Fellow Council members, today we begin the 2011 budget. Establishing our fiscal framework is the single most important task we will do this year. This budget sets the foundation for budgets to come. Having spoken to each of you about your priorities, your desire for more collaboration and civility, I am confident this Budget delivers and sets a new tone.

I appreciate the trust you all placed in me before Christmas in granting me the mandate to work with the City Manager to table a draft budget that meets our commitment to restraint but equally our commitment to improved services. I want to thank the amazing management team and their staff who worked through the holidays and put in some very long hours. Today I’m pleased to deliver the fruits of our work through December and early January for your consideration.

Living within our means

My fellow Council members the Budget before you delivers on the commitment to keep our tax increase below 2.5% – in fact the proposed tax increase is 2.45%. This budget puts in place processes that will yield savings this year, but will give us even more savings over time. In rural Ottawa, the rate is 2.4% – the lowest for our rural communities in several years.

I am pleased to report that Police Services has also put forward a budget with a 2.5% target as we set out in December and that was directed by the Police Services Board. I wish to thank Police Board Chair Eli El-Chantiry and Chief Vern White for their efforts. The Ottawa Public Library has also delivered a budget that lives within the budget target. My thanks to Library Board Chair Jan Harder and Chief Librarian Barbara Clubb. I expect that both Boards will adopt the recommended Budget over the next month.

There will be tough choices and changes to be made. Together with senior management we are also proposing more than $44 million in management efficiencies, reductions in corporate overhead and budget solutions – that, had we not taken these steps, would have resulted in at least a 6.5% tax hike.

To begin, we as the elected officials need to lead by example. As the Mayor I have directed that my own office budget be cut by 10%, or just over $80,000, and frozen my own salary. I am not asking you as Council members to follow my lead with such a deep cut. However, this Budget plan does not provide for an increase to Councillors’ budgets or to the salaries of Council members. Senior staff will also lead by example with compensation restraint that will contribute to our overall savings target saving $1.7 million this year and $1.7 million next year.

Across the board, we are imposing a corporate-wide reduction of $300,000 to discretionary spending including conferences, business travel, and luncheons. This will mean for example lunch will not be provided in the green room behind council chambers. Training will not be affected, but there will be sharply curtailed business travel for senior officials including Council.

We will reduce our reliance on outside legal service and external consultants. Overall we will reduce our reliance on outside consultants and managed legal services to eliminate tax pressure of almost $1 million a year.

As part of our efforts to reduce costs and promote a paperless city, we will be reducing the printing of recreation and cultural guides and investing instead in on-line promotion of Ottawa recreational and cultural activities. I was surprised to learn that the city produces 49 separate guides each year at a cost of $400,000. The Web is now the global standard for communication; harnessing its power is not only good for the environment, but ensures that residents and visitors have the most up-to-date information on the City’s activities, no matter where they are. We will strengthen our use of community newspapers and the Web while reducing the money spent on printing, advertising and promotion for an overall saving of almost a million dollars a year.

I am not a believer in formula driven spending, or budgets based on some rule of thumb rather than serious management. In this budget we expect growth pressure to be absorbed in some measure. Managers will be empowered to affect change and to make adjustments in standards where they believe it is sensible to absorb growth costs.

This Budget restores the sensible practice of building reserve funds instead of raiding and draining them. The snow removal fund will be restored with a projected $6 million in funding this year. As possible we will continue to build this fund. We will achieve a $1.3 million cost savings in our winter operations in line with the reduced needs we have seen over time, more modern salt equipment and improved practice. We will do this while strengthening our ability to deal with the worst Mother Nature can throw at us.

This budget increases contributions to capital this year by 2.9%. Throughout the coming year we will undertake together a comprehensive capital review.

Better, more affordable service

Although this budget delivers on our 2.5% promise, the budget must also be about value. It is about wasting less while improving service. So let me move now to some really impressive improvements in this Budget. This Budget includes $15 million in new technologies that will save money, while driving better service. The service improvements resulting from the “Service Ottawa” initiative will cut through the red tape at City Hall, making it easier for citizens to access the services they pay for through their property taxes.

Let’s take an example some of you highlighted during the election. Today, booking an arena to play hockey with friends involves calls to the City and waiting to be called back to find out what’s available and when. An application is then faxed to the resident, filled out and signed and faxed back. I think we can do better.

This will be a thing of the past by the end of next year. As a result of our Service Ottawa investment, a resident will be able visit, take a virtual tour of most City facilities with video and pictures, search geographically, check available times at each site, book the facility, agree to the terms and conditions online, pay online and have the reservation receipt emailed to their home computer. And all of this will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This modernisation saves you time, frustration and money as a taxpayer. But it saves your city time and money, too. A true win for everyone. And it won’t stop there. Business people will be able to apply for their small business licence or renew the one they have online – without ever leaving their place of business. You will be able to apply for and receive the full range of permits through your home or business computer. That is modern government and modern service. I look forward to more solutions from our IT subcommittee including a review of our software licences for savings next year.

