Wellington reopening the main issue discussed at Council.

ABOVE: Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill has been closed to traffic since February 2022. (PHOTO: OLM STAFF)

Discussion at Ottawa City Council today centered around the recommendation from the Transit Committee to open Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill. This stretch of road has been closed to vehicular traffic since the end of the convoy protest in 2022.

Mayor Sutcliffe addressed the Council chamber, stating that the discussion is not just about having Wellington open to cars and buses but also the vision for “one of the most important streets in the city and all of Canada.” Sutcliffe noted that decisions need to be made on who will own the street and what design choices will be made for it. The Mayor also pointed out that cooperation with the federal government on the issue will be of the utmost importance. He called Wellington’s current state one of “ugly barricades and little activity” and said the future of Wellington is an opportunity to improve the street for residents and visitors alike.

After thanking the Transportation Committee, Councillor Ariel Troster stated that protesters have tried to “re-occupy” downtown three times since the convoy. Councillor Marty Carr addressed Council, asking if the upcoming public inquiry into the use of the Emergency Measures Act would impact the reopening of Wellington Street. City staff responded that the purpose of the inquiry was not to look into Ottawa’s infrastructure in relation to the convoy protest. Instead, its goal is to determine if the use of special powers by the federal government was deemed reasonable.

Councillor Riley Brockington questioned why the traffic lights at Wellington and Metcalfe were removed and if they will be returned when Wellington reopens. City staff responded that the light became a safety issue but assured the councillor that it would be re-installed once Wellington Street reopens. Brockington also echoed the sentiment of Mayor Sutcliffe, stating that the federal government “must be part of the discussion.”

Councillor Stephanie Plante asked city staff how the cycling section of Wellington would be impacted by the return of OC Transpo buses to the street. Staff assured Plante that OC would work with the Transportation Committee to ensure cyclists remain on Wellington. They also assured Plante that only one OC Transpo bus route operated on Wellington prior to the street's closure and that the addition of any routes would have to be approved first by Council.

According to Mayor Sutcliffe, we cannot dwell on past events but must focus on what the city's future should be. Sutcliffe also stated that it is "important to remember our city is safe and remarkably well protected compared to other capitals." He reminded Council that the decision to open Wellington is just the beginning of the process. The motion to reopen Wellington was carried with only two Councillors descenting.

Council then looked at a motion brought forward by Councillor Dudas, which would put a halt to any commemorative naming applications in the city until quarter one of 2024. The motion further asked that any commemorative memorials in Ottawa be inclusive, comprehensive, and sustainable.

City staff reported that they had been asked to look at ways the City of Ottawa can recognize more women and Indigenous residents and rededicate monuments that are “outdated.” Councillor Stephanie Plant chimed in her support for the motion.

Councillor Sean Devine brought forward a motion to refer to the Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee. The motion would make it mandatory for certain residential buildings to have backup generators. Although the issue is of importance given the power outages of 2018 and 2022 that left residents of high-rise apartments stuck for days on ends because elevators were not in service, Mayor Sutcliffe did not support the motion as it is outside of the city’s jurisdiction. In addition, there currently is a private members bill in front of the Ontario Legislature on the same issue.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday of next week and will be a budgetary session.