Category Archives: Masters2017_3

Dramatic increases in Toronto elementary school teachers making over $100 000


The number of Toronto District School Board teachers with the highest seniority is increasing and so are their bank accounts. Since 2014, seniority has been tied to a 902 per cent increase in elementary teachers who’ve earned an annual salary of over $100 000, according to an analysis of data provided by the provincial government.

The salary data document is informally known as the “sunshine list” is released annually under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act. It lists the salary of public sector employees who earn over $100, 000. In the province’s April 2014 disclosure, 51 Toronto elementary school teachers employed by the public school board made the list. The number jumped to 511 teachers by 2016. Spikes in salaries occurred in elementary school boards across the province but Toronto is home to the largest.

The number of teachers making over $100 000 has been growing exponentially since 2014.

These spikes are despite a collective agreement salary grid which, in 2014, reached $94 707 a year for the highest certified teacher after ten years. It may seem curious that so many teachers have found a way to earn more than union contracts bargained for but a number of factors can tip a teacher’s income above the grid.

This salary grid was in effect during the dramatic increases in teachers making over 100 000 between 2014-2016.

Ben Eisen, Director of Fraser Institute’s Provincial Prosperity Studies, said the disparity between the salary grid and what teachers took home in recent years is due to “a combination of taking on additional roles like teaching summer school courses or a becoming a department head coupled with the payout for sick days.”

Many senior level teachers have a Retirement Gratuity account filled with unused sick days. When the practice of collecting unused sick days ended in 2012, several accounts amounted to tens of thousands of dollars but in order to obtain the full value teachers must retire.

Teachers can only collect the credit gratuity they accumulated up until August 31, 2012.

Teachers not quite ready to retire can still cash in at a cost of 7.5 per cent for every year short of retirement. When teacher’s contracts expired in August 2014, frantic withdrawals were made to ensure the new provincial majority government didn’t affect their Retirement Gratuity Account.

Ken Lister, Vice Chair of the Financial Budget Committee says the board struggles to bridge the gap between provincial funding and the cost of teachers since their salaries make up two-thirds of their budget. “It’s a historical one,” he says of the funding gap.

The school board’s report, “Financial Facts: Revenue and Expenditure Trends” details the funding gap. “Part of the gap is because we have ‘experienced teachers with seniority’ and labour issues,” said Lister. Lister is not convinced retirement gratuity explains much of the gap. He wants to see the province upload the cost of teacher benefits. “It effects the amount we can spend repairing schools,” he said.

Comparatively, Eisen is concerned what effect compensation is having on the province’s finances and its ability to sustain increasing expenses.

“It’s important to look at in context of the challenges the province is facing, how it fits into the broader fiscal level and high debt level when looking at what’s taking place with respect to compensation,” said Eisen.

There are arguments the disclosure benchmark does not reflect inflation since the act was passed in 1996. According to the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, the benchmark would move to $142,857.14.

According to Eisen, it depends on how the information is used as an accountability measure of the province. “It’s important that additional spending is producing additional results and what’s missing is accountability mechanisms,” said Eisen.

Last February, the teacher’s union was able to secure a two-year extension on the terms of their existing collective bargaining agreement—which includes an annual increase by 1.5 per cent.

The number of teachers with 10 or more years of experience made up 64 per cent of the workforce in 2014-15. This is amount of teachers making the maximum amount on the collective agreement salary grid.

BC’s Sunshine Coast had highest percentage of female officers in 2015: Statistics Canada


They call it the Sunshine Coast — a 140 kilometre stretch of land alongside Highway 101 that was policed by a total of 10 officers in 2015, seven of which were women.

An analysis of data collected by Statistics Canada shows that in 2015, the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment, located in the District of Sechelt, British Columbia, had the highest percentage of female police officers in the country.

Tucked between the Sechelt Inlet and Strait of Georgia, its policing area spans the size of 400,000 football fields, including 12 townships, a Shíshálh First Nation Community and a section of Squamish Nation.

