Provincial housing minister resigns
The provincial housing minister resigns, and the finance committee passes budget directions.
My goodness it’s been hot. While August was completely free from +30 days, September started out a stinker. Hopefully you’ve been staying well hydrated through the heat.
I went golfing on Monday and it was…warm. Despite drinking litres of water, I was still quite gassed by the end of the round. Be careful out there!
My mistake: Last week I said splash pads were closed for the year. I mixed up the pads with wading pools. City splash pads will stay open until Sept. 15. Apologies!
Let’s get to it.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
Wednesday: 33 🌡️ 20 | ☀️
Thursday: 25 🌡️ 14 | 🌧
Friday: 23 🌡️ 14 | 🌧
Housing minister resigns under cloud
What happened: As public pressure grows on the Ontario government over its opening of protected Greenbelt lands to developers, housing minister Steve Clark resigned from cabinet Monday. He said on twitter it was “my responsibility to adhere to the principles of ministerial accountability,” which in this case meant resigning.
Why he’s out: Under Clark’s watch, 810,000 hectares of land were removed from the provincial Greenbelt surrounding the Greater Toronto Area. The provincial auditor general said several developers had a direct line to Clark’s chief of staff, who has also resigned, and the bulk of the government’s changes to protected lands were at the behest of those developers.
It’s estimated that the value of these 810,000 hectares grew by $8.3 billion when the government opened them for development.
Who he was: Clark has been the MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, directly southeast of the city, since 2010 and was housing minister since 2018. He spearheaded a widespread series of policy changes, including the expansion of urban boundaries in cities across the province, including in Ottawa, as the government tries to tackle the housing crisis.
In Ottawa, a smaller scale addition to the city’s urban boundary at the province gave a big boost to one group of developers, CBC reported at the time.
His replacement: Clark will be replaced by Markham-Stouffville MPP Paul Calandra. It’s one of several portfolios Calandra holds, as he’s also the government house leader and minister of legislative affairs. Calandra has a massive task ahead of him to make housing affordable.
Ontario is well behind on its 10-year housing goals, set in 2021 of building 1.5 million new homes. The province needs about 150,000 new homes per year, but is building only about 80,000 per year, CBC reported. Ottawa needs to build 15,100 homes every year to make up its share of that total. In 2022, the city set an all-time record in housing starts, according to the CMHC. But at only 11,032 units, it’s still well short of the goal.
Land review: Premier Doug Ford said all of the land of the Greenbelt — not just the few parcels involved in the scandal — will be put under review, CTV reported. The details of the review are sketchy, but Ford said it would be handled by provincial bureaucrats, not political staff. As many as 800 requests from developers to remove lands from the Greenbelt will be considered, The Globe and Mail reported.
But… The specific lands at the heart of the scandal will still be developed as planned, Ford said, despite the resignation of Clark and his chief of staff and the recommendation of the auditor general that the decision be reversed entirely. There is one exception, a parcel of land will be returned to the Greenbelt after the landowner listed it for sale recently.
OTTAWA BY THE NUMBERS
💥 3/4: How far a car crashed through a Montreal Road motel on the weekend. No charges were laid. [CTV]
🥵 32.5 C: The high recorded yesterday, making it the second-hottest Sept. 5 on record, only 0.6 degrees cooler than the same day in 1983. The humidex of 42.5 (!) was the highest ever for the day. [Ottawa Weather Records]
🚒 A serious fire in the Glebe damaged the upper floors of a townhome before firefighters were able to put it out. [CTV]
🐐 Police are looking for the owner of two goats who got loose and chased a jogger near a campground in Johnstown this weekend. [CTV]
🍻 The return of students to Kingston at Queen’s University meant more than 400 charges and fines were issued by local police. [CBC]
🚨 Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said more of the police budget should be devoted to combating gun crime after a fatal shooting at a wedding in Uplands over the weekend. [CBC]
🥵 In Gatineau and the Outaouais, several schools were closed because of the high temperatures. Ottawa schools are expected to stay open. [Ottawa Citizen]
Finance committee passes 2024 city budget outline
Tuesday, the city’s finance committee passed the budget directions for next year’s city budget, which will cap tax increases to 2.5 percent. The budget outline passed the committee 9-3. The full city council will vote on it in the coming weeks. In last week’s City Hall Insider, we previewed the staff report outlining the budget process to come, which the committee just approved. Here’s a snippet of that story outlining where the city is heading.
