We are tasked today as a Council for a growing city with making a decision that we will live with for the next 100 years. Our children and theirs will either thrive because we made the right decision or they will be left to repair what we leave behind.
This decision impacts the future of food security, access to greenspace and recreation, the cost of transit and other city services, and the supply of housing that everyone can afford. It will greatly impact how many cars drive into our neighbourhoods everyday and how clean the air will be across the city.
I strongly oppose the expansion of the urban boundary. The recommendation in front of us today is not for a minor rounding off of edges. 1350 to 1650 hectares is an immense amount of land that will take us closer to outlying municipalities, making it even easier for residents to move outside our of our city and continue to commute each day. The majority of our residents oppose this expansion.
What they want is a modern and thoughtful city.
A modern city that would ensure that we are actually building sustainable, walkable neighbourhoods for the future. It would ask itself…..where can I live so that I can walk or cycle to work or take affordable transit? How will that transit serve my needs to get to my library, pick up the kids from school, do groceries, visit friends?
A modern city would ensure that we can hold an entire generation in our existing neighbourhoods. That we encourage corner stores, that we build local parks, and ensure a healthy tree canopy. It would have a fully electric fleet of buses, housing that suits all of our needs, and that we are doing so in a way that caters to an ageing population and to people with disabilities.
Expanding the urban boundary today will not contribute to building a modern city. Ottawa would be left behind.
A thoughtful city would celebrate its history, its architecture and its heritage, but it would also learn from it.
It would begin by listening to all of its residents especially those who it hasn’t historically sought guidance from. For Ottawa that would mean Indigenous people, low-income residents, people with disabilities and those living in homelessness or who are precariously housed. And it would make a decision like how we should grow using a gender lens so that we are not leaving anyone behind.
A thoughtful city would ensure that we are using the land responsibly. It would enact a moratorium on urban sprawl and it would give serious thought to low-rise appropriately-scaled development that uses our existing infrastructure. And it would use publicly-owned land to build affordable housing immediately that is near affordable transit.
Putting this decision to a vote today with the recommendation to expand our boundary does not make us a thoughtful city. Again, Ottawa would be left behind.
Ottawa in 2020 is faced with a climate emergency, a housing emergency, an opioid crisis and is getting less affordable for everyone. Making the right decision today will give us a fighting chance to change this.
What the majority of residents do want is a modern and thoughtful city. Let’s do our part to give them what they are asking us for.