Transit, safety big issues in Alta Vista ward

Signs for City Council candidates in Alta Vista ward.
Signs for City Council candidates in Alta Vista ward.

Alta Vista ward residents seem more worried about the journey than the destination in the municipal election. Transit is one of the biggest issues for residents, and whether it’s the LRT project, bus congestion, or the long-discussed Alta Vista Transportation Corridor, people are talking about it.

But while there’s agreement about the problem, there isn’t consensus about the solution. John Brennan, president of the Canterbury Community Association, thinks the expansion of the LRT to Hurdman station near Alta Vista is the solution. “Buses are a poor form of mass transit,” he said. Ruairí Hand, who recently moved to Ottawa from Ireland, disagreed and said that more “stream-lined bus routes” and bike lanes would help solve traffic problems in the area without costing a lot of money.

The candidates for city council in Alta Vista ward recognize the frustration that residents have with traffic congestion issues and upcoming changes to routes due to the construction of the LRT. In a survey posted on the Ottawa Citizen’s website, seven out of nine candidates listed transportation and transit infrastructure as one of their top two issues.

This race has gotten very crowded since incumbent Coun. Peter Hume announced his retirement in August after 23 years. Alta Vista ward has nine candidates, the third highest out of 23 wards in the city. Alta Vista candidates shared their views on transit in a debate broadcast on Rogers TV on Oct. 8.

Jean Cloutier, who is president of the Canterbury Community Association and has been endorsed by Coun. Hume, said that the transition to the LRT system must keep “residents involved every step of the way.”

Candidate Perry Marleau was most concerned about residents of the ward having to transfer to the LRT at Hurdman station to get downtown. While direct bus routes to downtown from Alta Vista are currently available, once the LRT is in operation residents will have to bus to Hurdman Station and then transfer to the LRT to get to the city core. Marleau works at the Department of Foreign Affairs and after three failed election attempts hopes that 2014 is the winning election year.

“I want to bring Alta Vista stronger transport options,” said Clinton Cowan in the candidate survey. If elected, he wants to develop 40 kilometres of new bike lanes and paths in Alta Vista. The vice-president of the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre previously ran in 2010 against Coun. Hume.

Candidate John Redins highlighted another of the ward’s top issues, public safety, when he said he is “tired of bullets being fired” outside his window. Alta Vista residents have seen many gang-related shootings and home invasions in their ward recently, and some attribute the increase in violence to the closure of the local Ottawa community police detachment due to funding and building safety issues.

Long-time political competitors Cloutier and Marleau clashed over the closure of the community police station during the debate. Talking over each other in the quiet studio, they accused each other of only “coming out every four years” for an election.

Candidate Hussein Mahmoud said that he hoped his platform promise to update the Heron Road Community Centre in the future would encourage youth “to go away from the gangs and the shootings, to play basketball” and to attend after-school programs. Mahmoud is the only first-generation Canadian running in the election, and has many supporters in the large population of immigrants from around the world in the area.

Daher Muse Calin, Adam Bowick, Jeff Dubois and Brandon Scharfe are also running in the highly- contested ward.

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