What happened: Right after this year’s budget was passed, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s promised “line-by-line review” of the next budget began. Looking to find potential cuts — or in the preferred bureaucratic euphemism, “find efficiencies” — the first pre-budget memo of this year’s budget lays out some of the ways the review will trim costs.
You can find the full document here.
Tax levels: The city is once again aiming for a 2.5 percent property tax increase. At the same time, it is expecting its assessment growth — essentially, the amount of extra money that comes in due to the growth of the number of property owners paying taxes — to grow only 1.5 percent (down from last year’s 2.3 percent). This will cause a shortfall of $10.5 million.
What to watch: The public works budget will be one to keep an eye on. Is the city assuming the last couple years of severe weather were a fluke? Or is it settling in for more snow, wind, ice, and rain? The size of the increase on this line item will tell us a lot about how optimistic, pessimistic, or perhaps delusional city staff are about climate change.
HOUSE OF THE WEEK
We thought we’d venture just a bit out of the core and head down to Osgoode for this week’s house of the week. This home, built in 1890 if you can believe it, comes with three bedrooms, a gazebo, and is zoned for mixed use so you could even open a business.
House of The Week is a home selected by the Lookout team and is not a paid advertisement. All ads are labelled as such. If you’re a realtor who wishes to feature your home in our newsletter, please contact our sales team.
⚖️ The trial of two convoy protest leaders kicked off with the prosecution arguing it was the means — taking over the city’s core — not the ends that made Tamara Lich’s and Chris Barber’s actions illegal. The trial is expected to run for two to three weeks. [Global]
🚂 Four years after it opened, the LRT is performing well below expectations. When it launched, it was expected to be able to carry as many as 10,700 riders every hour. Now, at reduced capacity because of train issues, it can only carry about 3,900 passengers per hour. [CBC]
🎤 A coalition of local activists are taking the Ottawa Police Board to court over new rules at the public body they say limit their freedom of expression. The new rules include requiring speakers to give their full notes to the board in advance for approval. [Twitter]
📚 Staffing issues in the education system are making it difficult for schools to hire principals and vice-principals. [CBC]
🌊 A pair of paddle boarders had to be rescued from the Deschênes Rapids, after they got stuck. While exhausted, they were uninjured. [CTV]
🏎️ After a summer of discontent between the city and the NCC, Queen Elizabeth Drive reopened to vehicles during the week. [CTV]
🚨 A bus from Gatineau’s STO transit service hit and injured a pedestrian downtown at Rideau and Cumberland. [CTV]
Good news! With the hot summer weather lingering, the NCC announced it will keep lifeguards at the reopened River House every weekend through September. City beaches are no longer monitored. [CTV]
Next time you’re in Vanier keep an eye out for James W. Cook’s front-yard sand sculptures. [CBC]
Air Canada may have cancelled its direct routes to Calgary, but WestJet is stepping into the void and will double the number of flights it runs to the Alberta city.
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The joys of fresh-made tortillas
Capital Eats is written by our food editor Ralf Joneikies.
For lovers of Mexican food, Aug. 16 was a very happy day. Ottawa’s first and only dedicated tortilleria opened its doors and the smiles on the faces of the Jimenez-Bucur family told the story.
It was was years in the planning and stepping inside the cheery sunflower yellow space I was welcomed by the warmth of the people and the toasty aromas of corn masa being baked. It reminded me a little of the aromas that come from my coffee roaster: sweet and nutty but less acrid than roasting coffee.
Founder Miguel plumbed the depths of his family history to create something unique on Ottawa’s food landscape. Given the number of customers the first few days, people were clearly ready for the experience of a shop dedicated to making the freshest tortillas, corn chips and salsas. Yes, this is the kind of take-home food we all were looking for.
🥅 Olympians Emily Clark, Brianne Jenner, and Emerance Maschmeyer are the first three players to sign contracts with Ottawa’s new Professional Women’s Hockey League team. [Ottawa Sun]
🏒 An informal skate today marks the unofficial start of training camp for the Ottawa Senators. [Ottawa Sun]
Congrats to everyone who got last week’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was ETHICS as in the rules the former provincial housing minister was accused of breaking by the ethics commissioner.
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