A candid conversation with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, on how his city is dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 and what the short, medium and long-term impacts on the city could look like
Cities in the Time of COVID-19: One-on-one with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Proud of the City of Ottawa’s response
Mayor Watson highlighted that he is proud of the city’s public health and economic responses to COVID-19, adding that the number of cases in the city are going down. Mayor Watson also discussed the implementation of two task forces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: a human needs task force and an economic recovery task force. The former deals with the most vulnerable people within the community while the latter focuses on the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic on the local economy.
2. Reinstating funding for public health
Mayor Watson discussed the reinstating of funding for public health services which were previously cut by the province. “We managed to sort of lobby them. I worked with John Tory and others to get some of the cuts reinstated,” Mayor Watson said. “But we’re going to have to have a serious discussion with the province. You can’t go and cut public health because it’s played such an important role in the fight against COVID-19.”
3. Delineating responsibilities of public health services
Mayor Watson called for a clearer delineation of the responsibilities with regards to the public health system. He highlighted that Canada’s health system is comprised of various branches, with different levels of government responsible for each, and this leads to “too many people involved, resulting in a duplication of effort.” “You got public health at the local level, and the provincial government has health[care], the federal government has aboriginal health,” said Mayor Watson. “It’s very poorly coordinated.”
4. Impacts to the local economy
Mayor Watson discussed the impacts of remote working and learning on the local economy as well as on the city’s coffers. He said that the reduced economic activity due to people working from home has significantly impacted businesses in the downtown area. He also said that the purpose of the city investing in Light Rail Transit was “to get people in and out of the city as quickly and efficiently as possible.” Now that fewer people are coming in and out of the city’s core due to social distancing, the Mayor said the City is losing money at an unsustainable pace due to lost revenue from transit.
5. Heading into Day 100
As we approach the 100th day of COVID-19 being designated as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Mayor Watson said that it is essential to “keep the message fresh” with regards to adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. He said, “we have to continue that because unfortunately that’s the only way we know to stop the spread [of COVID-19].” He added that the three orders of government have worked well together as they’ve navigated the unchartered waters of COVID-19, putting aside partisanship for the betterment of the community
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:35] Hello, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe, present CEO of CUI, the Canadian Urban Institute. Thanks for joining us for City Talk. It’s noon here in Toronto and it’s noon in the nation’s capital where we are very, very pleased to have Mayor Watson join us. He’s got a busy, packed schedule, as all the mayors do. And on Fridays, it’s kind of a meet the mayor’s day one on one conversations for us at CUI. So, Mayor Watson, thank you for joining us. This broadcast originates in Toronto, which is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa and the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis people from across Turtle Island who find their home here. And we also acknowledge Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, which was signed by the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams treaties as signed with multiple Annishnabec, nations. And we’re at a particularly difficult time of reckoning. I think in urban Canada as an urban environments around the world, coming to terms with the legacies of systemic racism and all the challenges that have been had been in place for decades, centuries. At CUI we’re interested in how the built environment, the spatial city, actually helps fulfill the promise of cities to be accessible for everyone. And we are taking this seriously and confronting our own contribution to the ways in which the structures in our cities have been discriminatory and continue to be. And as we look at the impact of that, we can see that it is disproportionately affecting people of color and a number of systems that are in place and put people of color at risk. And we’re seeing all the implications of that. So we have these conversations cognizant of that, that that’s the context in which we find ourselves. And how are we going to reckon with that and how are we going to reconcile ourselves to that and then how do we actually address this going forward? So we’re interested to have Mayor Watson join us and share his own views and struggles as the City of Ottawa was coping with this extraordinary crisis and COVID and then all the other preexisting challenges that our cities experienced before, including the ones I just referred to, a number of others. And how is that all manifesting. For people who are coming, joining our chat? It’s always great if you’ll let us know where you’re signing in from. Mayor Watson people come from across the country. So it’s always interesting for us to see who’s on. When you put a comment in the chatbox, folks, please direct it to all panelists and everyone. You’ll see it as a toggle switch at the bottom. And we’d love to hear where you’re watching from. And you can post questions here for the mayor. And you can obviously you can ask questions of each other. We find that the CHATBOX is a very vibrant place for discourse and we record these conversations so people that miss the session with the mayor today can watch it at their leisure at some other point. And we also published five or six takeaways that we think are the most. Some interesting points that the mayor will raise. And then we also published this chat. So just be aware that if you have say something in the chat, it stays in the chat to be seen. So, Mayor Watson, let’s start with you if you can. Can you just give us a a picture of what your experience has been in Ottawa over the last 12, 13 weeks? And what are you seeing and what have you been struggling with?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:03:43] Well, first of all, Mary, thank you very much and the institute for allowing me some time to talk to you and other Canadians about COVID-19, and the challenges that we face as a society. An obviously the anti-black racism element as well that has come at roughly the same time. From the COVID-19 point of view I’m very, very proud of our city’s response. The work that our public health unit, Dr. Vera Etches, has been unbelievable in terms of her performance, competency, compassion, passion about doing whatever we can to protect as many people as possible. In Ottawa, we’ve sadly 48 residents pass away as a result of COVID-19. And we have about ninety one thousand eighty five cases. Our numbers have started to go downwards we are starting to see some positive aspects to the numbers, which is good. But we’re still obviously like every other major city in the country not out of the woods. We set up very early on after COVID reached our city two task forces. One is a human needs taskforce dealing with the most vulnerable people in our community. The other is the Economic Recovery Taskforce, because we recognize that virtually every business in the city was going to be shut down. Our largest employer, the federal public service, was going to be operating quite a marginal seat from home. That would have a tremendous impact both on the short term, immediate term, on our economy and jobs, as well as medium and long term. So on the Economic Recovery Taskforce, we gathered together leaders from the business community, the BIAs, Board of Trade, le Regroupement des gens d’affaires which is the Francophone equivalent of the Board of Trade, Ottawa festival network, Ottawa tourism, as well as a number of other organizations, our film commissioner and music industry leaders to put together and action plan. It would help our business as best as possible. As you know, at the municipal level, we don’t have the ability to financially subsidize businesses. We’re allowed to onus as it’s called, municipal act. But there are some things that we can do. So we we offered a deferral of property tax payments. Normally, that would be the final bill would go out this month. And this property tax deferral for those people will apply for it. We’ll see their taxes paid in October instead of June. So it gives them a few months of breathing space to try to get some cash flow issues. We haven’t had a large to take up on that, but I think it’s probably a couple of thousand people. And that will help those businesses. And we’re we’re telling the landlords you’ll only be eligible for it if you pass along the benefit to your retail tenants. And of course, the same with with people living in apartments and so on. Secondly, we also put together a toolkit, an economic recovery tool kit that gives businesses all of the rules and regulations on the three levels of government as to what has to be done in order to open your business. It’s been received very, very well. It’s been circulated province wide. And I know there was a national table on this recovery that saw it could and they said it was the best one they’ve seen in the country. So that is available to everyone if you go to the Ottawa website, Ottawa.ca. We’ve also instituted it by-local campaign because obviously there’s some businesses that are open and have curbside delivery or pick up or take out. So we’re encouraging people to go and buy gift certificates because it will help the business in the short term with cash flow, keep more people employed and then those people use those gift certificates maybe a few months down the road. We’ll give them out as Christmas gifts or whatever. So that’s helped a number of businesses. And finally, we’ve been working with businesses that have been pivoting to new products to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have a distillery, for instance, that’s converted their alcohol, making efforts to hand sanitizer. We have businesses that have started manufacturing screens and plexiglass dividers and so on and doing whatever we can to help those businesses who in turn then are able to hire back people and get them back to work. So that’s been the economic task forces, a number of other initiatives. But we meet every week via conference call, and I’m very much appreciative of the business community working hand-in-hand with us on the human needs task force. This is obviously dealing with the most vulnerable, those people who are, for instance, homeless or living in shelters. When you’re told to self isolated, you live in a shelter that’s very difficult. We’ve opened to self isolation centers in areas of the city that would have the largest percentage of people in shelters or living on the streets. And we’ve opened a third shelter outside of the downtown core for those people who want to get away from the crowdedness of the downtown core. We’ve also been working with our social service partners to identify those families, particularly women and children, to take them out of the shelter system and provide them with hotel rooms. So that’s something that we’ve been working on. And I think we have a couple hundred people in various hotel rooms in the city. They’re working on a number of other different initiatives, ensuring that we have the necessary funds available to provide food and shelter. And I’ve personally been involved with some fundraising initiatives that we’ve launched a fundraising initiative for the Ottawa Food Bank with the COO of one of our great success stories, Shopify, here on together with others. We raise about three or ten thousand dollars in 48 hours to provide funding for the food bank because we know that the food bank demand is gone through the roof as a result of so many people losing their job.
Mary Rowe [00:10:03] Well, I appreciate you know, we’ve been saying that, you know, the municipalities are on the front line, most from most frontline workers work for municipality or any work for a provincially funded agency. But we we feel like cities are absolutely on the front lines delivering every service. So much has been required of you. You’ve had to improvise and make it all up as should go. And it’s interesting to me the extent to which some of the things that you’ve had to do might end up being things that would stick longer. You know, that there might be some changes that you would that you may have made in the in dealing with the emergency that you think are probably the right thing to do. So that, for instance, and some of these we hear from mayors across the country who are putting homeless folks into motels and hotels, are you thinking at the city about whether you should actually acquire some of these properties in and create more supportive housing? Thoughts on that?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:10:55] We are just at our last council meeting, a week and a half ago, a motion was put forward. It was passed unanimously, the directed staff, to go and look at that exact issue of purchasing or leasing hotel. It’s come at a good time, if you can call it that, because a number of the hotels obviously shut down because no one traveling right to you. And as a result, we know that there are at least two hotels that are potentially for sale and that would make a good investment. One of the hotels is a suite hotel which has kitchenettes. So obviously some kitchen facilities that we can’t allow people just to live in a hotel room with no kitchen facilities. So our staff, we’re looking at that now coming back. We’ll come back with a cost benefit analysis. How much work has to be done for the renovation? Why would you make it more livable? We think that’s a very good idea because, quite frankly, the alternative is crowded or overcrowded. Shelter system living on the street. Couch surfing. Those are not sustainable or or good for the health and well-being of both mentally and physically, poor or vulnerable citizens. So we we’re looking at that. And it’s something I know that we’ve done aggressively in British Columbia, particularly in Vancouver, by old old hotels. We have to make sure that our partners at the provincial level are at the table as well with funding both in terms of capital input as well as operating dollars, because many of these people you simply can’t just. Here’s a key. Here’s your room. It supports wrapped around them. That requires operating dollars. So where. Excuse me. You know, we’re we’re also even speak to another aspect of our our system, is our transit system. Our transit ridership has plummeted like every other transit system in Canada. Eighty eighty five percent. And yet we know that when businesses start to open, government offices start to open, people will be back on the system. And we need to deal with physical distance, which is very difficult with a mass transit system, because the very nature of the work mass means it’s a lot of people in a confined space. So we were the first transit commission in Canada to require, as of June 15, mandatory wearing of masks in our trains and our bus system. That’s going to be a challenge because there’ll be some people that forgot their masks, cannot afford a mask, do not want to wear a mask. But we know that it’s in everyone’s best interest and self-interest to wear a mask, to protect others and certainly to protect yourself. So we will go through that. We also partnered with United Way and they’re going to be opening to hire people to sell masks and to use the funds to buy additional mass for those people who can’t afford one or don’t have one. So it’s charitable giving, but you’re getting a very valuable in return and that is a mask to keep you and others on the bus and the train protected. So we have another at least 14 or so different elements to the recovery plan for our transit system, including the mass program and sanitation centers and each of the main stations.
Mary Rowe [00:14:15] Yeah. Again, you know, we’re getting some interesting questions in the chat here about active transportation, alternative transportation back to this notion of are there certain things that will be introduced during the crisis that could stick? And you just talked about and acquiring hotels and motel beds. You know, I think thirty years ago, you and I are old enough to remember 30 years ago in New York City when New York was hugely challenged in the nineteen nineties, there were old, old, beautiful hotels there on Times Square and a social entrepreneur working for Catholic Charities recognized that she could buy those hotels at a very minimal cost, turn them into supportive housing. And they’ve ended up being this extraordinary model for. That’s Rosanne Haggerty and her work on common ground and now community solutions. So it was. It was. The time of crisis that ended up with a significant structural change, that it was a positive one on on transit. Questions for you, I guess, about, you know, obviously some of the chats asked us. I know a number of people asked us to. And we’re not taking ferries now for transit, protecting the drivers and trying to make mobility easier. You think there’s can you imagine a world where transit in Canada could be free?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:15:25] Well, as you know, nothing is free in this world. No cost. I always try to correct those people who say we want free transit. Well, unless the buses and gas are give given to us free and our drivers makeable go.
