Women’s World Cup an opportunity to look beyond gender in sports

May 2015

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is coming to Canada, to Ottawa and to Capital Ward this June! I am excited. Very excited. I’ve purchased two passports to all the Ottawa games and I’ll be watching as many as I can get away with (maybe checking a few scores during the slow moments of some meetings) because I love soccer. I love women’s soccer.

In my final year at Queen’s University, when it became painfully obvious that my own competitive days were numbered, a friend recruited me as co-coach of the women’s soccer team. They — we — went on to win the Ontario championship in 1984.

It’s instructive to take that little nostalgic trip back in time because, back in the 1980s, there was no national tournament for women’s soccer. This was as far as you could go, so who knows what our Queen’s squad was capable of that year.

Access to greenspace is not optional

April 2015

With all the attention paid to road maintenance, waste management and other municipal priorities, it's easy to overlook the importance of urban parks and greenspace. And yet they are crucial to maintaining our mental and physical wellbeing, and to strengthening the social fabric of a thriving city.
Studies have shown that encounters with the natural world are beneficial, whether it's a walk in the woods, a few moments sitting in the shade of a large tree, or taking your children to watch ducks dabble in the river.

Time spent enjoying the outdoors leads to measurable decreases in depression and stress among people of all ages. Educators believe it promotes children's intellectual and emotional development, fosters imagination and creativity, and helps them build social relationships. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In dementia patients, spending time in a garden improves cognitive function and reduces agitation and aggressive behaviour. Speaking of gardens, community plots provide not only nutritious produce, but also opportunities for social interaction — two health benefits in one!
In short, parks and other open public spaces offer opportunities to rest, relax, play, get some exercise and make friends, all of which deliver physical and psychological benefits. That's good for everyone, regardless of your economic or social status, level of education, or stage of life.

Considering the many positive effects, it's unfortunate that parks and natural areas are thought of by many as good, but not essential; nice, but perhaps less important than filling potholes — especially if that pothole is on your street and you already have a spacious backyard in which to putter around.

Airport Parkway widening is not a done deal

March 2015

City of Ottawa recently initiated an Environmental Assessment (EA) Study to look at widening the Airport Parkway south of Brookfield Avenue and widening Lester Road from the Airport Parkway to Bank Street. The stated goal is to determine the most appropriate means to accommodate and manage increasing transportation requirements related to growth in the communities south of Hunt Club Rd.

Not surprisingly, many local residents and some of my colleagues on City Council are opposed to this idea, and I share their concerns. At a time when the City espouses the benefits of Complete Streets and expansion of public transit, and when funding for a new footbridge over the Rideau Canal remains elusive, why would we even consider spending many millions of dollars on widening existing roads, least of all to entice drivers towards a known bottleneck?

Why would we risk seriously undermining major investments in public transit by making it easier for even more private vehicles to access the already-congested centre of the city?

Why not, as many have already suggested, first extend the O-Train southward as planned, then wait a few years to see if road widening is really needed? What's the rush?

What are your priorities for the City budget?

February 2015

Every year, in advance of the City’s budget-setting and approval process, I solicit input from Capital Ward residents about what they would like to see changed (or kept) in the upcoming budget. The Mayor does the same on a citywide basis. In an election year, this formal exercise starts later than usual, but with all the debates, questionnaires and doorstep conversations, an election campaign is a fairly comprehensive budget consultation exercise in itself. So I feel I have a pretty good sense of what people are thinking and feeling.

However, what I hear during an election tends to be very general: More funding for transit, hold the line on wages, support affordable housing, stop widening roads, etc. This is helpful as broad guidance, providing a general sense of your priorities, but really useful budget direction needs to be more specific.

For example, what programs or specific projects do you feel should be maintained or boosted, and by how much? Why are they important? Which programs should be decreased or eliminated, and why? Are they a luxury or counter-productive? I want to hear your arguments for and against budget items because I will have to weigh them against the arguments I hear from others. Ultimately, I must present a credible argument to Council in defence of any proposed cuts or increases.

New year, new roles, new challenges

January 2015

Entering my second term in office, I felt it was time to step up in a leadership role, as chair of one of the City of Ottawa's standing committees or boards. With my background, ongoing interests and passion for a healthier society on a healthier planet, it seemed natural to chair the Environment Committee — and evidently the mayor and my colleagues agreed.

Known to be "green," and proudly so — even if I dropped any political party affiliation in 2008 — I took office in 2010 with the desire to demonstrate what I knew to be true: I do not hold any fixed ideology, I make decisions based on evidence, and I have found that the best solutions to most challenges do not pit what is ecologically necessary against what is good for people and good for a healthy economy. Rather, I believe — because I have seen it — that the city of the future is one where renewal and respect for all people, species and natural systems gradually supplant their exploitation and degradation.

As chair of the Environment Committee, I have the opportunity to put this philosophy into practice. Can I remake the city, stop global climate change or get everyone onto a bicycle? No, and nor should I try. But I can do more than just provide competent management of the big files coming to the committee this term, including: