Sunday, May 26, 2024

Federal budget 2024: What Ottawa’s local politicians are looking for

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Transit funding, infrastructure money, a boost for the police, and housing concerns top the list.

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A lot is known about the federal budget that will be tabled April 16. But will there be specific measures for the national capital? If so, what should they be? We asked several local politicians for their wish lists. Here are the thoughts of those who responded (comments have been lightly edited).

Mark Sutcliffe

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Mayor of Ottawa

Ottawa has an urgent need for more support from the federal government in a number of areas, including transit, infrastructure, affordable housing, support for the homeless and those seeking asylum. In particular, we would welcome an update on our request for a welcome centre to support newcomers to Ottawa.

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And Ottawa’s downtown recovery is a critical issue directly tied to the federal government’s role as the city’s largest employer, so we would welcome its support on office conversions, public safety and other areas that would rejuvenate Centretown.

Matthew Luloff

Councillor, Ward 1, Orléans East-Cumberland

I have a lot of suggestions, including:

Allowing and funding a southern route to the 174 via a Brian Coburn Boulevard extension to Hunt Club Road; funding a pedestrian bridge over the 174 at Trim Road;
focusing on affordability by cancelling taxes that are driving up the cost of living; funding drug-treatment programming and mental-health care, especially for those struggling with addiction; freeing up federal land and buildings for housing;
cancelling Bills C-11 (online streaming) and C-18 (online news) so Ottawans can decide where they want to get their news; and properly funding the The Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement so that licensed daycare spots in Orléans can offer affordable rates.

Cathy Curry, Councillor for Kanata North
Cathy Curry, Councillor for Kanata North Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Cathy Curry

Councillor, Ward 4, Kanata North

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Given that federal buildings provide the city what’s called “payment in lieu of tax” (PILT), I would like to see the federal budget recognize the impact that the loss of the PILT will have on the city’s tax revenue when the buildings are repurposed.

The impact of the pandemic and work-from-home means we need help with our transit deficit and support for downtown small businesses.

And given that we see more protests than any other Canadian city, I would like to see the budget include significant funds for the Ottawa Police Service, which manages those protests 365 days a year, costing it sometimes millions per protest.

Finally, I am hoping to see a major investment in the compound semi-conductor industry in Kanata and Gloucester, with transportation (LRT and BRT) to Canada’s largest technology park, investment in autonomous shuttles, and an increase in international student visas for technology-related education.

Glen Gower

Councillor, Ward 6, Stittsville

As chair of the Transit Commission, I’m hoping to see some operational funding for transit in Canadian cities, including OC Transpo. The shift to work-from-home since the pandemic has left cities with hundreds of millions of dollars in operating pressures and we would certainly appreciate help from the other levels of government to bridge that gap over the next few years.

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Theresa Kavanagh

Councillor, Ward 7, Bay

Earlier this year, the City of Ottawa received $173.6 million from the Housing Accelerator Fund to address the housing crisis. It’s a great start but there is more to do to help our most vulnerable residents. The chronically homeless need a basic income to lift them out of poverty and give them the stability to pay rent.

This is not a new idea. The federal budget needs to think in terms of giving all Canadians a basic income, much like its does for older adults, and giving them the dignity of being able to have stability in their lives and the security of a place to live.

College Ward Coun. Laine Johnson
College Ward Coun. Laine Johnson Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia

Laine Johnson

Councillor, Ward 8, College

Deeply affordable housing: Like many municipalities across Canada, our affordable housing wait list has grown beyond our ability to provide the units needed. We require serious investment from the federal government in not-for-profit and other deeply affordable housing.

Climate Change: We are seeing more and more impacts from climate change, such as severe weather. Our infrastructure needs are changing and federal support to replace aging ditches and storm sewers, flood controls, and other measures would help us prepare for the future.

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Transit operating funds: During the COVID shutdowns, our transit service lost millions in revenues. Those have not come back. Public transit is one of our most important tools for combatting climate change, but the City of Ottawa is unable to keep up. That means higher fares, reduced routes and a downward spiral for our service. Federal funds to help operate the service would allow us reverse this dangerous trend.

Stéphanie Plante

Councillor, Ward 12, Rideau-Vanier

I would like the feds to offer money for municipalities to have a (housing) acquisition fund, as recently announced by the prime minister. We need to stop the loss of affordable housing and this is a great way to retain buildings where the rents are already low.

Rawlson King

Councillor, Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe

The federal budget must urgently tackle housing affordability by allocating tens of billions of dollars to address the national housing and homelessness crisis. Investments in the City of Ottawa must focus on stimulating rapid construction; enhancing financing and tax incentives for affordable units; and making government land available for housing development, particularly near mass transit.

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Additional funding for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure in Ottawa is necessary to support new housing initiatives. By improving infrastructure and incentivizing construction for community and non-profit housing, the federal government can reduce market pressures impacting young people.

Funding must also focus on supportive housing for single adults, seniors, newcomer families and people with substance use disorders and disabilities most at risk of homelessness. Addressing housing affordability is not just a fiscal decision but a moral imperative which must be expedited by all governments to collectively enhance social justice, economic stability and growth.

River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington
River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Riley Brockington

Councillor and deputy mayor, Ward 16, River

I’d like to see: sustained funding for public transit operations; sustained funding to tackle homelessness and housing; and sustained funding for infrastructure renewal.

The government should reverse its decision to reduce the number of post-secondary international students admitted in to Canada.

Marty Carr

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Councillor, Ward 18, Alta Vista

We need funding to support asylum seekers including shelter/housing, and a permanent welcome centre in Ottawa (Peel got federal funding for one). As well, we need funding to scale up the supply of non-market housing, including establishing the newly announced acquisition fund. We need (and the government has now promised) funding for a school lunch program; Canada is currently the only G7 country without one.

Let’s see an increase in funding to expand access to professional mental health services; enhanced funding to improve services addressing gender-based violence and supporting survivors of gender-based violence; funding to assist industries to transition to cleaner forms of energy; and increased funding in the Canada Community Building Fund to support investments in municipal infrastructure.

Accelerate the implementation of Canada’s first permanent public transit fund of $3 billion, slated to start in 2026-27. Move it to 2024-25.

David Brown

Councillor, Ward 21, Rideau-Jock

With the inflation that we have seen in recent years, combined with high interest rates on new loans, municipalities are squeezed when it comes to building and maintaining the basic infrastructure our communities rely on. In Ottawa, we have a wide range of needs that come with maintaining a vast rural area of more than 2,700 sq.-km. Yet we are often ineligible for many programs and grants that governments provide other, smaller municipalities.

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In this budget, the federal government should focus on providing Ottawa with the capital necessary to revitalize our infrastructure. It can do this by expanding programs like the Canada Community-Building Fund to better meet the needs of municipalities like ours.

Steve Desroches

Councillor, Ward 22, Riverside South-Findlay Creek

The budget focus should be municipal infrastructure and ensuring that vacant federal lands in the national capital area contribute to local priorities in a timely manner. This means enabling housing and other infrastructure projects, instead of slowing city-building.

Allan Hubley

Councillor, Ward 23, Kanata South

The 2024 budget must include tax breaks for small business, the engine of our economy.

Taking hard-earned dollars out of households and promising to give back more in return is no longer believable to most residents.

A multi-year effort to reduce government spending must start asap. CERB is a great example. Better coding systems would have prevented double-dipping and millions of dollars being sent outside the country.

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Invest smartly in housing innovation. Tax dollars should be focused on innovation on how to deliver better housing quicker.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a federal budget that encourages hope for a better day and respects the hard-earned tax dollars needed to deliver the vision?

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo
Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

Wilson Lo

Councillor, Ward 24, Barrhaven East

The Ottawa Police Service provides resources to support many activities related to the federal government, including policing protests and visiting dignitaries. Those resources are usually diverted from local policing and place additional pressures on staffing and budgeting unrelated to the needs of the community. The federal government must either reimburse the OPS for costs of policing related to federal activities or pursue methods that do not require police resources to be diverted from the community.

Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi
Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /ERROL MCGIHON

Yasir Naqvi

Liberal MP (Ottawa Centre)

My key focus is on ways our city can work together, with all levels of government, to revitalize our downtown. Ottawa is the capital of a G7 country, and in Budget 2024, I’m hoping to see a few things that can help us reimagine our downtown.

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Specifically, I am advocating for resources that would help with office-to-residential conversion projects. This could make it easier to determine the feasibility and potential of turning office buildings into housing for our neighbours throughout downtown Ottawa, as well as across the country. In addition, I am keen to see a more streamlined process that would allow the federal government to accelerate the disposal of surplus real property and land, so some of these federally owned buildings downtown can be put to a different, reimagined use, quickly.

— Compiled by Megann Wall and Christina Spencer

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What do you want to see in the federal budget on April 16? Write to us at letters@ottawacitizen.com or tell us in the comments section of this article online.

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