The Sunshine Coast offers a Restorative Justice Program based on Indigenous teachings, which is not uncommon among B.C. based RCMP detachments as listed on the RCMP website.

Given the eclectic terrain of rock, forest, and sea, the Sunshine Coast officers often patrol the surrounding area on mountain bikes and ATV’s. In the past, the officers on such patrols have saved both a bald eagle and an owl, according to the unit’s Twitter feed.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens presents Constable Karen Whitby with a Letter of Appreciation on 27 September, 2016.

Officers like Constable Karen Whitby who, in addition to rescuing an injured, unconscious owl in November 2016, was honoured with a Commanding Officer’s Letter of Appreciation last fall. Cst Whitby had been dispatched to look into the supposed disappearance of a 56-year-old man. It was trusting her intuition and following a “terrible feeling” in the pit of her stomach that led Cst Whitby directly to the missing man just in time to save his life.
Cst Whitby was one of seven women at the Sunshine Coast in 2015, which is the detachment’s highest number of female officers on record.

Despite being a historically male profession, as noted by the data, a nationwide increase in female officers has manifested in the police resources data presented by Statistics Canada in the last fifteen years. In 2015, women police officers accounted for 20 per cent of all the officers in Canada.

About an hour southeast of Sechelt, the North Vancouver City RCMP detachment reported a significantly smaller percentage, with only one in three officers being female. A lower percentage than the Sunshine Coast yet much larger when compared with the number of female officers in the five largest police forces in the country.

Times have changed considerably according to Superintendent Chris Kennedy of the North Vancouver City detachment, who says he can recall when a given force had its “two token females.” Superintendent Kennedy has been serving as an officer for almost four decades.

“I don’t care what sex you are, as long as you can lead,” he says, which is something a lot of female officers are starting to do.

In conjunction with the growth seen in the number females in policing nationwide, there has been an increase in the number of women holding senior positions in the force. However, the definition of “senior officer” can differ from province to province and whether it is a RCMP detachment or a municipal department. For example, the highest ranking officer in Ottawa is the chief of police, while the highest ranking officer in the RCMP is the commissioner.

Even though the number of female officers in the police force has increased, Statistics Canada reported that there was a minute decrease in the total number of officers across the country. Every province and territory, with the exception of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, saw a drop in the volume of police from 2014 to 2015.
Statistics Canada has not yet released any information regarding police resources in Canada for 2016.

Human Trafficking in Canada on the rise, but experts warn statistics may be misleading

[Source: Ottawa Police]

An exponential rise in the number of human trafficking cases in Ottawa since 2009 has many people worried, but experts caution that the data may be misleading. Even though the numbers seem to be going up, the increase may be due to factors other than an increase in actual crimes.

According to crime statistics from the Statistics Canada CANSIM database, over half of the incidents of human trafficking in Canada since 2009 have occurred in Ontario. 106 cases are attributed to Ottawa, which has the second highest concentration of human trafficking offences outside of Toronto as of 2015. The concern is that reported cases in Ottawa have essentially doubled each year.

Professor Kamala Kempandoo of York University studies sex trafficking and cautions that the rise in numbers is partly because of a changing definition of what “human trafficking”.

“If people think most women in the sex trade are forced, then most sex work will be counted as ‘sex trafficking,’” she says, as an example. “the statistics say nothing unless you know what is being counted.”

Until 2005, human trafficking was not a recognized offence in Canadian legislation. Instead, offenders were charged with other crimes like kidnapping, extortion, fraud, and uttering threats. In 2005, Bill C-49 amended the Criminal Code of Canada to recognize all aspects of the crime as a whole, which explains why that there are no recorded cases of human trafficking in Canada before 2005.

Additional amendments expanded the definition of human trafficking, which was reflected in the increase of reported cases nationally.

Criminal Code of Canada (Text)

Human rights lawyer Hugh Scher says the concentration of reported cases in Ottawa is due to population density. Over one-third of Canada’s population lives in Ontario with the majority living in the “corridor” between Montreal and Toronto.

