Senators Foundation.

Last month, we opened the beautiful new Karsh Masson Gallery and worked even harder to make City Hall more of a people place.

I’m pleased to report that in 2013, compared to 2012, the number of festivals and activities at City Hall more than doubled – from 77 to 179.

We’ve also opened up City Hall to the public eye as well.

We didn’t wait for a scandal to put in place the most comprehensive integrity package in all of Ontario.

We were proactive and put our expenses online, launched a lobbyist registry and a gift registry, and hired an Integrity Commissioner.

We opened up citizen representation on the public health board, the Transit Commission, and the Built Heritage Sub-Committee.

We also took action where there has been inaction in the past.

Three years ago, when residents looked at major city-building projects like LRT and Lansdowne, they didn’t have the confidence that they’d ever see them built in their lifetime.

We changed that too.

We made progress on these fronts, and so many others, because residents expected more from their City Council.

They expected us to put together a clear agenda…

And to work together in finding common ground.

So we did.

And we delivered.

2013 was a year of action.

And 2014 will be a year of progress.

Our city is in a period of unprecedented change.

This year, it will take focus, steady hands, and hard work to ensure we continue making progress.

There will be much debate and discussion outside the walls of this place, as there should be.

Our city and our democracy are made stronger by healthy conversations over the direction we should take together.

But inside these walls, it is now more important than ever that we continue with the same stability and certainty that residents have come to expect from us.

And that means delivering on our commitments for the 312 days remaining in our mandate.

One of those commitments comes from the very successful Planning Summit we hosted less than two years ago.

At that event, I committed to putting before City Council an official plan that promoted certainty and predictability for both communities and the development industry.

The Planning Committee, under the leadership of Councillor Peter Hume, did just that.

Our newly minted Official Plan – all of its words, schedules and appendices – embody certainty and predictability.

These central themes were unanimously approved by City Council.

This year, we will now move forward to implement it with a zoning bylaw that puts the words of the Official Plan into action.

It is what the community has asked us to do and we will deliver.

Certainty has by no means been accepted by all.

There will always be those developers who seek to push the envelope.

They will ask for more.

They will always have reasons, such as a bad location or poor soil.

If we open that door and let just one of those go…

If we give a little more because it is easier than saying no…

Then we will just hear more requests.

We have an Official Plan – it is a good plan – a plan to make Ottawa better, more liveable and sustainable – we need to stick to it.

And we need to look to the future of planning in this city.

We are clearly in a new era of city building in Ottawa, with taller buildings both inside and outside the Greenbelt, intensifying main streets, and more cohesive suburban development.

The scale and complexity of the current planning environment requires well-considered choices, but it provides for great potential in design. 

One just has to look at some of the blank walls – some 27 stories high – that dot our skyline to see the potential for doing better.

For 2014, we will continue to provide leadership and seek excellence in architecture and built form.

Stable neighbourhoods are paramount.

But where new development and change will occur, a consistent priority for us should be attractive buildings, and high quality places and spaces.

And we will lead by example in this regard…

Later this year, we will award the contracts for two major developments that we approved unanimously last year.

The first is a revitalized Arts Court and expanded Ottawa Art Gallery.

This world-class facility will be a place where our city’s talents are celebrated… and new ones are discovered.

It will be a true gem in the downtown, bolstered by a revitalized Rideau Street, an expanded Rideau Centre and connected to the rest of the city by the new Rideau LRT station just a few steps away.

We will also move forward with the first phase of a new innovation complex at Bayview Yards.

It will be a place where our small and medium sized businesses – the lifeblood of Ottawa’s new economy – get the tools and resources they need to grow, compete and succeed.

And it’s where Invest Ottawa – which turns 2 next month – will continue its already impressive work in supporting private sector job growth.

These two projects show the principles of balance and fairness that have characterized our Council.

That’s because we understand that investing in business and investing in the arts should never be mutually exclusive.

Culture and economic development are part of the same dynamic that brings high quality of life to residents.

