CBC: Councillors eye solution to keep community associations insured

"I thought it was fairly inappropriate for city staff to have had two years of deliberations, ostensibly with community groups, and to come back with a report this past winter that says we're going to kill the program," said College ward Coun. Laine Johnson.

Full story: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/community-association-insurance-cost-ottawa-change-plan-1.7105303

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Draft Wildlife Strategy

DRAFT REPORT

The City has been reviewing its Wildlife Strategy, a document that outlines how we interact with our wildlife neighbours. The report will go to committee on June 17, 2024 for consideration, and to Council at a later date.

While reviewing the strategy, I made some first-impression notes. Here's what I saw:

Draft Wildlife Strategy - live notes

I’m reading through the Wildlife Strategy that went online last night. It will be tabled at a committee meeting on June 17. Here are my immediate thoughts as I read it:

This strategy is an update from the 2013 doc. It admits a lot has changed, including impacts of climate change. And public opinion has shifted: residents want animals that enter the city rescued, not killed.

Last year’s shooting of a young bear by police caused outrage and much of the public does not want it to happen again. This report is supposed to address that issue, among other things.

From the top, the report talks about “wildlife-transmitted disease” but focuses on Lyme Disease. I don’t think ticks are what anyone meant by “wildlife” but that’s an issue we can discuss.

Report notes that By-law Enforcement is responsible for transfer of sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife to Humane Society, vets, and rehabs.

On to public feedback: residents’ priorities are better education to prevent conflicts; reduction or elimination of lethal wildlife practices, including for beavers and coyotes; and asks that the strategy include protections for birds. More work is needed on birds…

Animal rehab orgs complain that the City completely depends on them to take in injured and orphaned animals but doesn’t fund them at all. This does seem unfair.

Big section on the Official Plan, which calls for protection of habitat. Says City will prioritize habitat protection and purchases. This is good.

Establishes advisory board to meet twice yearly. Includes experts!

Calls to review the city’s wildlife web pages twice/year, to better identify who to call about wildlife (this has been a big problem) and to do more social media about animals.

Great recommendations to consider locations for wildlife crossings over/under roads and highways, something Ottawa has lacked

Big section on mitigation costs – the City has to mitigate for protected species at risk under provincial law. This means that when a developer wants to expand and it might affect critical habitat, the City has to pay for habitat maintenance and replacement. The city wants to find a way to charge someone for this.

The 2013 report recommended the hiring of a wildlife specialist. They never hired anyone. This report recommends that too, but has found temporary funding.

That’s good news. But the report also depends on that one staffer to solve the problem of big mammals (bears, moose, etc) entering neighbourhoods. I think this needs clarity…

Beavers: City currently hires trappers to kill beavers that dam “drains” (e.g. streams, rivers, ditches). Many residents have called for this to stop.

Report recommends continuing current practices while looking into alternatives. This is definitely an area I’d like to see further considered…

Coyotes: report recognizes that coyotes are less dangerous than lightening and that killing coyotes doesn’t actually make a difference. Recommends working with Coyote Watch Canada to educate the public. $48K/year.

Finally, says clearing vegetation in spring and summer is problematic for breeding birds and animals, but admits that limiting them to fall and winter is impractical. No solutions offered, so we’ll need to work on this one, too.

Overall, many residents will be disappointed in this report. It makes some positive changes, but also sticks with the status quo on several pieces.

I’ll continue working on this file in the coming weeks.

Johnson: How cycling lanes across Highway 417 will transform Ottawa

Ottawa Citizen Op-ed: How cycling lanes across Highway 417 will change Ottawa | Ottawa Citizen

Almost daily, as the city councillor for College Ward, I see families squeezing down the narrow edge of a Highway 417 overpass to reach the other side — to get to school, to daycare, to shopping. It’s scary. And what happens when people are too scared to walk or cycle? They drive.

And daily, I receive emails from residents who are frustrated with congestion, speeding and buses not getting them where they need to go on time.

We now are being given the chance to start addressing it all.

With a new agreement between the Province of Ontario and the City of Ottawa, we will see four spans across Highway 417 replaced with enough width for an actual sidewalk, and actual cycle tracks with protection from the vehicles. They are: the Richmond Road interchange; Pinecrest interchange; Woodroffe interchange; and Maitland interchange.

Since these spans are replaced only every 75 years, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for two levels of government to work together and invest in a vision that creates real choice for people about how they want to get around. And we did. The city is contributing $5.4 million from its active transportation budget to pay for one, and the province is absorbing the cost of the other three in question.

 

Map of Highway 417 interchanges
Four interchanges will get bike lanes in future.

 

Why is this so significant? The provincial Ministry of Transportation is responsible for enacting provisions of the Highway Traffic Act. It’s in the primary business of moving people by car down the highway, over the spans, and up and down the access ramps, as efficiently as possible.

However, when that highway bisects a city as the 417 does Ottawa? For those in cars, it’s a east-west access. For everyone else, it’s a wall.

As Ottawa has grown, College Ward, once the heart of the City of Nepean, is no longer on the edge of the city. We now have large suburbs all around whose residents want access to what our city has to offer both north and south: the river, the LRT, the Greenbelt, shopping, schools, good employers. This growing population is straining our transportation network, and we are taking longer to get to where we want to go.

We sit in traffic. Buses sit in traffic. Cut-through traffic comes in to residential neighbourhoods at high speeds. The city pays for temporary traffic-calming but we can barely keep up. So people don’t feel safe to walk or bike anywhere, which means you’re going to choose to drive and sit in traffic. You’re not going to opt for a bus because it can’t get you anywhere on time (the most recent statistics from OC Transpo cited that 32 per cent of trips not delivered on time were because of on-street service adjustments, including traffic congestion). You’re locked into a bad choice. Does that feel like freedom to you?

It doesn’t feel like freedom for me, when I have to load two kids in snowsuits into a car in winter just to go get a bag of milk. It doesn’t feel like freedom for the parent who is late for work because they feel compelled to drive their kid to school, four blocks away. It doesn’t feel like freedom for those kids who don’t want to get dropped off by said parents because it’s too embarrassing. It doesn’t feel like freedom for the paramedic who is trying to reach an incident but no one can move over.

We need safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure so that the people who can, will choose to walk or cycle to get something done. They can make that choice and decrease the number of cars on the road. The fewer cars on the road, the less congestion there is for those who can’t choose anything but a vehicle, and we get our buses moving around better. We get some actual freedom of movement within our communities, which increases local spending, enhances neighbourhood relationships and community safety, and gives us better air to breathe.

I was glad to work with MTO and city staff for a vision that promotes freedom of choice in our growing city.

Laine Johnson is the city councillor for College Ward.

 

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