“Ottawa is densely populated,” he says. “It has large and diverse communities from all over the world, and that potentially makes it a greater target for this kind of nefarious behaviour and activity. The more people, the more cases. The same may also be said of Montreal, and other big cities.”

Population density of Canada as of 2011 census

Staff Sergeant David Bal of the Ottawa Police Department says the sharp increase in cases of human trafficking in Ottawa is explained by an increased awareness of the issue, both within the community and on the police force.

“We’re not seeing a growth year over year,” he says. “We are constantly promoting awareness and encouraging victims and witnesses to come forward. And with more people coming forward, there’s going to be more cases.”


Police Action Annual Report 2015 (Text)

Although many elements contribute to the rising number, the most important is that there are still numerous victims who have been overlooked because they have not come forward. Increased time, funding, resources, and awareness have improved the ability of authorities to discover cases rather than more cases occurring.

Sgt. Bal says Ottawa is currently in a good position to deal with human trafficking in the years to come. Outreach, training and education will encourage existing victims to seek help and enable Canadians to recognize and report potential cases.

“At the end of the day, the charge is one thing. It’s nice to have, but we want to make sure that if there is a victim that wants to get out of a situation, that we have the resources in place,” he says. “On a macro level, but more importantly on a micro level, in terms of the individual survivors that we’re dealing with, it makes a huge difference in their lives.”

Needle Drop Box locations in Vanier are only advertised online, despite having highest injection-drug using population in the city


Vanier has long been recognized as a rough area by Ottawa locals. Having a concentration of social agencies, low-incoming housing, crime and reports of drug-use, it also ranked number one for by-law complaints concerning discarded needles in 2016.

“The highest area of need is certainly Ward 12,” says Craig Calder, Program Manager for Ottawa Public Health. Formerly an independent, francophone community, Vanier became part of Ottawa in 2001. Now decreasingly francophone, the area is a hot-spot for those living in poorer conditions than the rest of the city. This, in turn feeds its statistical ranking as having the highest population of injection-drug users in the city, according to the 2016 Problematic Substance Use Report from Ottawa Public Health.

In response to this need, out of the 23 wards that make up the capital city, Vanier also has the highest concentration of Needle Drop Boxes, with 10 locations throughout the area, most of which are located along the thorough-way Montreal Road. Although the Vanier ward stretches reasonably far from north to south, the social agencies and many of the community housing projects are concentrated along this main road.

Craig Calder, Program Manager for Ottawa Public Health and previous employee of Ottawa Bylaw, says the Needle Drop Boxes are in locations that were mutually agreed upon by the city and property owners, and that they are placed with a balance of public need and public safety in mind. Not only must the program define the hot-spots and areas of need, they must acquire permission from the property owners and those living in the area to ensure public safety.

Calder also explained that not a single social housing project had agreed to be the location of a Needle Drop Box until last year. “There has been a recent shift in Ottawa Community Housing,” says Calder. This shift gave way to a collaborative agreement between Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Community Housing that oversaw the installment of five Needle Drop Boxes on Community Housing properties in 2016, due to the high need in these communities, and a speculated change of heart according to Calder.

Despite the new collaboration, the location of these disposal boxes are arguably not being properly disclosed to the people who would make the most use of them. They are not advertised anywhere except on the city’s website, according to Calder. Given the social housing communities have the best access to the population in need, they would be the most effective starting point for getting the word out. Since the collaboration is still so new, future plans are still in the works.

“We don’t like to speak about the Needle Boxes in isolation,” says Calder. In addition to the boxes, are the Needle Hunters. They are another force on the streets attempting to pick up the paraphernalia. They do what Calder calls, “proactive sweeps, seven days a week.” Made up of community volunteers, the Needle Hunters spend allotted shifts throughout the week, head down, scanning for the needles in the city haystack.

In 2015 the needle hunting team retrieved over 17,000 discarded needles, primarily from the Vanier area according to the City of Ottawa’s website. This is another indication of the degree of injection-drug use in the area and the need for proper disposal of these hazardous items.

