Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

It’s my pleasure to be here today at the Federation of Citizens Associations of Ottawa annual general meeting to talk directly with individuals who are actively taking an interest in civic affairs.

I would like to thank Graeme Roderick, President of the FCA, for having me.

And I want to take a moment to offer you all a very special congratulations on this your 25th Anniversary AGM.

Twenty-five years of collective service to our community is an achievement that you should all be very proud to attain.

Just think of all the thousands upon thousands of hours that you and all your predecessors have contributed to our community.

Civic engagement is a noble venture….But I am not talking about the elected side of the equation.

I am talking about you…each and every one of you in this room today…and all the many more that you represent in our community’s across the city.

As I begin my remarks, thinking of your 25th anniversary, I am reminded just how much citizen engagement has changed in the last quarter century.

Or, for that matter, how much it has changed in just the last dozen or so years.

It’s hard to believe, but, our own Canadian-made Black Berry first appeared in rudimentary form in 1999…it looked like a pager in those days…but it did signal that email was coming on strong in our business life.

It was not until 2003…less than a decade ago that Black Berry launched its first smart phone.

And Facebook was founded only in 2004 and Twitter came along two years later…

We have had widespread email for how long?…I guess since 2000…the turn of the millennium.

But, stop and think how, in such a short time all this technology…much of it driven by Canada’s Research In Motion…a company that has a big and important presence right here in Ottawa…

Think how all this technology has changed…and how it’s rapidly changing civic engagement.

Last time I was Mayor of Ottawa, everything was manual.

We had meetings…we used fax machines…we had more meetings…we used the telephone and then more faxes.

But, as I talked with citizens and as our Council in those days reached out to engage organisations like yours it was much more difficult.

We had to rely on meetings…like this one…for one-on-one discussion.

That is challenging for volunteers who all have regular jobs and families who need their spare time.

Now…every day…I am in constant contact with residents of our community.

I receive and answer emails…Tweets and Facebook messages.

In essence I am always “on call”…in addition to all the time I spend out at events across the City.

Technology…which can be a cruel master…is also a remarkable weapon to build the engagement amongst us that we all want to see happen.

That is why we have asked City Staff to double up their efforts to put technology to use.

Service Ottawa is one manifestation of this effort…where we are trying to make the daily interface that our citizens have with city government easier…more efficient and more effective.

It is also why our Council has asked staff to review our advisory Committee structures and processes.

I have heard from people from across the City and from those who are involved in the Advisory Committees themselves that the system just isn’t working.

I expect part of that is the psyche of the times we live in.

People have technology at their disposal to reach me and other Councillors and City Staff…they like the personal connection and response.

So it is time to update how we do our regular and formalised citizen engagement.

I am looking forward to a Report coming to Council soon on how we might make our committee structure more meaningful and effective.

Meaningful and effective in both directions…for those like you volunteering and for the elected officials who need and value input and advice on the projects we are undertaking.

Citizen engagement is one element of our shared interest.

Community Associations will always play a vital role in the bigger picture of that outreach and engagement.

They provide a two-way avenue for elected officials…together we can listen and we can talk to each other.

There is never unanimity of thought, of course.

But, civil discourse does open doors to accommodation of spirit.

And, after all, we all have the same objective to make ours an even better city tomorrow than it is today.

One of the ways that I see consultation being enhanced is through the use of what I like to call the “ground –up” model.

We have tried to give this effort life by using the concept of the summit.

During the last municipal election, I made a commitment to hold a seniors summit to discuss how the City can best address senior’s issues in both the short- and long-term.

And we fulfilled this commitment by hosting the Seniors Summit last October here at City Hall.

I was very pleased by the turn-out and the ideas and discussion that took place during the Summit.

We had the opportunity to hear from Ottawa’s senior population on what City Hall does well, what it can improve upon, and where we should start focussing our energies first.

The valuable input the City received during the Summit will be used to create an Older Adult Action Plan in Ottawa.

In addition to the Summit, the City extended the conversation to those who were unable to attend by seeking feedback on seniors’ issues via phone and e-mail.

The same concept was used in the more recent Planning Summit.

We gathered together a cross-section of Ottawa – organisations and individuals – to talk about where we are going from a Planning perspective.

It was a great opportunity to kick off the very important review of the Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan that will be happening over the next year.

Apart from the wealth of input and suggestions that came in that day – and which the Planning department has already published – one of the most important things I heard came afterwards.

A number of people – individuals like those of you in this room tonight – commented on the makeup of the working groups.

They were impressed with the cross-pollination that occurred.

We had developers sitting beside community activists beside elected officials beside local business owners

That is the kind of consultation approach that we should be building.

Bringing people together – not pushing each other away.

I am going to be looking for more ways to do this.

And, in case you had not heard, we will be holding a Youth Summit this Fall to engage another sector of our community in the never-ending effort to build our city.

I want to take a few minutes to provide a bit of an update on some other activities and projects that are underway.

For instance, we have been taking action at City hall that will make us greener City immediately and will also position us for the future.

As we all know, transportation emissions are the fastest growing portion of our green house gas problem.

