Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Ottawa-Centre candidate survey answers

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I was pleased to receive answers to my survey questions by deadline from candidates for Ottawa-Centre MPP Shelby Bertrand (Green Party of Ontario), Katie Gibbs (Ontario Liberal Party) and Joel Harden (Ontario New Democratic Party), pasted below. My thanks go to each. I hope these are helpful to Kitchissippi residents who are considering how to cast their ballot.

1. The discussion is heating up across North America with respect to zoning that limits what can be built in some neighbourhoods to single detached homes. What would be your government’s approach to increased housing density, particularly in neighbourhoods that are in close proximity to light rail?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

The Green party is passionate about building communities that are better for the health and well-being of residents and fiscally responsible. This means communities that are mixed purpose: they have residential structures next to other structures so that people live, work, and shop in an easier way. The cost of roads, utilities, public transit, maintenance of emergency services like fire and police departments, and even leisure buildings like libraries, cost residents and municipalities far more money in a suburb instead of a mixed purpose community. Mixed purpose communities are far more conducive to the use of public transit. Also, studies have shown needing to commute from the suburbs to work increases sleep deprivation, depression, and obesity. Mixed purpose housing is kinder to wallets and human beings alike!

Demographics suffering the most from the affordable housing crisis are those for whom single family homes are not even an option: the average price of a single-family home in Ottawa is currently $853,615. Mixed purpose neighbourhoods with medium and higher density housing are urgently needed. 

The Green party would:

  • revise zoning laws to include more options for things like secondary suites, laneway housing, and tiny houses. 
  • ensure environmentally friendly transit is available in Ottawa Centre.
  • make cycling a more realistic transportation option by connecting Ottawa’s now-scattered bike paths. 

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

A Liberal government will work to reform zoning to empower local governments to build more homes, and reward them for meeting or exceeding housing targets with dedicated capital funding to use for local priorities like parks and libraries. We’ll also work with municipalities to end exclusionary zoning and to bring in ways to incentivize the conversion of under-utilized commercial space into housing.

Transit is the best tool we have to add more homes to a community without adding more cars, driveways, roads and parking lots. So, we’ll encourage the development of low-rise ‘missing middle’ multiplexes and other mid-rise housing options near rapid transit stations and routes through neighbourhood transition zones.

Our government will also scrap Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) that have been exploited over 60 times by the Ford Conservatives and replace them with new rules-based measures limited to critical provincial projects only like new not-for-profit long-term care homes or affordable housing.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

The Ontario NDP platform and our “Homes You Can Afford” plan will ensure that we build communities for people, and I am very excited about the proposals we have in the platform that will address some of the many concerns I’ve heard at the doors and over the last four years as MPP for Ottawa Centre around developments in our neighbourhoods.

  • An NDP government will work with municipalities to reform land use planning rules to encourage and accelerate the construction of homes in complete communities close to transit, as well as schools, healthcare, grocery stores, and recreation centers.
  • We will ensure responsible development happens within existing urban boundaries, while protecting greenspaces from costly, irresponsible and wasteful sprawl. This includes aligning growth with transit investments and updating zoning rules to enable the construction of affordable “missing middle” housing – like duplexes, triplexes and townhomes — wherever residential development is allowed.
  • We will end exclusionary zoning and ensure an adequate supply of different housing options that are affordable, meet the diverse needs of different families, and are located where people want to live. 

2. Kitchissippi’s formerly affordable rental housing is being rapidly re-developed in gentrifying neighbourhoods to become out-of-reach to many. What approaches will your government adopt to preserve affordable rental housing in some of Ottawa’s best-served neighbourhoods such as Westboro, Hintonburg and Mechanicsville?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

Displacement caused by the financialisation of the housing market and by renovictions is absolutely unacceptable. The Green Party would protect the structures vulnerable to these processes, which often house those needing social services or are newcomers to Canada. 

