Mayor Jim Watson reflected on a year of hardship and sacrifices in his 2021 State of the City Address, but also one that helped put things in perspective; one that brought out the best in many of our residents.
Some of the highlights from the Address include:
- As an important symbol of Reconciliation, Mayor Watson will be seeking the support of City Council to rename the Prince of Wales Bridge as the Chief William Commanda Bridge once it reopens as an active transportation corridor.
- The Ottawa 2017 cauldron in front of City Hall be lit up every night over the next three months, in partnership with Enbridge, as a thank you to our healthcare and frontline workers and as a light at the end of the tunnel, providing hope and optimism to our community.
- In 2020, our community experienced a decline in violent crime, seeing a nearly 40% reduction in shootings and a reduction of 40% in homicides, down to eight cases, which were all solved.
- In 2020, the City issued 2.6% more building permits than the year before, and the value of those permits increased by 20%, from $3.2B in 2019 to $4B last year.
- An Organizing Committee chaired by Mayor Watson will be created to plan the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the ByWard Market in 2027, laying the groundwork to attract more visitors to the nation’s capital, helping hotels, restaurants and businesses flourish along the way.
Beyond the generosity of residents and businesses since the onset on the COVID-19 pandemic, City of Ottawa staff and frontline workers stepped up in a significant way to help our community:
- Leading an effective vaccination campaign, having already completed the first round of shots for residents and staff at the city’s 28 Long-Term Care homes;
- Creating the Human Needs Task Force to assist our most vulnerable residents;
- Providing partner agencies with more than $82M to deal with COVID-related cost increases, including PPE, renovations, operational funding, etc.;
- Conducting over 7,000 wellness visits to residents who are isolated or more at-risk – providing food baskets, masks and mental health referrals along the way;
- Opening three respite centres and multiple physical distancing and isolation centres for our residents in the shelter system;
- Working with the Economic Partners Task Force to roll out a number of measures to help small businesses – extending tax deadlines for 1,900 property owners, releasing a Business Reopening Toolkit, launching a rural tourism campaign, etc.;
- Expanding opportunities for restaurants and stores to do business outside, which generated 350 patios and cafés across the city; closing seven roads to expand patios and provide approximately 500 new paying seats to these restaurants; and,
- On February 9, Mayor Watson will host an Economic Rebound Roundtable with leaders in important sectors of our economy, to identify opportunities and chart a course of action for our city’s rebound.
Despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, the City of Ottawa continues to make progress in a number of areas:
- $32M was allocated to Ottawa as part of the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, funding four projects and 109 supportive housing units – and thanks to the City’s historic yearly investment of $15M in affordable housing, we will break ground on another 250 new supportive and affordable housing units in 2021.
- Despite ups and downs in our knowledge-based economy last year, Ottawa retained the number 1 spot for the highest concentration of tech talent per capita among 50 markets across North America.
- Construction continues on Stage 2 LRT and the planning for Stage 3 was completed last fall, with the adoption of the Barrhaven Extension EA, following the approval of the Kanata-Stittsville EA in 2019.
- In 2021, the City of Ottawa will spend a total of $37.8M on road safety measures, compared to $25M in 2019. The red-light camera program and the Automated Speed Enforcement Pilot Program proved to be successful, with staff observing a reduction in dangerous driving behaviours and greater compliance with posted speed limits.
- The City will assist Ottawa Markets’ Farmers First Policy by offering free stalls to new farmers and giving incentives for local producers, one of the ways we are supporting our rural communities.
- Since the creation of the Anti-Racism Secretariat, the City launched a number of pilot projects, studies and social media awareness campaigns to address systemic racism, and staff are holding public engagement sessions next month.
Mayor Watson ended with, “I hope that by the time I deliver the State of the City Address next January, things will have returned to normal for most of us – and that we will once again be a healthy and thriving city as we were merely a year ago. Let’s have faith. I know we will get through this together.”
To view Mayor Watson’s full speech, visit: www.JimWatsonOttawa.ca.
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