Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

Rideau-Vanier candidates debate taxes, transit

Rideau-Vanier incumbent Mathieu Fleury wants to stick to a two-per-cent property tax increase for the next term of council, but would argue for a one-per-cent levy that is targeted to a couple of key issues.

More than 150 people came out to the Sandy Hill Community Centre to hear 3 council candidates

Rideau-Vanier candidates from left to right: Thierry Harris, incumbent Mathieu Fleury and Matt Lowe. (Provided)

The incumbent for Rideau-Vanier wants to stick to a two-per-cent property tax increase for the next term of council, but would argue for a one-per-cent levy targeted to a couple of key issues.

Mathieu Fleury floated the plan at a Rideau-Vanier debate Thursday night at the Sandy Hill Community Centre.

About 150 people gathered to hear Fleury and challengers Thierry Harris and Matt Lowe discuss issues ranging from student rooming houses and affordable housing to transit and snow clearing for sidewalks and cycling lanes.

Fleury said he would support a one-per-cent levy because it would provide council with an additional $14 million a year that would not be permanently added to the budget.

That money should be spent to make marked improvements in one or two files, he argued. Transit and affordable housing are the issues Fleury would fight for. 

"It'd be up to the members of council but I'm sure that everyone cares about transit, everyone cares about ensuring that everybody has a home," Fleury explained after the debate.

"And we don't like to see the waiting list, we don't like to see people in shelters."

Harris said he was skeptical about special levies, but wasn't closed to increasing taxes above two per cent because "city services are very very poor right now."

He said he would first want to delve into the budget, which he said is not very transparent, and provide some protection from tax increases for "seniors who've been in their homes for a long time."

Lowe would be interested in exploring other forms of revenue, such as redirecting the tourism tax to other services.

Transit under scrutiny

Harris — and some residents — had some harsh words for the city's transit service and fares.

"People are frustrated right now with OC Transpo," he said after the debate.

"I would take a look at that organization and say, 'Who do we fire?' Because frankly, it is unacceptable in terms of the service that we've had.

"This LRT system is late and now people are suffering because their bus routes are being cut."

Fleury wants to keep the buses set to be sold after LRT begins to provide better service in Rideau-Vanier and other communities in the city.

He also conceded the city should try to freeze the cost of adult monthly passes.

And Matt Lowe promised to lower transit fares by $1 per ride.

The contentious 350-bed Salvation Army facility proposed for Vanier — which is currently under appeal — was only brought up once.

While Fleury fought the development after it was publicly revealed, some residents think he dropped the ball early in the file.

There's also a dispute about whether Fleury knew about the project well before he discussed it with the community.

When Fleury said in French that he opposed the Salvation Army project from the start, there was some booing from the audience.