2020/07/08 (updated on 2021/08/31)

Dear Mayor Watson,

We, the undersigned, understand that you have instructed the City’s Planning Department and Finance Services Department to present solutions to the forecast 2020 deficit. Please outline for us and the public the criteria and weighting being used to guide the budget reprofiling. This is needed because proposed adjustments must reflect explicit public policy objectives, including the Climate and Housing and Homelessness Emergencies declared by Council this term. Budget cuts, deferrals and use of the sizeable City reserve, while an unfortunate consequence of the COVID-19 emergency, cannot be treated as an internal accounting exercise. Budget reprofiling of this scale is an exercise in public policy and consequently requires a reasoned, transparent and justifiable basis for decision.

We also understand that a draft proposal, to be tabled at FEDCO and Council in August includes a 75% cut to the City’s only dedicated climate action plan. This very modest climate plan is ready for implementation and is a matter of the utmost urgency considering the dire consequences of the current climate trajectory. There may very well be other items in the budget reprofiling proposal, or absent from the proposal, that should be considered in light of established Council priorities. For example, is the Strandherd project of $113 million, which is primarily a car and fossil-fuel oriented investment, included among the cuts and deferrals? Can the proposal consider digging deeper into the City’s reserves to conserve plans and priorities put in place as a result of the Emergency declarations of this Council? If not, why not?

Governments at all levels around the world, and many members of the public, have clearly flagged as a priority a commitment to build back better when investing in COVID-19 recovery. For example, the Federal Government and most advanced economies in the world have been clear that they intend to use current budgets and economic stimulus funds and policies to quickly transition out of fossil fuel dependency while also addressing the underlying conditions of racism and social exclusion affecting our society. Part of the reasoning is that investments of this nature have demonstrably more positive impacts on job creation than investments in a destructive fossil fuel future.

We should all expect and receive transparency, progressive leadership and reasoned decision making from municipal authorities on matters of significant public policy, including the use of public funds. For this reason, please immediately make public the criteria being used to guide the budget reprofiling process, and engage with Council and the public in discussion of the priorities reflected in these criteria. Otherwise, you will have missed a significant opportunity to show leadership and a commitment to people at this time of multiple and inter-related crises.

Daniel Buckles, People’s Official Plan for Ottawa’s Climate Emergency

Erwin Dressen, Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital

Duncan Atkins Bury, Waste Watch Ottawa

Gillian Koh, The Hintonburg Community Association

James O’Grady, Unpublished Ottawa

Kathryn Norman, Peace and Environment Resource Centre

Heather Dunlop, Ottawa South Eco-Action Network

Liz Bernstein, Lowertown Community Association