Every Community Deserves a Chance

Today at Ottawa City Council there was a debate that took place on a strategic initiative for this term of Council that would see us begin to renew some of our most challenged communities.

The original proposal was that for the balance of 2015 we work to review communities across the city, select a candidate community to begin this renewal in and move forward.

Between the proposal and today, a change was made that pre-selected one community and abandoned a review of others that are also in need.

I spoke in favour of looking at all our neighbourhoods in need and about why this was important.

In the end, Council voted to support the path I am also in favour of – one that still moves quickly, but through a fair process, where residents across Ottawa in many neighbourhoods will get to contribute their voice and thoughts on how we should be rebuilding their neighbourhood. 

Click MORE to read the text of my remarks or listen to them here.



“Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Foster Farm, Michele Heights, Britannia Woods – they are all in Bay Ward. Pinecrest Terrace, Councillor Chiarelli mentioned in his ward, Rochester Heights in Councillor McKenney's ward.

All of these areas could be good candidates for renewal. All of them are home to residents who live in a community that wants to make improvements in their neighbourhood.

Part of the strategic renewal process, though, I believe, is we should be doing what was originally intended: we should decide to renew a community in a way we have never done before and then work with our partner in Ottawa Community Housing and City housing staff as well as residents to select the community to start this process in – the community most likely to succeed.

This could be Albion-Heatherington, but it might not be.

I am not sure how the residents of Albion Heatherington or others who have declared their support can have done so in anything more than general terms. Is it desirable to renew the community? Sure. Does that mean mixed use housing? Does it mean commercial space? Does is mean relocating some residents? Does it mean a mix of rent supplements and affordable housing? 

As the former chair of Community and Protective Services [Committee], in my work with AMO [The Association of Municipalities of Ontario] on the Affordable Housing Task Force, as a member of the OCH [Ottawa Community Housing ] board I’m all in favour of action. I think we should be doing absolutely as much as we can to try and effect change.

But we cannot get this wrong just because we want to get it done now. There seems to an urgency to this queue jumping that I don’t quite understand.

This cannot be a case of ready, fire, aim.

You have to follow a process. You can’t throw process out the window because you’ve got a hot issue in your ward.

Ottawa Community Housing is in the middle of an asset review, looking at the condition and context of every OCH community in the city, this is important work that our staff are working on and that will be ready in time to implement actual changes in 2016 – the same time that the strategic initiative money in discussion will be available.

When OCH CEO Stéphane Giguère was here at Council a short while ago I asked the question of him, pointing to this report, asking how it scrubs with the work his staff are already fully engaged in. Spending time, money and effort. His answer, very diplomatically was – it doesn’t. So, we are well into work to determine community needs across the city but we should just abandon it now and pick one before the results are in?

We have a shelter system in need of attention. We have communities across the city deserving of attention and renewal. We have an opportunity to go back and re-do some of these older neighbourhoods the way we now know is more healthy and builds more caring communities. But, most of all, we have a responsibility to do this right, and we shouldn’t be picking a site to begin this work without allowing our staff and our own Ottawa Community Housing to complete a review and guide us to the best right start.

I understand what Councillor Deans is trying to do. She’s acting as the ward councillor and trying to get her community first in line. If that's what's before us today though then I am going to pick a neighbourhood from my ward I think deserves this kind of attention. I suspect other Councillors here would want to as well. But if this is about doing what's best for the most in need, then every challenged community deserves to be considered. 

One final point – this isn’t a high level exercise for me. Years ago I lived in Ottawa Community Housing on Caldwell Avenue, a community that could just as likely be a candidate for this type of renewal. What I can tell you residents want more than us rushing to change their neighbourhood is us working with them to make sure we do things right, in the right place, for those who need it most first. 

These are the reasons why I am in support of Councillor Harder’s motion [reverting to the original purpose of the strategic monies] and I encourage my colleagues to support this as well.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”

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