Councillor Rawlson King made a statement concerning the City of Ottawa's 2023 Budget Direction during the December 14, 2022 Council meeting.
Colleagues: The budget direction motion before us delays the evitable.
Since its inception, the amalgamated City of Ottawa has primarily limited tax increases to the rate of inflation. The result has been severe fiscal restraint and a lack of revenue to address a widening gap in infrastructure and social services.
With increasing inflation continuing to affect the entire economy, our municipal government has experienced exponential increases in the costs of goods and services.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the city has been impacted by disrupted supply chains, increased costs for services, driven by a drastic labour shortage. These factors have dramatically increased the cost of implementing major projects, such as road rehabilitation and repair to other crumbling infrastructure.
While our city has put off many infrastructure projects and looks to find new efficiencies to save money while delivering essential services, the reality is that tax increases that are drastically less than inflation ultimately translate into decreased service levels, along with fewer investments in transit, infrastructure, affordable housing and social services.
Our expanding city requires enhanced infrastructure, social services, transportation, and front-line emergency services.
These investments to maintain and improve our quality of life cannot be properly funded at a recommended tax rate which is now drastically lower than inflation.
The decisions from this budget direction will continue to lead to deferred capital projects which will ultimately cost the city more money down the road. As we recently learned from the inquiry into the city’s largest public works project, setting arbitrary and unrealistic cost targets can lead to seriously negative consequences.
The city already is experiencing budget pressures due to its transit deficit. While the city was expecting that its full transit deficit would be covered by the provincial government, that full funding did not materialize from the province, resulting in a shortfall.
This budget direction motion before us is now predicated on the city obtaining full compensation from Queen’s Park to cover the expansive revenue shortfalls that will be created by Bill 23. Since the prospect of compensation from the province is not dependable, and since the city will be entering into a period of declining growth that will represent a risk to the city’s treasury, it is evident that the budget direction as proposed is not realistic to meet our City's need.
While I appreciate and supported the amendments to this budget direction that have been designed to support residents who are struggling with the current affordability crisis by way of a transit fare freeze and reduced recreation fees, I will not be able to support the overall budget direction which has underscored the need for a better approach to budgeting, especially in times of economic instability.