When voting in this municipal election, think big

From the desk of Manor Park Community Association President Natalie Belovic

By Manor Park Chronicle

Hello everyone! Welcome to fall in Ottawa. I always see this time of year as our real new year as kids go back to school and the trees start to change colour.

And this fall, Ottawa will start a new and very important chapter in its history with the upcoming municipal election.

I am disheartened by the state of our democracy these days and hope that by reading this column and sharing it, you might feel energized to play a larger role the election we are about to face.

The province had one of the lowest turnouts ever in the last election and what I hear from a lot of young adults (including my own), is that their voice doesn’t see to matter so why bother?

This is such a slippery slope to go down because if we don’t raise our voices, then democracy itself will disappear in the not-too-distant future.

Take the “Strong Mayor” strategy our friends at Queen’s Park have imposed! They were not elected campaigning on this platform and the impact it could have on our city and others is huge! Your vote for mayor is so critical in this election because he/she/they will have to lead an almost entirely new council. However, we don’t want our mayor to be autocratic either.

We need to change things up.Think big and really outside the box! Ottawa is known as a “good enough” kind of city and not a really dynamic one. Tourism Ottawa says that most tourists only come once, they don’t return . . . Should our capital really be that “blah”?

We need to elect a council that looks to the future. Maybe, instead of pleading with the federal government to repopulate the downtown core with workers that don’t really want to go back to work in order to save the 9-to-5 businesses there, why not urge the feds to sell off some real estate and turn it into housing, some of which could be affordable? Doing that would certainly shift the types of business in the very core of downtown but businesses could re-tool and make it a liveable, vibrant place to be.

Bridge traffic

We need to figure out how to make transit in Ottawa an attractive and desirable option. We can’t keep using our cars because the transit system is just so unreliable . . . We’ve now paid for this system; how do we move the population to get on it?

We want a municipal government that is going to work at truly solving the truck problem in the downtown core and not cave in to the desire of the feds to build a new bridge.

As you may have heard, geotechnical studies are now being conducted in the Ottawa River to test the soil bearing capacities for a future crossing . . . a crossing that won’t solve the truck issue and will funnel car, not transit, traffic through so many of our neighbourhoods. The project is touted as a solution to the trucks but really it’s about economic development on the Quebec side and easing car traffic congestion.

Counting costs

We need our elected officials to collaborate and come up with good solutions for housing, smart and desirable development and homelessness, not shove problems from one community to another.

There is a cost to all this of course, and Ottawa is really challenged here because the very largest portion of the taxes collected are from rate payers like you and me. There is very little industry and commercial tax base here and this problem is compounded by the arrangement the federal government has with respect to “paying taxes” on all the real estate they own. With some of the real estate like the Parliament Buildings being pretty hard to valuate, Ottawa feels that they get short-changed on tax revenue of these properties.

We already pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, but I think you can agree that it seems the city still doesn’t even have enough money in their budget to do some of the basics like roadway maintenance. And it tends to always pick the cheapest, not the best option for our infrastructure (LRT).

We need a council and a major who are committed to long range visioning and re-thinking how it spends its tax dollars. Maybe we can get to where we want and need to be with little increases in taxes. That would obviously be the preferred route, but whether the city takes it remains to be seen.

This is a question to pose to our candidates–what do they see as ways to improve services at the city without collecting more revenue?

There are several debates available to watch either in person or online. An interesting Mayoralty debate is on September 28 either live or on zoom and will deal with the environment. You can also catch the past ones on YouTube. Your Community Collective is working on organizing one for our Ward 13 candidates. Stay tuned for details.

The other important and usually-ignored race is for school board trustee. If you are a supporter of the English public board, please pay attention to this race because there will be a huge east end review in the next term and that will mean that Manor Park needs a strong advocate at the table when the board is playing with school closures and redistribution of students.

At a time where all the school boards are having trouble finding bus drivers, shouldn’t we be thinking about a return to a community school model where many more kids could actually walk to their school? So much money gets spent on busing and not in the classrooms.

We usually have pretty good voter turn out in Manor Park, but I hope that I can inspire some of you who are “on the fence” to go cast your ballots.

As always, the MPCA would love to hear from you and would welcome your assistance in any way that you can provide it, whether it be with specific expertise (translation/ social media/ web management/ specific training in engineering (the bridge fight), some background in design/architecture/planning (MP re-development file) or with volunteer time to work on membership, outreach and so many other files.

Follow us on our website, our Facebook page but also on the Manor Park Listserve.

For information about the candidates running for city councillor and school board trustee in your area, see: