Thursday night’s Stittsville ward debate was full of interruptions, accusations and arguing. And that was just from the audience.
About 150 people filled the community hall at Johnny Leroux Arena to watch the first live public debate between Dave Lee and Shad Qadri, the two men running to represent Stittsville on city council. The debate was organized by the Stittsville Village Association (SVA).
The crowd directed anger at both candidates and at one point even towards the moderator, former Goulbourn Township councillor Louise Beggs.
When Beggs cut off a questioner who’d gone beyond the 45-second limit, a woman in the back of the hall yelled “so much for democracy”.
The candidates didn’t shake hands before or after the debate, but they were respectful to each other during the event.
In his closing remarks, Lee said “at some point Shad stopped working for us and started working for the Mayor.” Qadri said that the job of city councillor is “not about pointing fingers, but working together with the community.”
Behind the scenes, Lee’s supporters complained to SVA president Phil Sweetnam when Georgie Gosham-Hamer, a member of Qadri’s office staff and Stittsville resident, got up to ask a question. The moderator allowed the question, but asked Gosham-Hamer to identify herself.
At several points during the debate, Amy Leindecker, a volunteer with Lee’s campaign, yelled “shame” from the back of the room.
Planted questions and co-ordinated heckling are common political tactics at public debates. Still, it was an unusally boisterous public meeting for Stittsville.
The two candidates covered a lot of ground in a debate that lasted just over an hour. They answered questions from at least 15 audience members on topics ranging from Orgaworld to food trucks. Here are selected quotes from the debate.
ON THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN (CDP) FOR STITTSVILLE MAIN STREET
- Qadri: “I asked for the plan to improve Main Street. It hasn’t developed over the past few years. We need business and the community to work together. The community was not happy with the staff recommendations and it has gone back to staff.”
- Lee: “You’ve been in office for eight years and I haven’t seen changes on Stittsville Main Street.”
ON PROHIBITING THE SALE OF DOGS AND RABBITS IN OTTAWA PET STORES
Both candidates would support a ban.
ON UPPER POOLE CREEK WETLAND, AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PROTECT IT:
- Lee: “Residents are not informed. More transparency is needed. Are we getting full and timely info?”
- Qadri: “The City only owns four to five feet on each side of the (Trans Canada) trail. Landowners petitioned the City to dry the land and the city had no choice because of provincial regulations. The City must work with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources.”
ON IMPROVEMENTS TO TRANSIT AND ROADS
(The questioner said it took her 2.5 hours on Tuesday morning to get to work, and she nearly missed the debate because of traffic getting home.)
- Lee: “On peak hour express buses, we need two to three extra runs. My son is a Carleton student, and the real issue is off-hours service. The 96 is a milk run. We are paying the full transit tax in this ward and we are not getting the service.”
- Qadri: “I have been working with city council and staff for better transit. I worked with private partners to build the Park & Ride at Canadian Tire Centre to save money. I ride the bus on a regular basis… Going back to 2004-05, (the Stittsville) community said ‘we don’t want bus service’, but now we are seeing higher ridership. We are adding more service in January coming up.”
ON THE CARP ROAD LANDFILL, AND WHAT THE CANDIDATES HAVE PERSONALLY DONE TO ATTEMPT TO PREVENT EXPANSION
- Qadri: “I opposed expansion since day one. I supported a motion … with six conditions that council approved that are included in the license to operate… that was our way of making sure we hold their feet to the fire.”
- Lee: “If you were against the dump expansion, Mr. Qadri, you could have just put in a token no vote… I’m against it.”
(Qadri also said he’d attended every community meeting regarding the landfill. When Lee was asked a second time about what he has done to prevent the landfill, he said “I haven’t done anything, I’m a businessman”.)
ON CARP ROAD, AND WHETHER OR NOT THERE SHOULD BE A ROUNDABOUT OR TRAFFIC LIGHTS
- Qadri: “I’m in favour of traffic circles. Businesses on Carp Road are concerned that large trucks won’t be able to navigate the roundabouts. City staff looked at it and can make accommodations like at Shea and Fernbank. I will oppose a plan with lights.”
- Lee: “Can you imagine having to navigate three roundabouts along Carp Road, coming off the Queensway? Sixty businesses on Carp Road are opposed. You have to listen to business.”
ON POLICE SERVICES AND CRIME PREVENTION IN THE COMMUNITY
- Lee: “With calls dropping considerably and $1.7-billion debt, I don’t see the need to increase budget and hire more officers. (I want to) create entertainment-based businesses so youth aren’t just hanging out at Timmy’s or McDonald’s.”
