Kelly: Talking rural issues in Toronto

The Councillor's Column

Having just returned from my trip to Toronto as the City of Ottawa’s delegate to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference, I am energized and encouraged by the experience of being surrounded by 1,600 other representatives from rural Ontario. This was a record number of delegates which shows the strength of the rural voice in our province. 

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Many of the challenges we face here in West Carleton-March are the same ones experienced by rural communities and municipalities right across the province. The conference covered many subjects. The sessions I decided to attend and the vendors I spent time with were focused on: better roads and road maintenance, supporting seniors in rural communities, investments in rural infrastructure, rural connectivity, preservation of farmland, and dealing with emergencies such as floods and tornadoes.

I look forward to preparing a report for Ottawa City Council on the ideas and solutions that were presented at the conference that could be helpful in making life better for the people of West Carleton-March and for all the rural residents of Ottawa.

As we continue to dig ourselves out of snow drifts and look forward to a nearing spring, I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you what has been happening at our Council Office over the past few weeks. We have interacted with many residents and helped them in dealing with the City-related issues that affect their daily lives.

We have heard a lot about the Vacant Unit Tax and helped many complete their declarations, alleviating some of the frustration created by the rollout of this tax program. I have heard – and brought to the Mayor and Council – a significant amount of feedback about individual circumstances necessitating the inclusion of more exemptions from the tax and have attempted to bring forward solutions.

We have been approached about road safety by many constituents and my team and I are actively working to finalize the ward 5 plan for 2023 Traffic Calming Measures. There will be some tough decisions to make as the resources each office is provided will fall significantly short of the number of areas in our ward where road safety is a common issue. I also intend to work with my colleagues on the Police Services Board in an attempt to increase speeding enforcement in West Carleton-March.

The past two weeks have been busy. I attended the first meeting of the Built Heritage committee on Jan. 17 and commented on the need for any renovations to first consider the goals of the heritage committee to ensure the history that can be seen in our buildings remains visible and vibrant, while also ensuring renovations are affordable and appropriate.

Next, was a Planning and Housing committee meeting that discussed the applications for re-zoning around our city. All of my decisions were based on my belief the city needs to ensure it is developing in a smart and sustainable manner, while also maximizing the number of affordable units in our city. When making these decisions, I always take into account the need of the area and how a project meets that need, as well as the comments and presentations from the people who live in the area. Public consultation is very important in guiding how I choose how to vote. I believe it is my job as Councillor to have all information available to make the right decision for residents of West Carleton–March.

This week’s council meeting was a long and consequential one for our city. It was during this meeting that council approved a settlement with Rideau Transit Group. Settling with RTG will undoubtedly upset many Ottawa residents and I certainly understand that sentiment, given the performance of Ottawa’s LRT system. This is not a direction I would have supported if I did not believe, wholeheartedly, it was the best option for the taxpayers of Ottawa.

The settlement agreement resolves the Notice of Default that came about following the Aug. 8 and Sept. 19 derailments. The agreement also outlines a plan to address the issues that led to the derailments and come to a sustainable resolution of the axle-bearing assembly issues. RTG has committed to achieving a resolution of these issues for all O-Train Line 1 light rail vehicles before the opening of the Stage 2 East Extension. I believe it is also worth noting this agreement does not limit the city’s ability to pursue further legal action in the future should RTG not live up to its commitments.

Also during this week’s council meeting, along with the majority of councillors, I voted to take a step back on the procurement of electric buses for the City of Ottawa. Council will now be sending the motion to approve spending to the Transit Commission for a special meeting, where councillors and public delegations could further explore the viability, reliability, and other areas of concern shared by members of the public and council alike. I think this is particularly important in light of the findings of The Ottawa Light Rail Transit Public Inquiry which severely damaged the trust the public has in the procurement process around transit projects.

Next week at Council, the 2023 Draft Budget will be tabled. I look forward to debating this at Council and I’m also looking forward to consulting with the constituents of West Carleton-March on Feb. 7 to get your thoughts, ideas, and feedback to bring back to the council table.

Over the coming weeks, I hope everyone gets the chance to enjoy the beauty of winter here in West Carleton-March and as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and my team if you think we can be of assistance. 

To read all Coun. Clarke Kelly’s columns, click here.

The preceding column was written by City of Ottawa Ward 5 Coun. Clarke Kelly, part of the councillor’s ongoing, bi-weekly column for West Carleton Online, made available to the entire community through an agreement with the publisher.

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