The Hunters and Boxes are followed-up by city By-Law and Public Works who also spend time scouring for carelessly discarded, hazardous waste, such as needles.

As Calder outlines, the city project concerning discarded needles is many-fold, though advertisement to those discarding needles in the first place may be an area worth investing in.

Aviation tales: why were airports abandoned in Northern Ontario?


By Floriane Bonneville

Kevin Psutka in his the Air Line Pilots Association of Canada Office.

During Question Period last week, Conservative MP Kelly Block of Eagle Creek, Saskatchewan asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau: “Will the transport minister admit that he is selling our airports and tell us to whom he is selling them?” Some amongst the aviation community and the Opposition decry the prospect of privatizing all of the major airports in Canada.

Kevin Psutka says it wouldn’t be the first time that the Liberals privatize airports.

Psutka used to be the President of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and is now the Safety and Security Representative for the Air Line Pilots Association of Canada. He says the foreseen privatization of airports would be a mistake.

In the 1990s, Transport Minister Doug Young created a plan that sold most of its small and regional airports to private entities. The plan was called “National Airport Policy”.

At the time, Young said the privatization of those airports would give the incentive for the owners to be “good managers”. However, Young came to regret this decision. He told the Globe and Mail in 2003 that in the end, the airports had not been better managed by private owners and that he regretted his decision.

Psutka says he was personally involved with fighting against the privatization of airports back in 1994. He says he thought it would make airports less safe in the future, because the privatization of airport regulations makes management cut corners on safety.

In the end, he says, the less care that is put into ensuring that the airport is safe, the greater chances of accidents there are.

Apart from creating safety issues, the privatization of airports lead to the closing down of many of them.

An open database obtained through the Land Information of Ontario shows that there are roughly 64 abandoned airports in the province. Those airports closed down because of a lack of funding after the federal government walked away from managing them. The database shows that many other airports’ runways are in utterly poor conditions.

Map of the abandoned airports in Ontario

“The Government wanted to make a whole bunch of money off of them, but they realized that they couldn’t find buyers for it” says Psutka.

Psutka says the policy basically made it really expensive for municipalities or private bodies to run airports on their own.

There were also social repercussions to the closing of airports like that of Bonnechere. Among other things, it lead to the isolation of the community, says Garnet Kranz. Kranz is a resident of Killaloe who used to travel through this airport in the 1950s up until it closed. Kranz used to fly to Montreal, Pembroke, Toronto et many other places around Renfrew county. After the closing of the airport, Kranz says he didn’t travel so much anymore.

Natasha Gauthier is the Senior Media Relations Advisor for Transport Canada. She says: “work is done to transfer or sell these lands in accordance with the Treasury Board’s policies on the sale or transfer or surplus real property.” However, it is still unclear what Transport Canada plans to do with the airport.

Transport Canada didn’t mention that the Bonnechere airport site is contaminated.  Like many other airports built in the Second World War. Archives from the government of Canada shows that the airport’s contamination is of medium alert and so nothing can be dug from its ground because it could eventually spread out.

That is also why the Pikwaknagan land claim does not want to have anything to do with the airport site, Councillor Ron Bernard says.

When she was asked whether the airport would ultimately simply sit there for eternity until it degrades itself, Gauthier did not reply. When asked the same question, Psutka responded with a vivid “Yes”. Bernard says that he doesn’t know.





The burgeoning of breweries across Ontario


Ottawans can now enjoy a tall, frothy glass of Kichesippi 1855 with its refreshing malt flavours and bitter finish. For a more exotic flare, beer enthusiasts can turn to a ginger coriander cream ale. For something patriotic, the Big Rig Canadian Amber showcases 100% Canadian ingredients. These unique brews are now available in Ottawa due to a recent proliferation of microbreweries in the province.