The Green Party would:

  • reinstate rent control on all units and also prevent the arbitrary raising of rent in between tenants. 
  • grant not-for-profit housing providers with a pre-emptive right to buy.
  • support currently-underused demolition control by-laws, forcing speculators and landlords to demonstrate if renovations are necessary.
  • establish robust penalties for renovictions. 
  • implement a database for pre-construction condo sales, as in BC where developers must report complete tax information to authorities. 
  • We would also make it harder and less desirable for big corporations hoping to profit from buying property and leave it vacant. We would:
  • implement a province-wide vacant homes tax.
  • expand the non-resident speculation tax to the entire province and raise it to 20%.
  • increase the land transfer tax on single-family homes over 3 million dollars.

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

Housing is a fundamental human right. Everyone in our community deserves a stable place to call home. Our party has a comprehensive plan to make buying and renting a home more affordable, starting with building 1.5 million homes. We will establish the Ontario Home Building Corporation to finance and build all types of homes, including at least 138,000 that are deeply affordable and supportive housing.

On top of that, our government will ensure homes are for people who live in them. We will tax homes that are sitting empty, ban non-resident ownership, and introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ tax on developers sitting on land ready for development. This will all address the demand for housing in our neighbourhoods. To make it fairer, safer, and more affordable to rent, our party will back rent control, and provide renters with a path to home ownership. 

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

One of my proudest moments as MPP for this great riding was in October of last year when I stood alongside local housing advocates to announce the Rent Stabilization Act, which if passed, would have established: 

  • rent control that operates during and between tenancies, so a new tenant pays the same rent as a former tenant;
  • a public rent registry so tenants can find out what a former tenant paid in rent;
  • access to legal aid for tenants that want to contest an illegal rent hike; and
  • stronger enforcement and tougher penalties for landlords who do not properly maintain a renters’ home.

Unfortunately, Doug Ford’s government voted our bill down, but an NDP government and I will ensure this bill is made into law. 

In addition, starting in 2022, an NDP government will strengthen protections for renters impacted by reconstruction or redevelopment, such as many of our neighbours in Kitchissippi Ward are facing. An NDP government will protect the supply of affordable housing within neighbourhoods experiencing redevelopment, and ensure that existing tenants can keep living in their own communities. We’ll strengthen the enforcement of existing laws guaranteeing the rights of tenants to return to their home after reconstruction, at the same rent they paid before.

3. What will your government’s approach be to re-using the current Civic Hospital site as the new campus moves to Dow’s Lake?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

As a Green Party government, we would consult with stakeholders, including the Ottawa Hospital. Ottawa has leading world class medical and research capacity, and the current site may contribute to its development.

We are learning that embodied carbon—the carbon footprint a building leaves becoming operational—is an important aspect of infrastructure. We should look at whether the existing building can be repurposed before any demolition decision.

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

The residents of Ottawa Centre need a modern healthcare facility and the Ontario Liberal Party and I are committed to seeing the new civic hospital built on time and on budget.

The Liberal Party has been clear on their commitment to increase our greenspace capacity while simultaneously committing to developing new, deeply affordable housing options for residents across this province. The current Civic Hospital site would be an excellent opportunity to successfully renovate and redeploy current infrastructure into affordable, accessible housing options for those who need it most, while also reverting land back into community greenspaces, allowing for the balanced development of our growing city now and into the future. Any future plans for the site would be developed closely with residents in the community and other levels of government.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

An NDP government and I as the local MPP for the area will ensure that we do an open consultation with the community to determine the best possible use for this land, and we will listen to what the community wants. 

Residents of Ottawa Centre and our city have been clear that they want a say in the decisions around the current Civic Hospital as well as the new location at Dow’s Lake. Their considerations have been ignored thus far as more than 750 mature trees are bulldozed for an airport sized parking garage that no one in the community wants. 

An NDP government will ensure that residents’ voices aren’t ignored and key infrastructure decisions are not made in secret and non-transparent ways.

