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:

Onward and upward in Capital Ward

December 2014

Four more years — so much to do and so little time. So let's get started.

But first, I want to express my gratitude to all those who placed their faith in me to represent them for a second term as Capital Ward councillor.

To everyone who voted, no matter who you supported, thank you for exercising what is both a right and a privilege fundamental to democracy. Too few citizens — less than 40% in the Ottawa municipal election — take the time vote, and that's a shame.

On the other hand, I was truly amazed by the effort many voters made to ensure they could cast their ballot — advance polls, proxy votes, requests for a drive to the poll. One lady of a certain age, determined to keep her perfect voting record intact, simply wanted an arm to hold on to as she crossed Main Street. I was honoured to offer that arm.

To my two competitors, Scott Blurton and Espoir Manirambona, I commend you for putting yourselves forward, and I thank you for bringing your ideas to the race. We had a respectful competition, as seems to be the norm in Capital Ward. Long may it stay this way.

I am looking forward to working with my newly elected colleagues and to continuing my collaboration with re-elected councillors. Although each of us represents a specific ward, I believe we can accomplish much more and build a far better city if we think of ourselves as a team working in the interests of all Ottawa residents.

Ottawa’s service organizations benefit us all

August 2014

I recently attended the re-opening of Heartwood House (heartwoodhouse.ca) at its new McArthur Ave. location in Overbrook. Heartwood House may be unfamiliar to many residents — the former Rideau St. site was best known as OC Transpo's lost-and-found facility — yet it is home to a remarkable array of valuable service organizations. These small non-profits benefit from the reduced costs and shared amenities that come from being under the same roof.

While touring the facility and meeting volunteers and employees of the groups located there, it struck me that more people need to know about this gem. We all benefit from the work of groups at Heartwood House, whether we step inside or not.

Here is a sample of what you will find there:

A Tale of Two Parks

July 2014

This term of City Council has been somewhat dominated by the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project. Though many residents still understandably resent how it came about, and how little true community consultation took place, it is happening. Meanwhile, planning for the new park in Old Ottawa South is proceeding with actual community consultation.

Lansdowne Park is re-opening in stages over the coming months, with a RedBlacks game (CFL) on July 18 and an Ottawa Fury FC game (North American Soccer League) on July 20. Construction is on schedule for the urban park opening in August, the return of the Ottawa 67's in October, retail stores and offices opening during fall and winter, and residential buildings next spring. The Ottawa Farmers' Market will return next spring.

Here's some additional information in question-and-answer form:

What is there to do at Lansdowne on July 18, besides watch the game?
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) is planning activities for ticketholders. While none of the on-site retailers or restaurants will open until late fall, there will, as always, be lots of activities, food, drink and shopping in Old Ottawa South and the Glebe.

I Walk, I Bike, I Bus, I Drive: In pursuit of better transportation choices

June 2014

"With all your columns about improving walking and cycling, I assumed you were some kind of anti-car radical!"

These were the words of a Capital Ward resident who, upon meeting me for the first time recently, expressed relief that my "agenda" is not so much about forcing or guilting drivers out of cars as it is about ensuring that everyone has some genuine choices. I would like most of us, for most of our trips, to be able to actually choose which mode of transportation

we would like to take, without fear or any tradeoff between safety, convenience and comfort.

My agenda, if that is the right term, is to improve transportation choices in the City of Ottawa, to reach the point where walking, cycling and riding a bus/train (often in combination) would be as viable, convenient and secure as driving. In many cases, maybe even faster, cheaper or less stressful.

I think the City of Ottawa bumper sticker on my car says it nicely: "I bike, I drive." Like many citizens of this town, I do not belong exclusively to one camp, and am not hostile to either.

My guiding principle, as councillor, has been to increase choices for Ottawa residents at large. A few projects have been very ward- or neighbourhood-specific; but really, when it comes to moving around a city, there are no borders. Many people besides Capital Ward residents can make good use of a safer way to cross the Bronson Bridge over the Rideau Canal, an expanded O-Train, or signallized crossings on the National Capital Commission's driveways.