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The plans have other similarities. In both cases, councillors are promoting unachievable goals in areas where they have limited jurisdiction and almost no money to spend. If climate change and housing shortages are to be resolved, it will be the federal and provincial governments doing the resolving, not the city.
Even the Trudeau government hasn’t a clue how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but at least it has some money and authority to act. Provincial governments can be players, too. But a city? Not so much. Ottawa has set aside $2.6 million from Hydro Ottawa dividends to start the ball rolling. It won’t roll very far.
What Ottawa’s plan will do is kick off a multi-year planning exercise. Clearly, a great deal of staff and consultant time has been spent on developing the latest report and it’s only the beginning. It will generate a flurry of future planning, hopefully in darkened rooms with the heat turned down.
What will come of it all in the end is hard to say, although a betting person would lean heavily towards not much. Not that there isn’t benefit for city councillors. This is a gift not only to this group of politicians, but to councillors for a generation to come. When asked about the existential crisis of climate change, they will be able to point to their plan and if it’s falling a little short in the real world, that would be the fault of other governments who failed to pony up sufficient funds.
Perhaps those governments will find the city’s pitch irresistible. The city report estimates that the $57.4 billion “investment” will net a return of $87.7 billion through operating and maintenance savings, energy savings, carbon price savings and revenue from local power generation. The city plan even cites an increase in “equity and inclusion” as a benefit.