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Might new taxes be a way to fix the transit budget?

Licence plate fees and rideshare levies are possible solutions for the city’s transit budget deficit.

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Good morning!

With another issue with the LRT line, it seems like as good a time as any to revisit one of my favourite hobby horses: what exactly is the city going to do about the transit budget deficit? Fortunately a new report dropped this week with some interesting ideas.

The city has been hoping for years that someone else will bail out OC Transpo, and each year they’ve been disappointed. Sooner or later Ottawa’s leadership will have to accept that we might just have to fix this thing ourselves.

The problem is, that will cost money. Money the city is desperate not to spend. But without significant (further) cuts to service, the ship will not right itself. Maybe major rail expansions will bring people flocking to transit. But what if they don’t? 

Sooner or later, the city is going to have to accept that something is going to be done. There are some interesting ideas in this one. 

Why don’t we get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor


Friday: 21 🌡️ 8 | 🌤

Saturday: 24 🌡️ 12 | ☀️

Sunday: 27 🌡️ 17 | ☀️

Monday: 19 🌡️ 14 | 🌧


Is it time to look at new fees to fund OC Transpo?

What happened: Facing a persistent funding shortfall, the City of Ottawa should look at new ways to fund OC Transpo, according to a new transit study of Canadian cities. The study’s authors suggest the city could impose fees on licence renewals, private parking spaces, and rideshare trips to make up the funding gap.

  • The study, titled This is the End of the Line, looked at several cities across the country, including Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. The report was put together by Leading Mobility, a transportation planning firm.

The problems: Both the levies on parking spots and licence renewals would require the province to pass laws allowing the city to enact them. Particularly in the case of licence plate renewal fees for the city, this seems unlikely given the province has eliminated fees province wide.

  • The most plausible, or at least the easiest to implement, would be an additional levy on rideshare trips. Given the city already adds a surcharge for each trip, it would only need to make slight adjustments to its bylaws to add an additional fee to directly fund transit.

The authors believe the licence plate levy would be the best option, because it has the best chance of filling the revenue gap. 

  • “Despite [the political] challenge, vehicle levies would present the City of Ottawa with an opportunity to work toward climate action goals and objectives by discouraging high levels of automobile ownership and potentially influence Ottawans to take transit, walk or cycle. 

Declining service: In 2018, the city offered about 2.7 hours of service per capita in the city. (A broad brush measure that looks at how many buses and trains are running compared to population.) In 2021, service declined to 2.1 hours per person. With OC Transpo’s service review and accompanying cuts to bus service, that figure is likely to drop further.

Big budget hole: The city expects OC Transpo to run a deficit of some $35 million this year. The report’s authors warn that if nothing is done to fill that gap, the city will be forced to make up the revenue in additional property tax increases.  

  • “The annual cost pressure is closer to $100 million per year, and could require a 25% increase in the transit levy in municipal property tax,” the authors warn.

Yeah, but: The problem with all this is not just needing provincial sign-off on many of these measures, but also needing a council interested in adding pro-transit taxes. It seems pretty unlikely that this council would go forward with measures like, but they are worth considering.

  • Other levels of government have been so far reluctant to give the city operating money for OC Transpo. It’s likely the city is on its own. 

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🚔 $3 million: The value of 16 stolen cars, many of them classics, recovered by the OPP from a property in Stirling. Two people are facing charges. [CTV]

🪚 $64,000: A group of homeowners said a contractor operating in this region has kept about this much in deposits, and not completed the required work. [CTV]

🏎️ 169 km/h: The OPP pulled over a G2 driver going this fast, 69 km/h over the speed limit, on the 417 near Moodie Drive. [CTV]


How to bring back life to the core? $500 million would certainly help

What happened: Hoping to revive the fortunes of downtown will take a small fortune. Half a billion dollars worth. That’s according to a new report from the Ottawa Board of Trade, which suggests a $500-million fund from the federal and provincial governments as well as the private sector, CTV reported.

Since the start of the pandemic, downtown has struggled. Geared almost exclusively toward white collar workers, with the rise of hybrid work and high commercial vacancies, downtown is not what it once was. 

  • The proposed fund would be used to build new housing, add more transit options, and create public spaces on Sparks Street and in the ByWard Market. The plan would look to add 40,000 residents to the core over the next 10 years, and add 50,000 jobs.

The focus: Success in the report’s view would involve more housing; properly tackling the addiction, homelessness and mental health crises downtown; improving transit; investing in downtown business; and putting forward a marketing push both nationally and internationally.

The money: The money would go into a “capital investment fund” that would help spur development and achieve the goals of the five themes. It would require input from private capital and other levels of government.

Is it possible? The federal government is looking to offload some of the office towers it no longer finds necessary. There is a real possibility some of that could be turned into housing. But the feds are moving slowly. Getting multiple layers of government to work together on a project such as this is a difficult task.


