Response to Ecology Ottawa municipal survey

Over the last term of council, initiatives to address climate change have been delayed, under-staffed and under-financed. It’s even unclear whether city-wide emissions have been rising or falling over the past six years. Meanwhile, some spending on city infrastructure (e.g., road expansions) is impeding or negating progress from climate investments made under the environment portfolio. At the federal level, the government has mandated a new climate lens assessment for its infrastructure funding program, Investing in Canada.

If elected, will you make climate action a Term of Council Priority, increase funding and staffing commitments commensurate with this prioritization, and mandate a climate lens for the City’s assessment for all infrastructure investments?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. Agreed. We need to invest more in infrastructure such as storm sewers to protect our rivers.

 

The City of Ottawa reports on community-wide climate emissions once every through the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan. This infrequent reporting makes tracking progress toward our climate goals very difficult, and is far behind the standard set by leading cities such as Edmonton and Montreal.\

If elected, will you commit to increasing the frequency of the City’s community-wide emissions reporting to at least once per year?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. This needs to be a regular obligation.

 

Climate change is accelerating, and cities around the world are rushing to adapt to the impacts of severe weather, flooding and invasive species. The City of Ottawa has committed to developing a Climate Adaptation Plan but hasn’t yet delivered.

If elected, will you commit to ensuring the release and initial implementation of a Climate Adaptation Plan within the next term of council?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. This should be developed in consultation with residents.

 

Development of Ottawa’s next Official Plan will begin in January 2019 and conclude during the next term of council. The Official Plan sets the ground rules that can make it easier or virtually impossible for cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—from transportation patterns and sprawl, to housing densities and unit sizes, to options for local renewable energy production, to the services, amenities, and greenspaces residents can access within walking distance. Official Plans developed with climate change in mind deliver powerful benefits that make neighbourhoods healthier, safer, and more liveable.

If elected, will you support and work for a revised Official Plan that makes low-carbon development a top priority, in a way that delivers healthier, safer, more liveable neighbourhoods for your constituents?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. Absolutely! There is opportunity with LRT arriving to create more walkable communities.

 

Active City

Evidence from numerous studies of “induced demand” shows that widening highways and building new roads does nothing to alleviate traffic congestion. Instead, new roads and new lanes are quickly filled up with cars. Congestion is only relieved through investment in alternative forms of travel – by bike, by foot and by public transit.

If elected, will you commit to prioritizing pedestrian, cycling, and affordable public transit infrastructure over automobile infrastructure in meeting the future growth in travel demand in your ward?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. We need more proactive policies to reduce our reliance on cars.

Currently, the city of Ottawa only plans for connectivity within 600 metres of transit hubs.

 

If elected, will you commit to widening this connectivity planning radius to five kilometres?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. This will require a staged expansion of our transit system.

 

The City of Ottawa adopted a complete streets policy in 2013 and an implementation plan in 2015. Now, all new roads must be built to be accessible to all ages, users and abilities – including pedestrians, cyclists and transit users – rather than just car drivers. However, evidence shows that the policy alone is not sufficient to create complete streets. Councillor leadership is vital to ensure streets are as “complete” as possible and follow through on priority pedestrian and cycling projects identified in the Transportation Master Plan.

If elected, will you commit to ensuring that complete streets and priority pedestrian and cycling projects are built in your ward?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. We will have opportunities to build complete streets as LRT reaches our neighbourhoods.

 

Between 2010 and 2014, 148 people died on Ottawa’s streets. These deaths were entirely avoidable – they were a by-product of the way we have designed our streets. Toronto and Edmonton have embraced a “Vision Zero” approach to road design, that considers all traffic deaths and serious injuries preventable. A Vision Zero policy involves design changes (i.e. reducing speeds and separating road users), funding for these changes and public reporting on progress.

If elected, will you commit to adopting a Vision Zero policy for Ottawa?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. This is long overdue. As a school trustee I have seen the need for safer streets.

 

Living City

In 2017, the City of Ottawa adopted a strong Urban Forest Management Plan designed to safeguard and strengthen Ottawa’s tree canopy. The plan contains a 20-year action plan that requires sustained attention and investment.

If elected, will you commit to fully implementing and fully funding the Urban Forest Management Plan?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. I believe trees should be treated as infrastructure.

 

Flooding and severe weather events are happening in Ottawa more frequently than in the past. It’s more important than ever that the City adapt to climate change by systematically scaling up development of green infrastructure – living and built systems designed to slow down, soak up, and filter rainwater, such as trees, rain gardens and permeable pavements. The City has the policy tools to do this, but remains at the pilot phase and has not moved to wide-scale implementation.

If elected, will you work to ensure that all street resurfacing and new road construction integrate green infrastructure wherever possible?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. As a resident of Belltown I have seen increased flooding in our community.

 

Urban greenspace is a precious commodity. Yet sprawling development patterns, infill developments, and road widenings regularly threaten our trees, greenspace and biodiversity.

If elected, will you commit to prioritizing greenspace preservation as part of the planning process?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. This needs to include protection of the Greenbelt.

 

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is proposing a permanent radioactive waste facility alongside the Ottawa River, upstream from Ottawa. Mayors of over 100 Quebec municipalities have banded together to oppose this proposal, citing a serious risk to drinking water from the Ottawa River.

If elected, will you join them in opposing this dangerous nuclear waste dump?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. Absolutely. This is a real threat to the quality of our water.

 

Waste Management

In March 2018, City Council changed its contract with Orgaworld to allow dog waste and other organics to be placed in green bins using non-compostable plastic bag liners. There’s no evidence that allowing plastics will encourage more people to compost. But the new rules will produce a new stream of unnecessary plastic waste that will complicate the disposal process and deliver lower-quality compost.

If elected, will you support rescinding the decision to allow non-compostable plastic bag liners and dog waste in the green bin program?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. We need to work towards a reduction of single use plastic bags.

 

Ottawa’s 44% waste recycling rate is the lowest of all major cities in Ontario, well below leading municipalities like York Region at 65%, Halton Region at 56%, and Toronto at 51%. That’s partly because Ottawa only spends 50¢ per household per year to promote the program and educate residents.

If elected, will you support tripling the level of funding for promotion and education for waste prevention, recycling, and green bin programs to at least $1.50 per household per year, a level closer to the average for large municipalities in Ontario?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES. Recycling needs more promotion and encouragement.

 

Ottawa’s 2011 waste management plan is out of date and irrelevant. The City has made no effort to update the plan, though the poor performance of its recycling and green bin programs falls far short of the 65% waste diversion rate in York Region, the leading municipality in the province.

If elected, will you support the development of a new waste management strategy and waste diversion action plan that follow best practices and set a 65% waste diversion target for Ottawa?

Theresa Kavanagh: YES.

 

If elected, what steps will you take to make Ottawa a leader on environmental issues during the next term of council?

Theresa Kavanagh: I would like to see the ban on single use plastics for starters. We also need to work towards as much self-sufficiency in energy use in city facilities.