Watson promises free Sunday transit for seniors
Incumbent mayoral candidate's final campaign announcement includes women's liaison on council
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is promising an extra day of free transit for seniors if he's re-elected Monday.
The announcement was among his final list of campaign promises of the election, released in an emailed statement late Thursday afternoon.
"This measure is not only a cost saving opportunity for seniors; it encourages them to leave their home and take part in social outings, helping to fight widespread loneliness and isolation affecting many seniors," Watson said in the release.
The promise would cost OC Transpo about $100,000 per year, according to Watson's campaign. Seniors already ride free on Wednesdays, which costs taxpayers about $1 million per year.
No new funding for affordable housing
Watson said his first priority if re-elected would be to secure new affordable housing development close to rapid transit, but his platform does not include any new money to build those units, or for homelessness prevention.
Watson said he plans to continue the city's $108-million annual investment to complete a minimum of 456 affordable and supportive housing units and create up to 380 new housing subsidies for people experiencing homelessness, among other city initiatives.
He also wants the city to enact an inclusionary zoning policy that would require developers to put money toward affordable housing in exchange for higher-density projects.
Many housing advocates have called the lack of affordable housing in Ottawa a crisis.
Watson promised at least three affordable neighbourhood developments along the LRT corridor to address that issue. That work was already started by Coun. Catherine McKenney, who is running for re-election in Somerset ward. McKenney launched a working group to develop affordable units on city lands along the LRT route.
Women's rights activists have criticized Watson for his lukewarm response to instituting a women's bureau to examine city policies through a gender lens. A vote on the matter is set to take place at one of the first council meetings after the election.
He also took flak after he declined to participate in an election debate on gender issues.
In his announcement Thursday, Watson pitched a women's liaison position on council with a mandate to "advocate for women's' issues." The role would presumably mimic the existing liaison roles on council, including one on homelessness and another on sports.
Watson also announced his goal of appointing an equal number women to the city's various agency boards and advisory committees.