Who will I vote for?

Rideau-Vanier Ward candidates give answers

IMAGE posed five questions to candidates seeking election as Councillor for Ward 12—Rideau Vanier. Candidates could respond to each question in the language of their choice. Three candidates responded; Mathieu Fleury answered two questions in French. (Since the fourth candidate on the City’s list, Salar Changiz, did not provide contact information, we could not send him our questions.)

Those who are working to be our Councillor for the next term at City Hall are:

Mathieu Fleury
Age: 33
Occupation: Ward 12 Councillor
Place of residence: Ottawa (just outside Ward 12)
Languages spoken: French and English
Thierry Ian Harris:
Age: 38
Occupation: Business Owner/Stakeholder Relations at Cartouche Média (a short film and documentary production company founded with my wife)
Residence: Lowertown (St. Andrew Street)
Languages spoken: French, English, Italian

Matt Lowe
Age: 50
Occupation: Logistics Director, small business owner
Place of residence: Vanier, near the proposed Salvation Army shelter
Languages spoken: English, working knowledge of German, learning French

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you support our current mayor’s 2% municipal tax increase? Why or why not?

 

Matt Lowe:

NO to the 2%. We give enough here. We will also have 300 to 360,000 between now and December from the hotel tax alone. Leave us alone Watson!

 

Thierry Harris:

Ottawa already pays some of the highest taxes per capita in the country. Which begs the question, how efficient are we really at managing this money considering we are struggling with providing even basic services, like bylaw enforcement.

However, constraining ourselves to an arbitrary 2% cap has often been the excuse to prevent spending on important items. Many road projects were left unfinished. In terms of traffic calming, dozens of intersections are still waiting for improvements. We only have the money to do a few each year.

Public transit has also taken a hit. We increased fares to make up for the lack of money and unsurprisingly it resulted in falling ridership. Statistics by the Federation of Citizens’ Associations FCA, (an organization of which I am a former board member) show that transit ridership went down from 103.5 million rides in 2011 to 96.5 million in 2017. I also see a correlation between the tax cap and the general deterioration of OC Transpo bus service. These problems are not solely due to the tax cap, but it’s made a big impact. We are also spending less per person on city social services today than we were in 2012 (from $222 in 2012 down to around $200). I believe we need to re-examine if this approach is the best way to deliver value for taxpayers.

I would support an increase, up to 2.5 percent. I know some would disagree and I understand. But, before we raise taxes, we should do a full review, in an open and transparent way, on how we spend taxpayer money.

The bottom line is, if a tax increase results in streets that are safe, sidewalks and roads that are accessible, and bylaws that are being enforced, I think people will accept that.

Regardless, we should be looking at putting in place better mechanisms to alleviate the impact of higher property taxes on our pocketbooks. For example, I would expand the Low-Income Seniors and Disabled Persons Tax Deferral Program which allows people to defer paying taxes until they sell their homes. I would also want to see us focus on exploring innovative sources of revenues for the city, beyond taxes.

Over the past eight years, our current councillor voted in favour of every City budget, maintaining the cap. His stance has generally been timid when it comes to fighting for our money. One example is the 10 million dollar surplus “surprise” last year, of which not one penny was spent in our ward. I would fight much harder for tax dollars to be spent in Ward 12. Coming from a business background, I’ve negotiated my fair share of deals which would be an asset on council. I would certainly be a more vocal advocate and would not hesitate to challenge the mayor when it comes to our money.

 

Mathieu Fleury:

Residents expect their property taxes to be predictable. Council needs to set a percentage that is predictable for residents. To ensure our city is affordable, we need to leverage innovation to better utilize the $3.4B budget to offer equal or better services to residents. We must also prioritize our infrastructure investments. The current 2% could work, but I am not opposed to a small increase that is dedicated to special projects such as meeting key infrastructure needs.

 

 

How would you address the “bunkhouse” issue? (Until recently, zoning limited the number of apartments in one building but allowed an unlimited number of bedrooms in each apartment.)

