Ottawa Centre candidates speak out about Kitchissippi issues

By Nick Dunne – 

KT spoke to four candidates in the upcoming provincial election and asked them to outline their goals for the Kitchissippi area. Here’s what they said:

Joel Harden

Joel Harden
Ontario NDP

Joel Harden is a community organizer and professor at Carleton University, with a Ph.D. in political science. Having worked at the Canadian Labour Congress, Harden helped expand the Canadian Pension Plan and was involved in campus politics as a graduate student in the 1990s.

Harden believes Kitchissippi needs a politician who “will listen and who will find resources for people on the ground who are already doing amazing work.”

“There are a whole bunch of small businesses and community organizations that really care about the livelihood and well-being of Kitchissippi,” he says, citing Cyclelogik’s Spin-a-thon to raise money for rape crisis centres in the city.

He is concerned primarily with “the continued encroachment of very high-scale, high-priced housing” he says will gentrify the neighborhood. “What’s going to happen to the tree canopy and environmental beauty of Kitchissippi” if development continues unabated, he asks. Harden is also worried that these developments will push away affordable housing from the neighbourhood.

To ensure affordable housing in Kitchissippi, Harden proposes an inclusionary housing mandate for large-scale developers which would leave 30 per cent of a development’s units affordable for low-to-middle income families. And by levying taxes on large businesses, Harden also wants to increase access to personal care workers for seniors.

Harden, who also wrote a book on grassroots movements and political organizing, says Jack Layton and Olivia Chow were hugely influential in his approach to politics and campaigning. “They really put human beings and heartfelt stories at the heart of their campaigns,” he says.  “We have to be bold,” he says, like the generation who built the Medicare system, and avoid “piecemeal compromises” with businesses and developers.

Read more about Joel Harden on his website:

Colleen McCleery
Colleen McCleery

Colleen McCleery
PC Party of Ontario

Colleen McCleery is a management consultant with degrees in Engineering, Business, and medical school. McCleery says she is running for the PC Party after being encouraged by some friends and feeling dissatisfied by the Liberal government’s budget deficits and increasing debt.

A resident of Ottawa Centre for 20 years, McCleery sees the economy and healthcare two biggest issues facing Kitchissippi. “Higher taxes and high hydro rates will close business doors, and that can’t happen,” she says. “Just like higher taxes for businesses, higher taxes for individuals and families hurt the local economy.” She wants the residents of Kitchissippi to be able to both live and shop in Kitchissippi.

As a med school grad who was unable to find work in the field due to a “lack of medical residencies in Ontario,” McCleery says her background gives her a perspective that her opponents don’t have. The shortage of doctors in Ontario affects everyone, she says, and with a lack of senior care beds, healthcare is an “urgent” issue for Kitchissippi voters.

Overall, McCleery wants to improve healthcare while delivering a balanced budget— a task she says the other candidates cannot accomplish with their plans. “We need to have a balanced budget now,” she says. “That is the difference between what every other candidate in Ottawa Centre is promising and the Ontario PC Party.” Read more about Coleen McCleery on her website:

Yasir Naqvi
Ontario Liberal Party

Yasir Naqvi has been the incumbent MPP for Ottawa Centre since 2007 and is the Attorney General of Ontario. As MPP, his proudest achievement for Kitchissippi was rebuilding Broadview Public School. He says it was “absolutely phenomenal” to work with community associations to get funding for the rebuild.

Yasir Naqvi

Now on his third campaign, his motivation for running again is “what motivated me then,” he says, “[which] is to serve the community.”

Naqvi believes Kitchissippi’s biggest issue is affordable housing, which he attributes to two problems: lack of mixed-income housing in Kitchissippi and, more broadly, homelessness in Ottawa Centre. Specifically, he points to the incoming condo developments around the LRT stations, saying, “we need to ensure that it’s a mixed use community where people with different income backgrounds are able to live.” As for the issue of homelessness, Naqvi wants to further invest in affordable housing, and is “committed” to following the city’s goal of ending “chronic homelessness” by 2025.

Naqvi describes his style of leadership as collaborative, noting that he knocks on doors every weekend to hear what issues matter to his constituents. He also stresses the importance of “bringing everyone to the table” when it comes to finding solutions. “You don’t do it by protesting, you don’t do it by agitating,” Naqvi says. Read more about him on his website:

Cherie Wong
Green Party of Ontario

Having volunteered alongside Elizabeth May on Parliament Hill, Cherie Wong has been officially involved with the Green Party since 2015. Wong graduated from uOttawa last year with a double major in Psychology and Criminology, and, along with her efforts in student politics, she led the team that organized last year’s People’s Climate March in Ottawa. Wong said she is running in this provincial election because she’s “tired of the same old politics.”

Cherie Wong
Cherie Wong

“I think we need change, and I’m ready to guide that change,” she says.

Wong’s main focus for Kitchissippi is improving traffic safety, and she proposes to invest in red light cameras, speed bumps and other measures to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. For Ottawa Centre as a whole, Wong says she is passionate about tackling homelessness and drug addiction in the riding and would provide more access to services and shelters for those in need. “The services are just not available” for vulnerable groups, she said.

Wong has criticized the Liberal government’s plan to spend half a billion dollars on a new jail in Ottawa, and argues the money should be spent on crime prevention and social services. “Our system criminalizes folks that are homeless, black, indigenous and those who are addicted to drugs. We need to take a step back and look at how we can spend the money effectively, and in the long run that would benefit our community,” she says.

Though Wong is a recent grad, she doesn’t believe her age should hold her back. And as a queer person of colour, Wong wants to push for more diverse representation at Queen’s Park “I see [women in politics like Elizabeth May] and I remember that they were there to break the first layer of the glass ceiling. I’m here to break the second level and keep breaking more.”

She encourages the constituents of Ottawa Centre to “be brave” if they want new provincial leadership. “If you keep voting for the same status quo politics, you can’t expect it to change.”

To learn more about Cherie Wong, see her website at

For more information about the Ontario election, including when and how to vote, see

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