Ottawa Election Primer: The New Council

Ottawa FlagThe new Ottawa City Council will be sworn in December 1st.   The 23 councillors that will sit around the table made promises, set priorities and declared a platform. After the counting was done I looked at the winning candidates websites and noted each of their top action items for their wards (and the city).

I was unable to get priorities from two councillors as their campaign websites were taken down.  One other councillor also had a campaign website did not promise anything – except more of the same.  No word on taxes, infrastructure transit – nothing – it was really a message of “you liked me for four years, vote for me for more”.  What follows are the key planks from 20 City Councillors.  These priorities will likely define how the next four years will go.  I purposely have left out any promises that were made by Mayor Watson.

To look at how it breaks down I tallied issues for Rural (3 Councillors), Urban (4 Councillors) and Suburban Wards (16 Councillors).  Of the 3 Rural Councillors I found priorities for 2/3 winning candidates and of the 16 Suburban Councillors 2 had taken campaign websites down.  Only 14 wards are represented in the suburb issues.

What I discovered is that Transit/LRT was the biggest election issue, more importantly extending LRT and avoiding the pitfalls that were/are part of LRT phase one.. From there the rest of the issues are among an urban/rural/suburban divide.   Number two in top issues was Roads and Transportation, meaning maintaining current road and building new roads.  Rural and Suburban Councillors will be advocating this issue over the next four years. – it was not mentioned at all by members of the urban caucus.  Third issue is community infrastructure, which includes, parks, greenspace, community buildings and trees.  Support for these issues came from suburban ward candidates.

Surprising to me were the issues coming in after the top 3.  Fourth was taxes/fiscal responsibility, fifth – Policing and Safe communities, sixth – Housing and even though it takes a lot of airtime when a controversial decision is made, development came in seventh.

An issue that was talked about but never campaigned on was election reform and the size of council.  A study on ward boundaries and a reduction or expansion on council  will take place this term.  The report will come before the next election but will its recommendations take effect in 2022?  This council could push the changes (if there are any to the 2024 municipal election.

Here’s a breakdown of how the issues are divided between Urban/Rural and Suburban Councillors ranked top to bottom.

Urban Issues Rural Issues Suburban Issues
Affordable Housing Roads and Infrastructure Community Infrastructure
Development/Planning Economic Development Transit
Transit Planning Taxes
Environment Youth Roads
Seniors Emergency Services Economy/Jobs
City Services Fiscal Responsibility Policing
Businesses Rural Broadband Development
Election Reform Safety on the Roads Safe Streets
Fiscal Responsibility Seniors Seniors
Pedestrians Youth
Poverty Support Services
Safe City Emergency Services
Traffic Housing
Youth Short Term Rental
Term Limits

This analysis is very unscientific, but as you can see no one region was short on issues that were talked about at the doors, but look at the differences and diversity of issues across the three regions.  Surprisingly, Transit does not come up as a priority from our rural councillors.  The difference in priorities demonstrates the difficulty that will pop up when councillors are looking for support for budget items, new infrastructure and projects that are important to the different wards.  I expect that their will be more discussion about issue across the urban/rural/suburban divide, especially with new councillors coming into key ward that represent growth in Ottawa. There’s going to be strength coming from suburban councillors with 16 around the table. The urban caucus with 4 councillors and the 3 rural caucuses will have their work cut out for them in getting projects that affect their constituents approved.

The Mayor will have to balance what is regionally needed to make everyone happy, especially when the budget is drafted.  He will need to start with the naming of committee chairs, there will be some juggling here.  I am sure the campaigning for these positions has already started.

The Mayor campaigned that he could go as high as a 3% tax increase in the budget. When the Mayor presents the budget (written of course with consultation of the councillors) it will leave some happier than others and will force councillors to start looking for trade-offs on individual items.

Thank you for reading #RedHeartBlueSign, to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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