Thierry Harris:

First, the city should put in place a landlord licensing strategy. This is something that was introduced years ago in the UK and it’s been successful. Landlord licensing would provide many benefits, but, in the case of bunkhouses, we could force landlords to put in place a maintenance plan (for trash management, noise, cleanliness, etc.) and stricter standards. These standards could include a limit on the number of rooms allowed and a mandatory minimum amount of shared living space. There would be strict limits as to the number of licenses given out, regular inspections and steep penalties for infractions (such as heavy fines and a loss of the license for repeat offenders). As it stands now, bunkhouse landlords sometimes get away with skirting the rules. Licensing would also help protect tenants from negligent landlords.

In concert with this approach we must also tackle the underlying need these bunkhouses serve. There is currently a severe shortage of affordable housing for students. The enrolment at uOttawa nearly doubled in the past 10 years and this has put a strain on our community. The university must assume a certain responsibility for providing this essential need. I believe more money could be invested in developing quality, affordable student accommodations. Decentralizing these accommodations across the city and the Gatineau area, coupled with providing incentives such as free public transportation to help offset costs might be an effective strategy. At the same time, it’s important to retain the vibrant diversity of Sandy Hill, to which students contribute greatly.

I will add that not all bunkhouses create problems. But there are too many dysfunctional bunkhouses affecting the cohesion of the neighbourhood and quality of life of residents. Not enough has been done to tackle this problem over the years and Sandy Hill residents are exhausted. In my view, that was a failure on both the City and councillor’s part. If elected I would see my role as much more proactive. It’s time for a new approach.

 

Mathieu Fleury:

The good news is the end of bunkhouses has happened with the passing of the first phase of the R4 zoning review, limiting the number of bedrooms per unit to a maximum of four with a complete set of strategies including requiring all new buildings to manage garbage within the main building. In, mid-2017, we put in place the ultimate tool to stop bunkhouses by passing an interim control bylaw (ICB). The ICB is now extended for a second year to ensure all components of the R4 issues are completely resolved as part of the phase II review. We have very poor examples of the bunkhouse situation due to investors maximizing the legal envelope of a building and meeting the minimum requirements for spaces internal to the building. Most of this has been driven by those who target student renters. Our goal, led by the Town and Gown committee (which I chair), is to protect the character of Sandy Hill and improve the quality of life for families, seniors and young adults. We have worked diligently to ensure proper regulations are in place to align with this objective. I am proud of the result of the work we have done since 2010. Those efforts include, removal of the right of conversions, the Infill I and Infill II review, the Uptown Rideau CDP, the two new Heritage Conservation Districts (now seven areas in Sandy Hill), the site plan review process now applying to all new buildings in our community, and the newly completed phase I of the R4 zoning review. Zoning regulations can be complicated and can be painful if not appropriate. The City, with my leadership, has dedicated over the last eight years, eight area-specific zoning reviews to ensure proper zoning regulations We will continue to ensure proper implementation of zoning regulations by the City by working with the community to ensure protection of our heritage and continuing to be responsive and adapt to evolving development pressures, by supporting diverse, affordable and desirable developments when it’s appropriate.

 

Matt Lowe:

The bunk house is a matter of special bylaw development. It is developers trying to skirt regulations for some extra cash at the community’s expense. I am a NO to bunkhouses.

 

 

La gestion des déchets présente un problème dans notre quartier. Quelles mesures proposeriez-vous pour mieux gérer la situation? 

 

Mathieu Fleury:

La gestion des déchets est un réel problème dans plusieurs milieux urbains, surtout lorsque le bâtiment ne tient pas compte des mesures de design responsable. Dans la Côte-de-Sable, le problème prend racine sous deux volets. La première étant la responsabilité des propriétaires d’offrir des bacs et des espaces appropriés pour la gestion des déchets et surtout d’être présent quotidiennement pour gérer les enjeux de propreté et la gestion des débris incluant l’entretien régulier de la propriété. Le deuxième élément sont les règlements municipaux et les renforcements de ceux-ci. Nous avons sur ce point mis en place un projet pilote dans la Côte-de-Sable afin d’améliorer la qualité de vie pour tous les résidents. Ce projet comprend une modification à la réglementation municipale afin de s’assurer que tous les bacs (sauf un bac vert par propriété) soient invisibles de la rue. L’objectif était d’augmenter la responsabilisation de chacun ainsi que d’amener des changements réels pour notre communauté. La ville d’Ottawa est à faire des suivis spécifiques pour chaque plainte en appliquant la nouvelle réglementation afin d’aboutir à une résolution. Nous avons aussi mise en place un groupe tactique à la ville afin de gérer les enjeux de rats, y compris un meilleur service de prises de plaintes via le 311. Nous allons continuer à nous assurer que ce projet soit un réel succès et un exemple pour les autres communautés d’Ottawa. La ville se doit d’utiliser tous les outils possibles afin de protéger la qualité de vie du quartier et ce, spécifiquement avec la gestion des ordures. Nous voulons également poursuivre nos initiatives, sous la bannière du comité mixte Université et ville (Town and Gown). D’ordre général, pour la ville, nous devons réduire le montant d’ordures qui se rend au dépotoir. Avant de développer un plan complet, il faut s’assurer d’obtenir le pouvoir ultime de la province de l’Ontario et de fournir à la ville le contrôle sur tous les déchets y compris toutes les cibles pour le recyclage et le compostage. La ville doit élaborer une stratégie d’avenir pour la gestion des ordures. Plusieurs grandes villes à travers le monde ainsi qu’au Canada poursuivent le progrès en maximisant l’utilisation de technologies modernes, et il n’y a aucune raison pour laquelle notre ville ne puisse faire de même.

 

Garbage is a problem in our neighbourhood. What would you propose to better manage the situation?

 

Matt Lowe:

We need a better recycle system like Gatineau’s multi-purpose one-bin solution.

Sorry guys but I do not support weekly pick ups. As citizens of a community we need to manage our individual trash habits better.

 

Thierry Harris:

I support Clive Doucet’s plan for weekly garbage pick-up for the summer months. We also need a city-wide campaign to encourage residents to recycle and use green bins to keep trash out of landfills. We must take a hands-on approach to educate and engage people. We should have a program geared towards first-time home owners, for example. I would also work to put in place incentives, such a reward system, for frequent recyclers. We also need to significantly increase the amount of public recycling bins and green bins and work with property owners to help reduce waste. Landlord licensing could be used as a tool to monitor property waste. On top on that, we really need better statistics. We should be tracking and measuring our impact now so we can start working towards long-term sustainability. In the future, I see us moving towards a pay-as-you-throw-away system. It shouldn’t be free to pollute. Ottawa is currently trailing other municipalities when it comes to the environment. We need a change in mentality. Being green should be a way of life for the Nation’s Capital.

 

When considering redevelopment proposals in Sandy Hill, what place do you think heritage considerations should have in the approval process?

 

Matt Lowe:

Heritage places should be protected and any improvements or changes to the property, of course, need to be approved.

I think we should look at how we handle the current Heritage conservation programs for improvements to inspections and standards.

 

Thierry Harris:

Our community is facing enormous pressures. The plethora of spot zonings, unimaginative developments and the shameful neglect of the historic character of our neighbourhood has left us in a challenging position. It’s more important than ever to have a capable, community-focused councillor in charge. I fought many battles surrounding heritage and development over the years, both during my time as VP of the Lowertown Community Association and in my personal life. Some might recall I had my own battles with development in 2014. These experiences helped shape my policies. That is not to say I am anti-development. I support growth, but I favour a more human-scale and sustainable approach.

Sandy Hill is one of the most beautiful and historically significant neighbourhoods in Canada. Heritage properties are part of what makes it a special place. Initiatives like Prime Ministers’ Row, Heritage Walks and Open Doors Ottawa give us a glimpse into Sandy Hill’s glorious past and I believe it’s important to preserve it for future generations.

