By Bradley Turcotte –
It’s been just over a year since Kitchissippi residents voted in City Councillor Jeff Leiper with more than a 25 point margin of victory.
In his inaugural year, Leiper has been a voice of dissent in City Hall and attempted to thwart a large-scale development in the ward. Yet, Leiper says one of his favourite moments is a small-scale victory that he considers “fairly big.”
In September, Devonshire Public School relocated and Leiper pushed to have a crossing guard moved from the intersection of Beech and Laurel to Beech and Bayswater. This change required a walk on motion in Council and Leiper was “tentative” about the motion’s success. Although triumphant with the crossing guard move, Leiper explains the complexity of this motion taught him not to anticipate which endeavours will be challenging.
“I come to work every day not knowing what is going to be easy and what is going to be hard,” Leiper says. “Things that I think should be hard, for example, ensuring the City includes the music industry as an economic development priority, turned out to be remarkably easy and very gratifying. On the other hand, trying to move a crossing guard… something I thought should have been fairly easy turned out to be very hard.”
The recent budget vote saw Leiper and four other councillors, including Diane Deans – who declined to comment – vote against Mayor Jim Watson’s financial plan and Leiper cites this as “one of the biggest challenges” he’s faced this year.
It was the first time since Watson’s 2010 election that he did not receive unanimous votes on a budget but Leiper says dissenting votes should not be news in Ottawa as it is a sign of a healthy and functioning City Council.
“I chose to vote against the budget because I don’t have the confidence that we’re going to be able to deliver a balanced budget within the two per cent tax increase that we imposed upon ourselves is going to deliver the services which residents of Kitchissippi are demanding,” Leiper says.
Finding efficiencies to offset and pay for additional spending will be a focus in 2016, Leiper predicts.
Watson concedes he and Leiper don’t always agree but says “his passion for his community to City Hall and both his enthusiasm and hard work have been assets to our Council.”
“I respect his opinion, knowing that he does his homework and his ideas come from a well-informed place,” Watson says. “I think he’s grown a lot as a Councillor over his first year and I’m looking forward to working with him in the years to come.”
Leiper says redeveloping Westgate Shopping Centre and light rail traffic detours will be big issues in 2016. Looking back, the Councillor adds that he had made several campaign promises he fully intended to keep but now acknowledges change doesn’t happen quickly at City Hall.
“One of the promises I made when I came into office was to cut through red tape and bureaucracy and implement cycling and pedestrian traffic improvements quickly,” he reminisces. “We spun our wheels for six or seven months becauseevery time we brought up a traffic calming initiative we wanted to see we were told no.”
‘No’ is not something Leiper’s constituents hear often from the Councillor as he is always attentive to address concerns. He says these interactions are the most rewarding part of holding municipal office.
“Despite the challenges of the job and the politics of the job, every night we go to bed knowing there are at least a couple of residents that we were able to help. And that’s my favourite part of the job.”
What did you think about Councillor Leiper’s first year in office? Leave your comments here – or email them to us – and you may see them in the next issue of KT.