• By: Mckenzie Donovan

Councillor Brockington tries in vain to save Hunt Club forest

PHOTO: Forest via Save Hunt Club Forest

Today’s Ottawa City Council meeting was particularly interesting as Council finds itself in a late-term debacle with lame-duck rules possibly kicking in if fewer than 18 sitting council members do not run for the next term.

With 24 seats in the chamber currently, including the mayor, there has been a litany of announcements by councillors indicating they will not run, including Councillor Deans, Councillor Moffat, Councillor Fleury, Councillor Harder, Councillor Cloutier, and Councillor Egli. Councillors Chiarelli and El Chantiry have not registered to run yet — El Chantiry looks to be on the fence about running again — and Councillor McKenney is running to be the mayor of Ottawa.

As it stands now, fewer than 18 councillor are running; therefore, the city will not be able to pass any significant spending legislation between the deadline for filing nomination forms and the election this fall. The rules state that it will only be able to direct $50,000 or less to anything. The next city council meeting on August 31st will have to abide by these lame-duck regulations. As a result, the Council is in a crunch period.

Today’s meeting centred around the allocation of a contingency fund for the second stage of the LRT, City clerk Rick O’Connor stated that any contingency funding would be affected by the delegation of authority to city staff . . . the lame-duck rears its head again.

Councillor Brockington put forward a motion, seconded by Councillor Deans, asking to preserve a red pine forest located at 1000 Airport Parkway Private, which will fall under new zoning regulations as a special economic area. The issue is being pushed by the local advocacy group Save Hunt Club Forest. If the development of the land goes forward, the forested area will become a storage area and parking lot being leased for use by Otto’s BMW.

While commending the efficiency of the Ottawa Airport, Brockington stressed that the red pine forest that borders Hunt Club Avenue should be preserved not only for its benefit to residents but also because the city has declared a climate emergency. Allowing the woods to be destroyed would fly in the face of this declaration.

Councillor Scott Moffat, while sympathizing with the concerns of Councillor Brockington and his efforts to save the ten-acre section of forest from possible future development, stated that an injunction to prevent the development of privately owned land would set a bad precedence.

Mayor Watson did not support Brockington’s motion. The mayor stated that since tourism is the third-largest industry in the city, Council should help to foster a better economic situation for it to improve services by allowing the airport to generate more revenue through rent. Brockington’s motion was not carried in a seven yay to seventeen nay vote.

Further discussion occurred on the Ottawa International Airport Community Improvement Plan regarding bringing back more international routes to the United States and Europe. Currently, YOW is mainly a jumping-off hub for connecting flights from Montreal and Toronto to international destinations.

Stephen Willis, General Manager of Planning, Infrastructure, and Economic Development for the city stated that the city needs to bring in more small-sized airlines to help bolster more flights to more destinations country-wide.

The meeting was anticlimactic compared with past sessions. Still, it is notable because it was the last where the Council could have any significant cumulative effect on city spending before the election in the fall, one in which Jim Watson and much of the Council will not be running.

Council meetings will include formalities but little substance in the lead-up to the fall municipal election. Much of the 2018-2022 Council’s job is done.