Ottawa environmental groups make plea for funding

A consortium of environmental groups from across Ottawa is making an 11th hour plea to Mayor Jim Watson to increase funding for climate change initiatives in the budget.

Group met by security while trying to deliver letter to mayor

Nine members representing environmental groups from across Ottawa delivered a letter requesting additional funding for climate change initiatives in Budget 2018 Mayor Jim Watson's office Wednesday, December 12, 2017. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

A consortium of environmental groups across Ottawa is making an 11th hour plea to Mayor Jim Watson to increase funding for climate change initiatives in the budget. 

A group of nine people tried to deliver a letter requesting at least $1.5 million be added to the 2018 budget, but as they approached the mayor's office hoping to meet with Jim Watson, the group was instead greeted by security.

The community's not a threat. Climate change is.- Robb  Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa

No one immediately answered the door to the mayor's office despite repeated attempts.

"The community's not a threat. Climate change is and it's a shame [the mayor] won't meet with community representatives who want to talk about climate change," said Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa.

Barnes said he wants the mayor to show leadership on climate change and put money toward his promises.

"We've heard good things from the mayor's office, periodically, but then when it comes time to shell out the money —which is really $1.50 per resident of the city — we don't see the money for climate change in this budget. So, it's really unfortunate," Barnes said.

Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa stands outside Mayor Jim Watson's office Tuesday after the group was denied access to deliver a letter requesting additional funding for climate change initiatives. (CBC)

$2 million not enough, group says 

The draft budget allocates $2 million to Ottawa's Energy Evolution program, which includes improving the city's green vehicle fleet. But the consortium argues only one quarter of that total is being allocated to new projects and they believe more funding is needed to work on the 33 short-term environmental initiatives outlined in the Energy Evolution program.

Council had identified the environment as a top priority for the upcoming budget, which will be voted on Wednesday.

The group is also requesting funding for two permanent full-time staff members to work on the city's climate change strategy, positions currently held by multiple people making up two full-time positions.

Approximately 10 minutes after the group knocked on the door, someone identifying herself from the city clerk's office emerged to collect the letter, followed by a representative from the mayor's office.

A statement from the mayor's office said Jim Watson "recognizes the need to address environmental and sustainability needs" and points to the city's investment in Light Rail Transit. It also affirms the money being invested in energy conservation through the Energy Evolution program.

"Taken together with our investments in public transit, cycling, active mobility and LRT, the city is doing more than it ever has to improve environmental sustainability and plan for the future," the statement reads.