News & Updates

Somerset Ward mailer volume 9: housing win, stopping harassment, Minto Park sale and more!

Dear neighbour,

I am writing this to you as I sit on a train on Sunday afternoon, on the way home from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ conference in Toronto. As you may know, my last job before running for office was on the communications team at FCM, so I had attended this conference for several years as a staffer. But it was truly an amazing experience to be there this year, as a newly elected councillor.

I did my best to soak up knowledge and connect with councillors and mayors from across Canada. What amazed me was that no matter where people came from, they told me about struggling with the same challenges we face in Ottawa. This includes the housing affordability crisis, homelessness, addiction, and climate resiliency. I learned about Toronto’s pilot Community Crisis Service – an non-police alternative that many of us are working to bring to Ottawa.

Somerset Ward mailer volume 8: Protecting indie music promoters and upcoming community events

Dear neighbour,

I hope you are as thrilled about the sunshine as I am. It has been so great to cycle to work at City Hall every day and see the number of people on bikes increase exponentially.

Festival season is well underway – last Friday I was at Lebreton Flats to help officially launch the Ottawa Children’s Festival. And earlier in the week, I was at the NAC for the official kickoff to Italian Week, which will take place on Preston Street in June. Right now is peak flower season and expect the area near Dow’s Lake and along the canal pathways to be packed with Tulip Fest visitors. It is such a pleasure to see the city come alive in this way.

Somerset Ward mailer volume 7: #OttawaNeedsMore, coffee with your councillor and Transportation Master Plan updates

Hi neighbour,

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine today. Thank you to all of you who have already sent letters to Premier Ford and to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, to demand that Ottawa get the funding we need to fight (and eventually solve) chronic homelessness. This is a rare situation where the Mayor, city council and the community sector are aligned. We all agree that #OttawaNeedsMore.

#OttawaNeedsMore to end homelessness

This week, we received some shocking news from the provincial government, news that impacts every single one of us in downtown Ottawa. We were told that the increase we would be receiving in funding to address homelessness and build much-needed affordable housing is a mere 0.4% ($845,000) of the additional funds being distributed in Ontario. Toronto, a city roughly three times the size of Ottawa, has received an increase that is 60 times that of ours.

What does this mean in real terms in downtown Ottawa? It means that our already-overflowing homeless shelters will have to turn people away.

Somerset Ward mailer volume 6

Hello and happy spring (for real),

It seems incredible that only a week ago, Ottawa was hit by a fierce ice storm and as I write this, the temperature is scheduled to hit 30 degrees. I would like to say that this is not a normal April, but it seems that climate change is leading to more extreme weather and dramatic temperature swings. And although we were largely lucky to not lose power for very long in Somerset Ward, we lost a lot of mature trees, both last week and in May 2022’s derecho storm.

This is particularly devastating in downtown Ottawa, where we have the lowest percentage of tree coverage in the National Capital Region – only 20%. The amount of tree coverage needed to mitigate climate change is estimated to be near 30-40%. We have a lot of work to do to recover from extreme weather and make our city more climate resilient.

Somerset Ward mailer volume 5: Hello spring

Hello neighbour,

Well, spring has technically sprung, even though the weather doesn’t really feel like it. The emails about snow clearing are starting to give way to messages about potholes and speeding. My staff is receiving all your messages and are committed to helping, both at an individual and systemic level.

At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, we discussed two issues that are synonymous with summer: e-scooters and patios. The committee heard a staff report detailing the accessibility and security features that were added to the e-scooters last season, dramatically decreasing the number of complaints.

Somerset Ward mailer volume 4: Budget season

I am writing this letter as I spend some time with my family on the long weekend, taking a moment to breathe after an intense couple of weeks at City Hall. Our deliberations on the 2023 budget continue, with city committees hearing from community delegates and passing each section of the budget that will rise to Council on March 1st.

Last week, I dissented on the section of the Planning and Housing budget related to affordable housing, because I believe that $15 million for new construction is not nearly enough. It's been three years since Ottawa declared a housing and homelessness emergency. Since then, the number of people sleeping outside has doubled. Over 12,000 people remain on the waiting list for subsidized housing.

Between 2019 and 2020, 8,619 people experienced homelessness in Ottawa, 46% of them for the first time. The yearly capital spend on affordable housing has not changed since 2019. In real terms, in the face of record inflation, this is a cut.

Have your say: upcoming opportunities to speak about the budget

La version française suit

The Ottawa city budget season is now in full swing, and I wanted to reach out to ensure that you have all the information you need to engage in the process.

The draft budget was presented to City Council on February 1st, and I posted a video with my initial reaction. As I mention in the video, my top concern is to ensure that there are no cuts to frontline services in our downtown core, particularly for seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and those who are struggling with addiction or mental health challenges.

As I flagged during the vote last year on budget direction, I am very concerned that a tax increase of only 2.5% will not provide the resources that the city needs to maintain essential infrastructure and run important social programs that our neighbours rely on.

More cold weather & resources

Instead of the snow we have come to expect, residents are facing some of the coldest temperatures we have seen in a while, hovering close to -40 with the wind chill. Due to this extreme weather, residents are encouraged to:

  1. Layer up and watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia if you are spending any time outside.
  2. Access City facilities to stay warm if needed.

Update on weekend demonstrations

I know many residents are feeling anxious and have legitimate concerns about the planned demonstrations commemorating the 1-year anniversary of the convoy that occupied our city last winter. I want to reassure you that I take those concerns very seriously, and I spoke with Kim Ayotte, General Manager of Emergency & Protective Services at the city, and my colleague Councillor Stéphanie Plante (Rideau-Vanier) this morning to make sure our offices have all the necessary information to support our communities.

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