A special point of pride for me is the fact that this Budget provides for a 4-year, $8 million campaign to improve accessibility of our City for the disabled and for our aging population, including power-assisted doors, improvements to elevators, ramps and door width enlargements. This is the City’s largest campaign ever to improve accessibility to ensure we can all enjoy our City facilities. In addition to this, another $1.5 million will be spent this year alone to make our city safer including the deployment of more audible signals, pedestrian countdown signals, and new street lighting. This year I will be hosting a senior’s summit to continue the momentum in addressing the needs of our changing demographics.

Our Para Transpo fleet carries over 800,000 passenger trips each year. In 2011, we will begin a $13 million tender for the complete renewal of our Para Transpo fleet with all new vehicles. This renewal of the Para Transpo fleet is part of our commitment to provide comfortable and safe transportation for the frail elderly and people with disabilities, who are unable to use public transit.

As part of the 2011 budget, recreation fees across the city have been frozen. At the same time we will accelerate investment in developing and improving community recreation facilities. This Budget provides for a brand new complex in Barrhaven that will include a twin-pad arena, a 25 m indoor community pool, a full-service community centre including a gymnasium, and outdoor facilities such as a play area and an outdoor sports field. It provides for moving the domed sports field now at Lansdowne to a new year round sports field that will serve the community for decades to come. Investment in new “Ecochill” environmental ice systems and second ice pads at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex and a plan for similar upgrades at the Potvin Arena in Gloucester are provided. This Budget provides $1 million of capital each year over the next four years for recreational facility upgrades that we will be asking Council to target over the coming years to improve our places to play.

This year’s budget provides significant new investment for our emergency and protective services. A total of 24 new staff will be added to the paramedic service. Two new fully supported ambulances will be on the streets this year. Almost $15 million of new capital is being deployed this year for our fire and paramedic services. Two new fire stations in Barrhaven and Stittsville will come on line this year and the Budget provides for 45 new full time fire fighters. With the staffing of the Stittsville fire station we complete the phase in of Stittsville into the urban service zone.

Planning and work will continue over the coming years on Light Rail and we are looking forward to a successful deployment of the single largest capital project of any type in Ottawa’s history. But for the rest of this decade and beyond, the bus system will be the backbone of what moves our community. Budget 2011 brings unprecedented focus to improving bus service and setting it on a sustainable footing.

Our support for the transit service will increase again this year to an all time high with a $392 million operating budget and $310 million in new capital authority. We are providing more than $161 million in new capital authority this year on projects that will improve the bus system. We will spend $2 million this year as part of a 4-year, $10 million plan to expand park and ride facilities in Orleans, Barrhaven and Kanata. This year authority is provided to undertake $63 million in Transitway improvements including our share of the funds for the important bypass of today’s bus bottleneck from Bayshore to Moodie. I will work with the federal and provincial governments to ensure they provide their share of these projects quickly.

This Budget is about more express service and smarter routing. A better service does not mean more milk runs through every neighborhood stopping every 200 meters and crowding through the downtown bottleneck. It means express service that runs on time reliably even when there is a storm or a traffic snarl. The Transit Commission, under Councillor Deans’ chairmanship, will work with staff to reduce the cost of operating the OC Transpo system, to carry the same number of customers at a lower cost. There will be opportunities to increase productivity by carrying customers on larger transit vehicles, for instance by expanding the capacity of the O-Train or by buying more double-decker buses.

This investment in the renewal and modernization of the bus system is the single most important initiative in this Budget. We will be making better use of resources by welcoming 74 new bus drivers to improve service, reduce our overtime and get more service hours for the same money. We are implementing the results of the American Public Transit Association’s comprehensive best practices peer-review to correct inefficiency that has crept into our network over time. These changes will save time. They will also save $7.2 million this year and $22 million next year while improving system reliability and overall rider experience. If we fail to make these changes our bus system alone will drive annual an tax increase of 1.5-2% all on its own. We need to act to set our transit system on a sustainable financial footing.

We will do all of this while restricting fare increases of the past. After three years of consecutive 7.5% fare increases, this budget respects the pocketbooks of transit users and restricts fare increases to 2.5%. This Budget also expands free transit for seniors now available Wednesdays. Free transit for seniors will be extended and made available after 12 noon on Mondays and Fridays as well, to increase the flexibility for our seniors to get around be it to get groceries, attend medical appointments or enjoy themselves with friends. This new service will commence at the beginning of April.

This year we will also embark upon some long-delayed and much needed major improvements to our roads network. Almost $30 million will be spent over the next two years on extending and expanding Trim Road in Orléans, another $17 million on the east-end extension from Navan to 10th Line Road and $9.5 million on St. Joseph Boulevard. We will also fund our share of the important interchange on the 417 at Hunt club to allow east end commuters heading south to bypass traffic headed downtown. The Alta Vista corridor linking the General Hospital campus to Riverside Drive, a $55 million project, will finally be started this year. This will be a crucial transportation corridor and will relieve congestion on Alta Vista Drive and Smyth Road.

