By Charlie Senack
Kitchissippi residents are just weeks away from voting in the upcoming municipal election. With at least 10 new councillors and a new mayor coming to the council table, the Oct. 24 election will be one to watch.
In Kitchissippi, also known as Ward 15, there are three names on the ballot for councillor: Oonagh Fitzgerald, Jeff Leiper and Dan Stringer.
During the last city election in 2018, Leiper and Stringer were the candidates on the ballot. Leiper won Kitchissippi by a little over 85 per cent, with 12,068 votes cast under his name, according to the City of Ottawa. Daniel Stringer, who is running again in this election, received 2,083 votes, totalling almost 15 per cent.
Kitchissippi Times caught up with the three candidates running in the upcoming municipal election to learn more about their city and ward-specific issues.
Oonagh Fitzgerald, a Kitchissippi-ward resident for the last 30 years, said she is running for city council in Ward 15 to implement sustainable development and climate action at the local level.
“Kitchissippi residents want the City to take climate action and strengthen infrastructure against extreme weather events, and are dismayed that City planning and development projects often seem to undermine climate goals,” she said. “Residents favour denser, inclusive, and affordable neighbourhoods with more tree shade, green space and better local amenities for the growing population.”
Fitzgerald said it’s a human right to have a healthy and clean environment that is protected, and believes the City needs to take better control of its development to tackle both the housing affordability crisis and the climate emergency.
The LRT inquiry showed a dysfunctional city council behind the scenes, said Fitzgerald, who is eagerly awaiting the commission’s final report.
“It appears that the [City] made some critical missteps in designing the procurement, (such as an) insufficient focus on experience making light rail trains that would run reliably in Ottawa weather conditions,” Fitzgerald said. “It appears that the City was also inexperienced in designing and managing such a huge public-private partnership and should have sought more guidance and support from the province.”
Fitzgerald is a lawyer with a master of business administration. She worked for many years in the federal public service, and has served on various non-profit boards in a volunteer position.
First elected in 2014, incumbent Jeff Leiper said the issues Kitchissippi residents care about are shifting.
“The key issue in Kitchissippi is almost always development,” he said. “In 2014, a lot of residents were seeking ways to radically rein in the amount of development we are seeing in the ward. Over the last eight years, the focus has been a little bit less on trying to preserve the status quo, and there has been a little more acceptance that intensification is critical to being environmentally and economically sustainable.”
One of the main differences in this election, Leiper said, is people are no longer trying to stop development. Instead, they want to ensure any large projects are well thought out and take into consideration the community’s needs. He gave protecting trees as an example.
After much council turmoil this term, Leiper considered whether or not to seek a third term. But with such a big shakeup happening this fall, he thought it was important to have an experienced voice around the council table.
“It was a difficult choice to decide to run again,” he said. “I think every single councillor was exhausted by the end of the last term. The LRT turmoil, the pandemic, of course [were] challenging, and the convoy was extremely tense.”
The next council will debate the Comprehensive Zoning By-law Review and the Transportation Master Plan, two key issues for Leiper.
“In the last term of council, we redid some of the zoning for Westboro, Hintonburg, and Mechanicsville, that describes what growth is going to look like when we have a new Official Plan,” said Leiper. “City council is doubling down on intensification, and I think it’s important that we do it in a way that is thought out and equitable across the city.”
Dan Stringer is no stranger to local politics, running for the job of Kitchissippi councillor in four municipal elections. He’s thrown his name into the hat for a fifth time, hoping to bring a fresh perspective to the table.
“The last four years have been excruciating, to watch this [council] mess up in such huge proportions,” he said. “The outgoing [council] is historic. Never in our history has Ottawa [city council] been investigated by the Province, [nor] by the Federal Government, but this [council] has earned the distinction of being investigated, simultaneously, by both.”
For Kitchissippi-specific priorities, Stringer says he wants to make the community green, safe and welcoming for all, with art, public sculptures and a protected river.
He aims to keep tax budget increases at two per cent or less, wants to make electric vehicles a priority, and is concerned about over-densification causing soaring house prices.
Stringer has concerns over how light rail transit (LRT) was managed in the city and said a new council of fresh faces is the only hope of restoring the system.
“Kitchissippi’s interests will only be taken seriously by council if presented by a new councillor; one who is not seen as causing the LRT problem in the first place,” said Stringer. “The new councillor for ‘The Kit’ must have a deep understanding of Ottawa and devotion to the community if the LRT is going to be effective and useful for the entire city where we live, work and play.”
Stringer, a political scientist who was a former aide to Liberal MPP Richard Patten, received a doctorate from the Faculty of Law at the University of Paris.
For school board trustees, here’s the list of candidates across the four Kitchissippi (Ward 15) zones:
In the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board – Zone 4 (Wards 07, 15) race, the candidates are Rasha Alnaqeeb, Suzanne Nash and Kevin Wright.
In the Ottawa Catholic School Board – Zone 7 (Wards 07, 15) race, the candidates are Danny Arrais and Jeremy Wittet.
In the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est – Zone 6 (Wards 12, 14, 15, 17) race, the candidates are Denis Forget Franklin Epape. And in the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario – Zone 9 (Wards 14, 15, 17, 18) race, the candidates are Joël Beddows, Mahdi Djama Aouled and Marielle Godbout.
To learn more about the election, visit ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/elections