According to data from the Ontario Beverage Network, the per capita number of microbreweries in Ontario has increased by almost ten-fold since 2011. Toronto has the highest total number of independent breweries per capita at 1.76 per 100,000 people. Ottawa falls second at 1.18 per 100,000 people, although growth in Ottawa’s brewery industry is more recent. The total number of independent breweries in Ottawa has more than tripled in the last five years, bringing the count up to sixteen. Bicycle Craft, Dominion City, and Tooth & Nail are just some of the breweries that have opened up in the last few years.

The variety of local brews can be savoured at Beer Craft Market, a restaurant that opened just last year. Beer Craft Market has over 100 brews on tap, and bar manager Josh Chamberlin said that around 60% of their beer selection is from the province. He said that featuring local products is one of the company’s goals. “There’s an attention in craft beer right now. People are looking for new and interesting things to drink, putting their heads to crazy IPAs, sours, and all sorts of things,” he said, “everyone’s catching on to what beer really can be.”

Chamberlin said that Ottawa’s supportive microbrewery community attributes to the blossoming industry. “It’s really a giant family,” said Chamberlin. Larger, more established businesses such as Beau’s Brewery are even lending out their equipment to smaller entrepreneurs. “They’ve really made a welcoming atmosphere for new breweries and really tried to be inclusive,” he said.

Chamberlin also attributes the popularization of microbreweries to easier marketing on the internet. “Some of the craft breweries that are out there right now have really taken advantage of the digital age,” said Chamberlin, “pretty much every craft brewery that is really successful has a very active social media presence.”

Local beer blogger Katy Watts said that the high per capita number of breweries in Ottawa may be due the city’s geography. Many of the new breweries in Ottawa are located in the outskirts of the city where they can appeal to the local neighborhood. “It blew up, and there are still more and more that are coming,” said Watts, “it’s easier to establish these new breweries with the fragmented communities of Ottawa.”

Although Ottawa’s last five years has seen a proliferation of microbreweries, Watts and Chamberlin only see the industry growing with increasing demand. According to Watts, the brewery industry in Ottawa hasn’t reached market saturation yet, but the market is becoming competitive enough to drive product quality. “We’re coming to a point where if a brewery doesn’t make a good product, it’s hard to compete,” she said.

Evergreen Craft Ales is one of the microbreweries that opened last year, and their website boasts being the smallest brewery in Ottawa. Owner Chris Samuels runs the operation with his wife from their garage. “Once I started home brewing it was definitely something that captured my imagination more than anything else,” said Samuels. Samuels said getting started in the brewery business was costly and time consuming, but the community was welcoming. He said that consumers are often interested in his small, home-grown business. “We’ve had a really good vibe from people, and people are really interested in what we’re doing,” he said, “It’s been really rewarding when you can actually sit down and talk to people one-on-one.”

Early success for Vancouver anti-bike theft initiative


There is good news for the city that’s been dubbed the bike stealing capital of Canada. According to an analysis of Vancouver city crime statistics there was a 14% decrease in bike theft between 2015 and 2016.

Source: City of Vancouver, Crime Statistics, Data accessed March 10, 2017

In 2016, a Square One Insurance report said that Vancouver had the most bikes stolen per capita of any major city in Canada. Square One found that there were 513 bike thefts per capita in Vancouver, whereas the next highest on the list, Calgary, had 250 thefts per capita.

Vancouver, a city where bikes are frequently used as smogless, traffic-friendly alternatives to cars, saw bike theft increase steadily between 2011 and 2015, according to the afore mentioned data analysis. According to the same analysis, thieves have stolen more than 13,000 bikes since 2011.

“It’s an epidemic,” says J Allard, creator of the 529 Garage, a bike registration database.

But there’s hope. For the first time in five years, bike thefts have dropped, and it may just be thanks to Allard.

In October 2015, the former Microsoft executive teamed up with the Vancouver Police Department in a public awareness campaign for bike theft prevention and recovery.