We are determined to fight that with better planning that integrates cycling and walking into communities from the start.

We fight emissions by saying no to uncontrolled urban sprawl.

We fight them by providing public transit.

Public transit is a key to the environmental health of any major municipality.

That is why we worked hard to ensure we didn’t have to deal with another painful transit strike and we signed a fair collective agreement with our union.

Our public transit dollars have to go far.

Good public transit is structured to strive for more and more efficiency.

It must, because we need our ridership on public transit to grow.

And it is growing.

Ridership in Ottawa was up 6% last year.

That is good news and we want to keep it up.

Budget 2012 boosted funding for OC Transpo by $5.5 million.

There is a $3.2 million increase in service to deal with growth in ridership and a targeted $2.3 million to expand capacity on routes like the 87, 94, 95 and 96.

More trips and more high-capacity buses will be added to these busy routes.

Throughout this year we will be adding some 66,000 service hours to address growing demands on our system.

And, our new double-decker bus fleet will begin to arrive later in 2012, adding further high-capacity service.

Work will also begin so that frequency and capacity of the O-Train can double almost 10 years ahead of schedule in 2014 as the new trains we purchased to serve the north-south route take their place on the line.

Light Rail is also vital to our plans to step up public transit in Ottawa.

It will eliminate the bottleneck in transit we now face in the downtown core.

So we’re investing some $2.1 billion in fixing that with a new modern, high capacity rail system that will be completely separated from traffic tie ups.

Another key part of Budget 2012 was and is Ottawa on the Move.

We’re repairing and improving.

And as we fix up roads it gives us a big opportunity to improve cycling and walking in our city.

Ottawa on the Move will see the construction of more than 70 km of new bike lanes and paved shoulders.

It will also fund 20 km in existing sidewalk improvements and repairs.

We will be working hard to fill the gaps in our cycling network to improve interconnections and safety so you can get where you are going by bike.

Off-road pathways near the Aviation Museum, through Hampton Park, along the O-Train corridor from Carling to the Ottawa River, and extending the Sawmill Creek path from Walkley to Brookfield, will all be completed this term of Council.

We will put in place a 12 kilometre East-West Bikeway over the next three years to provide safer and more comfortable commutes.

Work on the design to implement a pedestrian bridge over the Rideau from Donald to Somerset will also get underway this year.

In total, the last Budget provides an additional $12.1 million over three years for cycling infrastructure.

And, in just this term of Council, we will provide the largest financial commitment ever put towards cycling in Ottawa – over $26 million, a new record.

A green community isn’t just about transportation infrastructure though.

That is why, again this year, the City is doing its part by moving ahead with green technology in both our buildings and our fleet of vehicles.

For example we are investing in our ice rinks to replace aging cooling systems with more energy-efficient refrigeration technology.

Through our green fleet program we’re buying electric ice-resurfacing machines to get rid of the engine exhaust and improve the air quality for the parents and children who play in our rinks.

So far our Smart Energy initiatives like lighting upgrades and heating retrofits have achieved annual savings of $800,000 each year.

We are also following through with the next phase of the Ottawa River Action Plan.

Some of that work will be done in conjunction with Ottawa on the Move.

We are now seeking funding from our federal and provincial partners so we can complete work the work of fixing the problem of combined sewer overflows.

Any push you can give our federal and provincial partners would be appreciated.

Our Council has also taken on the fiscal challenges of being Canada’s fourth largest city.

I believe that the two Budgets that have been tabled – both 2011 and 2012 – have delivered.

Budget 2012 restricted the annual property tax increase to 2.39 per cent – the lowest rate in five years, and it followed 2011’s increase of 2.45 per cent.

And we have done this while continuing to place caring for our city’s more vulnerable members, as well as its families, as a priority.

In 2011, we took action on housing with an unprecedented commitment to affordable housing in our community.

We made $14 million in new annual funding available.

And we’re starting to see the results as long-needed renovation to existing social housing is underway and new affordable housing for large families, including units which are fully accessible, are being built.

Families have been moved off of waiting lists and into homes and families have been moved out of motels and shelters and into homes.

We have more work to do in this area, but, with the support of our community partners, we have what it takes to ensure continued progress in the years to come.

Some other investments in our community from the last budget included $2 million to undertake accessibility retrofit work to existing city building and park facilities.

We also continued the freeze for City recreation fees and invested $520,000 to renew infrastructure in City parks.

We are busy at the City of Ottawa…I have not even touched on what we are doing in terms of economic development.

Invest Ottawa is up and running and its business incubator is starting to pay dividends, as well as its work with Tourism Ottawa as we strive to boost that important sector.

The Arts Court redevelopment plan is taking shape as we build a stronger arts and culture community across the city.

I could go on …but, I would like to know what your questions are…and do my best to answer some of them.

I would like to thank you again for providing me with this opportunity to talk to you.

I am very grateful for your organization’s continued involvement in a number of different City issues, projects and initiatives.

It is the efforts of individuals like those of you here today that help us make our city a better place in which to live, work and play.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

Thank you.