Elisha Wallace helps build the sandbag barrier alongside her mom’s home that looks out over the Ottawa River in the community of Constance Bay as area residents anticipate rising water from the Ottawa River could possibly cause major flooding.
Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia
Canada’s capital city, which has been fighting rising river waters in its outlying communities, declared a climate emergency on Wednesday.Ottawa’s city council voted overwhelmingly to make the declaration as a way to show how serious the municipality is about protecting people from the impacts of climate change.It was a big win — and a somewhat surprising one — for Coun. Shawn Menard, who first brought the proposal for a climate-emergency declaration to the environment committee last week. On a council that doesn’t care much for making symbolic gestures, Menard managed to push through a motion that won over most of council’s leadership.Councillors who voted in favour of the climate emergency seem to like that the declaration also comes with actions.However, it’s likely that many council members followed the lead of the environment committee chair, Coun. Scott Moffatt, who worked with Menard on crafting a winnable motion.Moffatt, one of council’s fiscal conservatives, has stressed that he doesn’t believe climate-change initiatives and financial savings are mutually exclusive.More Canadian municipalities have been declaring climate emergencies this year, following in the footsteps of other international cities. In Ontario, Kingston and Hamilton made declarations last month.With the climate-emergency declaration, Ottawa city council directed staff to review and update the city’s air-quality and climate change management plan to make sure it aligns with research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and present options to meet reduction targets for greenhouse-gas emissions. A sponsors group of council will be struck to keep tabs on the initiatives.Some councillors were skeptical about various parts of the climate-emergency pitch.Coun. Rick Chiarelli said he didn’t like using the word emergency since it would “open the floodgates” to other important issues, like guns and gangs and homelessness, that could call for “emergency” status.Coun. Laura Dudas said she was worried about adding more bureaucracy to city hall by striking a council’s sponsors group tasked with monitoring the city’s climate-change initiatives. She also warned about “grey areas” that will have the city reconcile climate-change goals and building for a growing city.“We have to look at the give and take on everything and what the benefit is to our residents,” Dudas said.Coun. Carol Anne Meehan said the city has to walk the talk when it comes to slowing climate change, like investing in rapid bus transit and reducing traffic congestion.“I’m all for making sure we have a better climate, but gall darn it, let’s to the things that are common sense right now,” Meehan said.The council decision incurs a one-time cost of $250,000, which will be paid surplus revenue in the Hydro Ottawa dividend. That money will allow the city to speed up its work on renewable energy and energy conservation programs and allow it to conduct a more technical analysis of its goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.Councillors George Darouze and Allan Hubley voted against all of the climate-emergency proposals. Stage 2 audit fine with councilCity auditor general Ken Hughes has the political endorsement he needs to audit the Stage 2 O-Train procurement process.Council voted in favour of Hughes’s work plan, including work on the audit.Hughes added the audit to his to-do list after hearing concerns from some councillors and residents about how the city awarded contracts for the $4.6-billion Stage 2 program. City lawyers wouldn’t tell councillors about how the winning contractors scored in the bidding process.To make room for the Stage 2 audit, Hughes is delaying an audit of travel and hospitality.Other areas receiving audits include bylaw enforcement, fleet services, Lansdowne Park accounting, Stage 1 LRT contingency fund, Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe and Shenkman Arts Centre. Garbage collection contracts renewed, extra costs trickle down to homeownersOttawa homeowners will pay more for garbage pickup starting next year, now that council has approved three-year extensions with collection contractors.Council voted in favour of a proposal from city staff to sole-source the next collection contracts, rather than opening the contracts up to competition for a longer term.The city doesn’t know if the province will make changes to waste-management regulations. At the same time, the city is embarking on a review of its own waste-management policies. Changes to regulations and policies affect curbside garbage pickup contracts.The current garbage collection contracts expire on May 31, 2020.Waste Management has the west-Ottawa zone and Miller Waste Systems has two zones, both covering south Ottawa. The city’s own internal operations collect trash in the two remaining zones, which are east Ottawa and downtown.The average homeowner will pay about $10 more for garbage collection in each of 2020 and 2021 and about $2.50 more in 2022.
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