Waste Management, Bottled Water in City Facilities & Climate Emergency Declaration

Waste Management.jpg

My first two terms in office have been somewhat polar opposites when it comes to waste management. From 2010-2014, the City moved to bi-weekly garbage collection, expanded what was accepted in the blue box, introduced the green bins in schools program, expanded the availability and collection of the green bin and extended the life of the landfill as a result. On the Plasco front, we unfortunately saw the failure of that project, culminating with its official demise in December 2014. During the 2014-18 term of Council, all was quiet on the garbage front. The only change of any significance was the settlement of the Orgaworld arbitration and the subsequent addition of plastic bags to the green bin.

During this term of Council, we will be discussing everything there is to discuss when it comes to waste management. Last month, we approved the roadmap for our Solid Waste Master Plan review. This will be a two-year review and the plan is to cover all aspects of waste from how you acquire it and how the City collects it to how we can divert more and how we process the rest. The last thing I want to look at is a new landfill.

When it comes to the existing landfill; that is something that works to our advantage. The current lifespan is set at 2042. I have absolutely zero interest in scouting locations for a new one. That means we need to consider stronger waste diversion. We also need to consider alternatives to the landfill. Where do we go with the green bin program when the contract ends in 2030? Is there a viable waste-to-energy solution that does not cost the City $300M and double your garbage collection fee? Can we make it easier for residents to recycle and can we reduce the amount of waste you actually end up with? These are just some of the questions we want to answer in the next two years.

I am very much looking forward to this review. We will have a comprehensive public consultation component and I hope you will get involved. There are few issues which elicit more opinions than garbage collection. I hope we can channel that interest and come up with a way forward that will help serve the City and its residents for the next 30-50 years.

Bottled Water in City Facilities

Another matter discussed at the Environment Committee last month was the idea of banning the sale of bottled water in City-owned facilities. This issue is almost less about plastic bottles and more about the quality of the water that the City produces. It is routinely the best rated water in the country.

At the moment, the City has a sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola to sell beverages in City facilities. Of course, this includes bottled water. To end the contract would cost upwards of $700,000. We will not be doing that. However, Council approved a motion that will have staff look at the next contract and how that could be arranged to limit the amount of single use plastics and promote City water.

There is much to consider when doing this. Some believe you can simply ban all plastics and your problems are solved. That simply is not true. There are accessibility realities that we must consider. This is why we did not implement a ban immediately. We must consider all aspects of this and bring forward a plan that improves the situation without creating new problems.

Climate Emergency Declaration

Like with many issues recently, this was another issue that came through the Committee that I Chair that had some significant misinformation surrounding it. I have never been too interested in posturing, pandering and grandstanding. When votes of that nature come forward, I do not support them. With that in mind, it was important to ensure that any discussion about a “climate emergency” was not solely for political gain or to give the appearance of something. As I said, I could never support such a baseless declaration.

My focus remains on what is best for the City and what is best for the residents of it. I bring that mentality to my every day job as Councillor and I certainly bring it to my role as Chair of the Environment Committee. I am not interesting in playing political games and I cannot worry about the motives of my colleagues. What I can do is ensure that anything that comes through Environment Committee is meaningful and keeps all residents in mind.

One of the biggest challenges for our Committee in recent years has been direction. We have had many items on the go but no clear path forward. I alluded to this earlier on the waste management file over the last four years. We are trying to change that this term. I believe the climate emergency motion from Councillor Shawn Menard can help in that regard. The recommendations contained within the report focus on the Air Quality & Climate Change Master Plan as well as Energy Evolution. These are previously identified priorities for the City of Ottawa. It also recommends a Council Sponsors Group and a climate resiliency plan, something staff have already committed to.

As Chair of the Environment Committee, I will have direct oversight for how any of the recommendations move forward and I will be taking a leadership role on all matters that fall under the jurisdiction of that Committee. This initiative does not take funds from general revenues. As approved by Council, we will start with $500,000 from the Hydro Ottawa surplus, which comes from return on investments. This is above and beyond the $20M surplus the City receives annually.

The initiatives that comes from this will be implemented with BOTH the environment and the taxpayer in mind. We have many examples of projects that reduced the long term operating costs of the City of Ottawa all the while being better for the environment. Gone are the days where being green meant spending more money. Today, we are focused on energy efficiency and waste diversion and other environmental initiatives that will save money rather than require larger budgets.

