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Candidates talk housing and transit costs, Salvation Army shelter at Rideau-Vanier Ward debate

Candidates agreed the city needs more affordable housing and ways to improve public transit

The affordability of housing, transportation and of generally living in Ottawa were hot topics at a wide ranging debate in Rideau-Vanier ward that saw two candidates challenging incumbent Mathieu Fleury.

Fleury said at the Oct. 4 debate he wants to maintain the city’s two per cent per year tax increase because it provides predictability, but said he is in favour of setting up special levies for new initiatives and priorities, like housing and transit.

“If housing is our priority, let’s see what $14 million can give us every year for four years, but that’s got to be a targeted investment,” he said.

The city has a long list of people waiting for affordable housing, he said, and inclusionary zoning, where developers are forced to include a certain amount of low-cost housing in new developments, is an important part of reducing it.

Thierry Harris said he wants to look at getting more value out of the tax dollars people already pay before he would consider raising taxes. He said though that the city isn’t investing enough in affordable housing and needs to take “a stark look” at where spending is happening and how transparent it is.

He said he would be a “defender” of the people living and working in the ward and that proper housing is a human right.

“We have to have a city for all of the people in Ottawa, not just the people who are developers who want to build up until the very sidewalk,” Harris said.

Matt Lowe said he also wants more transparency on how the City spends money. On housing, Lowe said he supports building affordable -- including deeply affordable housing -- within one kilometre of Ottawa’s future light rail transit line.

“We need to get people off the streets. We don’t have so much a homeless problem as we have a displacement problem,” he said.

Lowe said the city needs more low-cost housing so people can afford to take transit to begin with, which he called the cost of “outrageous.”

To lower the cost of transit, Fleury proposed the city create a profitable parking authority that can put money back into Ottawa’s public transportation system. He said council did better this term on managing the cost of transit, but the cost of adult passes should be capped.

Lowe suggested that seniors be allowed to ride the bus for free and said “someone at OC Transpo needs to be fired.” He also said routes were changed in the ward without people being properly informed.

“We have to have a restructuring and get clear, transparent news from our transportation officials because right now it seems like a cluster over there,” he said.  

Harris said the biggest problem with OC Transpo is the high cost of it and other issues are because the city is struggling to manage building the LRT with daily operations. In French, he said the priority for should be on becoming more efficient and building a transit system for the future.

Montreal Road Salvation Army shelter 

The proposed 350-bed Salvation Army shelter on Montreal Road was brought up when an audience member asked whether candidates thought the ward’s councillor should inform the community as soon as possible when a large development is likely to affect them.

Speaking in French, Harris said he believes immediate consultation should happen when a councillor knows construction will impact residents. He said community advisory groups should also be formed before a file arrives at the city’s planning committee so residents can have their say.

Also in French, Fleury said he has been against the new shelter since day one and is confident the Ontario Municipal Board will side with SOS Vanier when it rules on the issue and prevent the shelter from opening. The OMB has the power to kill city council’s vote in favour of the shelter.

Lowe said he believes consultation should be automatic when a high level of construction is planned and Vanier wasn’t consulted enough before plans were revealed for the Salvation Army shelter.

Ottawa’s municipal election will take place on Oct. 22.

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