What kind of Change do you want for you, and for your community?
How can the city and your councillor help you make that change happen?
City council decisions have a tremendous impact on our lives: on our transportation choices, on the development in our neighbourhood, on the kind of social supports that are available when we most need it …
Cities around the world are showing that they are the main drivers of change - because this is where most people live, where they make choices.
Ottawa needs to be part of that global movement so that we can all make change together.
My candidacy is all about removing the barriers that prevent people from changing and creating opportunities so that residents can change together.
To get the best representation:
- to defend the interest of your community, no matter what
- to promote resident participation for stronger, lasting changes
- for a balanced approach across all neighbourhoods
- for a strong voice on community planning at city hall
To advance social issues, you need a councillor
- with firsthand understanding of the problems
- who knows the social support system in place
- who understands the ins and outs of the city budget, to find funding for social housing
- who can be a bridge between the diverse communities of the ward
To protect the environment:
- by pushing for a city that wants to lead on climate change
- by embracing public and active transportation as the default
- by setting specific targets on transportation changes
- by keeping city council accountable for its progress
It would be too easy to write a few bullet points in order to please everyone, with sound bytes like “meaningful consultation” or “proven results.” Please read on to know what I really mean when I make those points and the direction I would like for our communities.
Democracy is how people engage in the decision-making within their communities. When decisions are taken together, democracy wins. Voting is only one component of democracy (and can already be fraught with the shortcomings of the current first past the post system). Once your representative is chosen, that person will represent the interests of your community and should defend those interests as a treasured goal.
But if he/she does not have any real power to do so, democracy falters. In the Ontario planning process, there is a duty to consult and engage with the public, this is democracy in theory. In practice in Ottawa, the public is consulted in the creation of multiple planning documents that give the guidelines for future local development. But those guidelines, such as the ones in the official plans, in the community plan or the heritage plans, are too often not taken into real consideration in city council decisions on local development: this is because your representative is only one of many people voting at council and those others do not have the same treasured goal of defending the interests of your community. City council must take into account this aspect of democracy in its decision-making, so that the results of consultations are better protected by the same city council that created them in the first place.
Engaged people facilitate better decision-making and can create stronger, lasting change. Encouraging people to vote, encouraging residents to take part in the life of their communities, should be at the heart of a councillor’s mandate, so that positive change for the community can ensue.
Many residents are very passionate and engaged in their community. It is also no secret that the most vocal and best organized are usually in the more affluent neighbourhoods, whereas people experiencing poverty are less likely to be engaged. This often creates an election dynamic that is biased away from the interest of people who would benefit the most from the attention of the city. To bring positive change to each community, a city councillor needs to be mindful of that electoral dynamic and counter it purposefully. Poverty reduction benefits everybody in the end and brings a sense of solidarity much stronger than any other battle. In order to unite people within and between communities in this fight, a city councillor should be a driving force by encouraging and supporting actions taken together by community associations.
In Ottawa, social housing is in crisis, with a waiting list more than 10 years long. But what does that really mean? As a budget counsellor, I see firsthand the difference that social housing makes for people on low income. Without some form of subsidy for their rent, housing costs can eat up more than 80% of the income of people experiencing poverty. They have no choice other than pure survival mode, looking continuously for any available options to reduce other expenses: food bank, free community services, applying to city programs, free health supports … They are trapped in this vicious circle of scarcity where all energy goes towards how to survive every day but with no energy left to focus on what’s next. On the contrary, people on low income who benefit from some housing subsidies can start to have some room in their budget and schedule to take better care of themselves and of their future. Social housing is not just about providing a cheaper place to live for people in need, it is foremost about providing them with opportunities.
With the current saturation of the private rental market, today, the city has no better solution than creating more social housing to help those on low income. Together with a more affordable transit system, Ottawa can make a real, tangible difference in the lives of people experiencing poverty.
How people move in the city is at the heart of my candidacy. Choices that they make have a direct impact on the livability of our city and on the environment. When people walk, bike or take public transport, they interact with each other in a positive way that is impossible when driving. However, Ottawa is a very car-centric city and most people can’t make the choices that they would like to: they need a car to get to work, to shop, to move around. The city needs to work harder at breaking the barriers that prevent residents from making the choices they want. Public transport must be designed to be easily accessible, reliable and affordable, so that the inconvenience of waiting for the bus can be overcome. Bike lanes must be designed so that the majority of people would feel safe to take their bike for a short commute, to go to school or a run to the shops. And streets have to be designed with, first and foremost, the safety of the most vulnerable pedestrians in mind.
How people move in the city also has the largest impact on climate change. Current green house gas reduction targets set by Ottawa’s Environment Committee cannot be realistic without including specific changes with respect to how people move in the city. What would a 1% ridership increase by OCTranspo mean if, at the same time, 2% more cars were on the road? Specific targets for all forms of transportation needs to be openly debated by council. Once those targets are set, the climate impact lens that is to be added to all committee reports will make city council much more accountable on fighting climate change.
Thank you for reading. Doing politics differently also means taking the time.
Later in the campaign, we will post the list of actions that I intend to undertake on your behalf. Send a comment if you would like to know more or if you have suggestions for me to consider.
Update March 19
Check out my blog for more information on my policy