4. Quickly-intensifying neighbourhoods in the near west of Ottawa will need new schools, and particularly a French public high school. Will you commit to advocating for new schools in LRT-proximate, 15-minute neighbourhoods?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

Schools are absolutely part of the Green Party mixed-purpose, 15-minute neighbourhood program, and the Green Party believes in the importance of a single school board that offers both languages. This will be more fiscally responsible and more equitable. Students currently have unequal access to special ed resources, mental health resources, and vocationally-geared courses that help students hit the ground running after graduation. It will also target discriminatory hiring processes for teachers based on sexual orientation or religion. Teachers will have better student-to-instructor ratios and will be better supported with more teachers’ aides who receive proper pay. In the name of fiscal responsibility, the Ontario Greens will also scrap EQAO testing. 

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

There is a clear need for more French school options for the downtown community and this is something I am committed to advocating for. The Ontario Liberals will cancel Doug Ford’s Highway 413 project and reinvest that $10 billion in savings in Ontario’s students, including building new schools and repairing aging ones.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

Yes, absolutely. Our community has grown extensively and our schools are not able to keep up, especially our French public schools. 

In Ottawa Centre, there is only one French public school, Louise Arbour and it is bursting at the seams. In January of this year, I wrote to the Education Minister, Stephen Lecce asking why the Ford government did not approve a new French public school in Ottawa Centre, as it was the top priority identified by the French public school board (CEPEO) for capital funding. 

To date, I have not received a substantive response to my letter, but I have assured the many families that have reached out to me since writing the letter that an NDP government will immediately prioritize a new French public school in Ottawa Centre, and I have made this commitment part of my local platform. 

5. Alternative responses to policing for mental health crises are urgently needed. How will your government advocate for and help fund those?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

The Green Party believes that mental health is health, plain and simple. This is why we’d:

  • create a 3-digit hotline attached to well-funded mobile crisis intervention teams who would have the expertise to arrive on scene of mental health crises.
  • decriminalize drug possession and heavily support safe injection sites. 
  • create a ministry of Mental Health and Addictions that will lubricate the delivery of those services and testify to the non-criminal nature of addictions issues.
  • bring mental health services under OHIP.
  • better equip schools with specialists to end the ordeal of waitlists for our youth.
  • broaden mental-health related circumstances under the ODSP program.
  • double ODSP, Ontario works, and all other related social services to alleviate strain on those dependent on them, who often have poor mental health in their life situations. 
  • implement a proactive, not reactive, community-anchored approach to healthcare with more mental health resources present at community clinics.
  • make first round post secondary education (a bachelor’s degree, college degree, apprenticeship, etc.) free to alleviate student debt professionals in these fields often face.

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

A Liberal government will transform mental health frontline responses so more people living with mental illnesses, addictions, and disabilities can access compassionate care, and so more mental health workers are ready to respond to low-risk emergency calls. By reversing the cuts made by Ford’s Conservatives to mental health and addictions services, and investing an additional $3 billion, our government will transform the way our province helps people in crisis by staffing emergency rooms and the 9-1-1 hotline with mental health workers trained to help people in a mental health crisis.

We will train 3,000 new mental health and addictions professionals, and divert people with addictions, disabilities and mental health conditions away from the justice system and to the appropriate supports.

Our plan also includes building more supportive housing along with funding for the associated addiction and mental health supports to help people who are currently unhoused transition into stable housing.

And we will ensure police training includes de-escalation, anti-racism, cultural sensitivity and mental health, so that when police are needed, they have the tools and knowledge to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis appropriately.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

I am proud to say that the Ontario NDP has a strong and community-driven plan to put mental health supports at the centre of community safety. 

We will fund and implement alternative first responders in cases of mental health and addictions crises, homelessness and school discipline calls. We will ensure alternative first responders are trained in antiracism, anti-oppression, de-escalation tactics, and culturally responsive care. 

We will end unlawful and unauthorized use of force by police and ensure police are accountable for their actions, and invest in strong community supports for Black, racialized, and Indigenous communities. 

We must also ensure that our institutions regain trust that has been lost with the community. To address that, we will truly end the racist, discriminatory practice of carding, and destroy the data that has been collected through carding. We have seen in very recent reports in Ottawa that Black and Middle-Eastern folks are more likely to get carded by police - this must immediately end and the NDP has a plan to make it happen. 

