Over the last two months, the Advocacy Working Group of Bike Ottawa put together a survey among all candidates for councillor and mayor for the 2018 elections to see where they are standing on traffic safety and particularly cycling. They were asked questions about connectivity, budgeting and if they actually cycle themselves.
There is a lot of good news. The vast majority of the candidates cycle and believe we need more connections to parks and facilities, stores etc. They also believe that winter ploughing of pathways for pedestrians and cyclists would promote active transportation and many think we should ask the province for increased funding now cap and trade funding is scrapped by Doug Ford. Cap and Trade Funding was one of the funds the city could use to improve walking and cycling connectivity.
Bike Ottawa has put the answers of the candidates on line, both summarized in pie charts as well as the individual answers to each question in a spreadsheet. About 2/3 of the 112 candidates answered the poll.
I live in Ward 9 and decided to take a closer look to what the candidates stand for on active transportation issues. One source is the website of each candidate. Generally, there is not much on the websites. There is a tendency to complain what is wrong, but I don’t see many well thought out ideas with possible solutions with a budget to execute it.
We need more X, or we should spend less on Y doesn’t cut it for me. A website in my opinion is ideal to share ideas and how you are going to accomplish it. But there is so little on some websites. Candidates walk into the trap of complaining about what is wrong without having solid solutions on how to improve on it.
If you want to change, cut, expand, ideally you write something like:
“I am going to vote for xyz amount more for policing the Police ask for. As I am against tax increases, I am going to find money by cutting $20 million by not widening ABC Avenue”
“I am against speeding cameras at schools, because it is a tax grab. Instead, I will reconfigure the street in front of a school at a cost of 800,000 dollars per school. I will find this money by cutting back $9.800,000 on health care services”
As long as you just throw out slogans, I am not going to take you seriously.
There are five candidates in our ward. Warren Arshinoff is mostly a mystery, I cannot find any plan on his website and he is not in the Bike Ottawa spreadsheet. So basically, I have no idea who he is and what he wants.
Luigi is only 30 years old and does have concerns about road safety:
Quote from Bike Ottawa website
To reduce speeding and to beautify our ward’s streets, I would spend more than the 70 percent of the allotted budget of $40,000 to add more pedestrian crosswalks near community centres, speed cameras that will capture the speed of drivers and issue speeding tickets accordingly when they become available and circular planters in the middle of the streets, which look very similar to roundabouts with flowers and vegetation. This would deter speeders with large eye-level obstacles that have been used in other cities around the world for the last century. The speed boards and flexible speed bollards have done little to deter the issues that residents have been complaining about over the last two terms and it is time to use deterrents as a measure to reduce speeding. Traffic congestion (Merivale, West Hunt Club, Greenbank, Fallowfield and Woodroffe) is still a large issue for this ward, there is much to done that has yet to addressed in the last 8 years, such as expanding the LRT to Barrhaven and following up on the Merivale Density study that has yet to results in tangible action.
What does Luigi hear at the door?
In the Knoxdale-Merivale ward, the biggest transportation concern is speeding on small community roads, potholes and degrading road quality and traffic on the major arteries such as Merivale, Prince of Wales, Woodroffe, West Hunt Club, Greenbank and Fallowfield.
What does Luigi think is the one thing our ward needs?
In the Knoxdale-Merivale ward, Merivale road, Prince of Wales road, West Hunt Club Road, Greenbank road, Fallowfield Road and Woodroffe road are major arteries in the city of ottawa and there is a lack of safety for bicyclists with major traffic jams during peak hours. You will see many bicyclist [sec] be shoulder to shoulder with car on these roads and they deserve some extra room and better quality road surfaces to bike all year round.
Luigi believes however, that cyclists should pay for their own bike infrastructure if they aren’t happy. On top of that Luigi knows that motorists complain that cyclists take up most of the room on roads. What Luigi clearly doesn’t know is how roads are financed. Through property taxes, cyclists (who by the way are often also motorists and OC Transpo users) do pay already for road infrastructure. But that is for another day.
Proud of his kids, Peter spent an entire page on his children, but nothing on the concerns of our ward and how to address them. He does have a big black dog though. Peter’s “primary focus on running for city councillor, is ensuring our tax dollars go towards things that genuinely help our diverse family of ward 9!” It is not specified which ‘things’ though…
At the Bike Ottawa survey, Peter indicates he doesn’t believe that ploughing of paths for walking and cycling in winter helps improve active transportation. He is not the only one though, but 75% of the candidates think it is a good idea.
What does Peter hear at the door?
Peter hears demand for low cost transit fares and faster transit.
However, he puts a question mark as an answer to the question of Bike Ottawa what the one thing is our ward needs to improve cycling and walking. Peter is also a minority in thinking that current levels of funding to walking and cycling should be maintained.
Peter is also not willing to ask for more funding at the province, is no fan of lowering speed limits to 30 kph and Peter is adamantly against automatic cameras catching speeding drivers in community zones and schools. He is definitely an outlier here.
James plays the fear card and explains that the Ford Pinto was a poor car and Ford “reduced human life to a dollar value by not fixing the problem to save money”. James also spends some screen real estate on skyrocketing debt. I don’t see how he is going to cut debt though. But I do like his idea (similar to Doucet’s) to figure out existing rail for commuter transportation. This is very doable apparently, but it will need a lot of investment and more city debt. Unless you privatize it, but James doesn’t mention that.
On the other hand, James is worried about “building non-critical pedestrian bridges and installing items like skylights in sport centres”. He does support though increased funding for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in the Bike Ottawa survey. He also likes to “implement park and bike to encourage people who live too far to bike to also participate.”