Source: Vancouver Police Department, 2015

According to Sgt. Randy Fincham of the Vancouver Police Department, the Log it, Lock it or Loose It   initiative is, “A fairly extensive public awareness

J Allard, Co-creator of Garage 529 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

campaign encouraging owners to lock their bikes and record their serial numbers.”

Allard and the police have been holding workshops, distributing flyers, and talking to the public about how best to protect their bikes.

In the year that followed the campaign launch, there were 433 fewer bikes stolen in the city of 630,000 people, according to the City of Vancouver statistics.

HUB Cycling, a non-profit cycling advocacy group in Ottawa credits Allard’s partnership with the police for lessening thievery. “There’s wider increased awareness of bike theft being an issue across the city, I think that more people are cognisant to it now,” says Ellie Lambert, the communications director for the group.

Ellie Lambert, Director of Communications for HUB Cycling (Source: HUB Cycling)

Lambert notes the initiative’s emphasis on lock education, as the campaign has been promoting the best way to lock a bike and has introduced loaner locks at businesses for those who may have forgotten their locks at home.

Locks are important to Allard. “The harder you can make it for the thief, the more discouraged the thief will be, and move onto the next one,” says Allard, advocating for thick steel locks, “they take three minutes and sparks to remove.”

Common advice seems to be, leave the cable lock at home and invest in a more expensive, more durable variety.

The Log it, Lock it or Loose it campaign also encourages people to register their bikes with Allard’s database, Garage 529.

Allard says that Garage 529 is “a unified database for bycicles,” where users, bike shops, law enforcement and other organizations, like universities, can register bicycles.

People send in the bike’s serial numbers, a picture of the bike, make and model, date of purchase and ideally a picture of the owner with their bike. Then, if a bike goes missing, there’s a dossier for a police report, insurance claim, and for distribution on social media.

Garage 529 is also an app connected to the database, and if a bike is reported missing, any users within 15 kilometres of said disappearance get a notification on their phone.

“It’s like an amber alert system for bikes,” says Allard.

Still spinning from success in Vancouver, Allard is expanding his database in British Columbia, and is even in talks to bring the registry out east, to Toronto and Ottawa.


Source: City of Vancouver. The map above breaks down bike theft by neighbourhood, with the most bikes being stolen in and around the downtown core.


“Predatory” developers are forcing Sandy Hill residents out


Residents of Sandy Hill are packing their bags according to recent census results.

The 2016 census shows that a large portion of Sandy Hill has experienced close to a 10 per cent decrease in population in the last five years. The decrease is mainly seen in the area stretching from Rideau Street in the North to Mann Avenue in the south and King Edward Avenue in the West to Goulburn Avenue in the East.

Map of Population Changes in Ottawa between 2011 and 2016 according to Census data.

Long-time residents, young professionals and families in the area are leaving for several reasons such as the increase in large developments, lack of housing regulation and of course—students.

Vice president of community association Action Sandy Hill, Robert Forbes, blames this decrease on poor neighbourhood planning.

“What we’ve seen is an increased amount of conversion of family homes into express-built student housing,” says Forbes. “People who live next door are losing light and are concerned about noise. There also aren’t adequate provisions for preserving garbage.”

According to Forbes, developers have been buying old homes and converting them into what are being called “bunk houses.” These bunk houses are different than rooming houses because they are unlicensed, are not regularly inspected and are typically filled to maximum capacity in order to generate more profit.

The developments are driving up real estate prices, according to Forbes, making it difficult for young professionals to buy homes in Sandy Hill. Forbes says that developers in the area are quite predatory and that the higher real estate values offer residents an incentive to sell.

Impact on Landlords

Neil Thornton is a building manager for an apartment complex in Sandy Hill. While units in his building are rented out by individual owners, he says some of the landlords have had trouble renting to a specific demographic.

“Sometimes they haven’t been able to rent to professionals,” says Thornton. “You can always rent to students because it’s so close to the university.”

Thornton says that he recognizes the economics of bunker houses but finds them to be ugly. Forbes also noted that he knows other individuals that are having trouble renting to non-students.

The building in Sandy Hill that Neil Thornton manages.

