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Roads, wind turbines, and City Hall arrogance: themes at North Gower all-candidates’ meeting

September 21, 2022

Planning staff and others at the City of Ottawa may have sensed their ears burning Monday evening.

That’s because participants at an all-candidates meeting in North Gower held September 19 complained bitterly about the lack of real “engagement” or “consultation” from staff regarding major initiatives, whether it the new Official Plan, individual zoning amendment cases, or huge expensive initiatives like the $57B Energy Evolution plan.

The meeting, sponsored by the North Gower Community Association, was attended by candidates David Brown, Leigh-Andrea Brunet and Kevin Setia. Candidate Patty Searl was ill and unable to attend, and Michael Nowack was working, he told the organizers.

Comments were made about how hard it was to get information about city projects and plans, and to feel like comments were being taken seriously, residents said.

Staff put out their reports with their decisions on what actions will be taken, said one North Gower resident. By the time the process gets to “engagement,” it feels like the decisions have already been made, she said.

Mentioned was the city’s “engagement” on garbage collection, the Official Plan, and other policies in development.

City doesn’t “get” rural issues

Citizens spoke about some of the issues being reported in media about what’s important in the 2022 municipal election campaign, and said that the urban-rural divide was clear. The city quite simply doesn’t “get” rural issues.

Transit is a key topic now, as the city is pushing for better use of the multi-billion-dollar transit system and LRT. But Ottawa’s transit system is out of reach for rural residents, some said.

“I’d love to take transit,” said one resident. “But where do I get it? Where do I drive to from North Gower to get a bus or the LRT or whatever? And, I live on a farm and drive a truck—will there be a parking space I can fit into when I get there?”

Leigh-Andrea Brunet said that the mega-warehouse site, which was the subject of a citizen appeal, would have been a good place for a park and ride, where buses could pick up residents needing to go into the city. David Brown commented that work would have to be done on assessing the cost of rural bus routes but that the City-owned client services centre would be a good location for passenger pickup in North Gower.

Comments were made about one mayoral candidate’s proposal to spend $250 million on bike lanes while in rural areas, roads are literally falling apart.

Concern was expressed by several residents over the tone of the current Council, and how there seemed to be “gangs” of councillors as one person put it.

Kevin Setia said his goal would be to work collaboratively with all other councillors.

NO to expensive, unreliable wind turbines

As the questions asked covered various City initiatives and programs promoted by the current Council, the Energy Evolution plan came up repeatedly, particularly the part that calls for powering the city with wind and solar and would require more than 700 industrial-scale wind turbines, to be installed in Ottawa’s rural areas.

Residents recalled the Green Energy Act era in Ontario, which resulted in a loss of more than $30 billion to ratepayers and taxpayers because of expensive, above-market contracts, and asked why Ottawa hasn’t learned from that.

Every candidate agreed that wind power was expensive and unreliable and not appropriate for Ottawa.

In conclusion, all three said they pledged to demand a review of the Energy Evolution plan if elected.

Election day is October 24, 2022 with advance polls in Ottawa available after September 24.

Further all-candidates meetings include Richmond, October 5; Manotick Village Community Association September 28th 7 PM at the Community Centre/arena; West Carleton-March the OFA  will host a meeting Oct. 5 at the Kinburn Community Centre 7 PM; and the Huntley Community Association (HCA) will host an all-candidates debate for Ward 5 council candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 7 PM at the Carp Agricultural Hall.

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