We will also see a number of important recreation projects completed this year.

Richcraft Sensplex East is on track to open later this fall in Councillor Tierney’s ward.

This will bring much-needed ice time to residents of all ages.

This project was approved and will be completed within a span of less than two years – even more evidence of how quickly and decisively we’ve worked together.

Last month, we opened the Richcraft Recreation Centre in Kanata in Councillor Wilkinson’s ward.

It’s a beautiful facility that is being enjoyed by residents from the wards of Councillor Hubley, El-Chantiry and Qadri as well.

We will continue this momentum in 2014 by opening the Minto Recreation Complex in Councillor Harder’s ward in Barrhaven.

Residents in one of our fastest growing areas – including residents from the wards of Councillors Desroches and Moffatt – will enjoy two NHL-sized ice rinks and a six-lane pool in this beautiful new facility.

We also opened our first new indoor pool since amalgamation at the Francois Dupuis Recreation Center in Councillor Blais’ ward.

In total, in this term of Council, we will have expanded or built about half a million square feet of new recreational and community space.

That’s enough room to fit every single child in our city – plus one parent each!

And we’ve made accessibility improvements to many others facilities through stimulus partnerships with other levels of government and our own Older Adult Action Plan, under the guidance of Councillor Taylor.

We’ve managed this, while freezing recreation fees for four years.

And that’s just talking about our indoor facilities.

On the weekend I was at Jules Morin Park and saw a beautiful new field house that’s almost ready to use.

It’s next to the magnificent new Sens community rink, which is yet another great community partnership with the Ottawa Senators.

In this term of Council, we will complete a total of 230 park upgrade projects.

In 2014, that will bring the total investment to $22.7 million.

These are key investments in quality of life.

And these are key investments in families.

We’re providing outstanding facilities and services at prices that are fair for participants and taxpayers alike.

That’s because we are a healthy and compassionate city.

Supported by our Board of Health, under the leadership of Councillor Holmes… health perspectives have been built into all of our blueprints…. including the Official Plan, the Transportation Master Plan and the pedestrian and cycling plans.

The task of bringing these plans together is key to building a more sustainable, dynamic city.

This is smart planning.

At the same time, we’re being smarter with our customers.

We’re putting more services online to serve them even better.

We’re recognizing high-potential job-creators through our Capital Investment Track initiative – a concierge service for projects that will bring new employment opportunities to our city.

Our new Business Ambassador Service for restaurants assisted over 80 new entrepreneurs over six months last year and was just last week nominated for a “Cutting Red Tape” award from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

Our Guaranteed Application Timeline Initiative is also changing the way we do business.

Since its initiation, we have a tremendous success rate, and… still… only three applications have missed their deadlines.

In fact, in the last quarter, we didn’t miss any deadlines.

And the list goes on.

As you’ve heard me say countless times – we’re making progress.

One of the most stunning examples is the new Lansdowne Park.

The massive project continues to be on track, thanks to the tremendous efforts of about 900 workers every day on the site.

Our thanks again to Councillor Chernushenko for his constructive input on the project, and to residents in his ward for their patience during this time of change.

The new urban park will continue to take shape in the first quarter of this year with the skating rink and children’s play area beginning construction.

Once the site is completed, there will be 20 different event spaces where people can come together and celebrate.

And, of course, TD Place will open this summer.

You can’t help but smile when you think about the fact that our Ottawa REDBLACKS and Ottawa Fury FC will take the field in just six short months.

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally happening.

I also approach 2014 with much optimism on another file…

It will be an important year for the Ottawa River Action Plan.

As you know, we’ve already reduced the amounts of sewage going into the Ottawa River by an impressive 70%.

In the summer, our beaches are closed far less often.

In fact, in 2013, Ottawa beaches raised green flags 90 per cent of the days, which is up from 60 per cent just two years earlier.

But there is more work to do.

It is my hope that our federal and provincial partners will agree to continue our partnership and commit to funding the final portion of the plan.

