Ottawa Votes 2018

Ottawa Mayoral Candidates' Debate

Peter Honeywell

Advocacy Update

An Ottawa Mayoral Candidates’ debate took place on October 1, 2018, at the Shaw Centre. The event, titled Talk Tourism, was sponsored by the Ottawa Board of Trade, Ottawa Tourism and the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association. The topics to be covered were wide ranging but, generously included specific cultural questions that probed the candidate’s opinions and potential future actions in support of Ottawa’s cultural community.

Eight candidates participated and it was with some disappointment that we learned that candidate Clive Doucet had declined the invitation to attend. Candidates were seated through a random draw and presented their positions in order. Moderators included: Ian Faris, Ottawa Board of Trade, Michael Crockatt, Ottawa Tourism and Steve Ball, Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association.

The candidates’ opening comments set the tone for the evening and most returned to their core message throughout the debate.

Hamid Alakozai wants to encourage new businesses to set up operations in Ottawa. He feels the City should provide incentives to business and provide increased subcontracting. The City needs to lobby other levels of government to provide increased cultural support. He believes that the arts make people happy and would support music schools, festivals and international celebrations.

Incumbent Jim Watson came to the debate armed with statistics and accomplishments including; over 40,000 jobs currently provided in the tourism sector, the planning from 2014 to 2017 resulted in a $40M investment in Ottawa 2017 activities, attracted 11M visitors with a result of $225M to the local economy. He recognizes the need to market Ottawa nationally and internationally that would attract more visitors. The LRT will facilitate future movement and help to make citywide connections. He pledged to continue funding programs like the City’s Momentum Fund, that received $300,000 in 2018, and will continue to provide modest increases to cultural groups each year.

Moises Schachtler provided some of the most radical ideas of the evening. He would reduce light pollution, make panhandling and homelessness illegal, get rid of street parking, provide free public transit and change electoral voting to a rank choice system. He would remove all regulations on Air B&B, remove height limitations on all developments and allow businesses in the Byward Market to operate to 4:00 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. He would work toward expanding the population of Ottawa to the scale of Montreal or Toronto.

Michael Pastien described himself as a former film and theatre artist. He would make sitting on the sidewalks illegal and would move homeless shelters to newly constructed spaces adjacent to highway 417 in the east end near the planned Amazon warehouse. He would close safe injection sites and would increase Air B & B taxes to 6% and give 2% of that toward housing. He would add a monorail and more public art such as the Oscar Peterson sculpture at the NAC, and would hire costumed period actors to re-enact pioneer days. He would support a 100-year plan for the city. He urged the audience to visit his Facebook page (which revealed his disdain for the waste of building of an Ottawa Art Gallery because we have a National Gallery a few blocks away).

Ahmed Bouragba is a social justice advocate and believes the city can reduce taxes and improve services. He believes that investments in tourism and sports would provide social and economic returns. Infrastructure spending should address social justice priorities, and should also invest in hotels. He believes that City Council is run by developers and that this situation needs to change.

Joey Drouin presented a vision of our region that has been discussed many times in the past; an integrated Ottawa/Gatineau that combines transportation, natural and built assets. He believes that one city would help to open up opportunities and allow us to focus our tourism destination systems and outreach to promote a more unified vision of who we are. Among the benefits would be integrated transportation passes to tourism clusters and services that would result in safer and fairer access for everyone.

Bruce McConville is self-employed and runs a local business. He is an advocate for shared long-term growth and looks to the City to accelerate the “housing first” model. He believes there is an opportunity to raise Ottawa’s international reputation. He thinks that the promotion of local arts and culture would help to increase the 1 or 2-day visitor destination stays to longer visits. He would like to see investment in local ward festivals and events and gave Vanier’s vibrant Francophone community as an example of an area of the city to be celebrated.

Bernard Couchman was not scheduled to participate, but arrived to remind the organizers that the debate was taking place on unceded Algonquin territory, and that tourism initiatives must include the involvement of our Indigenous peoples.