Good morning everyone. Bonjour tout le monde.

 

Budget 2021 is a responsible and progressive budget that strikes a balance between supporting our community’s needs during the pandemic and delivering essential municipal services

Today, I want to highlight key investments and issues.

I believe that the 2021 Budget provides the flexibility needed to deal with the budget pressures expected to result from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are grateful that both the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario have increased financial support to municipalities in 2020 – to help us deal with cost increases and an unprecedented revenue shortfall.

And again, I want to thank both Premier Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau for their support.

To date, Ottawa has received $124.2 million in COVID-19 Safe Restart funding to address city-wide COVID pressures, including transit pressures.

This represents 68 percent of our overall COVID related funding gap for 2020.

Our Phase 2 application has been submitted – and I’m confident the Province will help make municipalities whole as the pandemic continues into 2021.

What has become clear is that we must stay in lock step with our provincial and federal partners to get through this crisis.

It is clear that we will have to work together for years to come – not only on the public health response.

But also on the much-needed recovery plan to get people back to work across all sectors of our economy.

I would again like to thank the City Manager, the City Treasurer and the entire Senior Leadership Team for their hard work developing this budget under very challenging forecasting conditions.

I also want to thank our Senior Leadership team, under the able guidance of Steve Kanellakos – as well as our entire team of municipal employees – for their very strong and caring COVID-19 response.

I believe we would all agree that nothing is more important than maintaining our core services at this time in our history.

Also, and more so than any other year, I believe that residents are realistic about the City’s fiscal capacity –

many individuals and families are struggling to get by, and they want us to live within our means.

Just yesterday I heard that the average grocery bill for a family of four is projected to go up by $695 next year – mostly due to COVID pressures.

Many families are living paycheque to paycheque – and the City has a responsibility to tighten its belt and not add to that financial burden during these difficult times.

Budget 2021 has a total operating budget of $3.94 billion and a total capital budget of $781 million.

These are big numbers, but we must remember that this budget is built to support our residents – especially those who need it most – and that includes those who have been on the front lines of this pandemic keeping our community safe.

They work at Ottawa Public Health or as paramedics;

they pick up our garbage every week;

they work at the cash at the grocery store or as PSWs at your parents’ long-term care home.

They are helping to build and operate our affordable housing sector – or keeping our drinking water safe.

Residents have told us that they expect a responsible and cautious approach to Budget 2021 – with several needs coming front and centre, including:

  • Support for Ottawa Public Health and other front-line workers such as Paramedics and Long-Term care workers;
  • Working collaboratively with upper levels of government towards practical and responsive solutions;
  • Immediate action to create affordable communities that support residents, including affordable housing;
  • A sustainable economy that supports local businesses and gets residents safely back to work as quickly as possible;
  • Well-maintained roads and transit that connects to employment;
  • Maintaining and building Infrastructure that is in a state of good repair; and of course,
  • Providing services to those most in need especially in these challenging times.

 

These are the priorities that we have heard through our consultation efforts, and these are the priorities that inform our budget decisions today.

COVID has also made clear the need for isolation and social distancing, which is also contributing to an ongoing local housing crunch.

Ottawa continues to have a stubborn vacancy rate of under 1.8 per cent.

Hard to believe, but in Ottawa housing prices have been on the rise – up over 15 percent from last year.

Individuals and families continue to face challenges in accessing affordable housing.

To help address these pressures, the 2021 Budget includes a $15 million investment in affordable housing.

This brings the City’s total capital contribution to $45 million since 2019.

I am also pleased that $5 million of the $15 million investment will be an increase to the Affordable Housing base budget.

This is in addition to the $1 million base budget increase in 2020.

This revised base budget will contribute $60 million in new capital funding for housing over ten years.

This is on top of a projected $10 million from development charge revenues and $10 million from surplus land sales.

These investments will help to fund the projected construction of 2,100 units over the next ten years.

Again, let me emphasize that we are NOT in this alone.

The City of Ottawa has already been approved for $32 million through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative. That’s 109 new units to be built within a year.

We have applied for several other projects through the Rapid Housing project stream.

