Prepared by “The People’s Official Plan for Ottawa’s Climate Emergency” working group.

Humanity is facing a climate emergency, and cities are at the centre of the solution—which makes Ottawa’s new Official Plan a once-in-a-generation opportunity to point the City toward a carbon-free, climate-safe future.

The City of Ottawa has declared a climate emergency. From now till 2050 is the timespan to translate that commitment into action. That makes the new Official Plan an essential catalyst for dramatic, unprecedented measures to lower the City’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and protect every citizen from the worst effects of climate change.

Many elements of the “Five Big Moves” for Ottawa’s Official Plan described by the City’s Planning Department, and early outlines of Energy Evolution and the Climate Change Master Plan, are consistent with our vision of a sustainable city that is also caring, creatively engaged and prosperous. The City also acknowledges, as we do, that the Ottawa region is part of the traditional and unceded territory of the Anishinaabe nation.

While these positions are encouraging, we believe that the City must first and foremost adopt land use policies that are also climate solutions. This means it must:

  1. Protect the rural lands and green spaces that provide us with the ecosystem services that make life in the Ottawa region possible. That means permitting no expansion of the current urban boundary, or boundaries of the villages located in rural Ottawa, but rather holding the line(s) needed to build a future city that is cleaner, safer and healthier.
  2. Support urban intensification that results in relatively dense, multi-use and socially integrated communities that are walkable, connected and green. The Official Plan must accommodate projected population growth fairly and sensibly across all planning contexts (villages, outer urban, inner urban and downtown core).

We do not want the City’s new Official Plan to expand the urban boundary for the following reasons:

  1. It would increase carbon emissions through the thousands of additional kilometers driven by new population dispersed in the farthest reaches of the urban area, when we should be reducing GHG emissions.
  2. It would take out of service rural lands that are far better than urban lands at capturing and storing carbon, which we need to protect ourselves from the worst effects of the climate crisis.
  3. It would undermine the Climate Change Master Plan by locking in a carbon emission future higher than it needs to be.
  4. 4. In a climate emergency, not expanding the urban boundary must be the first option to be fully developed and not abandoned until all manner of possible solutions have been exhausted. The City has not yet demonstrated that it has done its best to hold the line(s).
  5. The provincial policy requires the City to maintain at all times the ability to accommodate residential growth for a minimum of 10 years. There is almost certainly a path to achieve this policy requirement, for all housing types, through a combination of intensification, redevelopment and new builds in already designated growth areas. Choosing to find this path without expanding the city boundary is a policy decision that can be made now.
  6. It is within your power as an elected official to say no to expansion of the urban boundary. Under the Planning Act, there are specific matters that cannot be appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, including appeals for matters related to provincial decisions on official plans and major official plan updates where the Minister is the approval authority under section 26 of the Planning Act. This is the case for the comprehensive review that the City is now conducting.

City Council must consider and debate these arguments carefully, and decide unequivocally to hold the line(s) on urban expansion.