- Qadri: “Over and over and over again I hear from our residents that we need policing. Calls may be down, but crime is not.”
ON WEEKLY GARBAGE PICK-UP, AND WHETHER IT IS FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE
- Lee: “If Orgaworld was negotiated properly, we wouldn’t have this problem. Don’t use an 18th century solution – don’t bury it. We need to look at high efficiency incineration.”
- Qadri: “In Ontario you cannot do incineration unless you reach 60% diversion in household garbage. The only way to reach 60% is with bi-weekly garbage and green bin.”
ON WHETHER OR NOT A PROPERTY OWNER WITH LAND IN TWO WARDS SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE FOR COUNCILLORS IN TWO WARDS
The questioner asked: “If I have to pay property taxes in two wards, why can’t I vote in both wards?”
Both Lee and Qadri agreed to look into it. Qadri pointed out that it was an issue that would have to be addressed by the provincial election act.
ON LRT, AND WHEN IT MIGHT ARRIVE IN STITTSVILLE
- Lee: The candidate pulled out a map of the 2008 Transportation Master Plan (TMP), showing bus rapid transit from Fernbank to downtown. He pulled out another map of the 2013 TMP with the route removed. “It’s not there.”
- Qadri: “The plan was for a bus rapid transit corridor along the north-south arterial to Fernbank. The City did remove it, but the TMP is reviewed every five years. You have to look at the cost. You can’t afford everything at once. Why build bus rapid transit when you have LRT scheduled for 2031?”
- Lee: “That’s 15 years. If we’re paying the same transit rate as the rest of the city, why are we getting short changed?”
- Qadri: “I don’t dream, I work with facts. Orleans has the highest ridership, so they get higher service. In Stittsville, ridership wasn’t there, infrastructure isn’t there – not until the north-south arterial. You can’t afford everything.”
ON WHETHER OR NOT RURAL/OUTLYING COMMUNITIES RECEIVED A FAIR RETURN WHEN OTTAWA AMALGAMATED
- Lee: “Absolutely not. Amalgamation has been horrible for outlying wards.” (Lee then mentioned the cost of a new downtown library and the Arts Court redevelopment.)
- Qadri: “We did not get a fair return. But roads have been upgraded. The city has spent $100-million on roads.”
ON PROTECTING WILDLIFE FROM DEVELOPERS
- Qadri: “I supported the 2012 wildlife strategy. The province dictates to us and the city has to follow. Developers and landowners follow.”
(At this point, a woman yelled “protect the animals!” and the questioner said “Animals will literally be bulldozed to death”)
- Lee: “Developers are running rampant in this city. They have a green flag to do whatever they want…. They are ramming approvals through.”
ON CHIP WAGONS, AND WHETHER QADRI WILL KEEP ALLOWING THEM:
- Qadri: “It is a free enterprise. Private business control their property. For example, the Rona parking lot.”
ON ORGAWORLD, AND IF SHAD, AS A BUSINESSMAN, WOULD HAVE SIGNED A 20-YEAR CONTRACT WITHOUT READING IT
(This question came from Allan Ryan, a former Goulbourn Township councillor.)
- Qadri: “No implication in the auditor’s report suggests that councillors didn’t do their jobs. I was not happy with the length of the contract. It should have been a five-year contract. Orgaworld wanted a 20-year contract to set up as a capital investment. I depend on expert reports. That contract may not give any more information than what the report gave me.”
- Lee: “Gord Hunter (former city councillor) spoke up. 22 of 23 councillors approved Orgaworld. You ignored legal counsel for a ramp-up period.”
- Qadri: “In the next term we will discuss the contract and if it can be changed. I want to include biodegradable bags for composting.”
ON TRANSPARENCY, AND WHY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE “ONLY 20 MINUTES LONG”
(Another question from Ryan.)
- Qadri: “Transparency: in the last four to five years, we have added an integrity commissioner, disclosure, a lobby registry, council meetings are televised. Committee meetings should be televised. There’s nothing at City Hall that doesn’t come to the public. Decisions are made in a democratic way in council.”
- Lee: “That still doesn’t explain why debates are 20 minutes.”
- Qadri: “Debate happens in committee.”
Tomorrow: Notes from the school board trustee debates.
Were you at the debate? What did you think of the answers from the candidates? Add your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org