Ward options see little change for WC

WEST CARLETON – The city’s Finance and Economic Development committee (FEDCO) heard from its team of ward boundary review consultants yesterday (July 7) who presented several options as part of the ongoing ward boundary review.

The city hired independent consultants to review the city’s ward system and propose boundaries that would better represent Ottawa’s growing population.

To see the complete documents related to the ward boundary review, click here.

Last March the city through the consultants began phase one of public consultation process. There was an online survey, an email address (wardboundary@ottawa.ca) dedicated to receiving ward boundary comments and public meetings. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, only two of nine public meetings were able to be held.

Based on consultations with councillors, residents and stakeholders, the consultant developed five options:

Add two wards, for a total of 25 wards

Add one ward, for a total of 24 wards – this option requires the fewest changes to existing boundaries

Maintain 23 wards – this includes two options, with two alternate ways to change existing boundaries

Remove six wards, for a total of 17 wards

Only one of the options distinctively affects the current Ward 5 West Carleton-March boundary – the option to remove six wards for a total of 17. That option would reduce rural wards from three to two and basically double the size of Ward 5 in both land mass and population.

“What’s in there today is a report to receive,” FEDCO member and Ward 5 councillor Eli El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online yesterday following the meeting (July 7). “The other options are more traditional but other than that, there aren’t really any changes for us.”

And El-Chantiry doesn’t really think the 17-ward system is feasible.

“Impossible to achieve,” he said. “Really ridiculous. All the rural area of Ottawa would be represented by two councillors. The Supreme Court demands for representation.”

Ward 5 already has the most roads in the city (more than 830 kilometres worth) and the most geographic area.

“We’re larger than all of Calgary by 50 square kilometres,” El-Chantiry said. “Even Cumberland is growing to the place where in eight more years in will be 60,000 people. So, their issues are not the same as our issues.”

The last ward boundary review in 2005 was “defeated by the Ontario Municipal Board,” El-Chantiry said.

At the time, El-Chantiry spoke with the South March Community Association, one he says was fairly active at the time and had a few former councillors on the board. The South March community was right on the rural-urban boundary and was discussing whether to be part of Kanata or West Carleton.

“They were happy to remain with the rurals,” El-Chantiry said. “Rarely has there been an issue that divides us.”

El-Chantiry has a preference but says his opinion doesn’t matter much.

“Option two or three would make more sense to most,” he said. “But (councillors) are self-serving. You are voting for your own job, so I would rather hear from the residents.”

El-Chantiry says so far, there hasn’t been much input on the boundary review from West Carleton residents.

“Engagement on Facebook is different then in person and the public hasn’t really been engaged in ward boundary review,” he said.

El-Chantiry says he has received nine comments from his constituents on the issue. The second round of public consultation on ward boundary review, specifically related to the presented options, begins in late August and El-Chantiry hopes the community will become a little more involved.

“Get engaged,” El-Chantiry said. “We need to hear from the residents. But when there’s not much change, you don’t get much engagement.”

The consultant will recommend an option to FEDCO in December.

Other FEDCO news

The city could apply for funding for a new program to help homeowners pay for home energy retrofits. The Committee directed staff to apply for funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for a proposed Better Homes Loan Program, which would offer Ottawa homeowners financing for home energy improvements to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the City receives funding for the program, staff would report back to FEDCO with a final design for the program and its financial implications before a public launch in the first half of 2021.

Several capital projects require less funding to complete than budgeted, resulting in an $106.3-million reduction in previously approved spending. The committee approved returning $79.5 million to capital reserves, $17 million to development charge reserves and $1.8 million to general revenue. The city would also eliminate $9.8 million in debt no longer needed to finance these projects.

The committee received a report about the city’s procurement of goods and services in 2019. The city procured $1.1 billion in contracts, competitively awarding 96 per cent of contracts that did not need to go to a specific supplier. To support the local economy, 88 per cent of funds spent on goods and services that were available in Ottawa went to local suppliers.

The city contracted a firm specializing in human resources services to review the hiring and recruitment process for councillors’ assistants. While the consultant found no systemic issues, the committee approved several recommendations to provide councillors with enhanced, consistent, regularly reviewed and updated processes and supports, and to advise all councillors’ assistants of their rights.

The National Capital Commission approved a preliminary master concept plan for LeBreton Flats earlier this year. Consequently, the committee approved adjusted principles of engagement that would ensure the redevelopment follows city policies and standards, protects municipal taxpayers and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of all parties.

The redevelopment will follow the city’s planning process, with the Planning committee considering an Official Plan amendment application this year. It will include information about transportation impacts, servicing requirements, financial implications, changes to capital works already allocated funding and potential new funding arrangements.

Recommendations from today’s meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, July 15.