ISSUES THAT MATTER
2017 City of Ottawa Budget for All: Community Asks
Investing in social infrastructure is just as important as building physical infrastructure (such as LRT, roads, sewage). Social infrastructure is all our community resources combined. Our social infrastructure is the organizations, services, people and nWe Believe That
We are asking City Council:
- Social Infrastructure – Immediate Support: Provide a two-year additional funding envelope of $500,000 per year in the 2017 City Budget for city-funded community social service pressures.
- Social Infrastructure - Long-Term Investment: Commit to working with community social service partners in developing a long-term social infrastructure investment plan. Our plan would address multiple and complex needs of a growing and increasingly diverse Ottawa population. Our plan would showcase Ottawa as a compassionate city, putting health and wellbeing of people first, especially those who are marginalized and in need. It would include:
- Funding for social services that keeps pace with funding to other important City services
- Meaningful public consultation to inform the plan.
- Establishment of an Evaluation Framework to track our plan’s performance in addressing growing and changing community needs.
- Affordable Transit: Our City makes funding the Low-Income Transit Pass (LITP) a priority, so that the LITP is available to all low-income residents starting no later than January 2017. Qualifying for the pass would be based upon the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO). The transit pass fare would be no more than $41.75 per month and there would be a discounted single fare rate for those who cannot afford a transit pass.
(coming soon)But the Reality Is Troubling
The most vulnerable Ottawa residents need a City Council who will work towards a city for all—a city where everyone has access to affordable transit.Why It Matters
OC Transpo provides a critical link for people who have limited choices—including the young, elderly, people with disabilities and lower-income residents.
When everyone has access to affordable transit, it contributes to Ottawa’s social wellbeing and economic success. Communities thrive when people can move around easily.
OC Transpo has made a commitment to apply the City of Ottawa Equity and Inclusion Lens to all its services to make sure no one is excluded.
Research has shown that affordable transit promotes increased economic development and increases participation in the labour force.
When transit prices have gone up, the rate of transit use has declined.
Ten Ontario cities (Cornwall, Elliot Lake, Guelph, Halton Region, Hamilton, Kingston, Peterborough, Waterloo, Windsor, York Region) have a low-income transit pass. Toronto is studying the issue. Calgary, Banff, Saskatoon, Regina and British Columbia have a low-income pass.We Believe That
I believe that public transportation should be affordable for everyone, including youth, elderly, people with a disability, and lower income Ottawa residents.
This matters to me because no one should have to pass up going to the doctor, getting a service or applying for a job because they can’t afford to travel within Ottawa.
I am asking City Council to approve a low-income transit pass to make public transit more affordable.
More than 41 organizations support the low-income transit pass. Plus, 2,200 people have signed a petition on-line and on paper.
The City of Ottawa studied low-income bus pass options and has released a report with two options. We support the option for a Low-Income Transit Pass at the 62% discount. This is similar to the seniors' monthly pass and the Community Pass.Questions to Ask
- The City of Ottawa studied low-income transit pass options and has released a report with two options. We support the option for a low-income transit pass at the 62% discount. This is similar to the seniors' monthly pass and the Community Pass.
- How will you support the creation of the low-income transit pass for all residents whose income is less than the Low Income Cut-Off?
The City of Ottawa falls behind other Ontario cities (e.g. Cornwall, Guelph, Halton Region, Hamilton, Kingston, Peterborough, Waterloo and Windsor) by not having a low-income bus pass. The process and systems exist in other Ontario cities.
Rising bus fares makes it challenging for people on low incomes to afford public transit. When transit prices have gone up, the rate of transit use has declined.
In both 2014 and 2015, Ottawa residents receiving Ontario Disability Support (ODSP) faced an increase in their monthly Community Pass to ride OC Transpo.
In 2014, the highest increase to bus fares was the 16.4 per cent hike in Community Passes, from $35 to $40.75 per month.
There are parts of the city that do not have public transit, including rural communities. In some Ottawa areas busses do not come very often, or end early in the evening, or take an inefficient and winding route.
Community Pass users younger than 65 have to pay additional $2.10 (or one ticket) top-up on Para Transpo each way. That is $4.20 (or two tickets) for each round trip on Para Transpo.
COMMUNITY AND CITY SERVICES: SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Social infrastructure is all our community resources combined. Our social infrastructure is the organizations, services, people and networks that support our community. Strong social infrastructure helps us have healthy communities and wellbeing for allWhy It Matters
Ottawa’s social infrastructure includes important services we need like housing, childcare, recreation and community services.
