Municipal candidates answer this election’s pressing questions
Ottawa residents will head to the polls on Oct. 22 to vote in this year’s municipal election. Students 18 and older are eligible to vote so, the Fulcrum asked candidates in five wards surrounding campus—Ward 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17, six questions about the pressing issues facing students in the City of Ottawa. In speaking with candidates, the Fulcrum focused on increasing political engagement amongst youth, cannabis use on campus, support for new graduates looking for work, improving public transportation, dealing with high rent, unresponsive landlords, and badly maintained properties, and goals for their first year in office. Read on to find out how the people, who will be making decisions directly impacting you, answered.
Anthony Carricato: Capital Ward 17
Carricato believes elected representatives and public institutions have to look at modern ways of engaging with youth, online and in person because “young people care and want to be part of the conversations.”
As for cannabis legalisation, Carricato says the substance should be treated like alcohol on campus and university residences.
Supporting student and young graduate opportunities at the City of Ottawa is how Carricato hopes to increase employment for students.
“What I’m hearing the most from residents aren’t complaints about costs, but rather serious concerns about the reliability of OC Transpo service,” Carricato explains. He believes tackling reliability is the priority above reducing fares.
Carricato wants a housing first strategy with inclusionary zoning, which mandates developers to subsidize new housing for low- and middle-income households, in the Official Plan. As for bad landlords, he says the City has to enforce its own bylaws.
If elected, in his first year, Carricato wants to make very practical improvements like making sure there are composting, recycling and pet waste bins in all public spaces.
Catherine McKenney: Somerset Ward 14
McKenney believes that lower voter turnout among youth is the result of a lack of awareness surrounding the amount of city services that are available. She believes municipal representatives need to do a better job of ensuring voters make a connection between their vote and their services.
As Canada crawls closer to cannabis legalization, McKenney believes federal legislation has left municipalities frantic. She believes in consultation with school administrations and student groups to determine appropriate zoning.
“By building a city we love, we will attract businesses who love it too.” For McKenney, that means investment in roads, greenspace, local businesses, and public transit.
McKenney would like to include links from Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the airport, train station, and every post-secondary institution in the city.
By increasing the amount of public housing built, McKenney hopes the City can help fix the “affordable housing crisis in Ottawa.”
If elected, in her first year McKenney would like to ensure tax levels meet the needs of the city where she sees many critical tasks suffering from lack of funding.
Christine McAllister: Capital Ward 17
Ward Councils made up of community leaders, including youth leaders, pop-up offices throughout the Ward, pre-budget consultations, regular town hall meetings, as well as co-ops and paid internships are just some of the ways McAllister would improve youth engagement.
McAllister believes partnering with universities on public education is key to making sure youth and at-risk groups understand the health facts of cannabis.
Connecting young people directly to business leaders is one initiative McAllister would explore to improve student job outlook.
McAllister says some areas of her Ward would be better served by increased bus services either on a location basis, or frequency basis, to make travelling to classes or work more convenient for students.
Inclusionary zoning as part of a wider strategy to increase affordable housing is a priority for McAllister. She also thinks the entire process should be in collaboration with universities, colleges, and the co-operative housing sector. Safety in properties is another issue McAllister identifies saying, “the City has an important role to play to ensure that existing obligations on landlords are properly enforced.”
If elected, in her first year McAllister wants to have established Ward Councils, pop-up offices across the Ward, implemented environmental sustainability initiatives such as measuring greenhouse gas emissions, increase greenspace, and utilize the expertise of community members to make council recommendations.
David Chernushenko: Capital Ward 17
Chernushenko says municipal government is more important in daily lives than federal or provincial governments. The bike paths, roads, transit, garbage collection, and snow clearing are just some examples he calls upon to illustrate this point. He hopes to get this message out by visiting schools and being available for campus radio, student research projects, and campus reporters.
“Ottawa was a world leader in creating smoke-free spaces. This must apply now to cannabis,” says Chernushenko. He does not support smoking on campus.
Cultural events, vibrant public spaces and clean energy helps generate economic activity, explains Chernushenko. He says he will continue to support initiatives in these areas.
Chernushenko also wants to increase affordable housing close to rail stations and create more frequent, reliable links to bus routes.
Landlord licensing—Chernushenko sees it as a useful monitoring and evaluating tool that would aid in revoking the privileges of poor landlords.
If elected, in his first year of what would be his third term, Chernushenko wants to fully fund the City’s Energy Evolution strategy to tackle climate breakdown and Urban Forest Management Plan, and prioritize affordable housing.
Jide Afolabi: Capital Ward 17
Afolabi says engaging with students key. “If students see themselves reflected in the process and in the ideas up for discussion, they’ll engage and ultimately cast a ballot.”
For Afolabi, indoor consumption of cannabis should be restricted however, he believes that consumption on campus, for those over the legal age, is acceptable. He acknowledges that there are minors on campus, which can conflict with this, and calls upon campus enforcement to engage.
The Ottawa Tree Corp, an idea Afolabi calls for, is an initiative to create youth summer jobs around the protecting and enlarging of urban forests. He also wants an internship program which could be expanded to City Hall.
“Take anyone from anywhere to everywhere.” That is the philosophy Afolabi would apply to public transit. He proposes an additional line called “The Elbow”, which would expand LRT eastward from Carling Station to CHEO, and back westward to Alta Vista with reconnection at Mooney’s Bay Station.
Afolabi wants additional housing on campus, while involving students in design and construction, ensuring sustainable practices, and collaborating with the U of O and Carleton on a shared build. He believes on-campus units would reduce the price of off-campus student housing as landlords compete for student tenants by making property improvements.
If elected, in his first year he would prioritize ideas that he thinks have the most social impact such as environmental matters, better roads, cycling infrastructure, affordable housing, and expanding transit.
Mathieu Fleury: Rideau-Vanier Ward 12
Fleury thinks the best way to engage youth is to have a presence on campus, participate in classes, and have municipal leaders join youth discussions.
He believes it is up to university administration to establish best practices and guidelines for cannabis consumption on campus and in residences.
Fleury sees a wealth of government employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in his ward—alongside his plans for revitalization and beautification of key areas, local commercial opportunities should increase.
As a main player in the launching of the U-Pass, Fleury notes the success of increased transit use will be in service improvements and operation in inner-city main street routes beyond the Monday-Friday peak periods.
Fleury chaired the Sandy Hill Town and Gown Committee which worked for bylaw and zoning changes, created landlord education sessions, started Welcome Week Walkabouts, and special safety planning for days of high student activity on the streets such as the Panda Game and St. Patrick’s Day.
If elected, in his first year of what would be his third term, the city’s youngest councillor would like to provide permanent homes with support services for the vulnerable, remove interprovincial trucks by building a tunnel, revitalize Riverain Park, beautify Byward Market, redo Montreal Road, and enforce property maintenance standards.
Matt Lowe: Rideau-Vanier Ward 12
Lowe thinks youth need to, at the minimum, vote in order to have a voice in the things that happen around them. “It is one of the greatest rights we have to choose government.”
He supports reasonable and responsible cannabis consumption on campuses that falls within the bylaws and campus laws.
Proactive development is Lowe’s plan to help create more jobs, which he says has “always been an issue.”
Lowe hopes the new LRT system will take some of the burden off of other routes, and says the option to add another train, bus, or rail on the street is always on the table.
For better quality housing, Lowe proposes tax incentives to housing organizations that comply with housing standards and are transparent in their operations. He is against bunkhouses and slum lords who “kick students around.”
If elected, in his first year, Lowe wants to develop Vanier into a French Quarter similar to Chinatown or Little Italy, stop the building of the proposed-350 bed Salvation Army shelter, and lower crime.
Michael Schurter: Beacon Hill-Cyrville Ward 11
Schurter says increasing youth’s connection with the community is essential. “If we want to have more millennials turn out to vote we need to be asking ourselves, are we reaching out and connecting or building ‘us vs them’ mentalities.”
While he does not support drug use, Schurter does believe it is not the City’s job to monitor consenting adults in their legal behaviour.
To increase job opportunities, Schurter would implement a small business ombudsman who would help small businesses cut through red tape, which slows small business growth, so they can hire more students and new graduates.
“The LRT is for everybody, it is funded by taxpayer dollars and and it has been mismanaged horribly,” explains Schurter. Of transit issues, he says governments need to stop telling people that the project is “on time and on budget” when it is not, because it specifically hurts students who choose their housing based on having efficient and quick transportation to campus.
As well, Schurter wants to improve transportation since living downtown is often more expensive than other areas. Additionally, access to legal advice and support at the social justice tribunal will make it easier for students to report bad landlords and harder to be a bad landlord.
If elected, in his first year, Schurter would like to reduce the size of City council so “we can stop wasting money on councillors’ salaries and focus on spending money where we are bettering the city.”
Thierry Harris: Rideau-Vanier Ward 12
To engage young voters, Harris would bring back the practice of going door-to-door to find eligible voters, commission voter information packets targeted to youth, and sponsor mentorship opportunities for young people.
As well, Harris supports cannabis consumption on campus, provided there is an implementation of smoke rooms to eliminate the impact of second-hand smoke.
As an entrepreneur himself, Harris sees a big opportunity in partnering with organizations like Invest Ottawa to create start-up incubators geared to youth, students and new graduates, providing loans for student-led startups, and connecting students with local employers through networking events and paid internships. He would also like to enact an employment index to measure how many students find work after university in order to better gauge the health of the job market.
The first thing Harris would do to mitigate the impact of LRT delays is put in place a plan that ensures uninterrupted service, particularly around LRT stations. He would also advocate for an additional station in Vanier.
Harris sees the U of O making a lot of money off of student fees, and believes they have a responsibility to re-invest some of that back into housing just as the city does. In addition, he wants a landlord licensing system which would include a landlord registry, regular inspections, better standards for repairs, and steep penalties for infractions.
If elected, in his first year Harris would work on the housing and homelessness crisis, invest in more progressive policing approaches, and reduce the ward’s ecological footprint.