Hello and Happy New Year.
I am writing this message to you in the midst of a winter storm, a day with weather similar to when I sat down to write this opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen. In any cold weather, my first thought goes to our neighbours experiencing homelessness and to the hard-working people who provide frontline services and emergency shelter.
The pandemic has been tough for so many of us, and the shift to remote work has been especially difficult for downtown businesses. The revitalization of downtown Ottawa (particularly the north part of Centretown) presents both challenges and opportunities. But as I write in the Citizen, we cannot expect the core to bounce back without increased investment in affordable housing and community services.
In December, I shared comments at the council table about my deep concern that a tax increase of only 2-2.5% would leave frontline services in the downtown core without the resources they need to help the growing number of people who are struggling with addiction, poverty and mental health. In a meeting with Mayor Sutcliffe last week, I reiterated that I can only support the 2023 city budget if we see no cuts to social services and a deeper investment in affordable housing and frontline support for our neighbours.
City Council will receive the draft budget on February 1st, and we will vote on it at a meeting on March 1st. My office is in the process of organizing a public education and consultation session about the city budget, in collaboration with Councillors Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper. Details to follow, but save the date for a virtual session on Wednesday, February 15 at 7pm.
You can follow me on Twitter, but please make sure to also follow our Somerset Ward account, which is managed by staff. I am also active on Facebook and Instagram. I post regular video updates after council and committee meetings and am committed to sharing the thinking that goes into the decisions I make on behalf of our ward.
Stay warm and enjoy the snow,