Our community - especially those in Hintonburg following the tragic death of Abdirahman Abdi, have been clear with all governments: real action must be taken to address policing and an NDP government will listen to these community leaders. 

6. Kitchissippi is being rapidly re-developed at a much greater density. What will your government’s approach be to ensuring building standards address climate change?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

The Green Party of Ontario’s climate plan is science-based and calls for:

  • the Ontario Building code to be revised so that all new residences and provincial jurisdiction buildings can be environmentally friendly. 
  • the incentivising of retro-fits for currently existing homes and buildings to be more green with up to $15,000.
  • creating hundreds of thousands of new green jobs with the plan to retrofit 40% of existing homes and workplaces to net-zero by 2030 and 100% by 2040. 
  • taking advantage of the scientific advancement that has made renewable.
  • technologies like solar energy far more efficient than when we all learned about them in school.
  • providing net-zero retrofit grants for non-profit housing providers, co-ops and low-income households to lower their energy costs and consumption.

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

Climate action is why I’m running. I have a background in environmental science and two young kids whose future is uncertain if we don’t take bold climate action now. We can’t afford 4 more years of Doug Ford’s environmental destruction.

The Ontario Liberals have a strong plan to reduce our emissions 50% by 2030. The plan is costed and our emissions reductions are modelled to show how our plan will actually reach our ambitious goal.

Buildings are a large contributor to our emissions in Ontario. Part of our plan will be to update the building code to make sure that any new buildings are built to higher efficiency standards and also make sure they are built to high climate resilience standards that plan for the changing climate.

We will also provide 100,000 easy to access grants of up to $3,000 each year for people and businesses to make high-performance energy and climate-resiliency retrofits, including new windows, insulation, heat pumps and flood protection, in addition to providing interest-free loans for deeper retrofits. We’ll also retrofit schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, social housing and other public sector buildings to make them energy efficient and climate resilient.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

The Ontario NDP’s climate plan, our “Green New Democratic Deal” has proposed a world-leading building and home retrofit program, that will help families with the cost of retrofitting their homes and lowering electricity bills. 

As a part of our Green New Democratic Deal, we’ll introduce new, environmentally progressive building standards, and support families to undertake green renovations to make their homes greener and more energy efficient, reducing their carbon footprint, and their energy bills.

We will also bring a conservation-first model to energy planning in Ontario, establishing a single-window of service for energy efficiency and conservation planning, program promotion, delivery and upfront financing.

In addition to addressing climate change in our building standards, our housing plan will also ensure that building standards are in place to make homes more accessible and meets universal design standards, something I have been incredibly proud to work on as the official opposition’s critic for accessibility over the last four years.

7. Municipalities are struggling to address building the infrastructure necessary to accomplish true 15-minute neighbourhoods with safe cycling infrastructure and frequent, affordable, convenient transit. How will your government address ensuring people have alternatives to driving on Kitchissippi’s increasingly congested streets contributing to further climate change?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

We need better researched and more transparent procurement processes for services like public transit, where dependability is paramount. We also need to improve the working conditions of public transit workers, who need better pay, more mental health resources, and better staffing. Let’s make public transit ultimately more affordable for taxpayers and government by electrifying it and making it energy efficient.

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

I support making more space for people instead of cars on our roads, and I believe that supporting active transportation is an important way to reach our climate goals. It’s also how we’ll build a thriving, vibrant and sustainable city here in Ottawa. Our party knows that public transit is the best tool to reduce traffic and get cars off the road, and so continuing to expand the LRT - perhaps the biggest climate action program that the city has ever undertaken – is key to getting more cars off the streets and reducing carbon emissions. The Ontario Liberals will reduce transit fares to $1 and we are committing to funding stage 3 of the LRT plan.  Unlike the PC and NDP plans, our platform has commitments that will make it safer and more affordable to walk and bike. We will spend $100 million annually for municipalities to invest in cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes and bike parking, and we’ll make it more affordable for people to purchase an e-bike by providing a rebate of up to 30% of the cost up to $500.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

As a cyclist myself, I am excited that within our first term in office, an NDP government will require municipalities to have active transportation plans that incorporate the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and vulnerable road users. 

