Luloff: East-end Ottawa deserves some respect from the federal government

Instead, we face a trifecta of misguided policy decisions around roads, bridges and back-to-office work, the area’s city councillor writes.

When I first ran in 2018 for a seat on city council, I was driven by the desire to give the east end of Ottawa a thoughtful and hardworking voice at the table. I wanted to continue the hard work of my predecessors and I wanted to do it with renewed energy and a single-minded focus on continued economic development, which I saw as the key to independence for our part of the city. Therefore, I immediately got to work on the Orléans Economic Corridor Study, now the Orléans Secondary Plan, which is the first major economic development policy Orléans has had since amalgamation.

But recently, the federal government has made a trifecta of misguided policy decisions that puts all this work and hope at risk.

For decades, community leaders from Orléans were focused on finding ways to keep our predominantly public servant workforce in our community. Commuting is an inefficient use of time; severely truncates the amount of time we spend with our families; reduces our quality of life; makes for more greenhouse gas emissions; adds wear and tear to infrastructure; and redirects economic activity to the downtown core at the expense of local businesses close to home. The big push was for co-working space or a government department to be moved to Orléans. For a variety of reasons, that never happened.

Then the pandemic hit. When the government wasn’t forcing businesses to close their doors, federal public servants were able to frequent our local restaurants and services. Lunch hours started to appear on schedules. Two sittings for dinner were happening. People saved money on gas. We spent more time with our families. And we were, generally, just as productive as we were pre-pandemic, with some exceptions.
Our local economy got a taste of what it could be like if 80 per cent of our workforce wasn’t forced onto Innes Road, Highway 174 or unreliable OC Transpo for hours on end every day. Now, the federal government is pulling the proverbial rug from under us again and is kicking us while we are down.

The move to force public servants back into the office hurts families, the environment and our local economy with the stroke of the minister’s pen — for all the reasons listed above.

The federally mandated NCC refuses to provide relief to the east end by approving Option 7 of the Brian Coburn bus rapid transit corridor extension, making those commutes longer and calling into question further development to our south while we are in a housing crisis.

The federal government is again floating the idea of an interprovincial bridge in the east end that will overwhelm our already-failing infrastructure including the 174 and the split at Highway 417.

The combination of these three misguided and destructive policies really hurts east-end residents of our city. It hurts our local businesses, hurts our chances of meeting our housing and environmental goals and makes life more difficult for everyone outside of the downtown core.

What would make much more sense for the federal government would be to cancel the back-to-work policy and protect local economies, quality of life, and the environment outside of the core. It should divest itself of inefficient and costly downtown office space, converting as much of it as possible to housing, which will boost the economy in the core, reduce GHGs and help alleviate the pressure in the housing sector.

It should either advocate for the NCC to do its job and work with the city to approve the Brian Coburn bus rapid transit extension for those workers who cannot work from home full-time — or disband this unnecessary and costly layer of bureaucracy. There is no reason why federal appointees from Calgary and Vancouver should be making local planning decisions for the municipality anyway.

And lastly, the federal government should abandon its push for an interprovincial bridge east of Kettle Island. If the idea is to reduce downtown truck traffic, a more direct connection to the 417 and 416 is a much cheaper option. But of course, government officials already know this, because every single study they have conducted over the last two decades has told them as much.

Ottawa’s east end is tired of being forgotten. We are a vibrant community with incredible businesses and green space that is poised to become so much more than place for federal workers to sleep between shifts or a rest stop on a shipping route from Montreal to Toronto.

It is time the federal government recognized this and gave us the consideration we deserve.

Coun. Matthew Luloff represents Orléans East–Cumberland, Ward 1.



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