After knocking on 14,000 doors since May 1st, I have heard your concerns loud and clear. Here is where I stand on some of the most pressing issues in Capital Ward.
What we need at City Hall is greater transparency and certainty when it comes to how the city handles development projects. Right now, the process is totally unclear and we are getting caught in the middle. As councillor, I will advocate for clearer rules and more certainty for developers and especially for residents, so that developers know what they can ask for and won’t have to go back to City Hall every three or four years for approvals, while residents will know what to expect when new development occurs in their neighbourhoods. Ultimately, we should all feel proud of new developments, but unfortunately right now, the opaque approval process has generated plenty of anger and frustration.
Across the ward, we have seen dramatic increases in the conversion of single-family homes into multi-unit rooming houses, frustrating neighbours who are contending with increased garbage, noise and unmaintained yards. It has also put increased strain on parking and has impeded snow removal and emergency services. Current zoning rules have not been enforced and the rules don't go far enough. It’s unfair that residents constantly must attend committee of adjustment meetings to ensure the rules are enforced. 1053 Secord in Heron Park is just the latest example, 177 Hopewell in Old Ottawa South is another. We need a dose of common sense.
The City hasn’t moved on improving the stock of affordable housing at all in the last term. We should have a housing first strategy. We have an opportunity to mandate inclusionary zoning in the next Official Plan. Developers don’t make the best landlords, nor do governments. But there is no question; the City can do more. It’s unacceptable that City Council has failed to act on this important issue.
I think 2 per cent should be the ceiling when it comes to prospective property tax increases, and not the floor. The whole reason we are having this discussion in this election is that City spending goes up 5% to 6% year after year. Before we go back to the ATM and ask residents to pay more, let's focus on getting City spending under control. When taxes go up 2% across the city, the reality is taxes in Capital Ward go up disproportionately. This is unreasonable and unaffordable. The system is broken and we need major changes. That’s why I will advocate for tax fairness.
Quite simply, we need more robust enforcement. Improving safety in Capital Ward is one of the top priorities I hear day after day while canvassing. In some parts of the Ward, residents are expressing grave concerns about the risk posed by fast-moving traffic and reckless drivers. Bronson Street is a bad area, in particular. I spoke to Tara on Lakeside who has four children that have to cross the busy street to go to school every day in the Glebe. She is scared. She called the Ottawa City Police to see what they could do about this. They told her it was unsafe to have an officer there. That’s totally unacceptable! Why is safe to have a five-year old crossing that street every day if it isn’t safe for a full-grown police officer? Traffic calming measures have proven to be successful and I will work tirelessly with residents and community associations to review concerns and implement changes to improve safety across Capital Ward.
Trees not only sequester carbon and clean our air of pollutants, they can also help us adapt to climate change by acting as heat sink in the summer and prevent flooding. As councillor, I will advocate to protect and enhance tree canopy and green spaces throughout the city. In particular, I would like to see stricter enforcement of the rules and steeper fines for developers and builders who cut down trees without proper authorization. I will also be a strong voice to improve the City's Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) by giving it hard targets, deadlines and appropriate funding to ensure staff are dedicated to mapping our urban forests and maintaining them. The UFMP should be linked directly to the City's climate change mitigation plan. As a city, we should be doing everything we can to ensure our urban forests continue to thrive and stay strong.
I support reduced transit fares for residents on fixed incomes, like seniors and students. But what I’m hearing the most from residents aren’t complaints about costs, but rather serious concerns about the reliability of OC Transpo service. Amelia, at Carleton University, told me she often has to dig into her pocket to take a cab to get to class or to work on time because of how often buses show up late or not at all. That’s not right. We need to tackle reliability before we start talking about reducing fares.
With large projects, delays can happen. Although it's disappointing, I trust that RTG will get the job done and be held accountable. What is most important is that we have no gaps in bus service as a result of these delays and service must continue until the trains are running. I must say that I am also particularly concerned about the impacts of this delay on the City's budget
Alta Vista Transportation Corridor
I’m vigorously opposed to the Alta Vista transportation corridor proposal; it's a recipe for gridlock. Residents living on Chestnut, Simcoe, Rosemere and Lees streets are concerned it will ruin their neighbourhood, and I agree. This plan will close off access to the new LRT station at Lees and discourage residents from using it.
We need to be ready for legalized cannabis. As a community, we have the opportunity to make sure that zoning is appropriate and that these businesses are kept away from schools and other places where children learn and play. Cities should have a role in zoning to ensure these retail outlets are not excessively concentrated. Legalization is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we need to get it right from the start.
Safety Injection Sites
I hope the province does not cut the funding for Safe Injection Sites, because I believe addictions should be addressed like any other illness. We should let public health professionals determine proper treatment and harm reduction strategies. However, if they do, the city should fill the funding gap because it saves lives and money. This is a public health issue that will lead to a healthier and safer city.