With Ottawa's municipal election, let's build a city for everyone
Elections matter. In the most recent provincial election, Doug Ford’s victory altered the destiny of our province. For Ottawa residents, this municipal election also offers a real choice: Do we stick with the status quo, or do we vote for a different vision? Do we want a mayor who fixes roads before building new ones, who will deliver a fast commuter train service at an affordable price for our city, and who will listen to communities before developers?
When Jim Watson took office in 2010, he inherited an $835-million debt, which he doubled to $1.7 billion by 2016. Our fiscally cautious mayor vanishes like a mirage when you begin digging into the city budget. Part of this debt can be attributed to the unrecoverable loan taken on to float the Lansdowne project. We should be wary of this, because LeBreton Flats looks like a carbon copy of Lansdowne but three times the size: a stadium, retail space and condos, with an eerily familiar promise of costing the city nothing. Can our city afford to believe these promises while our debt continues to swell and our community services are impoverished?
When Jim Watson took office in 2010, he inherited an $835-million debt, which he doubled to $1.7 billion by 2016. Our fiscally cautious mayor vanishes like a mirage when you begin digging into the city budget.
Today, there is less affordable housing available than there was in 2010. Rent prices have increased by an average of nine per cent, outpacing inflation and median income increases, while more than 10,000 families wait for affordable housing. Meanwhile, luxury condos sprout around us like mushrooms. Recent provincial changes allow cities to introduce inclusionary zoning bylaws, to address this very issue. Unfortunately, until now, our developer-backed mayor chose to ignore this solution to the growing housing crisis we face.
Our city is also regressing when it comes to transit, with plans to cut 22 community routes, fire 300 bus drivers, and give away community hybrid buses. Since 2011, transit ridership in Ottawa has dropped by 6.7 per cent. This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the cost of our monthly bus pass has risen by 15 per cent, again increasing faster than inflation, and the cost of a single transit fare is still among the most expensive in the country at $3.50. You can’t increase ridership when ticket prices are rising faster than income.
You can’t increase ridership when ticket prices are rising faster than income.
Despite our highways growing wider each year, our rush hour commute times are now approaching Toronto’s. My Capital Region Rail plan can get 20,000 cars off our roads within four years, giving commuters a new option to get to and from work, while alleviating traffic jams for those who drive. Similar projects using existing rail have been priced at roughly $1 million per kilometre. The O-Train was one of the most affordable urban rail projects in North America with a $20-million price tag because it used existing tracks. My Capital Region Rail is a similar project that is well within our means and is a fine example of how our city can use its existing rail and rights of way to deliver transit in an effective, fast and inexpensive way.
The cost of living in Ottawa is increasing faster than median incomes, negatively impacting the overall quality of life for many. For the last decade, advocacy groups and community members have been raising these issues and offering solutions.
We need to listen to our communities and act on their advice. I want to represent our city and its many communities – to defend them. Ottawa residents shouldn’t be fighting city hall; city hall should be fighting for them. We are a prosperous city, and I know we can do more to improve everyone’s quality of life in Ottawa. I invite you to join me on Oct. 22 and together, let’s build a city for everyone.