Community Impact

Spouses Lise Labelle and Pierrick Le Monnier have been living in Sandy Hill for more than 20 years and have dubbed themselves “hard-core Sandy Hillers.” They say that there has always been a mixture of students and professionals living in the neighbourhood and that they love where they live.

However, they too have noticed the large developments popping up. They say that they think people are seeing a lack of building regulation in the area and are discouraged from living here. Labelle refers to the city, developers and the Ontario Municipal Board as “the beast.”

“There doesn’t seem to be any regulation,” says Labelle. “How come the city lets this happen? It’s a question of money…Mathieu Fleury can’t do anything against the beast.”

City Councillor for Rideau-Vanier, Mathieu Fleury, says that he is working with the city to tackle the issue of bunker houses. A moratorium on building any new developments was put in place so that the city could work out a new strategy. Fleury and the city put together new bylaws and regulations for buildings to maintain property standards such as front lawn and garbage disposal maintenance. New provisions have also been put in place restricting major changes to heritage homes.

“We want to maintain the character of the neighbourhood,” says Fleury.

Both Labelle and her husband as well as Thornton and his wife know families that have left the neighbourhood because they could not handle the combination of loud students and rapid development.

“We have nothing against students,” says Labelle. “But I’m hoping some new regulations will come in for the buildings.”

Discoloured water caused by surge in street maintenance in 2016, councillor says


Ottawa’s Kitchissippi Ward recorded the highest number of complaints about discoloured water in 2016, according to an analysis of a database used by the city to track service requests.

The City of Ottawa received 36 requests last year to “investigate discoloured water” in the ward—a modest figure compared to the 14,102 requests made in Kitchissippi as a whole.

A City of Ottawa Water Services truck in Kitchissippi Ward – Photo: Andrew Savory

However, the ward received double the requests of the next closest ward, Rideau-Rockcliffe, which received 18 requests in comparison.

The results change slightly when adjusted for per capita—8.2 requests in Kitchissippi and 4.7 in Rideau-Rockcliffe.

The rise in complaints, said Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper, were due to road maintenance and construction projects resulting from federal stimulus money, the Ottawa River Action Plan and the scheduled maintenance of water mains beneath some of the ward’s older streets.

“Last year there were a few more streets that were done through the program of the Ottawa River Action Plan, which provides money for making repairs for storm and sewage repair,” Leiper said. “We had federal stimulus money that was being spent on the ward—Orrin Avenue and Irving Avenue were stimulus projects.”

The Ottawa River Action Plan was introduced in 2010 to prevent sewage overflows and storm water from entering the Ottawa River, which borders the north end of Kitchissippi Ward and serves as the city’s water supply after being filtered through several processes of purification.

As noted above, Ottawa's water supply undergoes a thorough process of purification to ensure the safety of residents throughout the city. However, in the event of "rusty/discoloured water," Ottawa's Water Quality department states that there is no cause for concern -- citing the justification for the discoloured water as likely the "result of sediment coming from the water main" or "maintenance is being conducted in your area."

The typical occurrence that prompts requests to inspect water quality is a rusty, yellow, or discoloured tone to the water, according to the City of Ottawa’s water quality webpage.

Penny Wilson, water quality supervisor for the City of Ottawa, said that water discolouration arises in areas close to construction or in areas of low water usage. However, Wilson said home and business owners should not be worried.

“This is a fairly common occurrence, and is normally solved by flushing the main through a hydrant. Please note that these low levels of iron, while not pleasing to the eye, are not a health issue.”

The month that garnered the most service requests to investigate water quality was July. The nine requests that were recorded correspond to what Leiper called the “Spencer Street rebuild,” which began in June and provoked road closures throughout July.

A screenshot courtesy of Google Maps showing the broad stretch covered by Spencer Street in the Kitchissippi Ward.

The purpose of the rebuild was to repair the cast iron water mains beneath the street. Once underway, much of the street was closed off and residents and building owners were placed on a “temporary water supply”—a frequent precaution taken by the city when repairing water mains.

