May 26, 2020 newsletter from Rawlson King, City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe.
I wanted to share with you the progress we have made during these unprecedented times. Although things are challenging and stressful, my office is continuing to address the community’s concerns. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have advocated for the safe use of community gardens, called for parks to partially reopen, asked that race-based data be gathered about the impacts of COVID-19. I am happy to share that all three of these initiatives have been successful. Additionally, I have produced a policy paper outlining my position on the urban boundary expansion. I wanted to share it with you before Council votes on the issue tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow morning, City Council will vote upon its growth management strategy, which includes a proposed expansion of Ottawa’s urban boundary. I wish to let residents know that I am intending to vote against expansion. I also want residents in our ward to understand what “holding the line” will mean. The Province has mandated that our City densify and consequently Council directed City staff to draft a new Official Plan that outlines more growth in our City through intensification than through greenfield development. Greenfield development might be easier, but increasing urban sprawl is terrible for Ottawa’s ecological and financial health.
Intensifying the lands within the urban boundary will require more infill development. By the end of 2046, Ottawa is expected to have an additional 400,000 people. The current urban boundary encompasses Orleans and Stittsville and I believe that the amount of undeveloped areas within our urban lands can accommodate the additional 195,000 homes Ottawa needs. If we grow through more infill, our Ward will see more construction, but I believe that if that occurs Rideau-Rockcliffe must have more infrastructure improvements, including additional sidewalks, cycling paths, watermain and sewer and recreation facilities that would be needed to accommodate more healthy, active and walkable neighbourhoods. I am also confident that a large proportion of projected growth can be accommodated in our Ward through transit-oriented development.
A policy position paper outlining my thoughts is available here.
As food security is an issue particularly pertinent in our ward, I urged the province to re-categorize community gardens as essential services to ensure that those who rely on these gardens as a food source can still access them.
Councillor Menard and I sent a letter to the Honorable Christine Elliott, the Ontario Minister for Health, calling unequivocally for community gardens to be reinstated as an essential service. Community gardens, including the one in Overbrook, supplement the food sources of many vulnerable residents who rely on this food.
I am pleased that this has been successful. The Government of Ontario has amended the emergency order, permitting the use of allotment gardens and community gardens across the province. These gardens are an essential source of fresh food for some individuals and families, including those who face food insecurity. Local medical officers of health will provide advice, recommendation and instructions that the gardens must meet in order to operate, such as physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly used equipment and surfaces.
See my letter regarding community gardens and food security here.
After a joint appeal with other councillors to consider the partial re-opening of green space to help with the physical and mental health of residents, the City will now allow use of some areas in City parks and beaches. See my letter to the province here.
Race-Based Health Data
I wrote a letter to the Associate Medical Officer of Health at Ottawa Public Health, outlining the need to collect race and socio-demographic data as it relates to the COVID-19 health crisis. The global pandemic has brought a new set of unprecedented circumstances and challenges to these communities that have already been impacted by discriminatory and harmful economic and environmental conditions. In order to address these issues, I believe it is essential that Ottawa Public Health introduce collection of race and socio-demographic data for use in health planning.
Recently, the Province of Ontario announced that it would start collecting such data. This is a tremendous achievement. To understand the full extent to which this will impact racialized communities, see here.
As always, my staff and I are here for you, and urge you to maintain physical distancing to stay safe.