Mary Rowe [00:15:39] Free for free for passengers. Right.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:15:42] Yeah. We have a policy of roughly 50 50 split between Barebacked, Boxen and tax payers. And taxpayers also fund through other governments and ourselves. One hundred percent of the capital costs. So we’re talking just the operating costs. I don’t happen to support that. I know I’m not popular with some of the community and want everything for free or want everything at no cost. But there is a cost to taxpayers. And what we’ve tried to do is invest significantly in a multi-billion dollar train system that no doubt has had its its birthing pains in the first couple of months. Yeah. It’s like every new transit system. I talk to mayors of Toronto and Montreal, the TTC has a major breakdown at least once a week, if not twice. Montreal the same with their Metro system. So we’re we’re in good company, but we’re working with the reduced capacity now to really solve some of the functional problems that we’ve had. So what we’ve tried to do is we have one of the most generous community passes. It’s called an EquiPass for low income individuals. It is half the price of regular adult pass. So that is something that was introduced within the last year or so, including an EquiFare so that those people who only paid by by cash can pay one after 50 percent off it passes that an adult passenger. So I said as one of the most generous and fairest in the entire country, we also have a U-Pass system, which is for university and college students, which is again a significant deep discount from regular adult fare for our post-secondary institutions like Carlton Ottawa-U, Algonquin College and Saint Paul University here in Ottawa. And what we’re trying to do is to encourage more and more people, obviously, to take transit routes from a public policy point of view and environmental point of view. It’s it’s our single biggest tool in our toolkit to reduce our carbon footprint and GHGs because the system is electric. The East-West LRT is electric. So the short answer is there are there may be some that would like us to eliminate fees and passes, but we’d have to find a significant large amounts of money that the only source. We have the taxpayer and it would equate to between a 12 and a 50 percent tax increase to Ottawa residents.
Mary Rowe [00:18:22] To their property tax.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:18:23] To their property taxes to get a. And as you know, the property tax system is probably the most regressive system of taxation that doesn’t really reflect one’s ability to pay. You’re often, you know, through the assessment system, you’re you’re being taxed on an unrealized capital gain. I get my assessment of my houses, as they say, is valued at four hundred thousand dollars. Well, I’m not selling my house. Now, why should I be assessed at that inflated level when it could be a couple of years. It will go back down or it will go back up even more or so. It’s not the greatest way to to fund organizations that were originally set up to provide core basic services. We’ve taken on a lot more over the years because we’ve had to fill the void of cuts and downloading by other levels of government. But over the years. Over the decades.
Mary Rowe [00:19:12] Well, let’s talk about that for a sec, because you’re you’re a rare breed, I’m sure, in all sorts of ways. But you’re a rare breed in that you’ve also served at the provincial level. And in fact, you were Minister of Municipal affairs. I don’t know whether housing was with your ministry. That’s why I think you would think it was on your watch that some uploading took place for some of the costs were actually. And I feel like we’re now at another pivotal point here about thinking carefully about who does what and who pays for what. And as you suggest, it’s been very clear during COVID that there are all sorts of things that municipal governments are obligated to do or are responsible for doing, or in this case, were compelled to do because somebody had to. And you don’t actually have a sustainable revenue streams to do it. So based on your experience being in a provincial legislature and at a cabinet table. And now here as a mayor. How do you think this is going to shake out financially? And here we are very aware of this. This listenership on CityTalk is very aware of the financial fiscal cliff that the municipal governments are facing. And what’s your thinking about how to get it?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:20:18] Yeah, that’s a good point you raised. You know, I think I’ve I’ve been fortunate to have worn a couple of hats over my career, including at one point President of Crown Corporation, Minister of Municipal Affairs and housing. And as mayor, both of the smaller city of Ottawa and the larger city of Ottawa. And the upload agreement we called it was something that I was particularly proud of as Minister, because during the Harris government, there was significant downloading to the municipal sector. I was mayor at that time. So things like, you know, it’s called Highway 174. For all intents purposes, the highway but that was downloaded to the municipal sector, which has cost us millions of dollars to repave and rebuild and plow every year and so on. We were paying for the court security costs in the provincial courthouse, nothing to do with the city. It was Ontario’s provincial courthouse right next to us here at City Hall. And we were paying Ottawa police officers to guard that particular facility. And the same with all the social services, which, again, there’s no direct correlation between the traditional role of responsibility and the municipalities and social services. So we paid for portions of the Ontario drug plan, the Ontario Works Program, Ontario Disability Support Program. All of those costs were uploaded, including prisoner transportation and security. And it ended up saving municipalities. I think it was the total figures, but I one point to one point three billion dollars in savings because the province took back those responsibilities. And in Ottawa’s case, I think was about one hundred twenty one million dollars. So it was a bit of a lifeline, but from a philosophical point of view, it was the right thing to do. Not just because it saved property tax payers money, because a lot of that money, for instance, in my first term, I committed to 16 million dollars of new housing each year for the four years of that first term of office. Using that upload money. So it wasn’t used to give people tax breaks. It was used to invest in social infrastructure. And so now with COVID-19, we’re seeing the challenges that we’re facing. I was just on a Zoom call with the Provincial Minister of Health, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Long term care, all three meeting with us in our group called LUMCO, which is the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus to talk about funding opportunities, because we’re a bit of a ping pong ball right now between the federal government, the provincial government. And no one really wants to take responsibility. Even though, Constitutionally it is the Province and the Federal government have been very good partners. They announced last week the gas tax will be made in one lump sum and so spread over to it’s no new money, but at least it gets the money in our coffers and helps us with some cash flow and obviously will generate some interest on the millions of dollars that are sent our way. But we need obviously to continue to push all levels of government, all orders of government, as we say, to ensure that we have the necessary tools to provide the programs that the public have come to expect. And so we know that there are going to be a lot of people dealing with hardship issues. Rent is a big issue, obviously, for people of the small businesses not being able to pay the rent for their stores and individuals who are living in apartments or rooming houses. They’re facing. So, you know, even something as simple as our ambulance service, we have a real problem here. And it’s not unique to Ottawa or not unique to Ontario. It takes so long to get the offload of patients from paramedics ambulance to the hospital and then they sit around there. So you go by one of our hospitals. It is ten or twelve ambulances parked there waiting because they can’t offload and get the necessary sign off from the hospital to allow them to to go back out and do more work. And so we have several occasions where I think it’s called call code black, recall code orange, where there’s no ambulances in the entire city available at all. So we rate I raise that with the minister today. And she understood it’s a problem in our city, but it’s a problem province one. And those are the kinds of things where there are these joint partnerships where the ambulance services, 75 percent funded by the province and 25 percent by the city. We have public health, for instance, before this pandemic, the current provincial government cut public health. We managed to sort of lobby them. I worked with John Tory and others to sort of get some of the cuts reinstated. But we’re going to have to have a serious discussion with the province. You can’t go and cut public health because it’s played such an important role in the fight against COVID-19. I think most people realize the men and women, the doctors and nurses of public health have been doing a remarkable job under very challenging circumstances. But we can’t undermine their good work by underfunding that good work.