At the end of the day, I am elected to be considerate of how we spend your money. We also have a responsibility to be efficient environmentally as well as economically. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive and that is why I support the climate emergency motion. For me, it was not about the declaration. It was about the substance of the motion and the ability to focus on projects that are smart for the City and for the residents who live here.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

Stormwater Update

In March and April of this year, residents were informed of the City of Ottawa’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rate Structure Review. Over the course of those two months, we shared much information on the matter and you were very involved in these discussions. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who contacted me, submitted comments to the City and attended the public consultation sessions. The April 7th meeting held in North Gower was attended by approximately 250 residents. Your participation and input led to the eventual delay of the report so that your comments could be properly reviewed and taken into account. Since then, staff have been compiling those comments and working with members of Council on finalizing the report and its recommendations. This report, released on Monday of this week, will be presented to the Environment Committee on Tuesday, October 18th at City Hall.

As you may recall from my March 16th column, the history on this issue is incredibly important and stems from amalgamation. Prior to amalgamation, residents across every municipality contributed to stormwater management. Some paid for it through their general taxes, some through a specific stormwater rate and others as part of their sewer bill. The transition board overseeing the implementation of the amalgamated City of Ottawa commissioned a report which provided recommendations on how an amalgamated city could assess properties for stormwater costs. That report recommended cost collection through either the general tax rate or a specific fee charged as a line item on your tax bill. In April of 2001, the Council of the day chose neither. With no explanation given in the minutes of that meeting, Council voted unanimously to shift all stormwater costs to the water and sewer rate. This meant that some residents who used to pay for it no longer did and it also meant that residents who had always been paying for it started paying more. For fifteen years, that is the system the City has been using.
 
The consultations held in the spring laid out proposals to move away from that system and create a new rate structure where those who receive a service pay for that service. The main objective was to collect $42M across the City through a new stormwater fee, shifting those costs away from the water and sewer rate budget. Of that total, $8M is the amount of money spent on stormwater maintenance in the rural area. The feedback on that proposal was met with much opposition and plenty of input. This brings us to the proposal that is before us today.
 
Here is a chart demonstrating the proposed rate structure:

More detailed information is available at Ottawa.ca.

The proposal includes a tiered approach in assessing properties for stormwater management. The tiers are based on level of service provided. For village residents on water and sewer in communities like Manotick, Richmond and Munster, you will only notice a change in how your bill is presented. There will be a moderate reduction in your bill on an average of $2/month. For property owners on private services, the proposed fee would be $4/month. This is something that you don’t currently pay and it would be paid annually on your tax bill (agricultural and forested lands will be exempt). This is down from the $6 or $7 per month proposal that was floated in the spring. The report also proposed a phasing in of the charge over four years, meaning you would not pay the full amount until 2020. The total amount collected through this charge will be $2M which will go directly toward the $8M spent annually on rural stormwater services.
 
During the consultation meetings, we also heard concerns about other matters such as infilling of ditches. When all residents contributed toward stormwater services, many of us were permitted to fill in their ditch provided it did not impede drainage. That permission was removed in 2003. As a result of what we heard, the report will recommend a review of the Ditch Alteration Policy with a view to develop a process to, once again, permit the infilling of ditches. This policy review will come to Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee in 2017.
 
You will likely hear this a few times in the coming weeks but this proposal is not perfect. There simply is no perfect way to collect fees on the basis of fairness. Each and every property contributes differently. Short of any perfect solution, we have the proposal before us. Thanks to your involvement earlier this year, the proposal is better than it was and I appreciate the way you ensured your voice was heard.
 
This report has been released a week earlier than normal so that we all have an opportunity to look at it and digest the relevant information. Please take some time, have a look at the proposal and feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. As mentioned, you can find more information at Ottawa.ca. I sit on the Environment Committee and will be there on the 18th of October. If you’d like to address the Committee on this issue, you may do so by emailing Christopher.Zwierzchowski@ottawa.ca.

Happy 30th Birthday Manotick Messenger!

I was only five years old when Jeff Morris started printing the Manotick Messenger so I don’t really remember Manotick without it.  It has been there for many great moments in my life and I even had the opportunity to write for the Messenger when I was in high school.  My first appearance came when I was in middle school and then editor Steve Newman did a piece on me and my beer bottle collection, which consisted of approximately 700 different bottles.

Of course, the Messenger has been there during my entire political life as well from one of my first interviews in 2006 with Bev McRae this current opportunity to write a weekly column in the paper I grew up with.  The Messenger was there for my election loss in 2006 and it will be there when I say goodbye in this very column.

At a time when community newspapers are moving away from grassroots community coverage, the Manotick Messenger remains true to its commitment to this community and we are all lucky to have it.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.

Permanent WEEKLY Green bin collection starts Monday, April 2!

Starting April 2, 2012, residents will have their green bin and leaf and yard waste collected every week, year-round, permanently. Food scraps, soiled paper products and other allowable waste from residential homes can now be placed at the curb for weekly collection.
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