Here's what Ottawa voters say the next mayor should focus on, regardless of who wins
In less than two weeks, Ottawans will elect a new mayor, and a new poll suggests many voters are of the same mind on what that new mayor’s priorities should be.
A Nanos Research poll for CTV News Ottawa asked residents to vote on a scale of 0 to 10 how important they found a list of priorities for the next mayor of Ottawa, regardless of who wins.
Improving transit reliability, fixing roads, and helping residents with the rising cost of living emerged as the main priorities, with approximately three quarters of respondents rating each of those issues as important (8 to 10 on the scale).
Improving OC Transpo reliability ranked the highest, with 75 per cent saying it was important to them. Previous reporting from CTV News Ottawa on polling by Nanos Research found that transit was the top unprompted issue for voters.
Nanos conducted an online representative non-probability survey of 503 residents of Ottawa, 18 years of age or older, between Sept. 23 and Oct. 3. A margin of error is not applicable for this type of poll.
TRANSIT RELIABILITY TOPS THE LIST
The mean vote on the 0 to 10 scale for improving OC Transpo reliability was 7.8/10. One out of every three respondents said it was a 10/10 issue for them. Only 3 per cent said it was not at all important. Downtown residents were most likely to say improving OC Transpo was very important, with 40.5 per cent ranking it 10/10. Women (35.7%) and residents 18 to 34 (38.7%) were also more likely than men (30.9%) and other age groups (30.9%, 35-54 and 31.3%, 55+) to say OC Transpo reliability is very important.
Front-running mayoral candidates Catherine McKenney, Mark Sutcliffe and Bob Chiarelli have all made several pledges related to public transit. McKenney is vowing to increase service on OC Transpo by 20 per cent, freeze fares and make riding transit free for anyone 17 or younger. Mark Sutcliffe is pledging a one-year fare freeze and is vowing a review of transit services to better realign buses to current traffic patterns. Chiarelli said he would undertake a top-to-bottom review of OC Transpo within his first 100 days in office if he’s elected mayor.
Mayoral candidate Param Singh says would establish a "Transit System Review Committee", if elected mayor, which would be composed of experts to review the city’s existing transit issues with the aim of providing practical recommendations to make our transit system safe, and reliable and affordable. He says he's also in favour of reducing fares, especially for low-income pass users.
Mike Maguire says he wants to restore some cancelled OC Transpo routes. He also says he would introduce a commercial commuter rail service between Kanata and Orléans on existing rail. He says he’s spoken with some of the companies that own some of the rail lines, including CN, about this possibility.
COST OF LIVING HIGH PRIORITY AMONG YOUNG VOTERS
Seventy-three per cent of respondents ranked the cost of living as important, with a mean vote of 7.8/10, a tie with fixing OC Transpo. This issue ranked very high among respondents 18 to 34, with 41.3 per cent saying it’s a 10/10 issue for them. Two-fifths of respondents in west Ottawa (40.2%) and just under two-fifths of women (39.4%) also ranked the cost of living 10/10.
Affordability has been a key plank for Sutcliffe, who is pledging to keep property tax increases between 2 and 2.5 per cent. He is also offering a 10 per cent cut on recreation fees for children. McKenney has pledged to keep property taxes capped at 3 per cent. Chiarelli has vowed a one-year freeze on tax increases and is promising to keep city spending frozen at 2022 levels in 2023.
FIXING ROADS IMPORTANT IN THE EAST
Seventy-four per cent of respondents said fixing roads was important, with a mean vote of 7.6/10 on the scale. This issue was most important among respondents living in east Ottawa (32.3%) and respondents 55 and older (31.7%). Downtown residents were less likely to say it was a 10/10 issue (17.9%) while respondents 18 to 34 (21%) and 35 to 54 (21.8%) were relatively matched on the issue.
