Council passes budget with concerns over policing and transit

City councillors may have passed Ottawa’s 2017 budget unanimously on Wednesday, but it took three hours of discussion over policing strategies and transit passes to get there.

“We should all be very proud of this balanced, but ambitious, financial plan,” said Mayor Jim Watson, linking the budget to the holiday season and the less fortunate.

The 2017 budget brings a two per cent hike in property taxes and a five per cent increase in water rates. The garbage pick-up fee will also see a small increase. The city will also be implementing a low-income transit pass.

A number of councillors voiced their opinions on changes to the city’s policing budget and concerns about the sudden increase in shootings and murders.

“One of the sayings we use is, ‘You can’t arrest your way out of this problem,’” said police chief Charles Bordeleau.

“Each one of those deaths are tragic, and there are different circumstances and reasons why those homicides have taken place, but in the majority of cases is a disturbing, rapid escalation of violence,” said Bordeleau.

“The ease of use of a knife or a gun that’s available to them – that is disturbing. As chiefs we are having those very same discussions as to seeing what what is driving this,” he said.

Three councillors – Riley Brockington, Mathieu Fleury and Catherine McKenney – dissented on the budget. All three said they weren’t satisfied with a police budget that would mean less community officers.

Unrelated to the budget debate, Coun. Diane Deans asked for an audit into the land acquisitions taking place during phase one of the LRT project.

“I believe as we move forward there are lessons to be learned from the first phase. I feel that members of the public should know how much this costs,” said Deans.

Council voted down the suggestion after concerns were raised that any leak of information – even after a confidential briefing – could affect future negotiations.

This article originally appeared in Metro News.