CBC News: Ottawa budget has good news, bad news for anti-poverty advocates

Posted November 9, 2016

Urban homeowners will see their property taxes rise by two per cent, their transit levy hiked 2.5 per cent, and the fee they pay for garbage disposal go up by an extra $2 in 2017.
For an average city home assessed at $395,500, the homeowner will pay an addition $72 next year.
Those increases were mostly expected. The revelations in the 2017 draft budget, tabled Wednesday morning at Ottawa City Hall, were about new social initiatives — and it was a combination of good news and disappointing news for anti-poverty advocates.
Social services agencies had been looking for a $500,000 fund, in addition to their base funding, in order to help deal with additional — and more complex — cases. 
In Mayor Jim Watson's budget speech Wednesday morning, he announced an additional $610,000 for those agencies, which includes a half million dollars for the fund and a slightly higher cost-of-living increase — two per cent instead of 1.5 per cent — to the grants that support those programs.
Low-income bus pass to cost $57
The mayor also announced that the low-income bus pass will cost $57 per month, half the cost of a regular OC Transpo monthly pass, and that it will be offered starting in April 2017. 
The program will cost the city $2.7 million annually.
While the mayor had already announced the introduction of a new low-income transit pass, he did not say at the time what the pass would cost.
Councillors attend morning rally
Anti-poverty and health advocates who were pushing for a pass that cost no more than $41.75 will likely be somewhat disappointed.
Councillors Catherine McKenney, Mathieu Fleury and Tobi Nussbaum joined about two dozen people in an early-morning rally outside City Hall to call for a low-income bus pass at that lower price. 
"Keep Ottawa great," McKenney told the crowd somewhat ruefully, echoing one of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's catchphrases.
She went on to thank activists for "pushing" politicians to act on measures like the low-income bus pass.
"It's people like you who do keep Ottawa great."
2017 arts funding
Arts groups looking for more stable, predictable annual funding may be disappointed.
However Watson did announce $250,000 for local arts projects, $250,000 for festivals and $150,000 for civic events in various wards in 2017, as well as $150,000 "momentum" funding for arts projects extending past Canada's 150th birthday.
Watson also announced the introduction of new suburban buses to help commuters get into and out of downtown during rush hours. The buses will start operation in late 2017, and will connect to the LRT when it opens in 2018.
The budget will also include $8 million for new cycling infrastructure, $5 million for sidewalk improvements, and millions more for rural road resurfacing.
The city will also shovel $4.5 million more into snow removal.
Watson said $1.1 billion will be spent on capital projects including roads, bike lanes, parks and recreation centres.
The draft budget will be debated at committee and board meetings over the next month, when public delegations can make presentations. Council as a whole will debate, possibly change, and vote on the budget on Dec. 14.
Article by Joanne Chianello for CBC News Ottawa