OTTAWA – Following the precedent established in 2015, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin have jointly announced their priorities for the upcoming federal election.
“Over the last few years, the City of Ottawa and the City of Gatineau have worked together in our efforts to align priorities that impact the Ottawa-Gatineau region as a whole, a first in the history of the two cities,” Mayor Jim Watson released in a statement today (Sept. 24). “It is crucial we continue to foster collaboration and include the Federal government as an important partner in the National Capital’s development and growth.”
As mayors of two cities that make up the National Capital region, it was important they speak with one voice when raising key issues for the next four years.
As members of Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), both mayors also took the opportunity to talk about the leading role that cities play in the country’s economic and social development. Cities cannot fulfill this role without support from other levels of government, including the federal government.
Today (Sept. 24), local candidates and the leaders of the federal parties will receive a letter from each city with a questionnaire covering the priorities outlined below.
“The responses we receive will be published on Mayor Jim Watson’s and the City of Gatineau’s website during the week of Oct. 7, giving citizens an opportunity to consider elected officials’ responses before voting day,” the City of Ottawa Mayor’s Office released in a statement. “The mayors’ priorities for the upcoming federal election relate to the following four themes: active and public transportation, infrastructure, climate change, and housing.”
Active and public transportation
The Cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are experiencing significant growth and have identified active and public transportation as one of their most important priorities. Both cities have undertaken Light Rail Transit projects to ensure the long-term availability of a transportation network that efficiently meets the commuting and travel needs of residents. In recent years, the cities of Gatineau and Ottawa have worked together to better align their transportation plans for the first time in their history.
It is therefore essential that the federal parties pledge to maintain their funding commitment to Ottawa’s Stage 2 LRT project, commit to funding Ottawa’s Stage 3 LRT and provide federal funding for the light rail project in western Gatineau. These city-building projects are not only essential for building a dynamic metropolitan region worthy of the 21st century, but also represent the preferred solution put forward by experts for solving traffic congestion while addressing global warming concerns.
Given that the planning and implementation of such complex public transportation projects require multiple years of work, we also support the FCM’s request that the next federal government establish a permanent public transportation fund.
In addition, we request that the next federal government fund the rehabilitation of the Prince of Wales Bridge into a pedestrian and cycling link. This measure would improve the alignment of the two cities’ active transportation networks.
Across Canada, cities are responsible for 58 per cent of public infrastructure yet receive only eight per cent of overall tax revenue. In its budget 2019, the federal government announced a one-time doubling of the federal gas tax. We hope to see the federal gas tax fund doubled permanently.
Fighting climate change
In recent years, Ottawa and Gatineau have experienced extreme weather events, including floods, tornadoes and torrential rains that affected residents and municipalities at considerable expense. Federal programs currently exist, but more can be done to meet the needs of cities to better adapt to climate change. We hope to see an increase in this funding and the flexibly to allow cities to identify the measures necessary for adapting to climate change.
The housing vacancy rate is at 1.6 per cent in Ottawa and under one per cent in Gatineau, a historic low. The mayors have asked for federal support to ensure that all citizens have access to adequate housing. The federal government must ensure that funding announced in the context of the National Housing Strategy makes its way into the hands of cities.