I will also discuss this with the new Mayor of Gatineau at our first formal meeting next Wednesday.

I’ve briefed elected officials from both levels of government on the details.

It’s now up to them.

This will be the year that they will decide whether or not to fund the final phase of the plan.

If they do… and I hope they do… we can be on track to have the project started and complete by 2017.

We’re ambitious, certainly.

But it would be an outstanding gift to our residents.

It would be a gift for our entire country and the next generation…

One that could be ready in time for Canada’s 150th in 2017.

We will also continue the steady march of progress on the Confederation Line this year – a contract we signed less than a year ago.

Two of our tunnel excavation machines – Jawbreaker and Crocodile Rouge – have together completed 190 metres of the tunnel.

Very soon, our third machine – Chewrocka – will join them in carving out our city’s transportation future.

Within just a few weeks, we will reach the 10% completion mark for the tunnel.

It’s amazing to think…

Just three years ago, the future and the budget of the project was uncertain… now, the tunnel is almost 10% complete.

But we’re not stopping there.

We’ll continue to move forward with our Stage 2 LRT plan this year as well – with the environmental assessment process.

This system would spread the benefits of rail to the east, west and south with 19 new stations and 35 kilometres of new rail.

Following the hard work of Councillors Egli and Deans… our balanced, affordable plan was approved unanimously by our Council last year.

And our plan is a clear signal to other levels of government that we have our act together.

Because we’re no longer talking about the merits of light rail.

We’re building it.

And we’re expanding it.

Together.

A key part of this strategy will be the $59-million O-Train expansion project that will open later this year.

Riders will benefit from more frequent service, in more comfortable trains.

We’ll also begin studying the feasibility of a downtown truck tunnel this year.

This will be welcome news to residents in the neighbourhoods of Sandy Hill and Lowertown in Councillor Fleury’s ward.

Much like our improvements to the original LRT proposal, we’re taking a fresh set of eyes to this challenge.

We’ve partnered with the Province of Ontario for the study and I look forward to finding a solution.

Speaking of transportation, 2014 will see the third year of Ottawa on the Move, our made-in-Ottawa infrastructure renewal program.

This year will feature 150 projects in all areas of the city, including roadwork on Rideau Street, First Avenue, the Prince of Wales Overpass, Princeton Avenue, Sussex Drive, Gladstone Avenue, Baseline Road and many rural roads throughout Ottawa.

We’ll also improve pedestrian facilities on Meadowlands Drive, Bronson Avenue, Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard and Katimavik Road.

Over the course of the program, we have leveraged $340 million into half a billion dollars worth of projects.

This is money well spent to ensure our people, goods and economy keep moving in the decades ahead.

And it will go a long way to help us avoid the kind of gridlock that is strangling productivity in cities like Toronto.

Of course, these road, path, sewer and sidewalk improvements are in addition to an already impressive record on cycling.

We have invested more in cycling than any other Council in the history of this city.

Ottawa on the Move has contributed to 156 km of paved shoulders for cycling, roughly the distance between North Gower and Kingston.

Last year, we made the Laurier Segregated Bike Lanes permanent – the first of their kind in our province.

This year, we will strengthen that commitment even further as we break ground on the Donald-Somerset Bridge, linking Councillor Clark’s ward with Councillor Fleury’s.

We will also make further improvements to the East-West bikeway from Vanier to Westboro.

That’s because we know that investing in safer options for cyclists makes good economic sense.

So does getting more people on transit.

We’ll also break ground on the west Transitway extension from Bayshore to Moodie Drive.

You’ll recall that we made the bold decision to press on with this $76-million project without federal or provincial dollars.

This is another example of taking action.

Because we want to move forward with with better transit now, not later.

In 2014, work will continue on the 417 expansion, improving circulation to and from Orleans, and all points east.

This is great news for residents in Councillors Blais, Monette and Bloess’ wards, who have been waiting years for these improvements.

As always, in all areas of the city, we thank residents for their patience when it comes to construction.