McKenney has pledged to borrow $250 million through green bonds to build 25 years’ worth of bike lanes and cycling infrastructure in four years. Sutcliffe is promising to put $100 million over four years towards road repair and snow clearing. Chiarelli said he would not sign any new road contracts if elected mayor and would put that money towards road repairs.
Making housing more affordable also ranked high among voters, just behind fixing roads.
Sixty-nine per cent of voters ranked housing affordability as important. Among all respondents, 30.8 per cent ranked it a 10/10 issue. It was one of the leading issues for downtown residents, with 41.7 per cent saying it's very important. Two-fifths of voters 18 to 34 also ranked it as a 10/10 issue.
McKenney’s housing plan includes a significant focus on ending chronic homelessness by building supportive housing for 250 individuals through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative and housing another 250 people through housing allowances.
Sutcliffe has committed to a plan to build 100,000 new homes in Ottawa over 10 years and 1,000 community housing units each year. He says he will use targeted building incentives, zoning changes and city lands to help build affordable housing.
Chiarelli’s housing plan includes a specific pledge to protect R1 zoning; that is, zoning that prohibits larger, multi-unit buildings from being built in neighbourhoods made up largely of single-family homes. He said reaching Ottawa’s intensification targets for growth could be achieved through building on existing city land, and above commercial space. He also said he would fast track applications for attic and basement suites to provide more housing space for people.
Mayoral candidate Brandon Bay’s housing plan includes building 160,000 units by 2023 and allowing construction of duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes city-wide. He says he would also require construction of affordable housing in all major developments and stop building strip malls immediately.
Singh says he would improve the City of Ottawa’s 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan 2020-2030 by recognizing and tailoring solutions that are more responsive and equitable for everyone, if elected mayor. He would also continue prioritizing funding for affordable housing through partnerships with provincial, federal, and other private sector entities.
Nour Kadri says housing is a right, and he would be committed to contribute in a meaningful and responsible ways to eliminate homelessness and establish affordable housing for all residents of Ottawa.
Maguire has promised a housing subsidy tied to the individual and not the unit, so that they can still receive financial aid if they move elsewhere in the city.
BIKE LANES, MORE MONEY FOR POLICE AMONG LOWEST PRIORITIES
Some issues ranked highly as being not at all important; a vote of zero on the 0 to 10 scale.
Among those issues that were deemed not at all important was spending more on policing. The mean vote for spending more on policing was 5.2/10, with 12.7 per cent of all respondents saying it was not at all important, compared to 7.6 per cent saying it was very important (10/10). Respondents 18 to 34 (26.3%) and downtown residents (18.4%) were most likely to vote zero on this issue.
Sutcliffe’s plan includes increasing the Ottawa police budget and building a police station in the ByWard Market. Chiarelli says Ottawa needs to review its policing budget. McKenney says they would focus instead on trying to rebuild trust between the community and the Ottawa Police Service.
Adding bike lanes was the least important among the list of issues, with a mean vote of 4.7/10. City-wide, 15.9 per cent of respondents said it was not at all important and picked 0, compared to 7.7 per cent who said it was a 10/10 issue.
Rural residents were most likely to say more bike lanes was not a priority with 20.5 per cent giving it 0/10 on importance. Men and women were tied at 16 per cent each saying it wasn’t important. Downtown residents were least likely to say it wasn’t at all important (12.2%) and were among the most likely to say it’s very important (11%).
Bike lanes are a principal promise from McKenney. Sutcliffe has said he would “focus on the missing gaps in the cycling network” where lanes end and is vowing a more “balanced” approach between the needs of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
Approximately 6 per cent of eligible voters in Ottawa have already cast ballots in advance polls. There is one more day of advance voting on Friday ahead of Election Day on Oct. 24. CTV News Ottawa previously reported that Nanos Research found 35 per cent of respondents were undecided on whom to elect as mayor.
CTV News at Six will host a mayoral debate on Thursday, Oct. 13. Coverage will begin on CTV News at Five, with extended post-debate coverage on CTVNewsOttawa.ca.