Happy New Year, crisis pilot update, response to recent tickets and VUT declaration time

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to get some downtime and the ability to connect with friends and loved ones over the last couple of weeks. I am back from a family trip and gearing up for a busy few weeks at City Hall and in the community. While things have been relatively quiet since I last wrote to you, I wanted to update you on a few key issues.

Ariel, with MPPs Joel Harden and Chandra Pasma, at Ottawa ACORN's holiday party

At the end of December, it was announced that the Centretown and Somerset West Community Health Centres were chosen to lead the upcoming safer alternative response pilot that will soon be coming to Centretown. When the program launches, Centretown residents will be able to call 211 if we find a neighbour in distress, who may be experiences an overdose or suffering from a mental health episode. The new service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will provide quick response times within the Centretown catchment.

I will provide more updates as the program comes together, but I am absolutely thrilled that CCHC and SWCHC were chosen. Both organizations have deep connections in the community, a strong background in harm reduction and are part of a network of clinics providing primary care in Ottawa. Thanks to the Ottawa Guiding Council on Mental Health and Addictions for all of the hard work that is going in to envisioning and launching this crucial new service.

On another topic, I have received hundreds of emails from residents concerned about bylaw tickets that were handed out to protestors at recent anti-war demonstrations for using a megaphone on city streets. I have attended many other authorized and unauthorized rallies in Ottawa over the last 20 years, virtually all of which used megaphones.

I unequivocally support the right to protest and reject any comparison to the convoy in the winter of 2022. Equating peaceful, reoccurring, local protests on humanitarian issues with the invasive, destructive, incessant behaviour of the convoy minimizes the real and lasting harm done to downtown communities two years ago, as well as diminishes the work of the organizers of the current protests.

Many in Ottawa are grieving the loss of loved ones in Israel and Palestine and the emotion and distress of these events should be approached with empathy and flexibility. Neither I or council have the authority to direct past or future enforcement activity, but I sincerely hope that By-law Services will reconsider this approach. You can read my full statement on this issue on my website.

Thanks to all of you for your patience as city crews clean up after our first winter storm of the year. As always, please email us at [email protected] if you spot any locations that remain troublesome or need assistance reaching city staff.




Complete your Vacant Unit Tax declaration

It’s time for Ottawa homeowners to complete their online Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) forms at ottawa.ca/vut for each residential property they own before the March 21 deadline. A $250 late fee will be applied to all declarations filed after the deadline.

In addition to online declarations, The City has set up declaration options for residents who require accessibility related supports, and for those without access to the internet or digital devices – like computers, tablets and other hand-held devices.

  • Call 613-580-2444 where an agent will help complete your declaration over the phone.
  • Call 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service.
  • City’s Client Service Centres can provide in-person assistance for completing the declaration. Priority will be given to scheduled appointments. Visit ca/csc for locations and appointments.

OCDSB kindergarten registration now open

If your child is turning 4 in 2024, you can now register for Kindergarten at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB). In January and February, OCDSB elementary schools across Ottawa will be holding Kindergarten Information Nights to allow parents/caregivers to learn more about the program and school.

For more information and to register your child, visit: ocdsb.ca/kindergarten or contact your local OCDSB school.

March break and summer camp registration

Start planning your recreation and culture activities for 2024! The City of Ottawa’s March break and summer camps are online now for browsing at register.ottawa.ca. Registration opens Tuesday, January 16 at 9 pm.

Camps are affordable and flexible and children are supervised by qualified staff in a safe and enriching environment. They are offered in English and French for children aged four to 14, both in-person and virtual.

Help maintain the rink at McNabb Park

A small group of Centretown residents have been maintaining the outdoor skating rink at McNabb Park for the last few years on a volunteer basis and need more help to keep it in great shape and expand the skating season. Volunteers are needed to help flood the ice in the late evening, shovel and snow blow after snow falls, and in other creative ways. High School students can earn volunteer hours required for graduation as well!

If this is of interest, please send a message to [email protected] for more information and to get involved!

Community Economic Development Funding Program applications open

The City of Ottawa is now accepting applications for the annual Community Economic Development Funding Program. Grants are available for non-profit organizations that are starting projects focused on:

  • creating jobs
  • creating businesses
  • developing entrepreneurship and employability skills

Successful applicants will demonstrate how their projects will create jobs for Ottawa residents and benefit those who are under-represented in the mainstream economy such as:

  • lower income youth
  • new Canadians
  • racialized communities

This program awards a total of up to $280,000 per year, distributed among the proposals that are selected by a jury panel. Please consult the full eligibility criteria for more details.

Applications are open until Friday, February 9 at 4 pm.

Tell us what you think about commemorative naming

Over 350 streets, parks and facilities across Ottawa bear the names of individuals who made extraordinary contributions to the city and its residents. The current Commemorative Naming Program has been in place for the past 20 years. The City is seeking your input to modernize a policy that aligns with Ottawa’s values.

To get involved, complete an online survey on Engage Ottawa to share your feedback on the Commemorative Naming Program and help shape a revised policy that will contribute to Ottawa’s legacy for generations to come. 

Engage Ottawa: have your say on the new recreation pass proposal

The City of Ottawa offers many recreational services to encourage residents to keep active and healthy. Currently, residents can participate in activities like swimming, skating, weights and cardio, aquafitness and group fitness classes in more than 20 recreation facilities.

To ensure residents are paying fair costs for the services they are accessing, the City is reviewing its model for memberships and admissions. Recreation services can be accessed by paying a drop-in admission fee, by purchasing a membership or by buying a multi-visit pass.

The goal of the new membership and admissions model is to fairly redistribute the costs of recreation services and is not intended to boost revenues. The majority of members would pay a similar rate to what they’re paying now, and some may even see a slight decrease in their fees. There are some membership categories that will see an increase to their fees.

There will continue to be discounts for specific groups, including children, youth, seniors and families. Ottawa’s Hand-in-Hand financial assistance program will continue to be available for lower-income individuals and families.

Fill out the Engage Ottawa survey to have your say.

Be a #HydrantHero this winter

Clearing 1.5 metres around a hydrant maintains access for firefighters and helps them keep you, your family and your community safe.

Learn more about how to prep your home for winter online here.

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