Monday, September 27, 2010

Recap of the mayoral debate on the environment

The first ever Ottawa mayoral debate on the environment took place at Saint Paul University on Sunday night, and there was no shortage of... excitement for those in attendance.

Fireworks started right off the bat, when candidate Jane Scharf questioned the fairness of the questions participants were to be asked, and withdrew from the debate. This opened up a spot for candidate Andy Haydon (who hadn't responded in time to be an official member of the debate), but he declined the opportunity--but still joined into the debate, informally and periodically. Candidate Joseph Furtenbacher was also in attendance, but because he hadn't responded in time to become an official candidate (he said he wasn't invited, possibly because he joined the race late) [Ed. note: Mr. Furtenbacher contacted be to explain that he wasn't invited to the debate because invitations were sent out prior to his registration as an official mayoral candidate], he wasn't invited to participate, and simply sat in the seat vacated by Scharf--without participating.

And all that excitement was before the debate had even officially started.

Over the course of the debate, a large number of environmental issues came up, from protecting aquifers and sensitive ecological areas to water management to 'smart growth' and urban planning. Although no question was directly asked about public transit, it did come up periodically, and there was a significant discussion about cycling in Ottawa.

As for public transit, candidates spoke up about their plans. Incumbent Larry O'Brien spoke about his support for the current plan, as did Jim Watson; Mike Maguire and Clive Doucet each briefly mentioned their alternative transit plans; Andy Haydon very briefly mentioned his support for expanding Ottawa's BRT system, and called Ottawa's transit system Canada's best (citing ridership per capita to support his claim); and Robin Lawrance one again expressed his concerns for public safety with regard to the plan to build a tunnel. The only other speaker given an opportunity were César Bello--who didn't discuss transit plans, but did say he'd ensure no more transit strikes--and Charlie Taylor, who didn't speak much to public transit in general (but has in the past expressed grudging support for the city's current transit plan).

As I write this post, hours after the debate, I'm still not sure what to think about what I just witnessed. There were some good points made, but they were rare gems hidden in the personal attacks and ideological statements and slogans that dominated the debate. And, as was pointed out by Taylor, the whole thing was dominated with 'greenwashing', and many of the candidates were definitely speaking to the audience in front of them.

Still, the debate can be seen as nothing but a positive thing for this city. There were a couple hundred people in attendance (it was standing-room only by the time it started), and most of the audience were very interested in what was said. In terms of getting the environment on the radar for the mayoral race, as well, the event was a huge success.

Good news for those of you who missed the debate, but want to watch it: It will be on Rogers 22 in Ottawa this Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 p.m. Tune in, if you can; you won't be sorry.

1 comment:

Dr Cesar said...

Dear Peter, this is my public position about public transit in Ottawa:
1. To institute the Public Transit as an ESSENTIAL SERVICE.
Public Transit must be an essential service in our city. They may reduce their service but they can't shut it down like in cold winter 2009. Declaring the Public Service an essential service would put transit workers on the same footing as police and firefighters, forbidden by law from striking, but beneficiaries of fair arbitrated wage settlements that often are more lucrative than those achieved through collective bargaining.
It was during last year transit strike that I realized I had to run for mayor.

Adult monthly passes are too high. Regular $91.50, Express $114.00, Rural Express $141.75 are not affordable for part time workers and recent graduates.
3- I wish to strongly PROMOTE CYCLING as fun, healthy, safe, economical, and environmentally-friendly transportation and recreation by means of:
a- Promote a more cycling-friendly City Council.
b- Reactivating cycling skills training, especially for children.
c- More education of motorists about safely sharing the road with cyclists.
The solution is in rebuilding our city, and densifying our suburbs into compact, walkable and connected by extensive train systems. “A rational well-used mass transit system is key to our strategy,” we need the train now, not tomorrow.
A Smart growth initiative must identify the relationship between development patterns and quality of life by implementing new policies and practices promoting better housing, transportation, economic development and preservation of environmental quality.
Consecuently, I am in favor to:
a) Promote Incentives for building developers to build to higher environmental standards.
b) A halt to the steady growth of the city's road network,
c) The preservation of our open spaces and to stop urban sprawl.
A new train system provides the best solution for improving mobility, stimulating the economy, reducing dependence on foreign oil, saving lives, reversing global warming, and cleaning up our environment. A high-speed train network will free up huge bottlenecks in our transportation systems.
In the near future, It would have stops in all neighborhoods and central gathering places, as well as employment centers, retail locations, and sports & recreation facilities, within each community.
These trains would be standard quality, light rail and modern streetcar-type trains, and would operate along the streets.
Also, my administration will encourage Bicycles as the most sustainable form of transportation, because are the least expensive to use, are pollution-free, take up the smallest amount of space for riding and parking, and provide a healthy daily exercise for residents.
The transition away from cars can be accomplished by halting the growth of sprawl and roads,
In my vision: walking and riding trains and bicycles are the replacement for cars in our beautiful city.
Together we can make things happen,
Fewer words, more action!
Bello for Mayor (including a video with my vision and commitment)