Mary Rowe [00:25:29] You know, this is sort of a fundamental question, though, Mayor, because and I want to call you minister at the same time. And as you have both sides of your brain engaged with this, it is one of the challenges. Also, though, that public health, that the province had the authority to cut public health, because the dilemma is if you had other revenue tools within your municipal purview and you had standards, let’s say that the province gave to you, that you had to you had to comply with, then how you resource your public health department would be your call and you would have the money to be able to have a public health department that was able to respond to the needs of your local community. Is that just not possible to imagine?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:26:08] Well, I think one of the things that we’re going to have to have a long look at after all of the health issues have subsided. We don’t know when the virus is going to leave or whether it will ever leave. Flu sort of a year, but hundreds of people die of the flu. I think we need to better understand the division of responsibility. I was talking to a colleague today. You know, health is. Everyone has their fingers in that pot. You got Public health at the local level and the Provincial Government has health Federal government Aboriginal health. Very poorly coordinated. And a lot of duplication that we have out here in Ottawa. Health Canada there is building after building in an area called Tunney’s Pasture, filled with people that are part of Health Canada. And they did the same thing in Toronto at Queen’s Park. Yeah. Thousands of people filling a building there. And then you have local health here that possibly has boards of directors. So if you were designing this from scratch, it would not be designed the way we have it. Right. Because too many people are involved and there’s too much duplication of effort. So now is not the time to have that discussion because we’re in the midst of dealing with transplant. But I think we have to have that discussion that that has to be properly funded. One of the things I also happened to be the first Minister of Health promotion in the Province of Ontario, and it was dealing with the determinants of health from the front end instead of constantly sending people into what I call the sickness system, which is the most expensive care in the whole triage movement of health care. Let’s make sure that we do things like bring in the smoke free Ontario Act to reduce smoking rates. We’re going to healthy eating out of living strategy and injury prevention strategy. Make sure that people are more physically fit. These kids have an opportunity to have a daily gym class and so on. So that you can deal with some of the fundamental issues of obesity. We’ve seen a three percent increase in obesity rates in North America among kids in the last twenty five years. And you see it on the streets. You see it in the fast food restaurants. And that ends up clogging the health care system, clogging your heart, clogging your health care system with health issues, diabetes, certain forms of cancer. So, you know, sometimes doing so is just just a nanny state. One of the things I’m most proud of as Minister was bringing in the getting past the smoke free Ontario Act. Because we know that to save lives both from reducing smoking levels, increasing smoking cessation and protecting those workers at bars and restaurants that we’re subjected to going into a blue haze of smoke. Remember the old days? Remember, that’s the smoking section. That’s not the smoking section. And I remember telling my niece one day that you used to be able to smoke on an airplane wherever you were smoking section. There was a little curtain.
Mary Rowe [00:29:05] I had smoking parents and smoking in cars. So, Mayor, let’s go back to. Let’s go back to the jurisdiction you’re now served in. As I suggested here and you’re a very important asset because you actually have understands how the other system works. Just like your colleague gets Mayor Savage has sat at the federal table. So it’s important that we have these multi-level experience. And if we go to the areas where you actually have jurisdiction and you have to make changes. What about this idea that we’re seeing in other cities around turning streets over to more pedestrian use, repurposing lanes, adding more bike lanes, all that kind of stuff? How are you imagining going forward on that in terms of the lessons we can derive from this and anything that you think that can stick?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:29:49] Well, again, I think, you know, there are some in our community that feel that I have not done enough on that. But we’re in a bit of a different situation. You have something called the NCC which is the National Capital Commission, which I now sit on the board of directors of along with the Mayor of Gatineau. And they have a number of parkways, which are the ideal roadways to convert to cycling. So they’ve done that. For instance, Queen Elizabeth’s driveway, which cuts right through the downtown core, has been shut down for the last couple of weeks. And then on weekends, they’re shutting down Sir John A. McDonald Parkway and the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway in different parts of the city. Some councilors have used we’ve created a traffic calming budget for each member of council and some have used those to block off certain streets. And in some instances, I think it’s worked well. In other instances, it hasn’t been as well received. But, you know, in the last the term council, we invested record amount, about 80 million dollars in cycling initiatives. We just opened Flora footbridge a couple of years ago named after Flora McDonald, who is for the first female Foreign Affairs Minister. And she used to skate. She’s a speed skater along with canals, this beautiful bridge with cyclists and pedestrians that connects two great communities with Easton. So, you know, I know other cities are moving forward with various temporary and some permanent structures. We have a cycling plan. We have funding in place for it. We’ll continue to make cycling more safe. We know, for instance, that we were the first city in Ontario to create an urban in the urban core, to create a segregated bike lane. I can almost see it from my office window here on Maury Avenue and another corner going south and morning Southwest. And that was a lot of businesses didn’t want that, but it’s worked out really well. And we’re proud to be the first one in the province to have that kind of a segregated lane in a urban setting.
