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OC Transpo boss not worried about missing revenue targets

The city’s transit boss isn’t worried about missing revenue targets by $1 million a month.

Good morning!

Well, I cannot recommend getting three stitches in your hand, then writing a newsletter the next night. Not ideal typing conditions. But after a not too terrible wait on a busy Saturday, the fine folks at the General hospital were able to sew me back up after a bit of a kitchen mishap.

Big thanks to Geoff of our sister publication the Vancity Lookout, for covering the latest federal housing announcement.

Lots to get to, so let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor


Monday: +14 🌡️ +1 | 🌤

Tuesday: +12 🌡️ -2 | ☀️

Wednesday: +13 🌡️ +3 | ☀️


No worries at OC Transpo for falling $1 million short a month

What happened: OC Transpo doesn’t seem interested in offering a hybrid workers transit pass, even as it continues to underperform rider and revenue projections. Transit general manager Renée Amilcar said that while monthly pass revenue was down significantly, she didn’t think a hybrid option would solve revenue problems at the agency, according to CBC.

“We have to review the way we forecast the revenue, because we know that customers have changed their behaviour.… Those who used to buy monthly passes, maybe now they don’t,” Amilcar said according to the broadcaster. 

  • Previously, the agency had said it would consider some kind of hybrid option, but said in the meantime, riders should consider sharing a single physical Presto card.

OC Transpo still does not offer any option other than a full monthly pass. With more Ottawa workers working hybrid schedules than most other major Canadian cities, the transit agency has struggled to get fare revenues anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Regular serious issues with the LRT, unreliable buses, and other issues have also contributed to the slow recovery in ridership.

Same deal: While the city was able to get a “new deal” from the province with plenty of money for roads, the city didn’t get anything for transit. This, despite multiple years of hoping another level of government would backfill OC Transpo’s budget hole. Friday, the provincial transport minister was in town to announce firm plans to build a new 416 interchange in Barrhaven.

Two weeks ago, just after the deal was announced, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe made it seem as though pushing for transit money from Queen’s Park wasn’t the top priority. “There were a lot of different things discussed and what you see before us is what's been agreed to so far. But, we're always going to be talking to the provincial government and the federal government about getting the right level of support for Ottawa,” he said.

  • In addition to $1.2 billion for light rail projects in Toronto the province is helping to build for that city’s transit system, Toronto was also able to get $300 million in operational funding for their subway system. 

Now, the city is pinning its hopes on this Tuesday’s federal budget. Both Amilcar and transit commission chair Coun. Glen Gower told reporters they hoped either the province or the federal government would step up with direct transit funding.

  • The Lookout spoke with Gower in a two-part interview last year about the future of transit in the city, and his optimism things will turn around.

“I’m not very worried for now with one million [dollars per month], because it’s still early and we still have time to see a bigger ridership that will compensate there,” Amilcar said, according to CBC. 

The Lookout’s view: OC Transpo has been hoping for several years that ridership would turn around and save the agency’s finances. In a year of significant cuts to bus service, but a promise to make the remaining trips more reliable, maybe it will finally be the year riders come back?

But it’s worrying that at a time the city is undergoing a major expansion of its rail service to the south, east, and west, it’s still unable to meet its increasingly modest revenue expectations.

  • While not a silver bullet solution, not offering flexible transit passes is clearly hurting the agency. The unwillingness to implement something this seemingly straightforward does not suggest city leadership is willing to reach for many tools beyond fare hikes and service cuts.

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🏥 $12.9 million: The city gave up the right to collect this much from a private long-term care home developer building a new facility at the Riverside Hospital as part of an infrastructure deal with the province. The provincial government made it a non-negotiable condition for the city to get the money. The city had negotiated for the $12.9 million with the hospital because it sold the hospital land for $1 on the agreement it would be put to not-for-profit use. [Ottawa Citizen]

🪵 42: The number of years it took to find a message written on the bottom of an antique drawer. It said “with the hopes that maybe someone will read this in 40 years.” [CBC]

🤳 46: The number of drivers caught using their cell phones along the 401 during an enforcement blitz in eastern Ontario. [CTV]


Federal government looks to use public land for more construction

What happened: As part of the lead up to tomorrow’s federal budget, the government announced the Canadian Housing Plan, with the goal to build 3.9 million homes in seven years, according to CBC. But just what does it entail, and is it likely to achieve its goal?

Background: The increasing unaffordability of housing has increasingly dominated at all levels of government. The scale of the housing problem is daunting. It’s estimated that Canada needs to build 4.1 million new homes by 2030 to fix a major housing gap, according to the parliamentary budget officer. As noted in the plan, Canada ranks 37th out of 38 OECD countries when it comes to development approvals and is three times slower than the US. Not great! 

It’s all about land: One of the major parts of the plan revolves around building on underutilized public land. But rather than sell it off, the land would be leased, with more details to be released in the budget itself. 

