Aiming to innovate, energize and engage downtown Ottawa
Innovation, vibrancy, partnership and engagement—these are the key themes of Somerset ward candidate Jeff Morrison’s platform.
Ottawa has not been as embracing of new approaches, new building techniques or new forms of development of green innovations, according to Morrison. He wants to change that.
The candidate said the approval of Chaudière Island redevelopment is one example of leading edge innovation.
“Anything the city does, hopefully it embraces that kind of approach where we’re willing to try new approaches and new technologies,” said Morrison.
Tourism is one aspect Morrison wants to improve on to help the downtown core—this is how he plans to help small businesses.
One of Morrison’s proposals is to offer alternative language details on businesses.
“If you have a francophone person or a Chinese person that can speak in that language, these would be something the city could offer that would enable businesses to attract people that speak other languages,” he said.
Morrison said the other important area for improvement downtown is embracing the notion of ‘complete streets.’ This means any new street development must embrace different modes for the different types of transport—developments will reflect what cyclists, pedestrians and motorists need, as well as mass transit.
According to Morrison, the idea of ‘complete streets’ has been fully agreed upon by almost all candidates.
But what has not been at the top of many candidates’ lists is vibrancy, said Morrison, who explained people move downtown because they want access to life, services and culture.
“In terms of increasing services, the two that I have identified specifically, that I would want to lobby the private sectors, for are one; a new grocery store in the western end of our ward and two; is lobby the cinema chains to get our movie theatre back,” said Morrison.
Morrison would also like to establish partnerships with cultural, arts and sporting groups and help facilitate their access to public spaces such as parks and streets.
Morrison said he has also suggested the concept of open streets.
“Once a week, let’s say on a Sunday, you close down some of your major thorough fares to car traffic so that people can come out; pedestrians, cyclists, people in wheelchairs and small businesses can move out onto the sidewalk,” he said.
Morrison said the concept of open streets will help bring the community together, it will give people a chance to interact and it would also benefit small businesses.
When Morrison suggested ways to create a more vibrant downtown he hinted at the third theme of his campaign—partnerships.
“The city can’t bring culture, sports and arts to downtown, but they can work with those who can, and often times that partnership has been missing,” he said.
Morrison said he would like to bring art into the public spaces and he’s called for a street art promotional campaign.
“We’ve seen this in other areas of the city that have really sort of adapted street art, graffiti goes down and it brings some colour and life to the communities,” he said.
Engaging the community is also an important part of Morrison’s platform. He said he wants to ensure individuals feel not only like they have been consulted, but they are heard.
One way he would like to include citizens in decision-making is by striking an appeal process allowing developers to appeal decisions voted on by councillors regarding building development proposals.
Morrison said there is a process in place whereby if councillors and the neighbourhood of the proposed building oppose the development, developers can appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. He said the vote usually goes in the developers favour.
“I want Ottawa to pass a motion calling on the province to scrap that process. It’s time consuming, it’s costly, it costs the city millions of dollars and it takes power and a voice away from the community and councillors,” Morrison said.
In addition to his suggestions, Morrison would like to add community safety to his priorities. He said he recognizes people in the Somerset ward are concerned about safety and he wants to help prevent any sort of criminal behavior with the possibility of a neighbourhood watch program and police presence—either walking or cycling throughout the community.
Morrison said he’s aiming to knock on every door in the ward and there’s going to be a lot more to come.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to meet so many people across the ward and to hear so many ideas. It’s exciting, it’s a bit exhilarating it’s certainly tiring but it’s been a really welcoming opportunity,” said Morrison.