President Glebe Community Association
The GCA got mail
The Glebe Community Association (GCA) has occasionally criticized the City of Ottawa for how long it takes to deal with concerns raised by residents. To be fair, it’s a large city and there are a lot of concerns. So, it’s worth acknowledging the response we received on our December 12 letter to the mayor on reports from community members and business owners about needles in public places like parks, parking garages and sidewalks. Co-signed by the Glebe Business Association (BIA) and Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group (GNAG), the letter pointed out that the needle issue is a symptom of a city- and nation-wide substance abuse crisis.
The mayor’s office forwarded the letter to Ottawa Public Health, and we received a detailed response on December 21 as the holiday break closed in, a rapid turnaround that was much appreciated.
The OPH letter stated that the city bylaw department is supposed to respond within two hours to calls (to 311) to pick up needles on public property. OPH listed several measures being taken with community partners to address the problem, including the Needle Hunters program that “sweeps public property for improperly discarded needles in neighbourhoods that have demonstrated a need” and 80 needle drop boxes located around the city. As well, by this spring, “discarded needles kits will be available to residents and business owners who would like support with needle retrieval.”
The letter said OPH “reviewed the reported data for the Glebe community, and the numbers are low. We are seeing less than 10 discarded needles reported from this neighbourhood over the last few years.” For this reason, “the Glebe does not have existing needle hunter routes, nor are there any needle drop boxes currently located in this community.” The drop box at the Fire Station on Fifth Avenue was removed this past September “due to low usage.” The nearest needle drop boxes are at the Social Service Hub at 370 Catherine Street and Centre 507 at 507 Bank Street.
While there is still work to do on this issue, we now know where we stand. In the spring the GCA, BIA and GNAG will work together to provide training and information for the community on this issue.
We also received responses to our joint letter to the federal Minister of Immigration Marc Miller and Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Sean Fraser supporting the Alliance to End Homelessness campaign’s call for an additional $30 million to provide additional shelters in the city.
Miller wrote to outline the work the federal government has done to support housing in provinces and cities and to provide proper housing for newcomers. He pointed out that housing is primarily a provincial responsibility and that the Ontario government’s last budget forecast “a surplus of $4.4 billion by 2025-26.” The minister “strongly encourages [the GCA] to engage with the Province of Ontario and ensure that they, too, are willing to help meet the needs of the Region.”
Janet Goulding, an assistant deputy minister at Infrastructure Canada, wrote to say Ottawa has been allocated approximately $104 million in funding from 2019-20 to 2023-24. This funding includes about $4 million in support “to help communities respond to urgent needs – particularly associated with rises in unsheltered homelessness, including encampments – and to bolster local supports and services for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness this winter.”
The responses did not address the request for additional immediate, emergency support. The GCA will continue to work with the city and partners on this important issue.
Lansdowne zoning appeal
When City Council decided to move forward with Lansdowne 2.0 last November, it approved both the rezoning of parts of Lansdowne and an official plan amendment for the site.
Land use planning in Ontario is subject to provincial oversight. The GCA believes that the City’s planning applications were flawed, and we have launched an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
To be clear, the GCA is not opposing Lansdowne 2.0 in its entirety. We recognize that the sports facilities need to be replaced at some point, and we support residential housing on these public lands. Indeed, we advocated for affordable, and deeply affordable, housing to be included on site.
However, this project does not represent good planning. It has been driven by a financial model and not by professional planning practices. We are also concerned that the loss of a significant amount of green and recreational space violates several provincial and municipal policies related to healthy, liveable communities as well as environmental protection and climate action. The Glebe and central Ottawa have a deficit of green space compared to City targets and adding more residents while taking away green and recreational space contradicts good planning practices.
The GCA is supported by the Old Ottawa South and Old Ottawa East community associations in this effort and will soon be launching a campaign to fundraise to cover the costs of the appeal.
The next GCA Board meeting is Tuesday, February 27 at the Glebe Community Centre.