Ottawa’s $192 million COVID-19 municipal budget shortfall will need support from provincial, federal governments, city says

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of Ottawa plans to cover its $192 million COVID-19-related budget deficit by reducing operating expenses, leveraging reserve funds and adjusting “capital spending to maintain services and respond to evolving community needs,” the city says in a statement.

City council an update about the impact on the city finances, including a plan to eliminate this year’s COVID-related deficit at it meeting last Wednesday.

The statement says: “While these one-time solutions address our deficit this year, they put pressure on city finances in future years.”

Given the limited financial options available to municipalities, the city will require funding from the federal and provincial governments to support needed infrastructure investments, transit and operating pressures.

Mayor Jim Watson, on behalf of the city, has requested funding through the Big City Mayors’ Caucus, the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. The city is also actively working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on their requests for emergency operating funding.

Council also received projections for climate conditions in the National Capital Region until 2100. The city requires these projections to develop its Climate Resiliency Strategy, a key initiative of the Climate Change Master Plan. The projections indicate that Ottawa will continue to get warmer and wetter year-round, with a greater chance of extreme weather and variability from year to year. Winters will be shorter while days that are hotter than 30 degrees Celsius will be more common.

Staff will use the projections to better understand the impact of climate change on our communities, infrastructure, economy and natural environment. Staff will determine Ottawa’s vulnerabilities and assess the city’s adaptation measures, then develop a strategy to prepare Ottawa to adapt to changing climate conditions.

A new Tree Protection By-law with permit fees, fines and processes will come into effect at the start of the New Year. Council approved a motion to accelerate work on this by-law, which had been delayed due to the City’s response to COVID-19. The new by-law reduces the size of distinctive trees in the inner urban area, which will help protect more trees. The city will hire up to four temporary staff – using vacant positions – to enforce the new provisions.

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