Today Jim Watson committed to making the nation’s capital even greener and more sustainable if re-elected, pledging to make completion of the Ottawa River Action Plan his top environmental priority.
He also announced his support for three community-focused projects for his second term: Canada 150 Groves, planting 1 million trees, and growing 20 new city-supported community gardens.
“We need to build on our solid environmental record by continuing to make progress on large-scale environmental initiatives like zero-emissions light rail transit and the Ottawa River cleanup,” said Watson. “However, the City of Ottawa has a role to play in engaging residents in community-focused projects that make our neighbourhoods greener and more liveable.”
Ottawa River Action Plan
Under Watson’s leadership, the City of Ottawa has made significant progress on the Ottawa River Action Plan, reducing sewage overflows by as much as 80% in recent years. Today, he committed to making the Ottawa River his top environmental priority by substantially finishing the final phase by the end of his second term.
“We are closer than we have ever been to finishing the Ottawa River cleanup,” said Watson. “Working together, we will pass along the gift of a clean Ottawa River to the next generation.”
To date, Watson has been successful in securing $130 million in provincial and municipal funds required to complete the final phase of the project. The City expects to finalize a funding agreement with the federal government for its $65 million share of the project in the months ahead.
“Canada 150 Groves” project
Watson announced a special “Canada 150 Groves” project for 2017 that would see sets of 150 Canadian Native Maples planted in special sesquicentennial groves in each of the city’s 23 wards.
“The Canada we celebrate at its Sesquicentennial should reflect the kind of country we want to pass along to the next generation,” said Watson. “In the years beyond 2017, our 23 groves of maple trees will demonstrate this commitment and legacy.”
Watson sees this as a truly community-driven project right from the drawing board to the planting. Locations would be selected in consultation with ward Councillors and community groups. Watson would like to involve students from our local schools in the planting of the Canada Groves, a memorable experience for young participants.
Over the last six years, Ottawa has lost close to 15,000 mature ash trees across all neighborhoods to the devastating emerald ash borer. This is an opportunity to rebuild our tree cover while proudly commemorating the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The total planting cost for this project is estimated to be $345,000. Watson commits to cover the one-time cost of this initiative from 2017 upload dollars, the first commitment made against the $5.09 million upload in that year.
One million trees
In Watson’s first term, the City of Ottawa planted about 500,000 trees, the most in the city’s history. If re-elected, Watson is pledging to do even better, by partnering with organizations like Ecology Ottawa, to plant 1 million trees over the next four years as part of the Tree Ottawa project.
“I’m pleased to lend my support to the key organizations and community leaders who want to see us push for this ambitious goal,” said Watson.
Ecology Ottawa will be formally launching its Tree Ottawa project at an event next week. Full funding and partnership details will be made available at that time.
Watson also announced his commitment to grow 20 new community gardens - from the current 50 - over the next four years. The program is currently delivered by Just Food, a non-profit organization that oversees local community gardens across the city.
“The City of Ottawa needs to play a leadership role in bringing rural traditions and expertise to our urban areas,” said Watson. “This program will help better utilize our existing public spaces, engage residents, and provide fresh local fruits and vegetables.”
Watson would like to see increased opportunities for families and school children to participate in the community gardens project to provide young people with a better appreciation of the effort and skill required to grow a garden and produce food locally.
To accomplish this, the City of Ottawa would contribute an additional $15,000 annually to the Community Garden Development Fund over the next four years. These funds will be contributed from the City’s current programs that support rural and environmental projects. The location of each community garden will have a direct impact on the capital cost of each garden and many of the prime community garden locations are already taken.
Should certain preferred community garden locations require additional capital investments to meet current rules and regulations, additional capital authority would have to be sought from Council as part of the City’s budget planning process.