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Ottawa's new mayor heads to Queen's Park Tuesday to talk money, housing bill

Ottawa's new mayor Mark Sutcliffe is heading to Queen's Park next week to discuss key topics with the premier and his housing minister. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ottawa's new mayor Mark Sutcliffe is heading to Queen's Park next week to discuss key topics with the premier and his housing minister. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A week after he is sworn in, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe will meet with Premier Doug Ford and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark Tuesday at Queen's Park.

They will have no shortage of issues to discuss. In a memo to council members sent Thursday afternoon, the mayor said he plans to talk about "ongoing pandemic-related pressures — including reduced transit ridership, the Social Services Relief Fund, and the need for recovery assistance resulting from the May 2022 derecho [storm]."

The city is expecting an $85 million deficit this year for OC Transpo because the 2022 budget was based on ridership levels that have not materialized.

And the unbudgeted costs for dealing with the extreme storm last spring totalled about $50 million, including $30 million in costs for Hydro Ottawa.

The previous mayor Jim Watson said he had asked Ford for help with the costs and that the premier agreed, but so far no money has been forthcoming.

And, of course, Sutcliffe will discuss the controversial Bill 23, called the More Homes Built Faster Act with the provincial leaders.

Among other things, the bill sets a target for Ottawa to build about 160,000 new homes in the next decade, and will waive millions of dollars in fees the city charges to pay for infrastructure and parkland.

Bill 23 has also raised big concerns that wetland protections will be gutted, and that the risk of flooding could increase. Many municipalities are concerned they will no longer be allowed to use experts from conservation authorities to review development applications.

On Thursday, 10 conservation authorities from across eastern Ontario sent the Ford government a letter, that was signed by 30 mayors, as well as Ottawa's Deputy Mayor George Darouze.

The letter expresses concern that the new legislation will weaken the ability of conservation authorities to protect people and property from flooding and to protect wetlands which reduce flooding, droughts and improve water quality in lakes and rivers.

Public hearings for Bill 23 are taking place this week, but neither the City of Ottawa or the Association of Municipalities of Ontario were invited to appear.