Province backtracks on official plan meddling
The province decided to rescind a series of last-minute additions to the city’s urban boundary. Plus what the change in health insurance providers means for public servants.
If this last week has taught me anything, it’s that it’s a lot harder to write a newsletter with a baby in your lap than it is with a cat. His grip is certainly impressive, but I really need those fingers to type, it turns out. Though, not having retractable claws is something of a plus.
Today we’ve got news on a big turnaround by the province on housing regulations, and some of the awful situations the change in health insurance providers has had on public service workers.
Let’s get to it.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
Wednesday: 18 🌡️ 12 | 🌦
Thursday: 22 🌡️ 15 | 🌦
Friday: 17 🌡️ 11 | 🌧
Province removes unilateral additions from Ottawa’s urban boundary
What happened: The Ontario government removed 654 hectares from Ottawa’s urban boundary that the province had unilaterally added after the city had already approved its official plan, Housing Minister Paul Calandra announced.
It’s part of the fallout from the ballooning scandal at Queen’s Park that cost then-housing minister Steve Clark and his chief of staff their jobs for favouring land approvals for certain developers.
The minister said he would soon introduce legislation that “would wind back provincial changes to official plans and official plan amendments, except in circumstances where construction has begun or where doing so would contravene existing provincial legislation and regulation. This includes winding back changes to urban boundaries.”
Minister Clark had previously used his powers to add the additional 654 hectares of land on top of about 1,281 hectares the city had voted to approve, CTV reported. The province reversed similar decisions to increase developable land in several other Ontario cities.
Rotten process: The process for opening more lands was tainted by political interference that seemed to favour certain developers with a direct line to the minister’s office. That process has been criticized by the Ontario ethics commissioner and auditor general, and parts of it are now the subject of an RCMP investigation.
Some exceptions: Not every tract of land added to the urban boundary will be returned to its previous status. On lands “where construction has started or where doing so would contravene existing provincial legislation and regulation” work will be allowed to continue, Housing Minister Paul Calandra said. It’s not yet clear whether any of the parcels in Ottawa would fall under these exceptions.
Knock-on effects: The province’s decision to reverse its decision means more headaches for the city. When the land was first added by the province to the official plan, it meant staff had to do more work to address the infrastructure needs of the new lands. Now, they’ll potentially need to go back and adjust all that work once more, CBC reported.
It’s not just lands being removed. All the changes the province made to the official plans will be rolled back, including allowing taller buildings along transit corridors. But it could also mean the city can return language to the plan about 15-minute neighbourhoods that the province weakened.
Next steps: City council will have 45 days to decide what to do with the official plan. They can make changes and additions to council’s initially approved initial plan — the one that existed before the province’s involvement.
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🩺 10,000: The number of vulnerable patients that nurse practitioner clinics could help, if they can get provincial funding to move forward. [Ottawa Citizen]
🚧 6: The Queensway reopened this many hours early, at about midnight Tuesday morning, after the replacement of the Percy Street overpass. [CTV]
⛳️ Citizens fighting the redevelopment of the Kanata Lakes golf course into a new subdivision said a new court ruling favouring the new construction won’t deter them from their fight to preserve the course. [CTV]
💡 A new street in Orléans that has been without street lights since people started moved to the area in spring 2022 may finally get the lights turned on next week. [CTV]
🍺 Police in Kingston dolled out more than $88,000 in fines to hundreds of people during Queen’s homecoming weekend. [CTV]
🔎 Two fires that occurred at about the same time in Napanee are considered suspicious. One fire severely damaged the Memorial Community Centre, which will require millions of dollars to repair. Both the OPP and local fire marshall are investigating. [CBC]
Federal worker health plan change over a ‘fiasco’
What happened: A parliamentary committee will study the changeover of public service workers’ benefits to a new provider, after huge numbers of workers have had difficulty making claims and accessing services, CBC reported.
Canada Life took over health benefits for 1.7 million public service workers, retirees, and families on July 1 from Sun Life. Since then, problems have multiplied, in what the committee called a “fiasco.”
No benefits: The children of a soldier have been unable to get their health and dental benefits covered since Canada Life took over, CBC reported. The soldier was diagnosed with PTSD and died of a prescription drug overdose in 2011 after a tour in Afghanistan.
The children, now 16 and 19, are still covered under his plan. They have been living with their grandmother since 2018, and have had no contact with their mother for several years. But because the mother is listed on the plan and the grandmother is not, Canada Life has refused to deal with the grandmother, who has had to pay for the kids’ medical care out of pocket.
The 19-year-old daughter was told by the company she wouldn’t be able to submit claims without her mother’s permission, despite being the age of majority.
Denied coverage: The family of a young child who nearly drowned and suffered brain damage because of lack of oxygen has had their benefits curtailed since the switch to the new company, CBC reported. At the same time the insurance provider was changed, new eligibility rules and claim limits were imposed by the government.
The girl is now in a wheelchair and requires feeding through a tube. The family spends about $2,000 on her basic care. Since July, they’ve had to go into debt to keep up with the costs that were once covered.
Changing slightly: Once CBC contacted Canada Life about the girl’s case, the company said it would begin covering certain items like formula bags, which are required to feed their daughter.
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🚔 The Ottawa Police Services Board approved a plan to open a cop shop in the Rideau Centre. The force is expected to sign a five-year lease in a space across from the Rideau LRT station. [CTV]
🚌 Facing a deficit of $6.5 million, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority, which runs school buses in the city, will not compensate parents whose children have been without bus service this school year. [CTV]
💰 The Chartwell Rockcliffe Retirement Residence was reprimanded for charging a woman thousands of dollars for publicly funded health services. The man who brought the complaint took his mother out of the home, and said the investigation by the provincial regulator was flawed, because it relied on Chartwell to do its own internal investigation. [Ottawa Citizen]
🚨 The provincial police overseer cleared two Ottawa police officers for shooting and killing a man in mental distress in the ByWard Market in June. The man was brandishing a knife and was shot several times by police when he failed to drop the weapon. The provincial Special Investigations Unit said the use of lethal force by the officers was justified. [CTV]
⚖️ Crown prosecutors dropped bail violation charges against convoy leader Tamara Lich. Prosecutors instead want to focus on the ongoing trial for the mischief and other charges Lich faces. [CTV]
Should you hand out candy to older trick or treaters? Reddit users are debating the pros and cons. [Reddit]
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Looking to adopt a cat? This sweet boy is looking for a loving home! [Reddit]
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🥅 Former Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson signed a one-day contract to retire with the team. The Sens held a special ceremony Tuesday night to send him off. Anderson holds the record for the most wins of all the team's goaltenders. [CTV]
🏒 Unfortunately, the celebrations were dampened a bit when the Sens dropped the game, losing 6-4 to the Buffalo Sabres. [The Canadian Press]
📝 Troy Mann, the former Belleville Senators coach, was named head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs. [CTV]
Congrats to Carole, Adam, Susanne, Chantal, Gord, and many more of you who knew it took about 50 minutes to navigate the eastbound 417 detour last week.
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