Mary Rowe [00:32:02] You know what you’re talking about all the forms, that connective tissue. This is the business. We say CUI is in but you’re talking about the actual tangible forms of connective tissue that allow us to be mobile in a city. And with with more and more people working from home. And we’re hearing reports of large, large companies be making it clear that their employees can continue to work from home indefinitely. Do you have a sense of how that’s going to affect your allocation of resources within this? Within the city? You have a you have a vibrant commercial sector. And any thoughts on how that’s going to affect that area of the city? And are there going to be ways you’re going to have to adjust services, for instance, in different parts of the different neighborhoods?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:32:42] That’s a very good point. You know, Shopify, which again, I can look at across the street here, is a great Canadian success story. I think it’s the most valuable company. Now, even more than the Royal Bank I heard the other day, they announced that they’re shutting their offices until next year. Mostly everyone is working from home. I know when we’ve heard from the federal government that there will probably be a lot more people working from home than in the past because it’s worked out well in some instances. It probably hasn’t read the productivity issues and so on. And, you know, we’ve gone through these cycles a lot because government will come in and slash 20000 public servants, building downtown core, and then another government comes in and adds, you know, twenty or twenty two thousand public servants.Yeah. You know, we’re used to the up and down. That’s why we’re trying to strengthen the high tech sector and the tourism hospitality sectors to balance off the peaks and valleys of government whim. You know, one minute we’re going to hire the next we are not and then, you know, governments of decentralize some of the work still in Ottawa. But for instance, the RCMP is down in the south end of the city. Their headquarters and national defense is down, if you won’t, Nortel’s site in the west end of the city. But there always will be a vibrant downtown because Parliament Hill is here and you need that apparatus around Parliament Hill to make sure that the members in the districts and so on are served well. So I’m not sure. At the end of the day, a company decides they’re going to work from home if that’s going to work. Know, I think this more social animals, this as human beings, we want somebody interaction. I’m discovering myself and I work two, maybe two days a week from home and three days here at City Hall. I’m going stir crazy at home all the time because you procrastinate, too. Oh, yeah. Maybe I’ll go in the bathtub now and you’re not focused.
Mary Rowe [00:34:43] Yeah, I see you cook too much.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:34:47] or eat too much.
Mary Rowe [00:34:49] I was going to actually I was going to tease you that whether you’d taken those flags home with you that were behind your back. We realized when we were setting up that you were actually in your office.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:34:57] But I I think, you know, the impact it has is a couple fold one, obviously, the economic impact of people going and buying lunch and dinner. So on downtown, that’s going to back some of those businesses. And it will impact our ridership numbers on transit because the whole purpose of us investing billions of dollars on the LRT is to get people out of the city as quickly, as efficiently as possible so we’d have fewer people. That means we’re losing money. That would give you a perspective. Every mayor has their own number. Our number is we’re losing a million dollars a day. And that’s primarily as a result of loss of revenue from transit box as well as our recreation programs. They’ve all shut off skating lessons and swim classes, so on.
Mary Rowe [00:35:44] Right. And in terms of back to this notion of how things might shift or change, it seems to me that you’ve done a remarkable job. Ottawa has evolved. When I was younger, Ottawa was just a company town and it didn’t have the kind of vibrancy that it’s got now, didn’t it? Didn’t have the tech sector particularly. And it didn’t have a lot of what you had a lot of entrepreneurial businesses. You have interesting restaurants. We’ve been watching. We have a thing that CUI produced. Most city talkers will know about it called CityShareCanada.ca. It’s a place for people to put up and crowdsource. Everyday new ideas come up there about things that are being done. And we had seen some of the support programs that were existing for your restaurants and that you’ve started some local delivery services. And it’s all pretty fantastic that people are self organizing to sort of address this differently. In terms of your economy and having it becoming more diverse. You’ve been dependent on tourism and I’m interested in how your how do you imagine that? Are you going to make that shift or the next several months when the border may still be closed to Americans, or are travelers coming from other countries?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:36:50] It’s a it’s a huge challenge. You know, I have the honor of being the president and Tourism Commission, which the Federal Crown Corporation that promoted Canada’s tourism destination. And we really hit our stride in twenty seventeen. We put a lot of effort and financial resources into the system, centennial celebration to really go to the next level tourism promotion. We had a banner year and we worked really hard in the next couple of years. After that, we did even better in terms of hotel occupancy, airport arrivals and so on. So our our team Ottawa tourism Michael Crockett, the president there, and his entire team did a great job. One of the first cities to introduce the Municipal Accommodation Tax, which funds Ottawa tourism, which has been a godsend to them. But obviously, people don’t stay in hotels as in the case they’ve been hit financially in terms of their ability to market. So in the short term, we’re going to market obviously the Montreal- Toronto corridor, one or two day trips trying to get people from those two large cities who don’t want to travel too far afield to get here and build on the success that we’ve had. As you know, all of the national institutions, when they open up again, whether it’s civil parliament buildings or National Gallery, the National Arts Center, the warm Museum of Nature and some of our local museums as well. So tourism is our third largest industry in Ottawa people think of Ottawa as a government town. You’re quite right. But, you know, Money Sense magazine, the national publication list of those two years in a row is the best city to live in. Know, raise a family. The quality of life and safety people have here. It really is a beautiful city. We have a great partnership with Gatineau for instance, across the river the Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin I have a very good working relationship and worth a lot of progress. We’re really one economic region provided by the Ottawa river where we’re looking, you know, the festivals that we have in our city. We now have over 100 festivals and fortunately, most of them today have been canceled. Our biggest festival, Blues Fest was canceled, or Tulip Festival, which was going to mark the seventy fifth anniversary of the Liberation of all Holland. And Princess Margaret is scheduled to be here last week. And she was born, of course, in Ottawa during World War Two and her family sought refuge here. A lot of history between the Dutch and ourselves. But those festivals, we made a decision to keep funding them at the same level, even though they didn’t put on a festival because they had built in fixed costs if we’d pulled the funding, we’d say, well, you didnt put a festival, you’re not going to get the money. They would have gone bankrupt. So we’re pushing the province to Federal government to do the same thing because we need to keep the infrastructure, the talent, the professionals of these organizations together so they can start planning next year’s festival and not realize that we can’t keep planning as they have no money to pay salaries or office
