Ecology Ottawa has been distributing a survey of councillor and mayoral candidates and it was my pleasure recently to submit my answers. It’s important to note that many of the measures advocated by Ecology Ottawa and its allies will require a willing majority of Council to achieve. However, as they have been able to in this term, Ecology Ottawa and its allies can continue to count on my support and collaboration.
Below are my answers to their survey in bold.
Over the last term of council, initiatives to address climate change have been delayed, understaffed and underfinanced. 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?
Leiper: Yes. I have used my vote and voice in this term of Council to resist road widenings paid for from tax dollars where those compromise our transit plans that are a key part of achieving our climate change objectives. Our largest infrastructure investment, in LRT, has a well-documented climate change rationale that is a model for further infrastructure planning. However, beyond LRT, we have more to do to fund, then measure, initiatives that reduce GhGs to achieve our climate change goals.
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?
Leiper: Yes. In this term of Council, I have twice supported more aggressive GhG reduction goals – most recently by achieving Council’s support for my motion to accelerate the adoption of a more ambitious target. However, without monitoring it is difficult to ascertain whether we’re meeting our goals. Yearly reporting will help make us more accountable for achieving those.
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?
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?
Leiper: Yes. The current Official Plan (OP) appropriately prioritizes intensification (though that is not always implemented thoughtfully) mandated for both its environmental and economic benefits. The key challenges in the next term of Council as we refresh that will be to implement OP policies that provide better protection for greenspace including trees, and especially to resist an expansion of the urban boundary. We must keep in mind that intensification that achieves environmental goals does not mean carte blanche for developers. I will persist in seeking meaningful plans for how we grow, then sticking to those.
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 (for council candidates) / city-wide (for mayoral candidates)?
Leiper: Yes. I have a demonstrated track record working proactively to better balance the needs of all road users, including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, across the ward. I will continue to build on the momentum of ensuring, for example, that Scott Street does not revert to a four-lane car road following the end of the bus detour and will eventually be turned fully into a complete street, and to achieve pedestrian improvements such as the re-building of the Churchill/Richmond intersection. I will persist in seeing cycling infrastructure extended on Richmond Road, as well as traffic calming measures on Byron as those plans have developed this term. I was pleased, with several Council colleagues, to fund a study of how to use City levers to deal with congestion that we will re-visit in the next term.
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?
Leiper: Yes. The opportunity of LRT, particularly at the completion of Phase 2, is to create new travel choices that don’t rely on the private automobile. I was pleased to initiate full bike access to LRT specifically to support this thrust. I would champion efforts during the refresh of the Transportation Master Plan in the next term of Council to use tools such as those created by Bike Ottawa using funding that I provided to plan for cycling connectivity. I will continue to advocate for an affordable transit system, and the maintenance of our local transit service, which will likely require re-thinking the current fare/tax ratio.
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 (for council candidates) / city-wide (for mayoral candidates)?
Leiper: Yes. I have a demonstrated track record working proactively to better balance the needs of all road users, including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, across the ward. I will continue to build on the momentum of ensuring, for example, that Scott Street does not revert to a four-lane car road following the end of the bus detour and will eventually be turned fully into a complete street, and to achieve pedestrian improvements such as the re-building of the Churchill/Richmond intersection.
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?
Leiper: Yes. The City has made some progress in this term of Council to implement some elements of Vision Zero, including studying road deaths to understand the contribution of road design to those, but more needs to be done. A key challenge will be to ensure that the funding is available to make the changes needed to achieve Vision Zero. I have already begun advocating for additional funding for the “temporary traffic calming” program that we have used in Kitchissippi to try to achieve the lower speeds that are critical to saving lives and avoiding catastrophic injury.
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?
Leiper: Yes. Along with Councillor Chernushenko, I was a sponsor of the UFMP (including by successfully asking Council to elevate it to a term of Council priority) and am committed to ensuring it has appropriate funding to be fully implemented. I have also worked extensively on tree issues at the ward and city level, including working with tree advocates to support their efforts.
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?
Leiper: Yes. Street re-surfacings will have limited potential to integrate green elements, but street re-builds are key opportunities. In order to capitalize on those, I would support a policy and increased budget to incorporate progressive stormwater solutions when renewing road infrastructure. I am pleased to see that the City has begun pilots of measures such as bioswales, and (assuming those are successful) I would support broader rollout of those.
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?
Leiper: Yes. The current land-use planning regime must be changed in order to prioritize urban greenspace. I have begun in this term of Council to work with senior staff to identify the barriers to accomplishing this in anticipation of achieving the needed changes at the level of the Official Plan and in provincial statutes. Where stronger language is required in the Official Plan to support, for example, the preservation of trees in the face of infill construction, I am committed to working with staff and my Council colleagues to effect that.
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?
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?
Leiper: Yes. I was a vocal member of the minority of Council that resisted this change, and I would be pleased to support its reversal.
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?
Leiper: Yes. I was pleased in this term of Council to work with (and support with my office resources) the work of Waste Watch Ottawa, which has made this recommendation.
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?
Leiper: Yes. I believe that many of Waste Watch Ottawa’s recommendations (developed with some support from my office) should be implemented to move us along this path. In the upcoming term of Council, we will update our solid waste strategy to account for upcoming changes to provincial producer responsibility regulations, but the WWO recommendations should be implemented regardless.