We will fund $28 million in investment this year to address the sewage backup problem in Kanata and safeguard those homes so punished by the flooding effects of heavy rains and basement sewer backups. I want to thank Councillor Hubley for his help over the holiday period in making sure this problem was addressed.

And finally, we introduce a new $2 million annual budget for economic development. This envelope will be available for Council to target smart and high-impact, job-creating initiatives.

A Caring Community

This Budget plan achieves our target – no more than a 2.5% tax increase – without cutting back on funding to our community partners. We will stand by our partner agencies that provide a host of vital social services. This means no cuts in funding, and providing an increase for cost of living increases as well as some modest increases in the base funding. Arts groups, often threatened with cuts a budget time, can rest assured that in this Budget you will not experience any cuts to your funding.

As many of you know while I served as the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I was pleased to work with AMO President Peter Hume to sign an unprecedented agreement to upload cost off city governments. This year that agreement will remove some $25 million in annual costs. In keeping with my commitment during the campaign, this Budget provides a new $10 million poverty and homelessness annual fund. This envelope will be available for Council to direct over the coming year into measures to help the poor and homeless, including rent supplements and provision of new beds in shelters. In addition to this, we are adding $4 million in capital funding each year for four years to invest in new and renewed housing stock. I look forward to working with Councillor Desroches as well, in his capacity as Chair of Ottawa Community Housing.

We will strengthen public health and our resilience in the face of new health threats like H1N1 or antibiotic resistant bacteria. This new package provides a $560,000 boost to Ottawa Public Health to enable better response to emerging health threats. Councillor Holmes will help with these initiatives in her role as Chair of our new Board of Health.

The 2011 budget contains a number of initiatives for Long-Term Care, totaling almost $1 million. In addition, new funding is here to prevent infectious diseases in long-term care facilities and retirement homes. New funding is here to improve the safety and security of our seniors in care.

This Budget plan has a special focus on safeguarding our children. We will provide for a new program to prevent head and brain injury among our youth. Almost 6000 children and youth under the age of 20 visit Ottawa ERs because of head injuries and of these, about 400 are hospitalized. We aim to do something about this problem.

This last year, we had a sad and sobering reminder of how vulnerable our children can be. In November, twice as many children were admitted into CHEO for mental health crises compared to the same period last year. A $300,000 annual allocation is devoted in this Budget to buttressing community efforts to help our families fight the problem of youth suicides in partnership with the Youth Services Bureau, ROH, CHEO and on the ground service providers.

This budget also invests $750,000 dollars to be used for non-profit community childcare agencies for major and minor capital projects. This funding will be used to assist these centres to keep children learning and playing in healthy and safe environments.

Part of having a caring community is caring for our environment.

The 2011 budget includes a $2.8 million envelope for making our city a cyclist-friendly city. This will allow Council to move ahead with targeted improvements to cycling in the City within the fiscal framework.

As part of our Smart Energy Initiative, almost $2.5 million has been approved for 2011 to improve our energy efficiency and to reduce our carbon footprint. We are deploying solar on City buildings. I also want to bring special focus to our Hydro to ensuring that we make it easy for our residents to take up the opportunity of Ontario’s feed-in renewable energy program. We aren’t making fast enough progress on this and I am determined to become the number one city in the province in this area.

Councillor McRae and our newly created Environment Committee will be called upon to move this agenda forward with her colleagues.

Our forestry program will benefit from an increase of $1.5 million to support the Growing a Healthy Forest initiative and to deal with threat of the Emerald Ash Borer. An additional $1.2 million in capital funding will be provided for new trees. This initiative plans for, protects, and nurtures a healthy forest in our nation’s capital.

This Budget introduces a new $500,000 annual environmental envelope to be used for priority initiatives. Following Council direction, we will also be devoting some of our year end surplus this year to our new fund for acquiring environmentally sensitive lands.

Taken together, I hope you will agree that this document is a budget to be proud of and that, once committees have worked to improve aspects and make adjustments within the envelopes provided, it can be passed as strong package for our future together. This budget delivers on the 2.5% target that many of us committed to in the election. It does this while balancing reductions with long-term investments that will ensure a safe and prosperous city. Our taxpayers want more and better service. They have a right to expect that from us and to see that done responsibly.

In the coming weeks we will have 5 public meetings across the City, every committee will review the Budget and take public delegations, and I will hold a savings Town Hall on March 1st to gather additional ideas for saving more money this year and next.

Once again I want to thank each of you for giving me, my office and City Staff the opportunity to start this Budget process on the right foot and with a balanced, responsible package. I look forward to working with you to improve it further and to a successful four years together.