Other stuff: Could there soon be limits on private equity buying up homes? It’s hinted at in the plan, with more details expected later in the fall 2024. The plan also would remove the GST on new student residences built by public universities and colleges. Including ones that started construction last year and after. Low interest loans will be created for people to build secondary suites.

  • One of the bigger announcements is increasing the capital cost allowance on apartments to 10 percent, which reduces the taxes home builders have to pay. Here is a good breakdown of why this could have a major impact on building. 

Local federal buildings: While the feds are looking to open up more public land for construction, they still haven’t made a final decision on what to do with several buildings in the area they are looking to offload, CBC reported.

What it means: While it all sounds great, there are jurisdictional challenges. The federal government’s main policy lever is money (the carrot rather than the stick), but provincial governments have been perturbed by the federal government going around them. Alberta has tabled a bill to prevent the federal government from working directly with municipalities and other government groups, requiring them to go through the province. Housing Minister Sean Fraser says he’s ready to negotiate with Alberta over funding, according to CTV.


Check out the new open positions in Ottawa.

  1. Construction administrator at Habilis Engineering

  2. Communications specialist at Arrow Workforce Solutions

  3. Transmission line project manager at Actalent

  4. Condition monitoring field specialist at UE Systems

  5. Environment specialist at Clean Water Works

Local jobs are selected by the Lookout team and are not paid ads, unless specifically noted.


🏟️ A new provincial housing law likely means the end of a challenge to the Lansdowne 2.0 plans by the Glebe Community Association. The new law will dismiss any third-party challenges at the Ontario Land Tribunal without a hearing scheduled by April 10. [CBC]

🚨 Lady Evelyn School was put in secure mode when police chased a suspect through the back of the property. Police would not comment on the incident, or why they asked the school to go into secure mode. [Ottawa Citizen]

🚶‍♀️ Could Ottawa follow Montreal’s lead and pedestrianize some streets for the summer? That’s the hope of one councillor, who would like to see some areas made more welcoming to pedestrians. [CTV]

💐 A 16-year-old is dead after police were called to a possible fight at McNabb Park in Centretown. The boy was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but later died. Homicide police are investigating. [CTV]

🩻 CHEO surgeons will fan out in the region to perform day surgeries at smaller hospitals in Brockville and Carleton Place to support children in those smaller communities. [CTV]

🦗 A group of Carleton researchers are looking to see if crickets are able to thrive in microgravity, by sending them on a special flight. The insects could make excellent space food on long voyages, if they can survive outside normal gravity. [CBC]

🏚️ The prime minister’s one-time residence, 24 Sussex, has been entirely gutted inside. The government and the NCC have3 not decided what to do with the property next. [Ottawa Citizen]


What to do this week

🪚 Make Your Own Cedar Planter Box, Tuesday 6 pm: Learn how to use power tools in the wood shop to make your very own 12”x12”x12” cedar planter to take home with you. All materials provided. At the Ottawa Tool Library, 877a Boyd Ave. Tickets $175.

🏴‍☠️ Treasure Island: Theatre for the whole family! Join the Ottawa School of Theatre as they set sail in search of treasure and adventure. [Sponsored]

🔍 Stories by Golden Age Crime Queen Margery Allingham, Thursday 7:30 pm: Live storytelling of some of the mystery writers work, with musical accompaniment. At Black Box Studio, 2 Daly Ave. Tickets $23.

🥚 Pysanka Bingo and Varenyky Dinner, Friday 6 pm: The 75th annual fundraiser for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Prizes include traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. Ticket includes dinner and one bingo card. At 1000 Byron Ave. Adult tickets $28.

🕯️ A Night of Ink and Embers, Friday 8 pm: Shop by candlelight for books, all while sipping a drink. At the Spaniel's Tale Bookstore, 1131 Wellington St. W. Tickets $14.

🐦 Bird Feed Wreath Making, Saturday 2 pm: Make a decorative wreath that doubles as a bird feeder. No experience necessary! At 86 Spadina Ave. Tickets $23.

🎻 Expect the Unexpected - A Musical Surprise, Saturday 7:30 pm: The Ottawa Pops Orchestra is putting on a surprise season finale. What is it? They won’t say, you’ll just have to go to find out. At Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, 355 Cooper St. Tickets start at $17.

  • The cat Athena, who was briefly lost at the Ottawa airport, had her litter of five kittens. [CTV]

  • The Outdoor & Adventure Travel Show is Sat/Sun April 20-21, 10-5 at the Nepean Sportsplex with free admission and free parking. See you there! [Sponsored]

  • Atlético Ottawa won their first game of the season 2-1 at home against York United. [CBC]

  • Local animal control firms are seeing a spring baby boom among the region’s critters. [CTV]

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


Congrats to Caitlin, Jennifer, Fannie, April, and everyone else who knew last week’s Ottawa Guesser was of the Science and Tech Museum. A special congrats to the birthday boy, who also was the first to write in with the right answer.

Also congrats to everyone who got last Friday’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was MAPLE, as in the end of the season.

For today’s quiz, we want to know:

How much money did Ottawa get from the province for OC Transpo operational funding?

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