What does James hear at the door?
Council voted to not remove the snow from specific streets until the snow reaches 7cm’s and also to not remove the snowbanks.
The one thing that council should do in James’ opinion for active transportation in the ward is “separate cycling and walking paths”.
I can’t really follow James trains of thought. He is very concerned about debt, but doesn’t come with solutions. James does encourage expansion of the rail services on existing rail, but public transport requires a lot of city money. He doesn’t believe in non-critical pedestrian bridges but ticks all the right boxes at Bike Ottawa’s survey. So where does James really stand and what are his solutions? I don’t know.
Keith is the incumbent. In the second term, he was also the chair of the Transportation Committee overseeing a budget of more than 300 million dollars. Keith also ticks off all the right boxes for me in the Bike Ottawa survey.
What does Keith hear at the door?
The biggest issues I hear about are traffic and speeding.
Does Keith think the city’s active transportation goals are achievable?
He thinks the city should and could do better:
I believe that the City should and can do more to increase active transportation. Having said that one must keep in mind the climate and geography of Ottawa. Ottawa is a large and climate-challenged city. All the various modes of transportation serve a purpose depending on what a traveller’s needs are on any given day. As I often say at Transportation Committee, as decision makers we must balance the needs and concerns of all users because on a particular day a resident of Ottawa may be a walker, driver, cyclist and transit user.
Keith adds the following to the Bike Ottawa survey:
One caution I would like to raise with regard to active transportation and road safety: With existing road design and geometry sometimes initiatives such as the reduction of speed limits do not necessarily work as planned. This is why programs such as the ward-specific traffic calming budgets are important. It is also why the Transportation Committee asked staff to report back next year on options going forward for the City with regard to Vision Zero principles. It is also why it was so important for the City to adopt a Complete Streets policy for the building of new streets and the reconstruction of existing streets when possible.
So let’s have a quick summary for the elections
We are dealing with four new candidates and an incumbent. None of the new candidates have convinced me to vote for them, although I can see potential in the future for Luigi.
Warren Arshinoff has no platform and didn’t answer the Bike Ottawa survey. I don’t know what he wants. So for me Warren is out.
Luigi Mangone has clearly given a lot of thought to a large number of issues, including seniors and homeless issues but has to learn a lot. The fact that he thinks that cyclists and pedestrians should pay for their own infrastructure shows his inexperience. Cyclists actually do pay through property taxes and if they rent, obviously their share is baked in the rental fee on which the property owner pays taxes to the city. And how would he solve the problem for people who drive but also cycle, do they get 50% discount on road building cost? While Luigi shows potential, for now he is out for me.
Peter Weber is very proud of his children and wants the entire ward to be his family. However, he is against plowing pathways, against lowering speeds in residential neighbourhoods to 30 kph, against cameras to control speed in school zones and against asking for more active transportation funding from the province. Peter is very much against everything but his family and his dog. His website doesn’t tell us anything. So for me Peter is out.
James Dean spends a large part of his website ranting against city debt and is angry about the snow clearing levels from 5 cm to 7 cm. He also has an issue with his Ford Pinto apparently. He does tick all the right boxes on Bike Ottawa and proposes more park & bike, which could indeed be more promoted. It is one thing to rant, but then you also have to come up with solutions on how to lower debt without cutting drastically in city services. While James has some good points, he definitely has to sharpen his pencil. So for me James is out.
Keith Egli is the incumbent and knows better how the city works. Keith’s website shows a number of accomplishments (that is obviously an advantage for an incumbent) but is also quite thin on his plan for the next few years. Keith ticks off all the right boxes in Bike Ottawa’s survey and adds that the city should do and can do more for active transportation. I find that a very important point. Keith also brings up the concept of Vison Zero and what the Dutch sometimes call a ‘modalist’: every person uses different modes of transportation depending on how where you need to go and what you want to do. Many of us use different modes of transportation: a plane to Vancouver, a car to Sudbury, a train to Kingston perhaps, a bus to work, a bike to the gym and a walk to the mailbox, to the bus stop or to work. This shows that Keith thinks nuanced about transportation. This is important for me.
I am sure all candidates mean well, and some lean more towards an NDP style platform while others lean clearly towards a Doug Ford type ‘no platform’ platform. But for now, I think Keith is still the best candidate for me for my transportation interests.
Some further reading
- Bike Ottawa survey: https://bikeottawa.ca/ Totals and individual responses (No answers from Arshinoff)
- There is a CBC page with more Q & A here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/knoxdale-merivale-municipal-election-ottawa-2018-1.4791975 (No answers from Weber)
- CTV Poll: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ottawa-votes/councillor-candidates-in-knoxdale-merivale-1.4100782 (No answers from Weber and Arshinoff)
- You can read back a CBC tweet stream on the debate in Ward 9 here. It gives a bit more insight in what candidates like to do: CBC Kate Porter: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/knoxdale-merivale-debate-live-blog-1.4844632
- See which candidates support bird friendly design guide lines in Ottawa: https://safewings.ca/ottawa-2018-municipal-elections-which-candidates-support-bird-friendly-design-guidelines/
- Ecology Ottawa surveyed councillors too (No answers from Arshinoff): https://ecologyottawa.ca/2018/06/25/simplified-survey-answers/#Ward9
As per October 10, I couldn’t find anything on the Ottawa Citizen website on our ward election. (Update: an Ottawa Citizen article appeared -can you believe it- on the day I posted this blog: https://www.google.ca/amp/s/ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-votes-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-candidates-in-knoxville-merivale/amp )