The departure of a longtime Councillor Marianne Wilkinson has opened up the seat in Kanata North for the first time in years. Recently CBC asked candidates a series of questions, trying to shed light for readers on who the candidates are and their views on some issues.
I am happy to share with you my responses to this survey below.
In the last term, what was council's single greatest accomplishment? What was council's biggest failure?
The commitment and action to get shovels in the ground and begin work on the LRT is undoubtedly the biggest accomplishment of the current Council. This is the single largest infrastructure project the City has undertaken since the building of the canal. It will shape how our City looks and how we move for decades to come. I appreciate that these are tough decisions and I am proud of the progress the current Council has made to bring this project to life. Although I haven’t always agreed with their decisions, I have respect for Council moving forward with this much needed city building project.
I believe the greatest failure of the current Council is the decline in value that taxpayers receive for their tax dollars. I am hearing this again and again from Kanata residents who feel like they’ve been forgotten. The city has dedicated millions of dollars to building the LRT, a project I support, however, other services have greatly suffered. There are a number of areas including the deteriorating condition of our roads, unreliable bus service, poor snow removal services, and an increase in crime that our police forces do not have the resources to keep up with.
I think Council needs to have a more fulsome discussion around long term planning as opposed to one off cuts and band-aid funding solutions. We need more fiscal responsibility and accountability to our residents so that we can deliver the value they deserve.
What is your target for future property tax increases, as a percentage?
At countless doors, Kanata North residents have expressed concerns about the increasing level of taxes and the decreasing level of services that the City provides to Kanata North residents. Affordability is a big issue for many Kanata North residents. As a mom of three daughters and an economist by study, I understand the demands of the increasing cost of living. I do believe that 2 percent or the rate of inflation is a good target but I believe the process is flawed. I think we need to take a much longer term look at our budgeting process and ensure that the process is inclusive and our communities are consulted. Councillors should have an active role in developing the budget.
Would you increase funding for the Police force? If so, why?
Safety in Kanata North is a priority. The increase in crime and rampant speeding throughout our community has people concerned. Rightly so. Having police presence is critical to curtail this behaviour and to keep our community safe. I don’t believe that the police have been adequately resourced and have been able to recruit and train sufficient numbers of officers to replace those retiring, while also growing the force. In addition to this, the increase in mental health related calls and incidents are taxing the force and undoubtedly the legalization of marijuana will also require more resources. The Ottawa Police Force has one of the lowest ratios officers/population in the Province. We need to increase funding to ensure our community is protected.
What role should the city have regulating the new Cannabis industry?
Retail sales of cannabis in our city and Kanata North community is a new complex policy issue for Ottawa that requires extensive community consultation. Until very recently this was not a topic of discussion at peoples’ doors. Residents have expressed concerns about location and the convenience of access to retail stores selling cannabis. However, they have also expressed the desire for safe, regulated sources so that those who do use cannabis are not purchasing from criminal organizations and using cannabis possibly laced with other harmful substances.
This is unchartered territory and these aren’t easy decisions. The decision has been made to legalize cannabis, and the province is moving forward to allow retail sales. I believe the city should be focused on consultation locally, and encouraging the province to develop a responsible, balanced legislative framework ensuring planning, zoning, safety and increased funding for enforcement are all critical considerations. The safety of our community, our kids and families is too important to rush and get this wrong.
LRT is the single largest infrastructure project in Ottawa's history. As the city moves into Stage 2, what would you do differently to improve the plan?
I would like to see the train to Kanata quicker. Stage 2 commits to LRT to Moodie Drive by 2023. Although Moodie Drive is an improvement on the original plan, Moodie Drive is not Kanata and Moodie Drive is not going to be equipped with a park and ride - meaning multiple modes of transit are required for Kanata residents. Although admittedly biased, I believe the train should come west before going further east. Kanata was the fastest growing suburb last year and is also home to one of the largest employment areas in the City - the Kanata North Tech Park. Servicing this part of Ottawa by train is a priority for me and residents have clearly expressed it’s a priority for them as well.
How much public money, if any, should the city invest in redeveloping LeBreton Flats? What should the money be spent on?
The redevelopment of Lebreton Flats is an exciting and much anticipated project in Ottawa. I believe strongly that public money should not be spent on this development. The land and the development is being lead by private enterprises who have a business plan that ultimately seeks to generate profits from this investment, for decades to come. It is not the role of the city to subsidize private development.
Having said that, it is important that the city ensures the development is done well, that the necessary approvals are sought, and city staff assist to ensure there are no unnecessary delays. This redevelopment will create many new jobs and great amenities for our community. It is in our best interests that the city support it with the staff needed along the way, but not with investments of public money.
What do you love most about your ward?
I love the sense of community, the people and the green spaces. The South March Highlands, the Beaverpond, the Richcraft Recreation Complex and the Beaverbrook library are all incredible public spaces. I also love that so many are able to live and work within Kanata North thanks to our community being home to Canada’s largest Technology Park.
