It's clear that Ottawa's 'climate emergency' declaration was a sad and meaningless joke
Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the urban boundary dispute, one has to wonder if the City of Ottawa was simply making a show of their climate change emergency declaration a year ago, and were not serious at all about following through on it. If action - or rather inaction in this case - speaks louder than words, then the City of Ottawa has revealed that their declaration of a "climate change emergency" was nothing more than a sad and cruel joke.
With regards to COVID-19, we've seen how the city responds to a very real threat and emergency. This then begs the question of why the same was not shown in the wake of their climate emergency declaration. At the time, City Council and Mayor Jim Watson said that it was no empty gesture, as they would put $250,000 from the Hydro Ottawa dividend to speed up studies aimed at moving the city to renewable energy and meeting greenhouse gas emission targets.
If they had actually responded the way they have been responding to COVID-19, we would have seen the immediate introduction of a fuel surcharge, and the use of that revenue to fund greener development, cycling lanes, and public transit. We also would have seen the city explore immediate options for reducing greenhouse gases; options such as working from home, providing a dividend for cycling to work, or lower transit fares and passes as some readily implementable examples.They also would have revisited the official development plan to review development plans and future sprawl and how the city is organized, which brings us to the urban boundary dispute.
City planners are recommending the City of Ottawa add 1,650 hectares of land to its already massive and sprawling urban boundary. This would mean an even greater expansion of the suburbs past the greenbelt, resulting in more sprawl, more expensive services, more pollution, and more lost farmland. What's especially damning about this is that there are already vast amounts of vacant greenfield to build on within the existing urban boundary, as the following map reveals.
Furthermore, there are numerous brownfields and greenfields within the existing urban boundary that are ripe for redevelopment and intensification. Areas along Riverside Drive between Quesnel and Uplands, the Hunt Club East - Western Community area, all along Carling Avenue, Merivale Road between Colonnade and Baseline, the Central Experimental Farm between Merivale Road and Fisher Avenue, Confederation Heights, Billings Bridge, Tunney's Pasture, areas along the Trillium Line route, LeBreton Flats, Heron Gate, Train Yards, St Laurent Boulevard, the areas around Lees and Hurdman stations, Thornecliffe Park, and the NRC campus. All these areas present opportunities for intensification and redevelopment just within the greenbelt on top of the vacant greenfield currently available within the current urban boundary.
How does adding to sprawl and increasing our greenhouse gas emissions stack up as a response to a declared "climate change emergency?" It doesn't. It is a laughable and pathetic response. The Mayor and City Council might have said that it was not an empty gesture, but even entertaining the idea of expanding the urban boundary reveals that to be a detestable lie. Between that and the citizens bearing witness to how the city actually responds to an emergency such as the coronavirus, it is crystal clear that the city's declaration of a climate change emergency was nothing more than a sad and meaningless joke.