Dear Mayor Watson and City Councillors,
For Our Kids Ottawa/Gatineau represents a group of ~400 parents from the region who are very concerned about the fact that Ottawa hasn't, to this day, acted on the climate emergency it declared 18 months ago. For the future of our children and grandchildren, we need to see bold and immediate action.
Today, Ottawa is under three emergencies: 1) a climate emergency, 2) a housing and homelessness emergency, and 3) a state of emergency to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that has starkly revealed the deep gender and racial inequalities in our city. These emergencies are related, and we can no longer put one crisis aside while we work on another; homelessness will not “wait”, nor will climate change. The City can no longer address climate change in a silo, as it is evident that climate change impacts health and homelessness, and its effects are unevenly distributed across races and socioeconomic statuses.
We need the City of Ottawa council to make decisions, both budget and policy decisions, through the lens of health, climate and housing. Will your decisions help turn the climate crisis around, or will they lock us into a deadly carbon-intensive future? Will your decisions be working for all racialized and minority groups, or will they better serve only some?
You are meeting on November 4 to decide the future of our City. Here is where we want to see action:
Energy Evolution (EE): Significant time and study have been taken to come to this strategy. Now is the time for implementation. Allocate and use the $2.6 million HydroOne surplus on this strategy. Increase the EE budget over the coming years (from the city budget, not a surplus that is not a certainty)
Climate action: As identified in EE, one of our city's largest emitters of carbon dioxide is vehicles, and not just personal vehicles. Invest in clean energy infrastructure for our city - electric public transit buses, garbage trucks, etc. Provide incentives and rebates so that electric vehicles are accessible to all citizens (by approaching the provincial/federal government and maximizing all grants).
Invest in our public transit system. Fares cannot continue to increase for a poorly designed and performing system. The LRT lines primarily help with commuting, not regular travel. We support the 15-minute neighborhood plan - we want to see funding in the budget for this plan. Limit unnecessary expansion of our urban boundary and ensure intensification is done in a way that maintains the important tree canopy.
Fully implement all improvements identified in the Urban Forest Management Plan and commit to a 40% canopy cover target to protect and expand our urban forest. Outdoor spaces are so important for mental and physical health, which was highlighted during the pandemic. We need to ensure we actively protect it.
We want the City to Divest the City’s financial investments in fossil fuels and invest these funds in green projects or use as capital for climate/friendly infrastructure.
Bring the conversation of climate action to the forefront of the City and its councillors’ discussions and communications with residents. Climate change is a substantial threat to our lives and our leaders need to be talking about it more frequently.
The pandemic has shown we cannot go back to the old normal, because our normal is what is making us sick and has brought us to climate and homelessness emergencies. As our elected officials, you have an historic opportunity for bold decisions that will affect our children for years to come. We count on you to bring a new normal that is healthy and safe for everyone.
For Our Kids Ottawa/Gatineau