Kitchissippi politicians weigh in on 2023 highlights

By Charlie Senack

As 2023 draws to a close, the Kitchissippi Times sat down with the community’s representatives from all three levels of government to talk about some of their biggest accomplishments from 2023, and what their goals are heading into the new year. 

Jeff Leiper

Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper said advancements with community building projects is what he’s most proud of over the last year. 

In May, the new Keith Brown Field House in Laroche Park opened. The old site was contaminated and in need of advancements.

“That was several years in the making. I’m really pleased that Somerset West Community Health Centre was able to transfer their daycare and children’s programming into that place,” Leiper said. “Next we want to see how we can really leverage it for community events. We want to restore the Mechanicsville Winter Carnival.”

Jeff Leiper poses for a photo in his office. He’s smiling. A Canada flag is behind him.
Councillor Jeff Leiper at his City Hall office in Dec. 2022. File photo by Charlie Senack.

Cash in lieu of park funds recently purchased two residential properties to be converted into public greenspace. The home at 115 Spencer St. is soon expected to be demolished after facing delays getting the gas shut off. The other property at 22 Ladouceur St. will be incorporated into Armstrong Park with community consultation starting sometime next year.

For infrastructure improvements, work is well underway for new cycling lanes to be built on Scott Street between Parkdale and Bayview Station. They will replace a bus lane that was put in place when Stage 1 LRT construction diverted buses onto the roadway. 

The construction has been more substantial than initially expected, Leiper noted, but will be of benefit to Scott Street residents whose homes will now be situated further away from the road. 

“We are extending the sidewalk and curb onto that lane. There will be tree planting and a cycle track. It will connect to the cycle infrastructure for the LRT,” Leiper said. “I hope it will make Scott Street a bit calmer. It will help us segregate more of the pedestrian and bike traffic that moves through the ward.”

Construction crews work on Scott Street near Parkdale.
New cycling lanes are being built on Scott Street between Parkdale and Bayview station. Work will continue throughout 2024. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Joel Harden

For Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, 2023 was all about community advocacy. 

The outspoken NDP critic for transit and active transportation recently brought forward a piece of legislation called the Moving Ontarians Safely Act which seeked to introduce new road safety measures. It was voted down by the PC government, a move Harden called “shameful and a lack of leadership.”

“We did a bike ride to promote the bill where I rode my bike from Ottawa to Toronto and stopped in many towns represented by all political parties,” Harden said. “We wanted to make sure that a person is not driving the next day [after someone is injured in a crash]. Often that’s what happens with a few hundred dollars in fines.” 

On the social Justice front, Harden said he was proud to stand with LGBTQ2S+ members and allies when “anti-gender ideology” demonstrators protested a person’s right to be themselves outside Broadview Public School on June 9.

Demonstrators hold a large Pride flag on Brodview near Notre Dame High School.
On June 9, an anti “gender ideology” demonstration was held outside of Broadview Public School. Counter protesters showed up to share their support with the LGBTQ2S+ community. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Five individuals were arrested but no charges were laid. Harden was assaulted while trying to stand in the way of a fight.  

“I put myself between two people who were having an altercation that, from what I saw, was initiated by one of the anti-transgender protesters. She grabbed a woman by her hair and started dragging her to the ground,” Harden recalled. “My back was to the person who initiated the assault. As I looked over my shoulder, this woman punched my megaphone into my face.”

It’s been a tough year for the Ontario NDP. In October, Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama was removed from the party’s caucus after sharing her support for Palestine amidst the conflict with Israel.

On NDP letterhead she posted a statement describing the “continued violation of human rights in Gaza” by Israel. She also called for the end of all occupation of Palestinian land and the end of apartheid. She now sits as an independent MPP. 

“MPP Sarah Jama had passionate thoughts on human rights. What I think was made clear is when we are in intense political discussions like this, we need to work as a team and present discussions together,” Harden said. “There was not that effort made by MPP Jama. I’ll be honest, I miss her. She’s done incredible work in Hamilton. But she chose advocacy.”

Harden, who said he’s on the side of international law and human rights, believes war crimes have been witnessed in both Israel and Gaza. He said Canada has a role to play in negotiation and solution.

A photo of Joel Harden speaking. He’s wearing a poppy and a scarf. Boxes of cereal are behind him.
Joel Harden speaks at an event in Nov. 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Yasir Naqvi

Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi said Ottawa is on track to build more affordable housing units than ever before. 

In early October, groundbreaking for Mosaïq Phase 2 began on Gladstone Avenue near Little Italy. A total of 273 affordable Ottawa Community Housing units will be built on the site, with 140 already part of Phase 1.

In November it was announced that three federally-owned properties in Ottawa would be converted into homes. That includes 600 homes on Carling Avenue and 710 homes on Booth Street, 221 of which will be affordable.

“At least 20 percent of those properties will be used to build affordable housing,” Naqvi said. “It’s an exciting direction the government has announced. Tunney’s Pasture and Confederation Heights are two pieces of land that have been considered surplus.”

Yasir Naqvi speaks at a podium.
Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi speaks at an Ontario Liberal leadership debate held at Algonquin College on Nov. 8, 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Tunney’s Pasture is in the midst of a long-term revitalization project that will see the site turn from a federal office park into a multi-use community. Naqvi expects plans won’t get underway for another 10 or 20 years, but affordable housing is expected to be a big part of the development.

“The question of what buildings can be converted is a more technical thing which engineers are looking at. When you look at parcels like Tunney’s, my understanding is the state of a lot of those buildings mean they will need to be brought down and new housing built. There are a lot of opportunities to create a nice, mixed-use community.”

On transit, Naqvi said he’s hopeful funding will soon be provided for Phase 3 LRT. While some councillors believe the plans should be shelved for now, the Ottawa Centre MP said it’s crucial to reach net zero targets while caring for the environment. 

“The longer we wait, the more expensive and challenging it gets. When it comes to funding public transit we need to look at it from a longer view,” said Naqvi. “We aren’t just building our transit for the next five years. We are building it for 40 to 50 years from now.”

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