26/02/2024

First City Council meeting of 2024

 

Over the past few days, I’ve run into a few friends and colleagues for the first time in 2024. Someone will say, “Happy New Year” and then someone else will ask, “Is it still okay to say that when we’re three weeks into the new year?” I don’t know where you stand on the deadline for saying Happy New Year, but it is our first Council meeting of 2024, so I think it’s a good time to reflect on what happened over the last 12 months and what’s ahead of us this year.

I’m sure many of you are hoping I will deliver a state-of-the-city speech lasting an hour or more, but I’m afraid, as I did last year, I’m going to have to disappoint you once again by providing only a few brief remarks.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I spoke at our first Council meeting of 2023. Since then, I think we’ve accomplished a great deal. We’ve passed not just one but two budgets. 


We’ve taken some important steps forward with our federal and provincial partners on a number of different objectives.

And we’ve made some other important decisions that will shape the future of our city, including hiring a new City manager, setting our priorities for this term of Council, launching a working group to find savings and efficiencies at City Hall, and taking the first step toward building an even better Lansdowne Park.

I know not all of these decisions have been unanimous, but I have heard from many residents that they’re pleased with the professional and respectful tone of our Council as we’ve dealt with many difficult issues.

The two budgets we’ve adopted have taken a balanced, responsible, and practical approach.

We’ve delivered on my campaign promise to keep taxes low while investing in our core services.

We’ve found tens of millions of dollars in savings and efficiencies so that, like many families in our city, we are prioritizing and spending within our means.

That has allowed us to invest even more deeply in our priorities, including fixing our roads and sidewalks, building more affordable housing, hiring more paramedics and police officers, and building more recreation centres and parks for our residents. And it’s allowed us to respect the affordability crisis that our residents are facing.

It’s typical to start a new year with hope and optimism. And I’m sure all of us have a renewed energy to deliver results for the people of Ottawa.

But not everyone in our community is feeling optimistic.

I’ve spoken to many residents in recent weeks who are starting the year more concerned than ever about rising costs. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet. There is a lot of anxiety about interest rates, inflation, and economic uncertainty. Many people are worrying about the cost of rent and mortgage payments, and the price of food.

That’s the experience of our residents right now and we must continue not just to respect that but to respond to it.

So, as I look ahead to this year, I’m focused on a few important things.

I intend to continue serving the needs of all residents throughout Ottawa: those who live in our rural communities and villages, our suburban neighbourhoods, and our urban core.

I intend to continue respecting the financial pressures that our residents are facing and ensure we are not adding to their burden with significant increases in taxes and fees.

I intend to continue to work collaboratively with each and every one of you, as I have since this term of Council began, so we are always putting our residents first.

I intend to ensure we are building more homes and investing in the much-needed infrastructure to support this growth.

I intend to continue bringing a balanced, responsible approach to our work.

We have a lot of important initiatives this year, including the rural summit, the pilot project for an alternative response for mental health calls, and some important progress on building recreation facilities and improving our infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks, recreation centres and parks.

We’ve already started to work on the 2025 budget. As I’ve said before, we are facing significant pressures that will make the 2025 budget the most difficult we’ve faced to date.

But we must continue to bring the balanced, responsible approach we have so far, investing in our core services and greatest priorities while keeping taxes as low as possible for our residents.

So I encourage all of us to continue working effectively and collaboratively together on behalf of the people of Ottawa. Let’s continue the balanced approach that has brought us this far. Let’s keep Ottawa affordable for everyone.

And with that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to share some very good news.

After some very productive negotiations with our federal partners, I’m pleased to share today that I have signed an agreement for funding from the Housing Accelerator Fund. The full details of this significant investment for our city will be provided in a formal announcement in the coming days, but I wanted to share the news today that we have an agreement.

This funding will greatly amplify our efforts to build affordable housing and streamline the planning approval process.

I want to thank the local members of parliament who have been working hard on behalf of Ottawa to secure this funding. I also want to thank Housing Minister Sean Fraser and the Prime Minister for their collaboration throughout this process.

Again, I’m looking forward to a more formal announcement in the near future.

So, this is excellent news for our city. But it doesn’t stop there. We must continue to work hard to secure the support we need from other levels of government. This is one of my biggest goals for 2024.

We need the help of both the federal and provincial governments so we can make Ottawa a better, safer, and more affordable city for everyone.

And with that, let’s get started. I’ll ask the deputy clerk to do the roll call.