Mary Rowe [00:39:46] Yeah, I’m in the same way that the wage subsidy was designed so that employers would not have to lay their staff, staff, staff off and then start from ground zero when they came back for that was that smart of you and we’ve been having one of our CityTalks talks yesterday was on culture and the future of the cultural sector. And the idea that these these organizations are are redefining themselves, too, and figuring out can they create a digital presence. But also, as someone was raising on the session yesterday, that museums can they can they start to make their content and their programing and exhibits locally focused so that locals will come in. And I am quite familiar with the Ottawa Art Gallery and the remarkable work that they’ve been doing there. I don’t shop at the local communities.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:40:30] So that’s a great a great example. Thank you for mention. I’m looking at the one of the things holding up the screen is the Ottawa Art Gallery book will all become stories and not out of disrespect, but I see that every day with every one of these calls, but. I’m really proud of the Ottawa Art Gallery. That was one of my pet projects that we’ve been working on for a long time. And the board and staff from Alex H-E put together a world class municipal art gallery that was free of charge, Seven Network Consulting. Obviously not now during COVID. And it’s another example of the renaissance and rebirth of our downtown core. We have LRT close the downtown where you take the train, two minute walk. You’re at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Go free of charge. Look at one of the greatest collections, seven paintings in Canada. It’s not the world. Because of its generous family, the Firestone family donated their entire collection of art to the Ottawa Art Gallery. We have the national institutions with the bodywork market, the oldest continuous market. And you mentioned restaurants. We’ve got some amazing chefs, World-Class chefs, that are being drawn to the culinary scene. You know, when I arrived in Ottawa for university, I joked with friends. I said the closest thing to European cuisine in Ottawa was Swiss Chalet. And I love Swiss Chalet. I ordered that at least once, once a week. But we needed to up the game. And we have some great restaurants and culinary scene. What is a lot of people? And we also have. Most people don’t realize Ottawa is. Can you go get them out for me? I was going to show you a map. I had our staff put together a map. We’re a big, large rural community. Believe it or not. Eighty two percent of Ottawa is rural forest. And aggregates. 82 percent of Ottawa because we have this massive green greenbelt like house of eleven hundred farms. Believe it or not. And we have one of the largest solar farms, for instance. And I had our staff pull this together. I don’t know if we’d be able to see it. We superimpose come on in here. We superimposed the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. All of those cities fit within the boundaries of Ottawa And we’re still bigger than those five cities by a hundred square kilometers.
Mary Rowe [00:42:50] My gosh, what a great thank you to your able assistant.
[00:42:57] This is this is Calgary, which is a twenty six square kilometers. This one this is one municipal ward called West Carlton, where there are twenty six thousand people live there. Calgary has one point two million. So there are more cows than people. There’s more cows than people in West Carlton. So it gives you an idea of the challenge of planning a city that has a very distinct urban core, suburban core. It’s wonderful rural villages where you can go to a cranbury farm or you can go into Vanier, which is a wonderful Francophone community. They have a working sugar shack for a cab in a supermarket. You can go into it. You don’t see, as I said, see one of the largest solar farms. Eleven hundred working farms in the City of Ottawa. And it makes it quite a unique city to live in and visit. That’s one of the things we’re working with the tourism industry. How do we work with the cycling groups to create rural cycling opportunities to bring people out to these beautiful little villages that have their own cafes, bed and breakfast and so on, and create the staycation concept to help get some of the money back in circulation. And we’re, I think, probably better shape a lot of other cities because we have the stability of the federal public service where people continue to work from home. Collect the paycheck. Yes, with Aris. We’re counting on them once the economy opens up again. Get out there and spend money, go to restaurants, go to boutiques, don’t buy everything online from a company in the states. Support the local businesses that create the jobs that sponsor the kids hockey teams that really, you know, make a main street or Bank Street or Queen Street or or ELGAN or the byword market or retail street, the vibrant places they are.
Mary Rowe [00:44:45] Yeah. At your map is a huge hit I hear in the chat. So I hope that our staff will team up with your able assistant there who just brought them up a little. Tweet that out, folks. Everybody has it. It really is a great map. We had Mayor Savage on a couple of weeks ago, same site. And he was saying the same thing, that the region of Halifax incorporates a lot of rural areas as well. So it that’s obviously a challenge for you in terms of land use and planning, but also transit and collect and connectivity and all the extra challenges. But as you say, there’s a plus side to it. And we’re kind of moving into the homestretch here with you, Mayor Watson, because I know you have important things you have to get to. And we appreciate you taking the time. One thing that I am. We have a project at CUI that we’re working with a gazillion partners on called Bring Back Main Street. And. And one of the challenges that we’re aware of is that Main Street businesses, local businesses are often anchored by academic institutions. And you have several in Ottawa. And there it’s not clear what whether they’re bringing students. And what the long term arrangements are going to be for those places, they often have lots and lots of physical space classrooms. Are you guys thinking much about that in Ottawa about what the fall is going to look like if those universities aren’t actually back functioning in the way they have traditionally done?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:46:01] I don’t know. Final decisions have been taken. I know a lot of the universities of particular my alma mater, Carlton Universities, indicated that a good majority, I believe, of their classes will be online. That has an impact, obviously, in terms of the quality of education, I think. But also, you know, we welcome tens of thousands of students to come into the city. They rent apartments. They live in residence. They shop locally. Yeah, they’re part of a community. And I remember years ago seeing statistics, something like 60 percent of students who go to university in Ottawa would end up staying here because they fall in love with someone or their city or job and want to stay here.
Mary Rowe [00:46:43] And it’s a great recruitment. It’s a great urban recruitment method. Yeah. What’s going to happen to that? Yeah.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:46:49] But it’s also it’s also with adds to the vibrancy. You know, I, I used to live very close to Carlton university and you know, every once while you get a little rowdy party, you know, for the panda games and so on, but most of the time they were great contributors. And that’s going to have a significant hit to the economy, the local economy, not so much, I think, for the universities, because they’re still going to have the students pay tuition, obviously, but it’s going to be a different education. How do you have an orientation online? How do you have that kind of fun of social interaction with with other students to meet them from around the world? Because our our universities and colleges attract students from around the world to come and learn at some of these great institutions. So it’s a big problem. I you know, I’ve had some discussions with the presidents of the universities, but I think they’re struggling to find a way. How do they educate these people without them necessarily being physically in the City of Ottawa? You know, it’s the same with the residences. There are thousands of residents rooms. If everything’s gonna be online, there’s no reason for you to move here and probably not all the residences if they’re not required. And that has an implication for layoffs in the food services sector as well.
Mary Rowe [00:48:01] I guess there’s questions, too, about whether are there temporary uses then for those academic facilities? I mean, I know that in the city of Calgary, for instance, and when they built the new library and they were renovating City Hall, it meant that there were some right on the main street. One of the main streets downtown. It left some empty office space. And then the University Department of Planning actually moved in. So during these times of transition, maybe we’re going to see different kinds of repurposing. Maybe only on a temporary basis as that. The larger share base.