🚇 St-Laurent Station reopened Wednesday morning, after a five-day closure. The city removed the overhead panels, but doesn’t know where the water is leaking into the station. After a station closure earlier this year because of falling concrete, the city decided not to expand their inspections because of a regularly scheduled full inspection later this year. [Lookout Insider]

🚂 Based on a report from city staff, a September opening date for the north-south Trillium O-Train line looks likely — if testing goes well. The transit general manager was recently optimistic of a spring opening, but construction work is not expected to be done until June, after which weeks of testing must happen. [CTV]

👔 The president of the Treasury Board wants managers in the public service to be flexible with hybrid work arrangements, despite the government’s three-day in-office mandate. [CTV]

🚨 A 74-year-old woman is facing three hate-related charges for allegedly pulling off the hijab of a pro-Palestine protester at the raising of the Israeli flag at city hall. The woman is facing charges of mischief, harassment, and assault. [CBC]

🚒 Eleven people were displaced by a fire at a Lowertown apartment building. Fire crews were able to put out the blaze before it destroyed the building. No one was injured in the fire. [CTV]

🏗️ The province and the federal government appear to be closer to a deal for $357 million in affordable housing funds. The feds had threatened to give funding directly to cities because they didn’t feel Ontario was doing enough to build new units. [CBC]

⛺️ After Queen’s University agreed to create a committee to look at the possibility of divestment from Israeli companies. In response, pro-Palestinian protestors have agreed to dismantle their encampment on campus. [CBC]


What to do this weekend

🤼‍♂️ C*4 Wrestling presents STRIKING DISTANCE, Friday 7 pm: Ottawa’s wrestling series hosts another event, featuring UK superstar Michael Oku. At Preston Event Centre, 523 St. Anthony’s St. Tickets start at $33.

🎤 Just Voices Spring Concert, Friday 9 pm: A celebration of 20 years of singing protest songs from this local group. With special guest Tito Medina. There will be snacks and a silent auction. At First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Ave. Tickets $20 or pay what you can.

🚲 Great Glebe Garage Sale, Saturday 8 am: The biggest garage sale day of the year has arrived. Find…pretty much anything. In the Glebe neighbourhood. More info.

🎙️ Drone Day - Anishinaabe Algonquin Territory, Saturday 12 pm: A participatory program that invites experienced and beginner sound-makers to add their voices to a heterogenous yet unified hum, featuring multiple presenters through the day. Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, 355 Cooper St. Tickets via donation.

🥊 Front Line Fights, Saturday 5 pm: A night of intense boxing matches. Food and drink offered at a cash bar. At Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Ave. Tickets $45.

💥 Capital Comic Book Convention, Sunday 11 am: A comic con for collectors. With vendors from all across the region, find that issue you’ve been searching for. At the RA Centre, 51 Riverside Dr. Tickets $8.

🏴‍☠️ Rogues' Gallery, Sunday 3 pm: Put on by Atlantic Voices, an afternoon of music that celebrates lovable scoundrels and folk heroes. At Centretown United Church, 507 Bank St. Tickets $28.

🌎 Climate Leap, May 30 6:30 pm: Join a community of friendly climate enthusiasts at their monthly event as they discuss “What would an Ottawa Climate Week Look Like?.”  At Happy Goat (Sandy Hill), 317 Wilbrod St. Register here (Free).

Capital EatsHelping you discover the best restaurants, food and drinks in Ottawa and the Capital Region. From the team at Ottawa Lookout. Read by 18,000+ locals.

The week in food news

🇪🇸 Heading out on a day trip? Why not add this great Spanish restaurant in Prescott, Little Barcelona, to your itinerary. 

🇯🇲 Our food editor revisited an old favourite, and found Run 2 Patty is still offering up great Jamaican cuisine. (Insiders)

🇳🇬 At Detola’s Kitchen, you’ll find the great tastes of Nigeria. (Do not miss out on their house hot sauce.)

🥃 Bring a smoky flavour, without the nicotine, to your next cocktail with this recipie for the Tobacco Road. (Insiders)

  • There will be several major detours downtown this weekend for the Ottawa marathon. [CBC]

  • Our neighbours down south keep it lively, but it can leave us Canucks feeling swamped. It’s The Mix-up is a great way to stay informed on U.S. politics and business with their Mon-Sat briefing, breaking down big issues in just 3 minutes. Join 15,000+ other readers - subscribe for free here! [Sponsored]

  • Several homeowners on a street in Orléans are having their homes used as a yearly nesting place for ravens. [CBC]

  • The Fraser restaurant in New Edinburgh will close at the end of June after 16 years in business. [CTV]

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Learn how here.


Congrats to Amy, who knew that this week’s Ottawa Guesser was just south of Walkley near the Giant Tiger headquarters.

Think you can solve this week’s Ottawa Wordle? Play now.

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