We hope to learn early in the New Year which of these projects will receive additional funding but I am encouraged by the Government of Canada’s commitment to the City of Ottawa to date.

Budget 2021 also provides $33 million to housing and homelessness agencies for case management, housing loss prevention and operating funding for supportive housing.

When you factor in the City’s operating spending of $112 million in support of housing, and the $47 million in new capital funding, the City will invest historic amounts in housing in 2021.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Province of Ontario for the $31 million of Social Services Relief Funding.

This funding is supporting many organizations across our city, including:

  • The Parkdale Food Centre to make delicious take-home food for outreach workers to deliver to the people who need it the most;
  • Somerset West Health Centre’s Black Mental Health Association to help ensure a more equitable response to the COVID-19 crisis and better outcomes for the Black community; and,
  • Minwaashin Lodge Indigenous Women’s Support Centre to provide families with food and technology to deal with isolation during this time.

These supports are critical to protecting the health and resiliency of our local social services network during the pandemic.

This funding also enables the City to operate our respite, physical distancing and isolation centres for people experiencing homelessness.

This costs about $1.2 million each month – and it’s another example of why we simply can’t go it alone.

The City’s own funding for social service agencies under Budget 2021 will be $25 million.

We can’t see the City and the Province’s contributions as silos.

Rest assured that taxpayers don’t see these key investments as silos.

When you take our City’s total grants to the social services sector of $25 million in 2021, combined with the Province’s $31 million dollar contribution for COVID resiliency of social services, you get a total investment of $66 million over a 12-month period.

That’s a whopping 264% increase over the City’s base contribution to social service agencies during the pandemic.

And this is why I cannot support the call to increase the burden on City of Ottawa taxpayers to fund programs that are wholly under provincial jurisdiction.

In the next few weeks, Council will be making decisions on the projects that will be funded from the federal/provincial 20-million-dollar COVID-19 Resilience Stream.

This is another example of the impact of combining our more limited municipal tax base with that of the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada.

Both levels of government have much greater fiscal capacity than the municipal government – and so by working together, we can get so much more done.

I am committed to working with all members of Council and with our provincial partners to secure ongoing financial support for our social services sector beyond March 31, 2021.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s long-term care homes have continued to increase staffing levels to provide quality care and services to residents.

Since the pandemic began, the City has hired an additional 200 staff to support these efforts.

Doing our part to support the staff in our long-term care home, Budget 2021 also includes the following investments:

  • Over $15 million will be invested in staffing, PPE and infection control to address COVID-19; and
  • $7.6 million for renovations, equipment and accessibility improvements to our four Long-Term Care Homes;

These investments are aimed at protecting the health and safety of residents, staff and families while we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget 2021 also provides funding to hire 14 NEW front-line paramedics – the third installment on our four-year goal of 54 new paramedics.

In partnership with the Ottawa Hospital, our community paramedics have also been deployed to the “Red Zones” in Long-Term Care Homes and to mobile testing clinics.

We have heard from over 100 public delegation at the Ottawa Police Service Board and many of you have received significant correspondence on what is an important discussion around the role of policing.

These delegations have articulated their concerns and have given us pause as we make these important budget decisions.

What is before us today is an Ottawa Police Service budget that comes in at 3% on the tax side, plus 1.5% in new growth dollars.

I believe that OPS must develop stronger partnerships with Ottawa Public Health, Community and Social Services, mental health and other community service providers.

OPS cannot do this work on their own.

The community must be at the table for these important discussions.

Throughout the pandemic the Ottawa Police Service has actively participated in the City’s Human Needs Task Force, which fosters greater teamwork and results in better outcomes for residents.

OPS and the City have been working together to shift their focus towards crime prevention and expanding community-led health and safety initiatives.

The City and OPS are also actively refining our Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan.

The plan will seek to address the more deeply rooted causes of crime, focus on prevention, leverage community partnerships and take a multi-faceted approach to community safety.

The draft 2021 Budget maintains support for the hiring of 30 new officers that will be deployed to neighbourhood resource teams, to support growth areas and to the sex crimes unit.

I believe that Ottawa Police Service needs to maintain its funding levels in order to increase its investments in community-based policing, and in order to bring about the type of operational changes the community clearly expects.