It’s not just a matter of voting “yes” or “no” on a certain building proposal; it’s about doing what it takes, before it even gets to the planning committee, to ensure we are protecting our heritage. For every development proposal, we should ask ourselves: Does it fit in with the heritage character of the community? Does it negatively impact adjacent properties? Has the developer consulted with the community before the application was filed? Was any of the feedback taken into consideration? What added-value does this development bring our community?

In the face of certain, more predatory developers, we need to be proactive. For example, I would explore financial avenues such as grants and donations from private foundations to help restore our heritage properties.

The City and planning department are thinking in very short-sighted four-year terms. We need to start thinking in 100-year terms. We have a big opportunity—preserving the heritage of our Nation’s Capital.

 

Quand on considère des propositions de redéveloppement dans la Côte-de-Sable, quelle place pensez-vous qu’on devrait accorder aux critères liés au patrimoine lors du processus d’approbation?

Mathieu Fleury:

Ceci est une priorité fondamentale dans le contexte d’une révision de zonage. Le patrimoine bâti est une priorité pour plusieurs communautés matures d’Ottawa. La Côte-de-Sable possède plusieurs dizaines de propriétés qui sont individuellement protégées afin de s’assurer de leur entretien et bien évidemment de leur maintien puisqu’elles contribuent à l’importante histoire de notre communauté. La ville vient de compléter la mise en œuvre de deux districts de conservation du patrimoine pour la Côte-de-Sable (1- de l’avenue Russell au chemin Range entre l’avenue Laurier et la rue Osgoode; 2- de la rue Besserer à l’avenue Daly, entre la rue Charlotte et à l’est de la rue Wurtemburg). Dans notre quartier nous avons maintenant sept districts qui ont comme objectif de protéger le caractère patrimonial de la Côte-de-Sable. On ressent l’énergie en faveur de la protection du patrimoine grâce à l’initiative de l’Allée des premiers ministres et on reconnaît l’importance de ne pas laisser détériorer les bâtiments qui ont un niveau de valeur patrimoniale. Nous allons continuer à nous assurer que l’Université d’Ottawa agit de façon prudente et qu’elle respecte l’histoire de notre communauté à l’égard de ses propriétés sur le campus. Et nous allons nous assurer que les ambassades, elles aussi, entretiennent bien leur bâtiment afin d’assurer leur préservation. Finalement, nous avons mis en place les standards appropriés pour protéger le caractère du quartier (exemple, briques rouges) afin que notre quartier ainsi que toutes les zones matures de la ville aient une révision globale à travers le rapport sur l’aménagement intercalaire. La ville s’assure que l’analyse du caractère d’une rue présentée par le demandeur soit exacte. Nous allons continuer de nous assurer que la ville d’Ottawa soit proactive en identifiant les propriétés d’intérêt patrimonial.

 

 

Some have suggested that all rental properties should be licensed. What is your position on this issue?

Thierry Harris:

I fully support it. On one hand, it’s a key solution, specific to the bunkhouse problem. On the other, it helps protect all low- and moderate-income people from negligent landlords. The critical point will be getting it passed at council. The power and influence of the development industry is mighty in this town. But this is where my experience will come into play. I can hold my own with both community-minded activists and business-oriented developers.

There really is a lot at stake for this election—the choices we make will impact our future for a long time to come. And I hope voters can see I have the passion to fight for our community and deliver results.

 

Mathieu Fleury:

I agree; the goal of the license would be to have a direct contact with building owners who rent units (applied to owners who do not live on the property) to ensure the license requirements include tighter restrictions regarding property standards, property maintenance and waste management. It should also ensure requirements such as a waste management plan, a yearly walkthrough the property, and no outstanding Notice of Violation prior to renewal of the license. These measures would ensure better-quality accommodations for renters and clearer, tighter compliance resolution for violations.

 

Matt Lowe:

Oh yes, I do think they should. We were talking about this before. If a restaurant has to be inspected then housing should be inspected and licensed the same. Each apartment should have an up-to-date inspection sticker to show they are compliant with bylaw and health standards of living. This will help reduce the amount of slum lords around Vanier and the rest of the wards in Ottawa. (We had dead rats in the walls this summer and almost no action.)