The City budgets from 2010 to 2016 have put social services at risk for Ottawa residents. It could become harder to get mental health counseling, seniors’ supports, help for women at risk of violence, and housing.
Violence against women tends to be funded by the province. However there are support services like day programs that would reduce women’s risk of homelessness and violence.
Two cuts have weakened the community service sector.
- The “deferral” of the agency sustainability fund in 2011 that cut $500K per year from additional funding for agencies.
- In 2013, the community project fund that was to support organizations addressing emerging needs was eliminated to save $575K per year.
Weakening the social infrastructure breaks people’s connections in their neighborhoods and in the wider community.We Believe That
Funding for Ottawa’s social infrastructure must keep pace with our population growth and funding for other city services.
Services are at risk for Ottawa residents who rely on social services for everything from mental health counseling, to seniors’ and supports to women at risk of violence and homelessness.
For example: At the same time as Ontario Works staff caseloads were increasing (2010 to 2016), the number of Ontario Works staff was decreased via “efficiencies”. We have seen the ratio of Ontario Works staff to clients rise from 1:109 to about 1:120. This is a service reduction affecting the most vulnerable people.
We are asking City Council to ensure that funding for community services grows as our population grows and keeps pace with funding for other city services. The funding must recognize the increasingly complex needs of people who are marginalized. For example, people living in poverty have to navigate systems for food bank, transit, childcare, mental health and more.Questions to Ask
- How do you make sure that funding for social infrastructure keeps pace with our population growth and with funding for other city services in the 2017 budget?
- Ottawa has a growing and aging population. How does the city budget take into account the increasing demand for basic services?
- When will Ottawa residents have an opportunity learn the results of the service review? What guarantee can you offer that changes will not result in fewer services for residents?
- How do you envision community and social services?
- What is City’s long-term community investment strategy?
The Community and Social Services budget has not kept pace with other city budgets or with population growth.
- The last census recorded a 9% population growth in Ottawa to 883,000. Assuming a little smaller growth for the period 2011 to 2016, at 7%, Ottawa’s population would be 944,800. We know that 15% of the population lives on low income. Therefore the growth in the low-income population will be 9,300 people in a five-year period.
- The Community and Social Services budget in the City budget has had the least growth (15%) from 2010 to 2016 of any city service. All other city services have increased at a higher rate, for example Economic Development by 222%, Park and Recreation by 32% and Transit by 43%.
- The fact that Community and Social Services spending is not keeping up with other spending makes it difficult for community agencies to address the growing needs.
The 2016-2018 Budget Directions document required staff to conduct a transparent service review to “optimize the delivery of services and provide the best overall value for taxpayers …”. Could this result in fewer services and less staff to deliver services?
Services that we depend upon every day are shaped by the city’s decisions. For example, how funds will be allocated and what services will be provided. The wellbeing of everyone depends upon it.
Voices of the most marginalized residents help decision makers to make informed decisions.We Believe That
Making Voices Count supports residents to become informed and get engaged at all political levels.
We believe that people from all backgrounds and incomes have an important voice and perspective on City issues. When their needs and lived experiences are understood, valued and included, we made better decisions.
Chances to give input must be offered when change is still possible, and must result in visible change.
We recognize the pressures faced by the City. We know that City Council and staff are working within time and money limits. We want to work with the City to make sure residents’ input is welcomed and incorporated.
We are asking Ottawa City Council to make sure that its 2013 Public Engagement Strategy is applied to its work.Questions to Ask
Some residents do not find current consultation processes truly meaningful. How do you envision meaningful consultation to ensure voices of the most marginalized residents are heard in budget process?
The 2016 budget called for a series of “service reviews” to be undertaken. What is your commitment to make public the terms of reference for all reviews and their outcomes?
The 2016 draft budget did not give details of the efficiencies (cost reductions or savings). The public only learned about the efficiencies when managers presented at a committee, board or commission. This was the same day that public delegations presented their views.
Over the past six years many services have been changed through “efficiencies”. There is no policy or political commitment to review the impact of these changes on residents.
Many residents and organizations raised concerns about services being affected in the 2016 draft city budget. However, the concerns resulted in essentially no changes. This pattern that has taken place for several years. This pattern discourages residents from expressing their views.
City staff is required to apply the Public Engagement Strategy to ensure that the voices of all interested residents are heard. But, there is no specified strategy for City Council.