From crime to crumbling roads, Ottawa South voters look for local help

Ottawa South residents want provincial candidates to take a hard look at gang problems and issues with infrastructure, as well as ways to make life more affordability.

'The community needs work,' says first-time-voter Khaled Mohamed, 'do something about it'

Linda Barclay says rising hydro costs must be brought under control, especially for rural Ontarians. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

First-time voter Khaled Mohamed has a simple message for anyone running to represent Ottawa South at Queen's Park: this community has issues and "if you've got the chance, do something."

The 19-year-old's family left Egypt five years ago and relocated in Ottawa. 

"It's still violent. It still has problems," he said. "Let's not try to lie and say that this country doesn't, because it does."

Standing outside the Greenboro transit station with a gym bag slung across his shoulder, Mohamed says he knows there's a problem with gang violence and crime in Ottawa.

He's been right in the middle of it.

"Security here in this part of Ottawa is not too good: a lot of stabbings, a lot of fights."

While Mohamed doesn't know what will solve the issues, he has an idea what won't: increased police presence. 

19-year-old Khaled Mohamed wants local candidates to work with the community to find ways to help youth stay away from gangs. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Between police and gangs, 'I prefer gangs'

Gang violence isn't created in a vacuum. He said youth "deal with a lot and then they grow up to be something that sometimes they're forced to be."

At the same transit station, Wais Dahair echoed Mohamed's concerns.

"There are a lot of problems with the young people," he said. "A lot of gangs, a lot of shooting in the last years."

But Dahair is also weary about relying on police to solve this most important issue. He says relations between minority communities and the police have further soured in recent years, and lost trust must be rebuilt. 

"If I saw police and gangs," he said starkly, "I prefer gangs."

'Safety is first,' says Wais Dahair about what he wants to see as Ottawa South's top election issue. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, Ottawa South has the highest number of immigrants in the region and about two out of every five residents identifies as a visible minority. 

On the campaign trail

Community relations with police might be far from a top campaign issue, but party leaders have weighed in. 

In the campaign's first leadership debate — one focused on Toronto issues — the PC's Doug Ford, the NDP's Andrea Horwath and the Liberals' Kathleen Wynne were asked about carding, or random street checks by police. 

That "manifestation of systemic racism" has already been banned, said Wynne, although it will take time for officers to change an "ingrained" behaviour. 

For Horwath, it's taken too long to get to that point.

"When you see racism, you have to name it," she told the crowd. "For years and years, that action didn't happen."

Ford has said community policing is needed to tackle the issue, so neighbourhoods and officers can come up with solutions together. 

Affordability a top concern

At the Conroy Pit dog park, something else is on the mind of voters. 

Linda Barclay and a few friends just spent their walk discussing the high price of gas and Hydro prices. 

"What we need right now, what we really need, is lower prices and lower taxes,," she said.  "It's a bottomless pit."

The long-weekend price spike was also noticed by politicians.

Others, including Joel Racicot, felt improving infrastructure and roads was a more pressing issue. 

"When you're driving around the city, the roads are terrible," Racicot said. 

"It sounds like a potentially silly issue, but at some point we have to pay for this stuff. How do we do that when we have one leader proposing we cut taxes drastically, cutting, for example, fuel taxes."

Ottawa South residents say they want to see elected officials decrease violence and everyday costs. 2:07

Hydro bills another concern

Barclay was far from the only person to decry the cost of Hydro, with people in several Ottawa South neighbourhoods weighing in on the debate. 

"For me, being in my early thirties, that's the big thing for me, because there's no relief," said Layla Rankin, while enjoying a picnic at Mooney's Bay. 

"I feel like there should be something coming down the line because that affects everyone."

Meanwhile, Richard Boswick brought up Hydro as an accountability issue, referencing a CBC News story that showed board members at Hydro One voted to boost their own compensation.

"It seems like everybody's out for themselves." 

CBC is coming to your riding

The Street Talk team is heading to every provincial riding in Ottawa to find out what issues matter most to the people who live there. 

From now until election day on June 7, reporters will go to Carleton, Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, Kanata–Carleton, Nepean, Orlé​ans, Ottawa Centre, Ottawa South, Ottawa West–Nepean and Ottawa–Vanier.

Then we'll take your questions to the people hoping to get your vote. 

Come back to our website each day to find out about another riding, and follow the discussion with the hashtag #CBCStreetTalk on social media. 

With files from Matthew Kupfer