I strongly support Chief Sloly in his efforts to restructure the Ottawa Police Service to make it more responsive to the community’s emerging needs

Cutting the OPS budget at this critical time would undermine the Chief’s efforts to renew and reform the organization.
And I want to remind members of Council that we voted, as recently as October 14, to NOT DEFUND the Ottawa Police Service. A very strong majority of members of Council voted to NOT defund the Police.

There are some who will try to undermine this decision at every turn – let’s cut a million here, a million there – as we will see today.

I would ask members of Council to please let the Chief do the job he was hired to do.

Give him, the Board, and his team, the tools they need to undertake the reforms they have committed to in a very public fashion.

I would like to thank, Chair Deans, Chief Sloly and CFO Jeff Letourneau for their stewardship and willingness to look for new ways of finding efficiencies, streamline operations around community needs and find ongoing operational savings.

Today, I want to discuss the funding going to the City’s environmental strategy.

The focus of this Energy Evolution funding will be on the implementation of energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy generation projects.

Budget 2021 also includes an additional $3 million for the Energy Management Investment Strategy.

We are also working on increasing the City’s capacity for climate resilience.

Our goal is to better position vulnerable areas against future environmental stresses.

This includes $2.5 million to implement the Ottawa River Action Plan and the Wet Weather Infrastructure Master Plan.

Budget 2021 also includes:

$300,000 for the Wild Parsnip Management Program.

$1.5 million to plant 125,000 trees; and,

In total, this budget includes just over $11 million to help us reach our GHG emission reduction targets in 2021.

Another key priority is working to plan for the demographic changes associated with our aging population.

Budget 2021 includes $3 million to remove physical accessibility barriers at existing city building and parks.

Due to COVID-19, ridership levels and transit revenues have significantly decreased – not only in Ottawa, but across the country and around the world.

In 2021, COVID-related transit pressures are estimated to be $72.8 million.

The City is anticipating provincial Safe Restart Funding to cover the first quarter gap to March 31, 2021.

Regular fares will increase by 2.5% effective January 1, because we need to stay on track with our Long-Range Financial Plan for Transit.

Ottawa’s regular fares are competitive and generally in line with other medium and large cities across Canada.

And to protect the most vulnerable for the third consecutive year, the cost of the 2021 EquiPass and Community Pass will both remain frozen at 2018 rates – an additional investment of $185,000.

I would like to remind members of Council that Ottawa’s EquiPass is one of the cheapest in Canada.

For example, Toronto’s low-income pass is $123 per month, compared to Ottawa’s at $58 dollars per month.

In fact, Toronto’s low-income pass, which costs $123 per month, is more expensive than our full-fare pass at $119 per month.

Budget 2021 increases the transit levy by 4.6%.

This represents roughly $33 for the average homeowner and is included within the overall tax cap of 3 per cent.

Three years ago, Council embarked on a plan to close the infrastructure gap in seven years.

That is why our total funding to maintain and renew tax-supported assets such as roads, sidewalks and facilities will increase by $25 million this year – bringing us to $176 million invested in 2021. That’s a 16 percent increase.

In 2021, the road resurfacing budget will increase to $45 million – up from the yearly average of $35.5 million during the last Term of Council.

The Integrated program also provides an investment of $28 million towards our road infrastructure.

Our rural infrastructure investments will reach $40 million in 2021.

Budget 2021 will also invest over $57 million for Road Growth projects – and these are essentially funded by Development Charges.

In 2021, the City will resurface, renew or rehabilitate approximately 116 kilometres of roads across the city.

Budget 2021 also includes $2 million for the Neighbourhood Traffic Calming Measures Program, with each Councillor receiving $50,000 for road safety initiatives in their community.

There is also $512,000 set aside for Pedestrian Crossovers, in order to improve the safety of pedestrians at key crossings across the city.

Budget 2021 also includes $3.7 for the Network Mortifications Program and $12 million for intersection improvements through the Intersection Control Measures.

Budget 2021 also includes funding for active transportation – with an investment in both the Ottawa Pedestrian and Cycling Plan of $12.5 million.

Budget 2021 includes $4 million for the Road Safety Action Plan.

