It’s Time to Include Everyone in Ottawa’s Big City Dreams

ABOVE: Columnist Ryan Lythall says that nightlife in Ottawa “ends at midnight for people with disabilities.” (PHOTO: R. Lythall)

On Tuesday, May 11, 2022, the city’s finance and corporate services committee agreed to create a “night commissioner,” also known as a “Night Mayor.”

The job of a night mayor would be to improve Ottawa’s nightlife, which right now is pretty poor. For the most part, Ottawa shuts down at 5 pm, especially in the downtown core.

While both Elgin Street and the ByWard Market are often busy at night, the ByWard Market is becoming increasingly dangerous due to violence. As a result, people are starting to avoid the area, especially at night.

To add to the problem, Ottawa’s public transit system continues to be a problem.

Our LRT system is still unreliable, along with OC Transpo buses.

As for Para Transpo, they currently operate from 6 am to midnight,

In other words, “nightlife” ends at midnight for people with disabilities; if we want to stay out later, we have to hope that a wheelchair-accessible taxi is available or that OC Transpo is running.

While I support the idea of a night mayor, pressing issues must be resolved before the night mayor arrives.

That was a weird sentence to type.

First, as I just mentioned, is public transit,

Without a reliable public transit system, how will people get out and want to stay out without being able to return home?

Whether you’re a person with a disability or not, the ongoing issues with public transit need to be addressed.

Honestly, I don’t know why Ottawa’s focus is on improving our nightlife BEFORE improving our public transit system.

The second item that needs to be addressed is the lack of wheel-chair accessible venues/bars. While reading and hearing about improving Ottawa's nightlife, I have not seen any mention of wheelchair accessibility.

Sadly, I’m not surprised.

Both the City of Ottawa and the media largely ignore the needs of people with disabilities during the day, so naturally, they will ignore us at night as well.

In the city’s minds, people with disabilities only go out during the day for medical appointments and hang out with friends at the mall or community centres; while that is true in some cases, it’s wrong to assume that it’s true for everyone.

People with disabilities are just as likely to go out at night as anyone else,

Most of us enjoy the same things as everyone else; We attend events just like everyone else.

The only difference is that a place must be wheelchair accessible, and we also must be able to return home by using some form of public transportation which is wheelchair accessible.

Considerations for Para Transpo’s hours of operation are also important to note.

For years, Para Transo users have been asking for Para Transpo to extend its hours of operation. One which would be similar to OC Transpo’s hours of operation.

After all, Para Transpo is part of OC Transpo, so why aren’t Para Transpo users allowed to stay out as late as OC Transpo users can?

As I mentioned earlier, I support the idea of hiring a night mayor. Besides the fact that it’s an amazing job title, Ottawa definitely needs to revitalize its image of a city where fun dies.

However, it seems pretty clear they haven’t planned this out.

All the city seems to care about is money and catering to those with money.

I will let you and everyone else in on a little secret: To make as much money as possible, people need to be able to attend events. 

Those include all public transportation users, including those who rely on Para Transpo.

The more people that can attend events, the more money they will spend.

I believe in this city. Ottawa has the potential to be so much more than it currently is. Our problem is that people are afraid of change, I often hear great ideas and suggestions for improving this city, but nothing ever gets done.

There also seems to be a bad case of NIMBY, which is short for not in my backyard. For example, besides the Redblacks, Atlético, and the odd special sporting event, TD Place stadium sits empty.

Where are the concerts?

I have fond memories of seeing The Beach Boys, Bryan Adams, Canada Day concerts, and Edgefest, among others, at that stadium.

Over the years, more and more nearby residents started complaining about the noise. As a result, Ottawa is missing out on huge concerts at an actual stadium,

If Ottawa is truly serious about improving nightlife and getting money, take advantage of the fact that TD Place stadium is already there.

Together, we can make Ottawa a great city.

We all need to work together and to include everyone.

Yes, I mean EVERYONE.