I’m sure everyone can understand and appreciate that this is short-term pain, for long-term gain.

We’re growing…

And changing…

For the better.

And while major city-building projects like these are important and historic, sometimes it is the smaller victories that are noticed more quickly at the neighbourhood level.

And it is often because they are projects that had not seen progress for years.

Maybe it was finally getting a traffic light on Baseline Road at Villa Marconi, thanks to the leadership of Councillors Egli, McRae, and Chiarelli.

Maybe it was finally getting the parking lot paved at the Hornets’ Nest, in Councillor Bloess’ ward.

Maybe it was one of the many parks that finally have been upgraded, like Fisher Park in Councillor Hobbs’ ward.

Or maybe it was an old run-down building that for years was rotting away, which finally has gotten cleaned up, thanks to Councillors Taylor, Hume and Fleury who joined me in taking action on derelict buildings.

Little by little, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, we are changing the face of our city.

I’m also pleased to announce this morning that we’ve signed a lease agreement with the CanAm League that will see baseball return to Ottawa next year.

We look forward to helping raise awareness and excitement in the months ahead, to ensure the team’s long-term success in our city.

As I said from the outset, this will be a very busy year.

We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still so much more to do.

There are a few new initiatives that I think fit in well with what we’re already doing.

They are small in cost, but demonstrate the kind of city I think we all want to live in.

They all have to do with civic pride.

In last year’s State of the City, I announced that we would introduce a pilot project on Elgin Street to improve recycling options and reduce the amount of garbage on the street.

This was to replace the mish-mash of different containers that were not being used.

Councillor McRae and I launched that program a few months later.

And since then, we have seen much higher recycling capture rates.

For glass, metal and plastic, we’ve gone from 62% to 92%.

This has been a successful effort.

In 2014, we will expand this pilot to include Laurier Street East, between Nicholas and Charlotte.

Because we are constantly looking for ways to spruce up the appearance of our community.

And of course, we also want to put our best foot forward for people when arriving in the city.

For this reason, I think it is time to build on a great example that we have over in Little Italy.

The 417 overpass that crosses Preston Street is the location for some great street art, as we have all surely seen.

It presents a wonderful “streetscape” image that really brightens the usually dark and dingy overpass.

A little paint and a lot of creativity can go a long way.

There are a number of overpasses and exits from the 417 that could benefit from the same “streetscaping” – more beautiful murals that brighten up our streets.

I’m thinking of Parkdale, Metcalfe, Bank and Kent Streets… to name a few.

So I asked the Province for permission to do this with their property and just a few days ago I heard back from the Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray.

He agrees that the success on Preston Street should be repeated wherever possible.

This year, we will work with MTO staff, the BIAs, Ward Councillors, youth groups and our arts community to develop a program that will be ready to begin implementing this coming summer.

And, I want to challenge our corporate community to step right up and help us with this beautification project – help us buy the paint and supplies needed to make Ottawa even more vibrant.

I want to thank MPP Yasir Naqvi for his active support to get swift approval for this mural program.

Next month, the City will expand its very successful Snow Go program.

The new component will be called “Snow Angels”.

This will be a new recognition component that will celebrate residents who assist older adults and neighbours with disabilities with snow removal at their residence.

This new initiative has been developed through input received from our Older Adult Plan.

When someone takes time to care for another person, it’s something certainly worth recognizing.

In 2014, we’ll continue to make City Hall even more of a people place.

And by people place, I mean that City Hall should reflect the spirit and character of the kind of Ottawa we want to build.

The kind of world we want to build.

Open…

Compassionate…

Inclusive.

Last year, the world lost one of its greatest lights.

An icon for justice, perseverance and human dignity.

Nelson Mandela.

I will be bringing forward a proposal to name the recently reconstructed walkway and lawn space that surrounds the Heritage Building at Elgin and Lisgar Streets:

Nelson Mandela Square

In 1998, Nelson Mandela visited the Human Rights Monument located on that very corner.