Mayor Jim Watson [00:48:32] Yeah, it could be. You know what we mentioned earlier? The Ottawa Art Gallery. We actually partnered with the Ottawa-U, University of Ottawa. And they have a lecture hall and classrooms as part of the footprint of the Ottawa Art Gallery. So I know that universities, because so many students are applying to come to you of all Algonquin, Lessiter, St Paul’s, Carlton University, that they’re bursting at the seams and they need the space. But the reality is that it’s really uncertain because we’re still in this state of emergency, both provincially and locally. And there are limitations in terms of what we can and can’t do. And we have to respect the physical distancing. The public health officials are telling this is the best way for us to do battle COVID-19.
Mary Rowe [00:49:21] Yeah. OK, OK. Well, we’re almost out of time here, Mayor Watson. So in terms of we’re it today, believe or not, is day eighty two weeks from now will be at COVID one hundred. That’ll be one hundred days since the WHO declared it the pandemic of global emergency. So as you’re heading into COVID one hundred and COVID two hundred presumably. Is there one particular thing that you’re having to double down on as the Mayor of Ottawa that year is really top of your mind right now? I’m sure there’s many up there. But can you just pick one to finish on?
Mayor Jim Watson [00:49:50] Know, I think really the, you know, doing everything we can humanly possible to keep the message fresh, even though it’s often the same message and people are starting to get fatigued with, you know, two meters and wear a mask and wash your hand we have to continue that, because unfortunately, that’s the only way that we know to stop the spread. There’s no vaccine at this point, then? Well, it’s frustrating, I think, for people and kids in the parks were closed and playground equipment is off limits. I’m not a parent, so I don’t have any idea how difficult it is to have your kids at home 24/7. But we need to respect the wise advice for medical officers of health in all parts of Canada. What’s been impressive is that generally all three orders and governments work well together there. We put partisanship aside by and large. I think the public would expect of us. You know, I have a very good you know, philosophically, I’m not of the same realm as Doug Ford, but he and I have a very good relationship I texted him two nights ago when he got back to me on the phone, we had a good conversation about a couple of issues that we’re facing. And same with the prime minister. So, you know, they put partisanship aside and I think that’s for the betterment of our communities and our society as we head down these very much unchartered waters.
Mary Rowe [00:51:14] Yeah, I mean, there’s and then there’s all sorts of practical things that just have to get fixed and I guess there’s not a lot of time where nobody has bandwidth for too much partisanship we just have to get them solved anyway. That’s true. One of the healthy things about about urban leadership, I think, in municipal governments is that generally you’re not constrained by, at least in Canada, by parties or party politics, and you’re just going to get it done. So we appreciate you very much taking time with us. As I suggested at the outset, we’re aware that many, many people living in urban environments in Canada are feeling an emotional sense of precarity, economic precarity, social precarity. And now. And now the issues of systemic racism are really on the surface for folks. So we appreciate. How do we build collective empathy? How do we actually move to a place of a more just community of more just and equitable cities? So that’s the path we’re on. We appreciate the leadership of mayors like you and we appreciate how much municipal governments have just had to step up and be on the on the front front line and make it up. It’s kind of a DIY city these days, and we appreciate it. So thank you for joining us. Next week on City Talk, folks, we have for another super week for CUI. We’ve got four sessions on Wednesday. We’re going Jay Piter is taking over the chair here and she’s been working with CUI for a number of weeks. And she’s hosting a session with participants from the United States and Canada on how do we respond to anti black racism and urbanist practices and conversations, really critical conversation that I hope they’ll join CUI for. And Jay and her colleagues, Wednesday, noon, then Thursday, we have a session called How Do We Ensure Equal Access to Parks and Public Space, and that’s with partner in partnership with the park people. And we have people coming in from Paris where they really have struggled with equitable access to public space and have a lot of hard won lessons there and other parts. And that Thursday’s session is at one just heads up. You and everyone will get the email we usually get on Monday morning. But I’m just telling you so you can mark your calendars now. And that’s Thursday at 1:00, Wednesday at 12 with Jay. And then we have a super Mayor week next week, Mayor Watson. And two of your colleagues are coming on with us on Friday. And then she will be with us at noon to talk to us about his perspective from Calgary. And on Tuesday, we will have Mayor John Tory from Toronto with us. So next week is a big week for CUI and big week for us to come to terms with the reality. So thank you so much more Wasem for joining us. And we wish you a good week. And I wish everyone a safe weekend and a thoughtful weekend. Thanks, everybody. Bye bye.
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12:01:56 From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:02:24 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s conversation is with Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
12:03:27 From Laurel Davies Snyder: Hello from Stratford, ON
12:03:31 From tanya fink: Vancouver, BC
12:03:35 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:03:49 From Julie Bourgoin to All panelists: Hello from Saint-Lambert QC
12:03:51 From Beate Bowron: Toronto
12:03:53 From Abby S: Midtown Toronto
12:03:55 From Brian Owen: Hi Mayor Jim, I am in Hamilton ON today.
12:04:10 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:04:11 From Christina Sisson: Hello from the City of Kawartha Lakes where it is a very warm day!! Stay safe everyone!!
12:04:27 From J. Scott: From Tkaronto.
12:05:15 From Tamara Awada: Tamara Awada, Ottawa
12:05:29 From Nadine Tischhauser: Hello Mayor, greetings from Riga, Latvia! We miss our home in Ottawa!
12:07:11 From Steve Winkelman: Cities across Canada and the world are making major expansions pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to support social distancing, economic recovery and climate action. The Montreal Chamber of Commerce called for the closing of Ste-Catherine Street to help save downtown merchants. What are Ottawa’s plans for enhancing active transport?
12:09:53 From Michelle Rowland: Can you provide updates on what your plan is to enhance active transportation opportunities for Ottawa? The NCC has opened Sir John A MacDonald parkway. What can the City of Ottawa do? Listening from Ottawa today.
12:10:23 From J. Scott: COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire among migrant farm workers with temporary immigration status, housed by their employers in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions and work without access to any paid sick days or protective equipment. As of June 4, over 280 migrant farm workers have tested positive, several are hospitalized, and one worker from Mexico — 31 year old Bonifacio Eugenio Romero — has died.
