Gun violence, transit, affordable housing top of mind in Rideau-Rockcliffe
Voters in Rideau-Rockcliffe byelection head to the polls Monday to choose from 17 candidates
From affordable housing to improved transit to a renewed focus on community safety in Overbrook in the wake of gun violence, residents expect whoever wins the Rideau-Rockcliffe byelection on Monday to hit the ground running.
Voters will elect a new city councillor to replace Tobi Nussbaum, who resigned to become CEO of the National Capital Commission just weeks after being re-elected in October.
A councillor who will be outspoken about Ottawa's affordable housing "crisis" is top of mind for Julie Burnett and Austin Sherlock, who rent an apartment in Manor Park.
Growing up in Saskatchewan, Sherlock said he benefited from low-income housing.
His family spent two years on a waiting list before securing a home, which provided a stable place to live. He said he can't fathom the five- to 10-year wait for public housing in Ottawa.
"It's something that's always been important to me because it's benefitted me so much," he said.
"That's just not really acceptable to me, so that's a really important political topic I want my candidate to be speaking about."
Rideau-Rockcliffe is a ward of contrasts. It includes both the affluent New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park neighbourhoods, as well as Overbrook, where the socio-economic challenges faced by residents in some pockets of the community are more evident.
Dave Weatherall lives with his wife and three small children in a home the couple purchased in 2012.
He's concerned Overbrook has been overlooked.
"Whoever wins this byelection is going to have to deliver for Overbrook," he said.
"We've had three shootings on this street in a year and a half, our playgrounds are deteriorating, there's a lack of sustainable transportation infrastructure. There's just a lot that needs to be done in this neighbourhood to improve the quality of life of its residents, and it hasn't been happening at the rate that it should be."
A shooting on a Saturday morning in January at a home across the street from his — which is operated as an Airbnb — rattled the family. Weatherall said he took his infant twins into the basement when he realized what was happening.
He said he hopes the next councillor won't shy away from tackling public safety.
"If we don't talk about these issues and we just brush them under the carpet, then they don't get addressed and then they just get worse, and I think that's what's been happening in Overbrook for too long," he said.
A councillor who will 'pay attention'
A resident of New Edinburgh since 1975, Victoria Henry's rowhouse is adjacent to Stanley Park, where the city is digging one of the shafts for the new combined sewage storage tunnel.
The construction site is loud and dusty and vehicles are coming and going constantly.
"It's not a happy existence," Henry said.
Many residents felt blindsided by the city when they learned about the project — something Henry hopes to avoid in the future.
"We need a councillor who really is going to pay attention and really be full-time and be in touch with the citizens," she said.
'Strong transit system'
Valérie Fortier doesn't live in the ward, but her clients do. She's a community developer at the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre on Donald Street, which provides residents with a wide range of services, including a food bank, counselling and workshops, after-school programs and playgroups.
She said she hears all the time about the barriers people face just getting around the ward, which has become more complicated due to changes made to some routes in preparation for the launch of the Confederation LRT Line.
"The changes made to the Route 18 really impacts the way people access our services. People that used to take the bus to go to the food bank, now the bus is so far away from their house that they have to walk or they have to find other solutions to access our services," she said.
"It impacts their life and they want a councillor that will be able to support a strong transit system."
Fortier said her organization helped organize a recent all-candidates forum in Overbrook to engage voters and introduce the candidates ahead of Monday's byelection.
"There was a lot more engagement than there was last fall when we only had two candidates in the ward," she said.
'Language opens doors'
The sheer number of candidates seems to have caught the attention of voters, including Eloisa Martinez.
"It prompted me to become interested because, I'm thinking, 'What's going on here? I need to be informed. I need to make the best decision I can,'" said the Castle Heights resident.
Her ideal candidate is someone who lives in the ward and speaks French fluently.
"If you want to serve this community in the best way possible, you need to have some level of French. And it's unfortunate because I know some candidates are really strong, yet I definitely feel it's an impediment. Language opens doors."