Budget 2017: City should benefit on housing and child care, but budget mum on Stage 2 LRT funding

The City of Ottawa should benefit from billions in federal money for transit, housing and child care, but city hall will have to wait longer to learn exactly how much it will collect.

When it comes to the federal budget, the city’s interests are usually focused on transit and housing. There’s plenty of cash up for grabs in the budget that would help ordinary Ottawa residents find housing and travel across the city.

Some federal programs could also help the city become a major player on Canada’s high-tech scene, while a tax change could see Uber-loving customers pay more for rides.

Feds note Ottawa’s Stage 2 blueprint, but make no promises

The one time the City of Ottawa is mentioned in the federal budget is in reference to the Stage 2 rail project, but there’s still no funding commitment.

The city has been counting on $1 billion from the feds for the base Stage 2 blueprint, plus another $157.5 million (with a matching amount from the province) to build bonus rail extensions to Trim Road and the Ottawa International Airport.

The budget doesn’t earmark LRT money for Ottawa, but the city should benefit from a federal plan to spend $20.1 billion over 11 years across Canada. No new money was announced for transit in the 2017 budget.

The city is hoping to know by May if the feds will fund its Stage 2 plan so it can get moving on tendering the project.

Empty federal land a possible solution to social housing

Cities have been pushing for long-term, predictable funding to repair and build new affordable housing units. The $11.2-billion in a new National Housing Strategy should help the City of Ottawa increase its supply of homes and fix rundown units.

The city could also benefit from the federal government’s larger focus on using federal land for social housing.

The feds want to make $202 million available over the next 11 years to make surplus federal lands and buildings available for housing. There are potentially big opportunities in Ottawa to increase social housing, such as with LeBreton Flats, if vacant federal lands are available for redevelopment at a bargain price.

Billions more in child care money would create more subsidized spaces

A $7-billion fund over 10 years to create more child care spaces across Canada will likely satisfy program managers in the City of Ottawa.

Before the budget, the sector was hoping for $5 billion over 10 years to cut down waiting lists and make child care more affordable.

The federal budget predicts there would be up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces in the first three years of its program.

The city released its 2016-2017 child care service plan in early 2016. There were 8,830 children on the waitlist for licensed child care spaces as of February 2016.

The federal government, which wants to develop a National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care with provinces and territories, hopes more parents can return to work if child care is more affordable.

Innovation programs feed tech-hungry Ottawa

The City of Ottawa will almost certainly want to compete in a “smart cities challenge” announced in the federal budget.

The challenge, which would have a $300-million budget over 11 years, nudges municipalities to develop cutting-edge infrastructure to improve city planning and digital connectivity.

The budget also proposes $125 million for a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

The City of Ottawa wants to be recognized as a research centre for autonomous vehicles, although the federal budget says the collaboration in the artificial intelligence strategy will include Montreal, Edmonton and the Toronto-Waterloo region.

When it comes to helping more people use the Internet, the federal budget provides $13.2 million for low-income families across Canada to access the web. Social organizations in Ottawa have been calling for cheaper Internet access.

Ottawa Uber rides to be taxed

Ever since Uber arrived in Ottawa, conventional cab companies have complained that the ride-ordering service has dodged sales tax.

The federal budget proposes to close a GST/HST loophole for taxi-like services across the country. It would mean a company like Uber would need to register and charge sales tax on its fares, just like taxi companies do.

Uber has been legal in the City of Ottawa since last fall.

Starting July 1, 2017, Uber will need to charge the sales tax, which could impact how much ride-ordering customers pay.

jwilling@postmedia.com
twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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