Located along one of Ottawa’s most historic avenues, the naming of Nelson Mandela Square would be a small – but meaningful – way to commemorate the man that inspired people the world-over.

This will be yet another reason to visit City Hall in 2014.

This is in addition to the dozens of community events hosted here that are certain to fill the calendar in the months ahead.

I want to talk about three in particular that we will host ourselves.

You’ll recall that last year we held a very successful Mayor’s Rural Expo at City Hall.

Building on the always-successful Food Aid Day, we promoted rural fairs, farms and products to Ottawa’s downtown population.

And we did so while the community raised $160,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank.

I’m pleased to announce today that we will hold the Rural Expo again this year, making it an annual event.

Raising awareness of our amazing rural villages is something we need to continue to do each and every year.

I want to thank our rural Councillors – Thompson, El-Chantiry, Moffatt and Blais – for helping make this event such a success.

As for our second event, it will have a focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Last year, I attended the annual YMCA Biz Expo and was very impressed by the skill, talent and passion of dozens of budding entrepreneurs.

I want to help make this event bigger and better – while allowing past graduates at the program to come back to share their stories.

So, in June, we will host the annual Y Biz Expo in Jean Pigott Place at City Hall.

This event was previously held at the Argyle St. YMCA-YWCA but this year we will make it a bigger event with a larger profile right here at City Hall to champion Ottawa’s incredible entrepreneurs.

It is a true celebration of innovation, ambition and entrepreneurship – the very values we are knitting into the fabric of our community.

Our third event will be a chance to promote City of Ottawa services during Doors Open Ottawa.

Residents feed their curiosity during Doors Open Ottawa, as City facilities join the dozens of embassies, offices and heritage properties across the city in participating in this exciting weekend.

It’s an incredible opportunity to learn about our city’s past and present.

In 2014, let’s show them even more.

I’m pleased to announce that we will host a City of Ottawa Services Exhibition, indoors and outdoors, at City Hall.

As residents are passing through downtown during Doors Open Ottawa, they will be able to learn about all of the great work our staff do on a day-to-day basis.

Whether it’s police, fire, paramedics, OC Transpo, Public Health, Public Works… we have so many stories to tell.

Because the stories we tell as a municipal government complement all of the unique things Ottawa’s communities have to offer.

Let me give you a few examples.

We have the largest dragon boat festival in Canada, something Councillor Hubley knows all about.

We host the largest minor hockey tournament in North America, with the Bell Capital Cup.

We have a massive sand dune in Nepean and a working cranberry farm in Osgoode.

We have one of the only urban sugar shacks in North America, located in Vanier.

We have a karst – an amazing ecological feature – in Cardinal Creek.

And we have a working flour mill in Manotick.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, and the rest of the world, that we’re more than a government town.

Every corner of our community has something special to offer.

We should be fiercely proud of everything we have going for us.

A healthy amount of pride will go a long way in showing the country and the world that we have the spirit and the energy to be outstanding hosts in 2017.

We’re less than three years away from Canada’s 150th year.

Our 2017 Taskforce, chaired by Councillors Bloess and Hobbs, is meeting regularly, and we’re ahead of the curve.

We’ve already secured the 2017 national and provincial conferences of municipal leaders.

There is much public interest in a Grey Cup and a Winter Classic NHL game at Lansdowne that same year.

But a success like this one cannot happen overnight… you need to build momentum.

In 2014, we will ramp up our efforts and engage our citizens in the process.

I will host a “2017 Ideas Town Hall” this year, in order to brainstorm with community leaders, festival organizers, artists, entrepreneurs, volunteers… anyone and everyone… to find out how we can make the most of this opportunity.

We will also reach out to young people to get them excited about the big year.

It is my hope that our residents will rise to the challenge of making our mark on this important year in our history.

We are a dynamic, creative, vibrant city – and we are starting to get noticed.

In the last year alone…

Corporate Knights Magazine called Ottawa the most sustainable city in Canada…

The Martin Prosperity Institute placed us first in the world on its economic development scorecard because of our outstanding technology, talent and tolerance.

