Mayoral candidate McKenney promises more transparency at city hall

Catherine McKenney is promising to consult the public earlier on the city budget, make it easier to read, and ensure council committees reflect all parts of the city if they are elected mayor on Oct. 24.

Consulting earlier on budget and making city finances easier to understand part of plan to restore trust

Mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney promises more transparency and accountability at city hall if elected on Oct. 24. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Catherine McKenney is promising to consult the public earlier on the city budget, make it easier to read, and ensure council committees reflect all parts of the city if they are elected mayor on Oct. 24.

In a platform plank called "A city hall we can trust," McKenney pledges to make the goings-on at city hall more transparent, beginning with the budget.

"A budget under my mayoralty would be clearer," McKenney told reporters Wednesday. "We'd also go out much earlier and ask people what their priorities are before the budget is finalized. Today, we get the budget and then we go out [for consultation], but we know there's no room for any changes in that budget." 

Asked how they'd react if consultation showed people were more interested in, say, fixing their own roads than expanding the cycling network — one of McKenney's key platform promises — the candidate said they're also interested in improving the roads.

"I have no doubt that the priority for many people is better roads, better sidewalks, fixing our potholes, ensuring we're investing in the maintenance of all of our infrastructure," said McKenney. "That will always be part of the budget, and we will listen to people."

Among the other financial promises, McKenney would make fiscal anchors — these are budget rules that dictate council decisions — clearer and easier to understand, such as the city's debt limits. They said their first fiscal anchor will be committing to a three per cent annual increase "approach to property taxes."

The candidate said they would release their full financial plan next week.

If elected, McKenney would also make sure city contractors pay their workers a fair wage. It's not clear how many city contractors this would affect.

They would also review the security measures installed outside council chambers earlier this term, which McKenney earlier opposed.

Consulting earlier on the budget, making the city's financial plans easier to understand, and hiring a chief architect are parts of mayoralty candidate Catherine McKenney's plan on how to improve the inner workings at city hall. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

City architect, better committee make-up

McKenney is also promising to create the first-ever chief architect for Ottawa to "to create better designed public buildings and spaces, including parks, while also improving the City's procurement process." They say the city needs to grow from more than just a "land-use planning perspective" and more attention must be given to the quality of buildings, value for money and "public and social good."

A chief architect's office — New York City has one — would be charged with challenging the "profit-focused facilitation of real estate investment that we see at city hall," according to a statement from McKenney.

McKenney is also promising to balance the geographical and gender representation on council committees and boards, something that was an issue last term.

"When you have a planning committee that doesn't include councillors that represent your entire city, decisions are made that are not in the best interests of city hall as a whole," McKenney said.

McKenney said people may not know the specifics of how committees work, for example, but "they know that overall, city hall just hasn't worked for them."


Joanne Chianello

City affairs analyst

Joanne Chianello is an award-winning journalist and CBC Ottawa's city affairs analyst. You can email her at or tweet her at @jchianello.