Tap water sourced from a street’s temporary water supply often appears discoloured, but this is not a reason for concern.

Tammy Rose, director of water services for the City of Ottawa, reiterated that there was no reason for alarm and that all of the requests were addressed without a complication.

“Two requests were resolved by phone and did not require an on-site response. Staff investigated seven requests related to a water main construction project in the neighbourhood,” Rose said. “This is not uncommon during construction on cast iron water mains.”

Spencer Street was not the only road that required maintenance. Mulvihill Avenue and Lyman Street were two other examples within the ward that were in need of repair.

Leiper is optimistic that less road rebuilds and maintenance will be required throughout his ward in 2017 after a busy period of construction last year.

“This year we are mainly looking at Iona Street and Loretta Avenue, and only half of Loretta is being done. I anticipate that we can see two-thirds the number that we saw in 2016.”


Battling no water complaints in Rideau-Rockcliffe


Joe Kabangele came home for lunch one day in January 2016. He went to wash his hands, as is his daily routine, turned the faucet and nothing came out.

He said their house was without water for more than four hours and they had no idea what was going on.

Rideau-Rockcliffe residents logged one of the highest numbers of no water complaints in 2016 | Photo by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin

“It was really hard for my wife,” said Kabangele. “The only water she had left was in the pot on the stove.” She couldn’t do anything, he said, not even give their daughter a glass of water.

Kabangele couldn’t wash his hands before he ate that day.

Hand washing aside, this is not an isolated incident for Ottawa, according to an analysis of a database that the city uses to document service requests. Rideau-Rockcliffe, the ward where the Kabangeles live, logged 50 complaints of no water and no temporary service in 2016. Somerset and Kitchissippi logged slightly more.

Number of no water, no temporary service complaints in 2016

No temporary water service complaints mean that the water was shut off for an emergency, so there was no time to hook the residents up to a temporary water service. While there are a number of reasons for emergency shut offs, according to a statement from the city, they occur most often because of watermain breaks. Other causes include freezing or concerns of water quality.

According to the city, there were 22 watermain breaks in Rideau-Rockcliffe in 2016, with just over half of them occurring during the winter months.

“There are a number of factors that can contribute to watermain breaks,” said Carol Hall, program manager of water distribution with the City of Ottawa in an interview. Those factors include the age and material of the pipes as well as the water temperature and frost level.

“Historically, we experience 74 per cent of our total watermain breaks on these older metallic pipes,” said Hall.

Kabangele said that he thought his water was shut off due to freezing. This could mean the service pipes connecting residents to the watermain froze, or it could have been one of the watermain breaks during the winter that year. The city was unable to confirm reasons for specific residents losing access to water.

The city of Ottawa is making strides to lessen the number of complaints of no water by correcting the issue of watermain breaks. They’re doing so through a program called the Cathodic protection plan.

The plan involves placing charged pieces of magnesium metal, called anodes, on the water pipes in order to drive corrosion away from the pipes and into the metal pieces instead.

In the spring and summer of 2016, the city installed these anodes to pipes across the city based on the “frequency and severity of watermain breaks in Ottawa over a five year period,” according to the city’s website.

Rideau-Rockcliffe was among the 11 wards to receive the Cathodic protection plan, including the Kabangeles’ street.

Number of installations of the Cathodic protection plan in 2016

Hall noted, however, that while this plan helps to slow corrosion, it “does not prevent further failure.”

Rideau-Rockcliffe experienced 4 watermain breaks in the month of January 2017 according to the city. As Hall noted, there are other factors that play into watermain breaks other than the conditions of the pipes.

Rideau-Rockcliffe was one of wards in Ottawa to have its watermains protected | Photo by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin

The Kabangeles have not gone without water since last January.

“Thankfully,” said Kabangele, “that was the only thing that happened.”

Since then, every time Kabangele turns on the tap to wash up before lunch, there is water flowing through the faucet.

Featured Image courtesy of the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre.