Despite the pandemic, progress continues in Ottawa

By Jim Watson

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted nearly every single facet of our lives in Ottawa and around the world. Virtually no domain has been left untouched in the face of this public health crisis, with one exception: work continues to move forward on major projects that will transform this city for generations. I wanted to provide a brief update on a few of our largest infrastructure projects.

New Civic Campus
The Ottawa Hospital has completed the next stage of planning for the campus and plans to open in 2028 as one of the largest and most advanced hospitals in Canada. Construction of the project will help drive the regional economy, creating an estimated 20,000 jobs as well as research and training opportunities. It will offer world-class health care in eastern Ontario that will attract health care providers, researchers and students from around the world.

Stage 2 LRT
With Stage 1 of our Light Rail Transit system open and operating smoothly, we are keeping up the momentum to better connect the suburbs of Ottawa to the downtown core. Residents will see construction on all three O-Train extensions – south to Limebank and near the airport, east all along Highway 174 and west towards Moodie Drive and Algonquin College. I am encouraged by the pace of the work and look forward to seeing these next stages of our LRT roll out over the next few years.

OPL/LAC Central Library
The new, net-zero-carbon, joint facility with Library & Archives Canada will be an accessible and welcoming space for all to connect, learn, discover and create. The plans include an area dedicated to the study of Indigenous culture, an open “town square” on the ground floor and a rooftop café with stunning views of Parliament Hill and the beautiful Ottawa River. This exciting new space is expected to open in 2024.

I would like to thank the people of Ottawa once again for their patience over the last 14 months. Vaccines are rolling out in large quantities, the weather is getting nicer, we are making great progress on our key city-building projects and the end of this difficult journey is in sight. We will get through this together.

The path to a greener city
As we’re starting to get a glimpse of a return to normal life in Ottawa, the warm days of spring reminded us that the climate is not what it used to be. Rain in February, snow in April, 30+ degrees in May and our city has seen more natural disasters in the last three years than we had in the previous half century. Environment Week in Ottawa took place in early June, and I am proud to share a few ambitious projects that the City is undertaking to ensure our greenspace and waterways are protected for future generations:

Climate Change Master Plan: In October 2020, Council unanimously approved the Climate Change Master Plan, including Energy Evolution, an energy transition strategy for Ottawa. This aggressive plan sets the framework for Ottawa to achieve a reduction of community GHG emissions of 100% by 2050.

Electrification of transit: Once fully operational, the LRT Stage 2 alone will reduce GHG emissions by 110,000 tonnes per year. As part of a pilot project, four electric buses will be in service this fall, marking the first step towards the electrification of the OC Transpo bus fleet, which will help the City reach its 2050 goal.

LED streetlights: Hydro Ottawa has so far converted 53,000 of our city’s streetlights from traditional lamps to energy-efficient LED. This project decreased the City’s carbon dioxide emissions by a remarkable 1,200 metric tonnes every year and translates into a 55% reduction in energy consumption, equivalent to $4 million in annual savings.

Trees: In addition to my commitment to plant 500,000 trees during this term of Council, the new and strengthened Tree Protection By-law will help better preserve and protect our urban canopy.

Digital rendering of the Ottawa Hospital’s new Civic Campus. (credit – TOH)

Waste Diversion: The City has seen a significant increase in diversion of organic waste. In 2019, the City collected 9% more organic, leaf and yard waste than in 2018, and a further 15% increase was observed in 2020. We also saw a 37% increase in the number of multi-residential properties with a Green Bin program.

Greener buildings: The Ottawa Public Library and Library & Archives Canada Joint Facility will be a state-of-the-art building. Scheduled to open in 2025, it is being designed to be a Net Zero Carbon facility.  On the residential side, the new Better Homes Loan Program will provide low-interest loans to homeowners for the green retrofitting of their properties.

Water: The 17 projects that make up the Ottawa River Action Plan (ORAP) are all designed to enhance the health of the Ottawa River. The Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel (CSST), one of the most important projects of the ORAP, will greatly reduce the frequency of sewage overflows entering the Ottawa River during storms, thereby protecting our water, the fish habitat and our beaches.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer and I hope you will enjoy all the beautiful parks, paths and beaches that Ottawa has to offer.

For more information on the City’s environmental initiatives, please visit: JimWatsonOttawa.ca.

 Jim Watson is the mayor of Ottawa.

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