ELECTION 2018

Crime, community services top of mind at River ward debate

Riley Brockington ended up on the hot seat at a debate at the Carlington Recreation Centre Saturday evening as he defended his record representing River ward over the past four years.

Riley Brockington, the incumbent councillor, forced to defend record

River ward candidates Riley Brockington, Fabien Kalala Cimankinda, and Hassib Reda take part in a debate at the Carlington Recreation Centre on Oct. 6, 2018. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Riley Brockington ended up on the hot seat at a debate at the Carlington Recreation Centre Saturday evening as he defended his record representing River ward over the past four years.

The CBC's Adrian Harewood, who moderated the event, also urged challengers Fabien Kalala Cimankinda and Hassib Reda for specific ideas about how they would do things better, on topics ranging from transit and crime to community building and development.

The fourth council candidate in River ward, Kerri Keith, did not take part.

The debate was supposed to take place in late September, but was postponed after tornadoes hit Ottawa and Gatineau on Sept. 21, leaving the centre without power.

Brockington's record

Incumbents frequently come under fire by their opponents during an election, and Saturday was no exception.

Reda, a social studies teacher, said the biggest issues in the ward were transparency and accountability. He criticized Brockington for not consulting residents and making decisions behind closed doors.

Brockington, however, vowed that he never trades votes with councillors in exchange for support on ward projects — and never will.

As for getting things done, he said he's had his council colleagues' support on many issues, but acknowledged certain development files — such as a proposed retirement community at Mooney's Bay — have been trickier.

"We have a council that has favoured or supported a lot of development files. You see city council rarely, if ever, push back on development files," he said.

River ward has a population of 48,485 people living in 21,288 homes.

Helping youth, fighting crime

Community building and social issues were also top-of-mind for Saturday night, rather than core city services such as garbage or roads.

On the topic of gun violence, Cimankinda said many of the ward's troubles could be traced to a lack of long-term programs for youth. And while he believed mentoring youth is one solution, he said he'd also support hiring more police.

"I'm not going to fight violent crime with a basketball," said Cimankinda. 

Four candidates from River Ward join us in studio,they are Riley Brockington, Fabien Kalala Cimankinda, Kerri Keith, and Hassib Reda. 17:30

Brockington told the crowd that "we have a gang problem in the city of Ottawa" and that he'd support increased police funding — especially for its guns and gangs unit and for community policing.

Reda said crime prevention should be a priority and that Ottawa would be a changed place if it had more social workers.

Dozens of people attended a debate on Oct. 6, 2018, at the Carlington Recreation Centre that featured three of the four candidates running for council in Ottawa's River ward. (Kate Porter)

Building a community hub

The Caldwell Family Centre was one of the organizers of Saturday's debate, along with the Carlington Community Health Centre, Rhema Ministries, Making Voices Count, and the Carlington Community Association.

Cimankinda — who grew up in the Caldwell community with his 11 siblings after emigrating from Congo — said he'd make the family centre's proposal for a community and social enterprise hub a priority if he's elected. 

He said it's clear the area is underserved, and lacks both facilities and community programs.

We're not debating if there's needs. We all agree there are needs here.- Riley Brockington

"The question is, 'Have you been inside this kitchen cooking for this community?' You'd know the needs of this community [if you had]," he told the candidates on either side of him.

Brockington said there have been talks about possible sites for the community hub, but a needs assessment will be required first to convince the federal and provincial governments to both contribute to the estimated $16 million cost and then help fund its operation.

"We're not debating if there's needs. We all agree there are needs here," said Brockington.

For a rundown of the debate, including discussion on transit and campaign financing, see the CBC's Kate Porter's tweets below.