In 2021, the City is forecasted to spend just over $1 billion on the Stage 2 LRT project.

Not everyone in Ottawa has the benefit of a high paying, full time public service job with benefits and a regular paycheck.

That is why I am so proud of our Council for maintaining our long-term commitment to invest in our infrastructure.

These investments are helping to sustain our economy during these challenging economic times – creating more than 30,000 construction jobs.

These are proud contributing members of our community who WANT to work alongside our transit operators and other frontline municipal employees.

Many of whom have continued to deliver essential services – under very challenging conditions while tens of thousands of their fellow residents are able to work from home.

Along with our investment in LRT, the City has secured funding for 4 new electric buses.

These Newflyer buses will hit the streets in the fall 2021 to test their performance across a variety of routes and weather conditions.

Again in 2021, we will continue to fund the $2.4 million ward specific Recreation Infrastructure Investment Fund allowing members of Council to invest in ward priorities.

Budget 2021 also includes $6 million in park investments.

I am proud of the continued progress on our stunning new Central Library project.

The federal fall economic statement committed additional funding to increase the environmental sustainability of the new library to net zero.

This is another example of how – working in partnership with other levels of Government – we can get more done for our City and our residents.

We also need to take an “all hands-on deck” approach to rebuilding our local economy.

Please support our small businesses through these difficult times!

Budget 2021 continues to waive patio fees for COVID-19 impacted businesses.

Our patio team will also advance a $150,000 grant program to help BIAs and business associations undertake beautification or small capital projects that will help attract customers to their business districts.

Before wrapping up I want to once again mention the incredible work of our Ottawa Public Health unit.

Budget 2021 includes $22.5 million in City funding to OPH for a total budget of $98 million.

This includes an additional $240,000 to cover inflationary pressures – allowing OPH to avoid a reduction in FTEs.

I believe we can all agree this is not the time to be cutting employees at Ottawa Public Health.

I remain committed to ensuring that OPH has the resources they need in 2021 – and I will continue to work closely with our Chair of Public Health to achieve this goal.

They need our support to maintain their emergency COVID-19 response efforts, but also to maintain the quality core services residents across Ottawa rely on to improve health outcomes.

I believe that Budget 2021 strikes the right balance of:

  • managing the COVID related risks to taxpayers and residents;
  • supporting our residents through the ongoing uncertainty by maintaining core services;
  • reducing our infrastructure gap by boosting our spending on roads, transit and active transportation infrastructure;
  • supporting our local economy with a renewed focus on the local job market through this period of recovery; and
  • caring for the most vulnerable in our community, which includes boosting our investment in affordable housing.

Budget 2021 also delivers on Council’s commitment to keep taxes at three per cent.

Once again I want to remind members of Council that there are tens of thousands of Ottawa residents who don’t have the luxury of living on six-figure incomes or pensions.

This includes new Canadians, seniors on fixed income and single moms and dads – many of whom have bought into the housing market as part of the Canadian dream of home ownership.

There are thousands of one and two-income households who have purchased a home over the course of the last 3, 5 or 10 years – and they look to us to honour the commitment we made to try to keep our City affordable.

And the single most important decision we can make in this regard is to honour the commitment we made to keep the tax increase capped at 3 per cent.

The easiest thing for us to do is to raise someone else’s taxes.

If our investments in social services were dropping significantly, one could argue the need for additional taxation to boost spending.

But our municipal investments in support of the most vulnerable are NOT dropping – they are increasing.

And when combined with the investments made by other levels of government in support of our most vulnerable, these investments are increasing quite significantly.

And I will continue to work tirelessly with Council’s support to ensure that Ottawa continues to get its fair share of available funding from upper levels of government.

This support will be critical for our economic recovery and to sustain the momentum on city building priorities such as extending LRT to Stittsville, Kanata and Barrhaven.

I look forward to the day very soon when we will be turning our attention to economic recovery and to working together to restore the jobs lost during the pandemic.

With a continued commitment from our federal and provincial partners, we can meet the challenges of the changing world in which we find ourselves.

We stand ready to return to the thriving city we all love, but we will need a sustained team effort to get there.

Thank you. Merci.