These are the key campaign promises for the city of Ottawa

·6 min read
What happens on Parliament Hill can loom in the background of life in the city, but its decisions can also directly affect the people who live, work and explore the area around it. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press - image credit)
What happens on Parliament Hill can loom in the background of life in the city, but its decisions can also directly affect the people who live, work and explore the area around it. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press - image credit)

They aren't issues you'll hear discussed by leaders on the campaign trail, but candidates on the hustings here in Ottawa have made promises of a very local nature.

Some of these local promises are drawn directly from a political party's national platform, to show how a 30,000-page election pledge would affect people on the ground in Ottawa.

For example, Ottawa's New Democrat candidates say their party's affordable housing plan to build not-for-profit housing would translate into 20,000 new units in this city alone over the next 10 years.

Other promises are about issues you'd never heard outside Ottawa. Here are a few of them.

Funding for LRT Stage 3

While LRT Stage 2 is under construction, Ottawa is already looking for the federal and provincial governments to pay for Stage 3: a $1.8-billion extension of the Confederation Line to Kanata and Stittsville, and a $3-billion one to Barrhaven.

Conservative candidate in Kanata-Carleton, Jennifer McAndrew, was the first out of the gate to pledge a Tory government would fund the federal share to build the light-rail line out to Kanata.

WATCH | Conservatives pledge to fund LRT expansion to Kanata:

Her Liberal rival Jenna Sudds, who is a city councillor for the area, quickly matched that promise.

Since then, the NDP candidate in Kanata-Carleton, Melissa Coenraad, also promises to fund the third stage of LRT to Kanata.

In their responses to Mayor Jim Watson's questionnaire regarding local issues, everyone expressed general support of expanding light-rail transit, but they didn't all directly address Ottawa's specific funding request.

The Liberals commit to paying for half of all costs associated with LRT Stage 3.

The Conservative answer aligned with McAndrew saying they would "immediately prioritize" building the Kanata extension, but were silent on Barrhaven.

NDP Ottawa South candidate Huda Mukbil also promised to fund the entirety of LRT Stage 3.

This omission may be political. With no incumbent running, the race in Kanata-Carleton is thought to be very close between McAndrew and Sudds.

On the other hand, the planned Barrhaven LRT extension is located in the riding of Nepean, which is held by Liberal incumbent Chandra Arya.

$10M for self-driving pilot in Kanata

Staying in Kanata for another moment, Sudds pledges $10 million for a pilot project for an autonomous shuttle service to ferry some of the 24,000 workers in the Kanata North Technology Park to the Moodie LRT station, which is supposed to be completed by 2025.

In 2017, an autonomous vehicle took a spin around the Kanata North Technology Park in the first-ever demonstration of a self-driving car on city streets in Canada.

WATCH | Liberals pledge $10 million for autonomous shuttle pilot project in Kanata:

The park is home to 540 companies and 24,000 workers, making it the second-largest employment hub in the city.

The Conservatives say automation technology for a shuttle service is promising, but a pilot is premature. McAndrew says a Conservative government would consider the idea once LRT Stage 3 is built.

Public servants working from home

Working from home became the immediate reality for many during the pandemic, and we are all still trying to figure out how permanent that shift will be.

Most political parties see some sort of hybrid system in the future, where excess office space is transformed into homes or used for other community purposes.

WATCH | Permanent work-from-home arrangements could free up government real estate:

Carleton incumbent Pierre Poilievre, the lone Conservative MP in Ottawa after the 2019 vote, perhaps has the most exact promise — 15 per cent of all 37,000 federal government buildings turned over for residential use.

He also says a Conservative government would bring in a Treasury Board policy that would allow all federal public servants who can demonstrate they can work from home to do so permanently.

"We have these monstrous buildings that are empty all night and we have these houses that are empty all day, and yet we're forcing people to transit for an hour-and-a-half a day to go to a place to do something that they can do it at home," Poilievre recently told CBC.

Christian Patry/CBC
Christian Patry/CBC

Civic campus and the Experimental Farm

Controversial plans to build a new Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital on part of the Central Experimental Farm has made its way into the election campaign in Ottawa Centre.

Critics say the decision-making process for where that hospital will go — a saga that has lasted several years — has been shrouded in secrecy.

The Ottawa Hospital
The Ottawa Hospital

Back in 2016, the National Capital Commission was asked to look at its own land to determine the most appropriate location, and it chose Tunney's Pasture.

That decision upset hospital board members and local politicians who then, behind closed doors, decided the Civic would be at the former Sir John Carling site on the farm.

The hospital's plans to build a massive parking garage in the coming months on the site of Queen Julianna Park, which would displace 500 trees, has also been the subject of recent protests.

Now, Ottawa Centre NDP candidate Angella MacEwen promises an inquiry into the decision-making process behind the location of the new Civic. She says there is still time to look into the issue, as construction for the hospital itself isn't slated to begin for a couple of years.

While MacEwen doesn't specifically promise to relocate the Civic to Tunney's, she keeps the option open.

WATCH | Yasir Naqvi on resident concerns about new hospital location:

Liberal candidate Yasir Naqvi says, while more community consultation is needed, the focus should be on better integrating transit into the farm site at Dows Lake.

In particular, he promises to build an entrance on the south side of Carling Avenue at the Dows Lake LRT station that would connect directly with the hospital site.

The current plans have the station only on the north side of Carling, across the street from where the hospital is being proposed.

He also vows to make sure there is no further development on the farm.

"I want to introduce legislation to protect the Central Experimental Farm forever," he told CBC, while pledging to protect the rest of the farm from further development.

Antoine Trépanier/Radio-Canada
Antoine Trépanier/Radio-Canada

Buses, bridges and a library

When Greyhound shut down all its inter-city bus routes in Canada, that left people without affordable transit. It's a particular problem for low-income people and students, advocates argue, who can't afford a train or car.

MacEwen talked this week about the NDP's platform promise to create a national, non-profit, inter-city bus service that would also serve rural areas, including in Ottawa.

WATCH | Non-profit inter-city bus service should replace Greyhound:

The mayor also asked political parties whether they would uphold existing pledges to fund the new central library and the Chief William Commanda Bridge.

The city expects a federal contribution of more than $73 million for the library, and another $8 million to turn an unused rail bridge over the Ottawa River into a crossing for pedestrians, cyclists and skiers.

Unsurprisingly, the Liberals committed to the funding they had already pledged.

The Conservatives and New Democrats chose not to respond to the question. However, a few individual NDP candidates wrote the mayor to say the projects would be honoured.

Alexander Behne/CBC
Alexander Behne/CBC
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