Ottawa and Gatineau experienced a record-breaking flooding event last spring that served to highlight the vulnerabilities in Ottawa’s existing infrastructure. With severe weather events increasing in both number and intensity here in Ottawa and around the world, it is urgently clear that new and ambitious sustainable development policy with focused disaster planning and emergency management components are needed for the ward, and indeed the city.
With many ongoing and proposed development projects in Somerset Ward, and particularly given the core infrastructure of government seated here, it is crucial that we set an example for others to follow. It is also increasingly necessary that the City of Ottawa influence the Provincial Government to revitalize Ontario’s commitment to environmental stewardship and implement crucial climate change measures. It is expedient therefore for the Municipal level to take on a more proactive role and engage in mitigation efforts. The climate policy that is being proposed would pursue environmental policies that yield economic and social benefits at reasonable costs while supporting economic growth and job creation.
Major points include:
Expand Ongoing Project for Sewer Storage Tunnels
This project is only the first step in preventing floods in our neighbourhoods. The possibility of overland flooding is still possible and could potentially interrupt service to core utilities. It is therefore also important to advocate for stronger voluntary building codes so that infrastructure in new buildings is seated above ground as well as measured actions which will protect existing infrastructure to maintain the character of Somerset.
My goal is to encourage local restaurants and business to reduce plastic waste (explore options and linkages with the province for plastic bag or straw bans, while adhering to municipal led timelines). Many large businesses have championed this phase-out of plastic straws including Harvey’s, Starbucks and A&W. The majority of these businesses are located within the Somerset Ward. In order to garner a collective approach, consultative sessions would be hosted and encouraged with all other small and independent businesses in the ward to join the plastic-free pledge. The pledge would extent to encompass a number of plastic pollutants including utensils, bottles and bags. Increasing awareness and expectations of other companies and levels of government to take action on a greater scale will be emphasized. Willing to get enough businesses on one eco supplier to see bulk discount savings and enable uptake with local businesses who might not have the overhead.
In order to help build a stronger and more resilient community, investments in flood mitigation projects will be pursued in order to help protect local families and businesses from future floods. Measures such as “soft engineering” which promotes greenery, more trees and improving existing green spaces are crucial to protect against flooding.
Sustainable Urban Development
With an anticipated population growth in Ottawa, sustainable urban development is more important than ever. Major issues in the ward include homelessness, better consultation with businesses for development, and furthering public sector construction projects. Evidence shows that providing the support needed to prevent homelessness and to keep people housed is actually cost effective to society as a whole.
Major points for this platform item include:
Inclusionary zoning is proven to work both socially and economically as well. We will encourage new developers and use market mechanisms to ensure new buildings to have affordable units and reduce homelessness in the ward.
Bank Street Renewal
Propose similar reconstruction (with a later timeline to alleviate traffic needs) and infrastructure upkeep as the Elgin Street Renewal project for better design plans on Bank Street such as: streetscape enhancements and street amenities, street lighting, bike lanes, and flexible space. Thorough consultations would take place however before any project building, and research into the benefits of the Elgin Street Renewal project would have to be considered. Ottawais currently dealing with the discussion of “mega shelters” particularly in Vanier. A survey would need to be conducted among residents to determine service gaps and propose staggered services, not clusters like we have currently. Bank St is an example of a cluster that has failed. Services need to be spread more evenly across the ward.
Prince of Wales Bridge
Advocate for the Prince of Wales Bridge (Ottawa River rail crossing) to become operational and serve as pedestrian, cyclist, and commuter rail connection between Ottawa and Gatineau. The bridge would not only relieve gridlock and congestion in the city, its revitalization would contribute to reducing carbon emissions as well. Current estimate for this project is $200 million.
Business and Employment
Ottawa's economy has the lowest diversity level among Canada's six largest cities. Ottawa's low economic diversity reflects a concentration of jobs in the public service sector, driven by the role the federal government plays in the city's economy. It’s important therefore to encourage greater diversity for better economic resilience. In 2016, the youth unemployment rate in Ottawa was 13.6%. While this is lower than the previous year, it remains more than twice the city’s unemployment rate.
Several key points in this platform include:
Lower Property Tax for small businesses
Due to Ottawa's low economic diversity; it is important to encourage greater diversity for better economic resilience. Small businesses contribute to the character and quality of life that make up Somerset Ward. They should be supported to promote a diverse and sustainable local economy. One way of doing this will be to propose lower property tax for small businesses which will help the local economy as well as support those families that live in the ward.
In order to address the youth unemployment rate in Ottawa, along with more funding to social services and affordable housing, prevention programs should also be adopted. The Upstream Project, for instance, is a pilot project which gathered some support, however has no champions in Ottawa. The project looks at students from grades 9-12 and assess them in all aspects of their lives in relation to potential risks contributing to homelessness. The system then pairs the individual at risk with appropriate support. This pilot project has been tested successfully in other communities in Australia and Canada in St. Catherine’s. As a candidate in Somerset, I aim to champion this pilot project to better help the needs of people in poverty.
Support Ongoing Festivals
As a candidate in Somerset, I will continue to encourage vibrant festivals and events to continue to be hosted in Somerset. Events such as the Pride Parade, night market, Glowfair and numerous Sparks Street festivals. Not only will local businesses benefit from these events, but Somerset will continue to enjoy positive exposure.