With Six Months to go, There are Already Issues Aplenty in Upcoming Municipal Election

John Dance

Six months away but issues for the coming municipal election are popping up all over: what should the annual tax increase be in the face of high inflation and extraordinary municipal costs like COVID and the occupation; how should the new Official Plan be implemented; how could City Council work better; what is the City doing about climate change and so on.

The list is long but, at this point, it’s not clear what the dominant issues will be, let alone what mayoral and councillor candidates will pledge. Indeed, although there are now three declared candidates to replace the retiring Mayor Jim Watson, Capital Ward has just one declared candidate, the incumbent Shawn Menard.


“Under the current
administration, council has
become more divided and
toxic than ever…”

How City Council functions may be at the top of the list of issues, given what the declared mayoral candidates have said so far. Bob Chiarelli, quoted in the Barrhaven Independent, says that “Under the current administration, the council has become more divided and toxic than ever, with urban councilors being shut out of chair positions, being kept out of the loop, and sometimes being embarrassed in public.”

The other two declared candidates have similar perspectives with Diane Deans saying “My first priority will be to bring this City back together. I think the City has been seriously divided, especially this term, where the rural and suburban communities have been pitted against the core of the City.”

When announcing her candidacy, Catherine McKenney commented that residents are “looking for a City that is greener, that takes climate action, a City that has transit that functions.”

Fixing Lansdowne – who should pay?

Old Ottawa East (OOE) voters have at least two issues that particularly concern them and those in adjacent communities. First, there is the future o
the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor lands beside Springhurst Park and on the other side of the river running all the way to Conroy Road. Most residents are opposed to the construction of the four lane roadway that was proposed decades ago for this corridor. Next term, City Council will consider a revised master transportation plan recommending what should be done.


“…there are many who
regard the City’s efforts
on climate change to be
inadequate.”

A second set of issues is whether Lansdowne Park should have new north-side stands and a new arena, and who should pay for them. The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), City staff and many existing councillors are keen on modernizing these major facilities. But the work would be done in the context of the City having received none of the forecast revenues from its partnership with OSEG, and Lansdowne remaining without ready LRT access.

Transportation issues including the future use of Colonel By Drive and a future truck crossing of the Ottawa River are also important in terms of impact on OOE residents. For instance, with a new Ottawa River crossing, the trucks which cause so much noise for residents living near the Nicholas interchange would be diverted.

Suburbs vs. urban core

City Council approved a new Official Plan last year but it’s the revised zoning bylaw that will give teeth to the plan. Residents in the R1 zone, with its strict limits on what can be built, may be particularly affected by the proposed zoning changes, so these may be a hot topic during the election campaign. Determining just what a “15-minute” community includes and involves may also warrant discussion. And the emphasis on such features as the “Rideau Canal district” and the downtown and inner core “transects” requires articulation.

A related concern is the composition and functioning of the City’s Planning Committee. The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) and other central community associations have long argued that the more numerous suburban and rural councillor block have dominated Planning Committee to the detriment of the central communities. Also, OOECA has recommended that any councillor serving on the Planning Committee should not be allowed to accept campaign donations from developers.

Inadequate action on climate change

OOE residents also want City Council to implement policies for housing that is affordable to lower income people and those who are entering the housing market for the first time. Similarly, there are many who regard the City’s efforts on climate change to be inadequate. While the new Official Plan aims for a 40 percent tree canopy, to date, little has been done by the City to grow the tree canopy in central Ottawa. A related issue for OOE residents is whether the City will take responsibility for the green corridor that runs along the river on the east side of Greystone Village. In doing so, the City could create a linear river park running from Strathcona Park all the way to Linda Thom Park in Old Ottawa South.

COVID & the occupation

And there are lots of issues stemming from COVID and the occupation. For instance, should the Ottawa Police Services be reformed and, if so, how? Should the City’s public health capacity be strengthened so that the City and residents are better prepared for health crises? In what ways should the fabric of the City change to reflect what was learned as a result of the pandemic? Does the City require a more diversified economy, so it isn’t so reliant on government and high tech? Should the City provide financial assistance to community associations, given all of the community-building work that they do?

The provincial election will be held in June and there will also be a number of issues directly affecting local communities. One of these relates to the Ontario Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations which are targeted to create 1.5 million dwelling units over the next decade but would diminish municipal control and community influence on what’s built.

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