Tuesday, December 6, 2005

City of Ottawa Budget - 2006

Presentation to the Committee of the Whole of Ottawa City Council by Leonard Poole, representing the Community Council of Overbrook

Tuesday December 6, 2005

Good morning, my name is Leonard Poole. I am President of the Community Council of Overbrook and am speaking on their behalf.

Last year, during the 2005 budget consultations, we came to you with a strong message regarding our crumbling infrastructure, specifically the condition of our sewers, which allowed – for the third time in 20 years – raw human waste to enter the basements of many of our homes. It is a very serious problem, not only in Overbrook, but throughout various city neighbourhoods. We demanded action. We shall now report to you on the progress to date. We shall also provide our views on what more needs to be done, not only with respect to infrastructure renewal, but the importance of developing and sticking to a vision of sustainability in our budgetary process.

We did feel heard and you responded. You directed staff to investigate, and develop an action plan. In Overbrook staff identified three areas needing attention. Remedial work is scheduled to begin in the area of Eve and Spartan Avenues in 2006. Design work and consultation will begin for the area of Queen Mary and the Vanier Parkway in 2006, with construction scheduled for 2007. A third identified cluster area requires further investigation.

Some of us in Overbrook are cautiously optimistic that the proposed work may rectify the long-standing infrastructure issue in our community. There are many, however, who question whether or not this will provide us with a level of service that would be acceptable if proposed in newer areas of the city. What is planned in the Queen Mary Street area is replacement of the sewage waste pipe on that street only, with connection to the expanded Rideau River collector. It is suggested that replacement of this one pipe will deal with sewer backup issues on the adjoining streets such as King George, Vera and Glynn. No renewal of the storm sewer system is proposed.

Let me explain our skepticism. There has been a systemic failure to provide a sustainable level of investment in our infrastructure for decades. Backups of raw sewage in Overbrook have been documented for many years, starting in 1956, then again in 1958, 59, 60, 62, 66, 71, 86, 96, and most recently in 2004. The problem was extensively investigated in the seventies and again in the eighties, yet no action was taken. We found the substantial reports gathering dust in the Ottawa Public Library.

We shall continue to follow these proposals very closely. We are determined in our efforts to secure for our community a level of service that is comparable to what is delivered to other areas.

With respect to the budgetary process, we believe it essential that you not only develop but also stick to a vision of sustainability. The infrastructure problem in Overbrook did not happen overnight. We have known about it for fifty years. Yet, the city consistently failed to respond. For fifty years or more the city has lacked a sense of vision about sustainable investment in our infrastructure. For fifty years we have continually fallen back on shortsighted decisions made in an effort to trim costs today, while failing to take into account future long-term ramifications.

We note with alarm, for example, the considerable increase in transit fares. You justify this because you decided that an increased percentage of the cost of transit should be realized from the fare box. However, the long-term implication is that it acts as a deterrent to transit use, driving up the use of individual automobiles, resulting in greater traffic congestion problems, that require ever more investment in a road network and supporting traffic infrastructure. We already spend more per household on roads than any other municipality in this province. We continue to subsidize automobile use with the provision of roadways at no cost to the user. We know that travel by automobile is the least efficient way to move people. By making transit even more expensive, we are assuring ourselves of ever escalating costs into the future, continued reliance on automobiles for transportation, and continued deterioration in our air quality.

To many, the greatest threat to humankind in this century will be degradation of our environment due to global warming. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently issued a report concluding that if everyone in the world enjoyed Canada's standard of living, it would take four Earths to supply our needs and dispose of our waste. The City of Ottawa is 19% above that abysmal national average. We need to start designing our cities to take this into account and change our ways. Those cities that continue to use 1950’s thinking by building ever expanding suburbs will be faced with horrendous costs in the future as they scramble to respond to the new reality. More and more of us are beginning to recognize this and are starting to plan our lives around minimal automobile use. We need to incorporate renewable and sustainable thinking into every decision we make. Increasing transit fares is one example of a step in the wrong direction.

Sustainable thinking means moving away from decisions that are short term and satisfy only our immediate needs and desires. It means placing greater emphasis on the quality rather than the quantity of growth. It means thinking long term and recognizing that we have a responsibility to ensure that we leave a manageable and sustainable legacy for our future generations.

We conclude with our definition of fiscal responsibility:

It means making appropriate investments today to ensure that in the long term we spend the least amount of money.

No comments:

Post a Comment