Ecology Ottawa - All-Candidates Survey

I completed the Ecology Ottawa All-Candidates survey on key environmental issues in Ottawa, big thanks to the Ecology Ottawa Team for taking the lead and asking these important questions! Below are my responses: 

SECTION 1. Renewable City


1. Over the last term of council, initiatives to address climate change have been delayed, under-staffed and under-financed. It’s even unclear whether city-wide emissions have been rising or falling over the past six years. Meanwhile, some spending on city infrastructure (e.g., road expansions) is impeding or negating progress from climate investments made under the environment portfolio. At the federal level, the government has mandated a new climate lens assessment for its infrastructure funding program, Investing in Canada.

If elected, will you make climate action a Term of Council Priority, increase funding and staffing commitments commensurate with this prioritization, and mandate a climate lens for the City’s assessment for all infrastructure investments?

My answer: YES. Climate change is the single greatest issue facing us today. It must be met with focussed action at all levels of government. At the City of Ottawa, we can meet our commitments to climate change by: – ensuring that City activities, including infrastructure, are viewed through a climate change lens; ensuring that staff report on climate change initiatives annually; and continuing to develop “complete streets”, encouraging walking, cycling, and transit use as primary alternatives to cars.


2. The City of Ottawa reports on community-wide climate emissions once every through the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan. This infrequent reporting makes tracking progress toward our climate goals very difficult, and is far behind the standard set by leading cities such as Edmonton and Montreal.

If elected, will you commit to increasing the frequency of the City’s community-wide emissions reporting to at least once per year?

My Answer: YES. I strongly commit to supporting an increase in the frequency of the City’s community-wide emissions reporting to at least once per year.


3. Climate change is accelerating, and cities around the world are rushing to adapt to the impacts of severe weather, flooding and invasive species. The City of Ottawa has committed to developing a Climate Adaptation Plan but hasn’t yet delivered.

If elected, will you commit to ensuring the release and initial implementation of a Climate Adaptation Plan within the next term of council?

My Answer: YES.


4. Development of Ottawa’s next Official Plan will begin in January 2019 and conclude during the next term of council. The Official Plan sets the ground rules that can make it easier or virtually impossible for cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—from transportation patterns and sprawl, to housing densities and unit sizes, to options for local renewable energy production, to the services, amenities, and greenspaces residents can access within walking distance. Official Plans developed with climate change in mind deliver powerful benefits that make neighbourhoods healthier, safer, and more liveable.

If elected, will you support and work for a revised Official Plan that makes low-carbon development a top priority, in a way that delivers healthier, safer, more liveable neighbourhoods for your constituents?

My Answer: YES. I believe that a safe and liveable city is one where low-carbon use must be a strong factor, where transit, cycling and walking are all promoted ahead of personal vehicle use. I will fight to ensure that the new Official Plan reflects this, including how we plan and develop our neighbourhoods, and local renewable options for energy use.


SECTION 2. Active City


5. Evidence from numerous studies of “induced demand” shows that widening highways and building new roads does nothing to alleviate traffic congestion. Instead, new roads and new lanes are quickly filled up with cars. Congestion is only relieved through investment in alternative forms of travel – by bike, by foot and by public transit.

If elected, will you commit to prioritizing pedestrian, cycling, and affordable public transit infrastructure over automobile infrastructure in meeting the future growth in travel demand in your ward?

My Answer: YES. I have been a leader on Council in supporting a complete streets model for all road renewal projects and I have repeatedly fought for cycling, walking and public transit to be considered primary modes of transportation ahead of vehicle use. I will continue to fight for these. Personally I am well-known for using my kick-scooter and bike to get around the ward.


6. Upon completion, the City of Ottawa’s light rail transit (LRT) network will bring 70% of the population to within five kilometres of a light rail station. It will be easier than ever for Ottawans to travel to and from their target destinations using sustainable transportation options, but only if the City prioritizes shared mobility services and pedestrian, cycling and transit connectivity near transit hubs.

Currently, the City of Ottawa only plans for connectivity within 600 metres of transit hubs. If elected, will you commit to widening this connectivity planning radius to five kilometres?

My Answer: YES. As part of the light rail transit plan, we must increase sustainable transportation connectivity. I have said so on Council and I commit to improving our connectivity.


7. The City of Ottawa adopted a complete streets policy in 2013 and an implementation plan in 2015. Now, all new roads must be built to be accessible to all ages, users and abilities – including pedestrians, cyclists and transit users – rather than just car drivers. However, evidence shows that the policy alone is not sufficient to create complete streets. Councillor leadership is vital to ensure streets are as “complete” as possible and follow through on priority pedestrian and cycling projects identified in the Transportation Master Plan.

If elected, will you commit to ensuring that complete streets and priority pedestrian and cycling projects are built in your ward?

My Answer: YES. I have been a leader on Council on complete street initiatives in Somerset Ward and will continue to do so.


8. Between 2010 and 2014, 148 people died on Ottawa’s streets. These deaths were entirely avoidable – they were a by-product of the way we have designed our streets. Toronto and Edmonton have embraced a “Vision Zero” approach to road design, that considers all traffic deaths and serious injuries preventable. A Vision Zero policy involves design changes (i.e. reducing speeds and separating road users), funding for these changes and public reporting on progress.