We’ll establish a grant program for municipalities to fund projects within these plans. 

All new residential and non-residential developments will be required to incorporate active transportation into their planning. New multiple-unit dwellings will be required to provide secure bicycle storage as will all new ICI (Industrial, Commercial & Institutional) developments in urban areas. 

In addition, I am proud that we have a transit plan which places an emphasis on long-term investments for our transit infrastructure. We will restore provincial funding for municipal public transit and paratransit systems to 50 per cent of their net operating costs – a funding boost that will immediately improve service in communities across the province. We’ll work with municipalities to improve service, reduce wait times and make municipal transit systems more affordable.

We will also stop signing expensive and wasteful public-private partnership contracts, like our beleaguered LRT so that Ottawa residents can have a public transit system they can trust and rely on. 

8. Parkdale Food Centre is a model nationally for addressing food insecurity stemming from poverty. How will your government help lessen the burden on PFC of helping people struggling with extremely low incomes?

Shelby Bertrand, Green Party of Ontario

The three groups most likely to be food insecure in Ottawa are single mothers (1 in 3 chance), Indigenous people (a 1 in 4 chance) and, simply, people with children. Just having a child in Ottawa puts you at a 1 in 6 chance of having to skip meals or a whole day of food in the name of other expenses. This is unacceptable. 

The Green Party of Ontario is:

  • enthusiastic about phasing in universal basic income with pilot projects targeting struggling groups.
  • in favour of doubling ODSP, Ontario Works, and other social assistance packages.
  • aware that Indigenous people have a 1 in 4 chance of experiencing food insecurity, that food insecurity is an equity problem, and that governments must fight systemic racism.
  • committed to lowering the cost of living by fighting for fair rent and lowering utility bills. 

Katie Gibbs, Ontario Liberal Party

So many Ontarians are struggling to get by. What we need, instead of a new $10 billion dollar highway in the GTA, is real action from our MPP’s starting on Day 1 to help people struggling with extremely low incomes. A Liberal government will make food cheaper by removing the HST on prepared foods under $20, and we will fund it by taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations. We’ll also raise the minimum wage to $16 and bring in a dynamic living wage that accounts for the cost of living. Building 1.5 million new homes, including at least 138,000 deeply affordable units, and bringing in rent control will make sure there is more affordable housing for those with low incomes. We’ll make transit $1 a ride so people can get where they need to go more affordably, and for those with families, we’re going to bring in $10 a day before and after school care. And we’ll help those with disabilities by increasing rates for the Ontario Disability Support Program by 20% and for Ontario Works by 10%, and delivering a $1000 pension top up for seniors who need it most.

I am also a big supporter of growing local (even urban!) food. We tore up our tiny lawn and planted a cherry tree. I will always be looking for creative ways to support increased local food production.

Joel Harden, Ontario New Democratic Party

I’ve spoken a lot in these survey answers about my proudest moments in this job as being your MPP for the past four years, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a very special event that I held back in January, where our community came together and raised over $15,000 for the Parkdale Food Centre and their ‘Cooking for a Cause’ program. 

This program, which started during the pandemic, brings together local food businesses and social service agencies to meet the growing need for food during the pandemic. Through this program, local food businesses like Bread By Us, Thyme and Again and others have been able to stay open during the pandemic while providing good food to our community. 

I’ve said this before: the folks that run this program and the Parkdale Food Centre should be running our province, and an NDP government will take the lead from this type of compassionate care work to empower and uplift members of our community that are struggling. 

We will raise people out of the legislated poverty they are currently subject to by immediately raising ODSP and OW rates by 20%, and we will double ODSP and OW rates in 2023. We will also raise the minimum wage to $20 by 2026 and bring in universal, publicly funded mental health care. 

Since we started this question on the importance of access to good and healthy food, something the folks at Parkdale Food Centre has taught me, I’m also proud that our NDP platform commits to creating a Provincial Food Strategy that puts healthy, locally sourced food onto our tables and supports agriculture jobs in food processing, transportation, biofuels, and retail. 

Posted May 25, 2022