Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

This election is about how you live your life

You have 48 days to decide who to vote for in this municipal election. Here's how we can help you make an informed decision.

The municipal election is in 48 days, and we're here to help you make an informed decision

The municipal election campaign begins in earnest after Labour Day, and the vote takes place Oct. 22. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Your next city council will have to figure out where to put the first legal cannabis stores — if they want them at all — ride herd on the multi-billion-dollar LRT expansion, and keep taxes as low as possible while filling in potholes, fixing up neighbourhood parks, and maybe increasing community policing.

And that's just in the first few weeks.

To say that city government is the one that's closest to the people has become something of a ​cliché.

But it's also true.

Water and garbage, roads and sidewalks, bike lanes — or lack thereof — community recreation centres, bus routes, the height of the new building around the corner... decisions about these crucial questions, the issues that touch us every day, are all ultimately made by your city councillor.

Taxes, traffic, and tall buildings 

You never know what issue may overtake an election campaign, and different people will have different priorities, but there's one platform plank that voters are always on the lookout for: taxes.

If the tax increase had been just a half-percentage higher over each of the last four years — that's 2.5 per cent — there'd be $26 million more in the city's coffers by now, including about $7 million more for police.

Jim Watson, the incumbent mayor running for his third consecutive term, has promised — and delivered — constant and relatively low annual tax increases over the last eight years.

But critics charge that keeping annual property tax increased to two per cent over this current term has meant not enough money for services people want, from road repairs to increased social supports.

Expect a debate over the level of taxes to be a central theme of this campaign.

Consider this: If the tax increase had been just a half-percentage higher over each of the last four years — that's 2.5 per cent — there'd be $26 million more in the city's coffers by now, including about $7 million more for police.

Now, $26 million represents less than one per cent of the city's $3-billion budget, but how many potholes could that fill? How much affordable housing could that build?

Critics charge that the two per cent annual tax increase this term hasn't generated enough money to keep up with city demands, such as filling potholes. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

For police, $7 million could pay for as many as 45 first-year constables. For those upset at the reduction of community police officers in this term of council, a slight increase in taxes may be worth it.

Or think about the dozens of ways that money could be spent on much smaller measures that make big differences to communities.

There are currently 15 intersections across the city that warrant a crossing guard but are not being funded this year. The cost to guard those crossings for the current school year? A mere $177,089.

Former councillor Clive Doucet and incumbent Jim Watson are emerging as the key candidates vying for council's top job. (CBC)

And that's just one tiny part of a larger conversation on traffic, sure to be a major campaign issue. Watson has already said traffic is the No. 1 issue he's hearing at the door, so look for promises from his camp on dealing with the increasing problem.

Clive Doucet is Watson's prime contender for the mayor's chair. He's sure to push an agenda highlighting strategies to keep cars off the road — such as increased cycling and pedestrian infrastructure — but his 11th-hour entry in the race will be forcing other conversations the incumbent might have preferred to avoid.

One will be about development. In some parts of the city, council's seeming willingness to override community zoning plans for highrise developments has residents — and a number of candidates — seeing red. The issue came to a head after council's recent decision to approve a trio of towers up to 65 storeys, more than twice the height that had been allowed.

Doucet has vowed to make development an issue in the 2018 campaign. (Courtesy GGLO Design)

We've got you covered

While it's obvious why your vote matters, casting a ballot can be a complicated affair. More than 110 candidates are running — there are a record 17 in Orlé​ans alone! — and their pledges run the gamut from lower transit fares to transforming our garbage to bio-diesel.

Who are these contenders? Are their promises based in reality? We're here to help.

Over the coming weeks, we'll be bringing you all the news and information you'll need to make a knowledgeable decision on Oct. 22. The first thing you'll need to know is who's running in your ward.

We've created a site that includes an interactive map and information about each of the city's 23 wards, including a complete list of candidates and their answers to a CBC questionnaire.

Our questions won't necessarily reflect all the priorities of every candidate, but it's a place to start learning a little about the people running in your ward, and their ideas for the city and your communities.

We sent the questionnaire to all candidates who provided contact information to the city's election office, and most took the time to fill it out and return it. If you don't see a response from a candidate in your ward, it's because a response wasn't provided.

As for the mayoral candidates, we'll get their responses to you a little later in the campaign.

Debates, wards to watch, and CBC's Street Talk

It's easy for a candidate to make a promise, but what about keeping it? Campaign slogans are simple, but running a city is complicated.

To help you sort through the bluster, we'll be bringing you a series of explainers on key city issues that lay out the facts and what powers councillors have to address the problem. We will begin with a deep dive into traffic from CBC's Kate Porter on Wednesday.

We also aim to cover at least one debate in each ward where one is organized.

We'll keep an eye on every race and we'll take a closer look at a number of wards to watch, including Bay, Innes, Orléans and Kanata North, where no incumbent is running, as well as Alta Vista, Capital and Gloucester-South Nepean, which are each fielding noteworthy rosters of candidates.

And there's no telling when a race becomes surprisingly interesting.

Tim Tierney was expected to easily be re-elected for a third consecutive term.

But with the surprise news that he's being investigated by the OPP for allegedly trying to induce his opponent to drop out, Beacon Hill-Cyrville ward is suddenly in play. 

But perhaps most important, we want to hear from you. What's one thing that bugs you about Ottawa? What do you want to see change in your city? We want to know.

Look for us in the community over the next few weeks, where we'll be soliciting your thoughts, questions and beefs. Our first stop is Dundonald Park on Somerset Street W, and we'll be there on Wednesday from 2 to 6 p.m.

We care about this city election, and so should you. It's about how you get around the city, it's about whether you feel safe in your neighbourhood, it's about about how you live your life.

(CBC)

About the Author

Joanne Chianello

City affairs analyst

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