If elected, will you commit to adopting a Vision Zero policy for Ottawa?


My Answer: YES. My family and I use bikes and kick scooters to go to school, work and other activities and I know personally the dangers that users of alternative transportation often face. I am committed to fighting for and adopting a Vision Zero policy for Ottawa.


SECTION 3: Living City

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9. In 2017, the City of Ottawa adopted a strong Urban Forest Management Plan designed to safeguard and strengthen Ottawa’s tree canopy. The plan contains a 20-year action plan that requires sustained attention and investment.

If elected, will you commit to fully implementing and fully funding the Urban Forest Management Plan?

My Answer: YES. I have worked consistently to preserve our urban forest. IN fact, I have worked with staff to increase the number of trees in the Ward. I am committed to fully implementing and fully funding the Urban Forest Management Plan.


10. Flooding and severe weather events are happening in Ottawa more frequently than in the past. It’s more important than ever that the City adapt to climate change by systematically scaling up development of green infrastructure – living and built systems designed to slow down, soak up, and filter rainwater, such as trees, rain gardens and permeable pavements. The City has the policy tools to do this, but remains at the pilot phase and has not moved to wide-scale implementation.

If elected, will you work to ensure that all street resurfacing and new road construction integrate green infrastructure wherever possible?

My Answer: YES. I remain strongly committed to ensuring green infrastructure is integrated into all projects wherever possible.


11. Urban greenspace is a precious commodity. Yet sprawling development patterns, infill developments, and road widenings regularly threaten our trees, greenspace and biodiversity.

If elected, will you commit to prioritizing greenspace preservation as part of the planning process?

My Answer: YES. Protecting and preserving existing greenspace is important, but is not enough. We must increase the amount of greenspace at every opportunity. A recent example was the distribution of 250 trees across the ward to residents that will help to increase our urban tree canopy. I have also worked with my community associations to establish several new community gardens in the ward. I remain committed to preserving and increasing greenspace as part of the City’s planning process.


12. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is proposing a permanent radioactive waste facility alongside the Ottawa River, upstream from Ottawa. Mayors of over 100 Quebec municipalities have banded together to oppose this proposal, citing a serious risk to drinking water from the Ottawa River.

If elected, will you join them in opposing this dangerous nuclear waste dump?

My Answer:  YES. As the largest municipality on the Ottawa River, we have an obligation to protect this critical waterway from all kinds of pollution.

SECTION 4: Waste Management


13. In March 2018, City Council changed its contract with Orgaworld to allow dog waste and other organics to be placed in green bins using non-compostable plastic bag liners. There’s no evidence that allowing plastics will encourage more people to compost. But the new rules will produce a new stream of unnecessary plastic waste that will complicate the disposal process and deliver lower-quality compost.

If elected, will you support rescinding the decision to allow non-compostable plastic bag liners and dog waste in the green bin program?

My Answer: YES. As Councillor, I opposed the motion to include plastic bags in green bins and I will continue to oppose it. We must, as a society, reduce our dependency on single-use plastics and this policy is fundamentally backwards in this regard.

14. Ottawa’s 44% waste recycling rate is the lowest of all major cities in Ontario, well below leading municipalities like York Region at 65%, Halton Region at 56%, and Toronto at 51%. That’s partly because Ottawa only spends 50¢ per household per year to promote the program and educate residents.

If elected, will you support tripling the level of funding for promotion and education for waste prevention, recycling, and green bin programs to at least $1.50 per household per year, a level closer to the average for large municipalities in Ontario?

My Answer: YES. Our failure to implement wide-scale recycling and green bin programs for business and multi-residential dwellings is a key contributor to the amount of recyclables and organics that end up in landfill. Better education is one contributing factor, which I support, but we can’t improve until we provide better opportunities for recycling and organics diversion.


15. Ottawa’s 2011 waste management plan is out of date and irrelevant. The City has made no effort to update the plan, though the poor performance of its recycling and green bin programs falls far short of the 65% waste diversion rate in York Region, the leading municipality in the province.

If elected, will you support the development of a new waste management strategy and waste diversion action plan that follow best practices and set a 65% waste diversion target for Ottawa?

My Answer: YES. I support the development of a new waste management strategy and waste diversion action plan that follows best practices and sets a 65% waste diversion target for Ottawa.


16. If elected, what steps will you take to make Ottawa a leader on environmental issues during the next term of council?

My Answer:  If re-elected, I will continue to work hard to ensure that we encourage alternate transportation modes and build the infrastructure to support it. I will continue to fight for development that does not contribute to negative energy use. I will work to build a city that is liveable for everyone and that respects our environmental responsibilities. I will also continue to preserve our existing tree canopy and expand it. If re-elected I will also work to have Council consider and support best practices in waste management so that we are not faced with the prospect of adding new landfill and we are not contributing to the amount of plastics in our waste stream. And, I will continue to advocate for increased funding to ensure that our policies, such as Energy Evolution, are adequately funded so that they can be successful.



Catherine McKenney