Please act to prevent more workers from getting infected. Call your Member of Provincial Parliament! https://www.15andfairness.org/protectallworkers?utm_campaign=onwide_june4_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_source=decentworknow
12:13:00 From J. Scott: Protect ALL residents not just citizens.
12:13:54 From J. Scott: Transit systems should be tax based so it could be free.
12:14:02 From Michelle Rowland: Will you make transit free in Ottawa?
12:15:33 From Michael Roschlau: Excellent step to require masks on OC Transpo. Congratulations to the City of Ottawa for being the first in Canada to take this critical step. Others will hopefully follow – Brampton already announced and Toronto seriously considering.
12:16:15 From Robert Lane: Are you prepared to pay higher taxes for free
12:18:27 From Michael Roschlau: Fare-free transit has many issues, such as discouraging active transportation and degrading the “value” of something you don’t pay for. Better to have a deep discount for low-income individuals as Mayor Watson says.
12:18:32 From J. Scott: All venues where it’s not easy to physically distance should demand that masks are worn. We’ve missed out on doing that so far in Toronto, I think. Now the TTC is threatening a 50% cut in service so it will become a virus incubator. Had the system been tax based, our public transit could continue to provide the same level of service as pre-Covid.
12:18:33 From Abby S: I don’t think it should be thought of as “free”, it is where we put our resources. Our medical care is not “free”, but it is universal and accessible. The issue with equipages is there is stigma attached (or there can be) and you must apply. Taking a universal approach to affordable transit is different than “free”
12:18:59 From Nadine Tischhauser: Here in Riga, masks are required on all Public Transportation (bus, tram, etc) and it is working very well. The fare has not changed for riders however it is a tap system so no money is used or exchanged.
12:19:05 From Robert Lane: I continue watch folks with a mask hanging from their rear view mirror or grabbed out of the workpants and put on This is not cleanliness Mask are not the answer A very small solution Wash your hands
12:19:07 From Julie Bourgoin to All panelists: C19 and isolation has made it very obvious that working at home is possible, and more cost-efficient and environmentally more friendly. Do you fear the death of cities – with the masses moving to suburbs ur rural areas, demanding to continue to work from home ?
12:19:45 From J. Scott: If I had to pay an additional 15% on my property tax, I’d SAVE on my transit costs!
12:20:38 From Abby S: typo above…equipasses.
12:23:00 From Robert Lane: Time for less levels of Government – each has to have staff that does create wealth
12:25:07 From J. Scott: Is anyone thinking about how removing more single occupant cars by providing improved public transit would save the environment and reduce health costs?
12:25:39 From Steve Winkelman: Would you please circle back and ask about Ottawa’s plans for cycling and pedestrian improvements for pandemic response and recovery? Studies from London UK: Pedestrians spend 40% more than drivers; NYC: Retail sales 24% higher on streets with protected bike lanes. Montreal is adding 300 km of walk/bike infrastructure. Toronto added 40 km of bike routes.
12:27:48 From J. Scott: We’ve seen how the outcome of the current government’s health “care” plan has looked after Ontario residents.
12:27:50 From Robert Lane: Bikers – remember this is Canada We have snow – especially in Ottawa
12:27:51 From Steve Winkelman: [J. Scott: A study for the San Francisco Bay Area found that reductions in driving due to smart growth strategies could reduce health care costs by $140 million USD by 2035. There’s also good evidence on health benefits of increased physical activity and reduced pedestrian deaths with compact development and walkable neighbourhoods: https://www.greenresilience.com/smart-growth]
12:31:04 From J. Scott: Robert Lane et al: free and improved transit systems would help address winter needs across Canada.
12:32:10 From Michael Roschlau: One danger is that the fallout from COVID will encourage more people to acquire cars and drive, thereby worsening traffic congestion and emissions from transport. The potential (albeit politically challenging) opportunity is to consider new road pricing measures that could generate revenue to offset the new realities of funding public transit.
12:34:04 From J. Scott: Yea bike lanes everywhere! Even in Enbridge territory this is happening: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/bikes-popularity-increase-covid-calgary-1.5592984
12:35:31 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:36:08 From J. Scott: My love handles are developing Covid handles!
12:36:57 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/36VfTQr
12:40:45 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:41:13 From Steve Winkelman: The Ottawa Official Plan has some exciting measures to increase housing in transit-oriented neighbourhoods (intensification), including the interesting “613” housing concept (6 rooms, 3 beds) to fill the “missing middle” (between single family and towers) and 15-minute neighbouhoods. How will the City be promoting travel-accessible, affordable housing?
12:41:16 From J. Scott: To learn more about how communities are organizing food growing and distribution systems, this is a fantastic webinar: RECIPE FOR ACTION: Building Food Security in Insecure Times https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nxBaIsSa7A
12:42:49 From J. Scott: Free rapid transit can only be a great boon to businesses and tourism!
12:43:01 From Brian Owen: Hey, you forgot the Old Spaghetti Factory.
12:43:56 From J. Scott: Mayor Watson, please share that map!
12:44:18 From Nadine Tischhauser to All panelists: Excellent map! Thank you for sharing!
12:45:14 From Venczel Gloria: What does such sprawl do to your infrastructure costs when sprawl low density doesn’t pay for itself in tax revenues?
12:47:12 From Steve Winkelman: The Ottawa Scale in Perspective map can be found here: https://apt613.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Capture-Ottawas-size-768×410.png
12:47:40 From J. Scott: Thanks, Steve!
12:50:47 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/36VfTQr
12:52:21 From Abby S: Wouldn’t it be nice if this become the new normal…less partisanship and a new way of political discourse in our parliamentary oppositional system?
12:52:26 From J. Scott: Today is also World Environment Day
WEBCAST TIME FOR NATURE: BIODIVERSITY IN THE CITY – 7 – 8:30 PM ET
For those with kids first part of the webcast may appeal. It feels to be putting on a positive program to help get us more connected with nature…. enjoy. http://climatefast.ca/united-nations-2020-world-environment-day-time-nature-biodiversity-city or register directly on EB – you will be sent a YouTube link https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/time-for-nature-biodiversity-in-the-city-world-environment-day-tickets-105657644860
12:52:51 From Abby S: Thank you Mayor Watson and Mary!
12:54:04 From Andrea Calla: Thank you Mayor Watson and Mary for an interesting discussion!