I moved to Ottawa in 2001 to do my Master’s Degree at Carleton. The following year we bought our first house in Kanata. It quickly became home and an amazing place for my husband to start his company and for us to raise our 3 daughters. I couldn’t imagine a better community to live in.
What is your top infrastructure priority for your ward?
By far the most important infrastructure investment needed in Kanata North is LRT. Not only was Kanata North the fastest growing community last year but we are also home to one of the largest employment areas in Ottawa - the Kanata North Tech Park directly employing over 21,000 people.
Our current bus service does not serve our community well and is unreliable and inefficient, wasting precious time and adding lengthy commutes for our residents. The need for a reliable transit solution is a must. LRT is a major city building project that must have the foresight to include and serve our growing community within reasonable time frames.
What are two other infrastructure priorities for your ward?
The extension of Campeau from Terry Fox through to Huntmar is a major priority. Residents of the Arcadia subdivision have been promised that Campeau Road would be extended (from Terry Fox to Huntmar) for the last 5 years. This community is currently isolated. It is completely unacceptable. The funding for this extension and building of the bridge over the Carp River has been in place for the last several years, however, there have been delays in approvals on behalf of all the parties involved: The City, Minto Group and the Province, which resulted in lengthy delays in construction.
Second major priority is maintenance of our existing roads, pathways and the missing links for cyclists causing safety concerns.
Residents often complain about traffic (speeding, congestion, etc.). What would you do to improve traffic in your ward?
I will work to prioritize investments in the roads that residents are experiencing the most congestion on in Kanata - such as March Road, Campeau and Terry Fox. As we continue to grow, we need to ensure that this congestion is addressed and that we improve transit service and cycling options to make other options feasible for residents to move around our community.
Speeding is a concern I am hearing a lot about in many neighbourhoods. I would like to ensure we make use of effective traffic calming measures to ensure we can slow people down and keep our communities safe for all. I also believe in using my website, newsletters and social media to communicate and convey the importance of slowing down. Lastly, I am supportive of increasing funding for our police force to increase the number of officers available to protect and patrol our community.
How would you encourage residents of your ward to recycle more, especially green-bin organics?
I believe strongly in the need to increase our participation in our recycling and green bin programs. After thousands of conversations with Kanata North residents, I believe the community wants to do better. Myself and my team will take a very personal approach to working with residents to educate and assist them in how to recycle and how to use their green bin effectively. I am committed to personally speaking with residents who are not participating, answer any questions they may have, and offering advice and resources to assist. I believe in ongoing one on one discussion at peoples’ doors and I will continue that.
I will also work with our commercial property owners to develop effective ways of introducing recycling and green bin usage within our businesses and multi-tenant buildings.
Which municipal figure, alive or dead, do you admire? Why?
My late grandmother. Although she never ran for office she was a tireless advocate for families and later seniors in her town and in the province. My grandmother taught me what integrity and grace was. She was a compassionate and thoughtful leader who helped many over the years. She always inspired me to do more and to serve my community in any way I was able to. In 2013, before she passed away, she came to see me speak at an event at the Kanata Food Cupboard in which we were revitalizing the program and introducing fresh healthy foods. She was very proud of my work there and I know she’d be proud today. Her last advice to me before she passed was to always be honest with people. Words to live by.
Tell us about any formal education, training or other credentials you think are relevant to the job of being a Councillor.
I have an Honours degree in Economics from Brock University and moved to Ottawa in 2001 to complete my Masters degree in Economics at Carleton University. I spent the first decade of my career working as an Economist in the Federal Government. I then had the opportunity to become the inaugural President of the Kanata North Business Association and, most recently, the inaugural Executive Director for a National Technology Council. Over the years I have had the opportunity to participate in Executive Leadership training and have received two Forty under 40 awards, one here in Ottawa and a second international award for the Economic Development profession.
If elected, what single greatest change do you hope to have made in Ottawa or in your ward, four years from now?
I hope to work to secure a commitment and funding for LRT to Kanata and create a revised and efficient bus service for residents. I hope to protect our green spaces and increase environmental leadership in our city. I hope to create economic opportunities in our Technology Park, leading to more jobs in our community. I hope to lead with integrity and serve our community, to ensure our needs are met and that everyone has the opportunity to thrive here in Kanata North. It would be an honour to serve as City Councillor and strive to make our community a better place. I hope I have the opportunity to do so.
Do you live in the ward? If not, why are you running there?
I have worked in Kanata North for many years. My kids have gone to school in Kanata North for the last 9 years. I do all my volunteer work and all of my shopping in Kanata North. For the last 5 years I was the founding President of the Kanata North Business Association, building that organization from the ground up. I’ve also spent the last 8 years on the Board and served as the Chair of the Kanata Food Cupboard. The fact that at the end of the day I drive three streets outside the boundary does not waiver my sense of community or my desire to serve my community of Kanata North. I live where I live because my husband had the opportunity to build us a home there.
My entire life is in Kanata North and I would be honoured to serve this community as City Councillor.