We received the highest designation awarded so far by Walk Friendly Ontario, as a walk-friendly city…

….Ontario’s first ever gold Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition…

And the International Festival and Events Association recognized us as a world-class destination, our second such award from the organization, due to the tremendous work of our Events Central office.

In 2013, we saw even more votes of confidence in our economic potential and in our people.

Let’s talk about retail developments.

The Rideau Centre expansion… $360 million.

The Bayshore Shopping expansion… $200 million

The new Tanger Outlet Mall in Kanata with a Bass Pro Shop… $120 million.

This is in addition to the $450-million Lansdowne Park redevelopment that has a significant private-sector component.

We are experiencing an economic development boom that Ottawa hasn’t seen for decades.

These are clear signs that the private sector has confidence in our economic future.

The private sector is showing that Ottawa, with its excellent quality of life, is well worth the investment.

Let me give you another example.

Last fall, Cisco announced that it will add 1,700 high tech jobs in Ontario over the next few years, the bulk of those being in Ottawa.

With success, the Kanata job numbers could grow even larger in the years ahead.

And let’s not forget that local success story Shopify raised an impressive $100 million in venture capital funding just last year.

As Tobi, Harley and their team move across the street to Shopify’s new headquarters later this year, we will be reminded of Ottawa’s limitless potential.

Potential that grows even stronger with every new entrepreneur who decides to go out on their own.

Every new inventor who turns their idea into a prototype.

And every new investor who shows that Ottawa is on the upswing.

I want to tell you about one of my favourite recent examples.

A few years back, Kanata resident and ex-Nortel employee Jeri Rodrigs had an idea.

He wanted to create Canada’s first green room humidifier – Rumidifer  – which works without any electricity.

He walked into Invest Ottawa to get the support and resources he needed to get from the drawing board to the marketplace.

And in doing so, he tapped into our city’s outstanding ecosystem of talent.

He found his product designer in Westboro…

He found his manufacturer in Stittsville…

And earned his first of many sales of the product at Terra20 in Nepean.

Today, you can now buy the product at home and hardware stores across the country.

And with Jeri coming to Canada only 12 years ago…

I’d say that he’s off to a pretty great start.

Big and small, I know we will hear more stories like Jeri’s in the years to come.

As more talent is attracted to and nurtured in our city…

And as the best and the brightest choose to start and grow their businesses in this dynamic G8 capital city.

Before I finish, I want to share two anecdotes with you.

They’re both related to the $14-million housing and homelessness plan we put in place just three years ago.

Last month, while serving Christmas dinner at the Union Mission, I was stopped by an older gentleman.

He said he knew about our plan to increase housing opportunities.

And he thanked me.

He told me that after years of struggling, he now has a nice apartment where he can get his life in order and try to find work.

He has a home.

And I got that feeling.

It was the same feeling I had when I visited the new Ottawa Community Housing development on Carson’s Road in Councillor Clark’s ward.

We met a young mother, with her one year old son, who proudly showed off her new home.

She told me how proud she was to finally have a "safe and beautiful home with great neighbours".

You know, it’s really these stories, these individuals who are directly affected… that tells me we’re moving in the right direction.

It’s that feeling.

That feeling that reminds me that we are a caring, compassionate community where we look out for one another.

As I said last year, it’s the little things that make a difference.

It’s skating on the Rink of Dreams or biking along the Ottawa River.

It’s attending a major cultural celebration downtown, then checking out a rural farmers market in the same afternoon.

It’s the thousands of volunteers who roll up their sleeves and make their corner of the community just a little bit brighter.

Ottawa should continue to represent the very best our country has to offer.

We have that special obligation as our country’s capital..

It is that special honour of knowing that only one city is referenced in our Constitution – the British North America Act.

And that city is Ottawa.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together.

And I look forward to another productive year.

I want to wish you, your families, and all residents a safe and happy 2014.