To: Ottawa City Council, the Ottawa Board of Health, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities of Canada Catherine McKenna,
On May 26, 2020, over 350 organizations representing more than 40 million health professionals and over 4,500 individual health professionals from 90 different countries wrote to the G20 leaders calling for a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
They wrote, in part:
"In a healthy economy and civil society the most vulnerable among us are looked after. Workers have access to well-paying jobs that do not exacerbate pollution or nature degradation; cities prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, and our rivers and skies are protected and clean."
We understand that Ottawa has hundreds of infrastructure projects in need of federal funding that may be on a list of potential projects eligible for federal stimulus funding in this time of COVID-19-related economic downturn.
We write today to ask that you please do everything in your power to ensure that federal funding supports healthy transportation projects such as public transit expansion and bus-only priority lanes, cycle tracks, widened sidewalks, and traffic calming. We do not want or need road projects to increase car capacity. We also ask that you prioritize the building of deeply affordable housing in neighbourhoods with excellent walking, cycling and transit networks, including rapid transit stations.
Cities worldwide are reallocating street space to enable safe walking, cycling and transit as pandemic restrictions lift. In Canada, Vancouver City Council recently voted to reallocate a minimum of 11% of city street space to “people-focused public space,” and Toronto City Council has approved a 40-km expansion of its cycling network. There are numerous other examples.
Given the ongoing environmental crisis, as well as health, housing and homelessness emergencies, any stimulus funding that supports run-of-the mill road-widenings to increase car capacity would be irresponsible.
Indeed, the latter-type projects have been irresponsible for years. “The Building Blocks for a Healthy Ottawa”—one of the pre-COVID discussion papers for Ottawa’s new Official Plan—puts it well:
"As the dependency on cars as the main source of transportation has grown, daily physical activity has decreased, and chronic diseases, injuries, and exposure to car emissions increased. This has created a burden on our health. Places that are designed for travel mostly by car are associated with higher levels of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes."
We need federal stimulus money to fund healthy streets and a healthy recovery.
Sincerely the undersigned,