Jwane Izzetpannah wants to make Rideau-Vanier a better place for both families and businesses

Ottawa’s Rideau-Vanier Ward continues to go through tough times with its tourist hotspot, the ByWard Market, appearing to many voters as a dangerous area where drugs and violent crime have become all too common, along with other issues that also contribute to unsettling trends in the community.

Jwane Izzetpannah, a former Parliament Hill staffer, sees the problems as well as the potential in one of the downtown core’s most prominent and widely visited wards. She is running on a platform that includes being tough on crime, cleanliness, and safety for residents while pushing for lower taxes. Ottawa Life spoke to Izzetpanah about issues affecting the Rideau-Vanier Ward and her run for office.

Izzetpanah has done it all (or at least a lot), working for a Senator, in real estate and sales while also working in the restaurant industry in the ByWard Market. When asked what motivated her to run, she said, “the common denominator in each of those environments is that they're fast-paced, with juggling a lot of moving parts.” She is up for the challenge of bringing positive change to Rideau-Vanier and sees her life experience as an asset.

To some, Izzetpanah's policy platforms may appear slightly “conservative” in a notoriously progressive ward. Still, she refutes being either a conservative or progressive and says her focus is on constituents and their needs. “This is a very traditionally Liberal area,” she says; however, the issues to her aren't about partisan politics. “I don't think you need to be Liberal or Conservative to agree that girls need to make it home safe at night, and we shouldn’t be kicking needles out of our way on our morning walks.”

Izzetpanah says her platform comes from looking at the issues in the community. “I put together a platform to help make life better for families, business owners, and frankly, investors who want to choose our ward,” Izzetpanah says it is a platform that has appeal regardless of political persuasion.

Izzetpanah believes the three main issues in Rideau-Vanier are: safe streets, clean streets, and support for businesses. She also wants to route out the “seedy businesses” that don’t represent the values of the community that residents want to live in. “We’re seeing more fast-cash businesses with short-term leases that don’t last.” As an alternative, Izzetpanah intends to build a community based on the “mom-and-pop shops that have been there for ten or fifteen years” but noted that these businesses are declining in Rideau-Vanier.

Izzetpannah advocates for a culture change in Rideau-Vanier because the status quo isn’t good enough. She explains, “when I say culture change, what I want to see more of is a dedication to solving the problems in our ward.” She says the culture does not need to be changed from the top down because her movement campaign is grassroots coming from the people in the community who are “fed-up with the issues they’re facing every day.” Izzetpanah says that almost every resident in the ward she has spoken to is fed up with the status quo. “People love this community, and they're so sad to see what’s happened to it, and I’m here for them.”

According to some residents and business owners, safe injection sites are one of the main issues affecting the Ward. Izzetpanah notes that the province runs these operations and that Council has no power to relocate or shut down safe injection sites. However, she says she will advocate that no more are opened in Rideau-Vanier. She notes the serious problems with used syringes discarded on public property, particularly in parks where needle collectors have to sweep the sand before children come out to play. “We’re seeing an extremely high amount of needles on our grounds. Needle hunters collected 32,000 needles off the streets last year.” Izzetpanah correlates the high concentration of safe injection sites in the Ward and the number of collected syringes and says that Ottawa needs to do more.

Another issue that continues to plague Rideau-Vanier is homelessness. Izzetpanah notes that Ottawa needs a better social safety net for its homeless population. “Shelters should be short-term solutions for people to get back on their feet and get into a home.” However, she also sees homelessness as an affordability issue related to the housing market and taxation “pricing out” many residents. She promises never to support property tax increases above 2 percent and says that building more homes, working with developers, and getting rid of red tape around construction is a priority for her.

On policing, Izzetpanah believes there needs to be a tougher-on-crime approach in Rideau-Vanier. She advocates that the next Council needs a full audit of the police budget and that the resources that citizens pay for are put where they are most needed. “I will work to empower police officers to do their jobs and enforce the laws that are in the books.” Izzetpanah also believes holding the police chief to account is key so they “operate with the utmost integrity, and the city can count on them in times of need.”

On transit, Izzetpanah says that residents of Rideau-Vanier she has met have not described the LRT or any of OC Transpo issues as a priority but that the city needs a better understanding of who is returning to work downtown so they can build a better system. When it comes to transit, her number one goal is to “build a fiscally responsible transit system, as the city owes that to the taxpayers.”

If elected, Izzetpanah will have to work with councillors from other areas who are likely progressively leaning in their views. In his 2018-2022 term, this was a reoccurring issue for mayor Jim Watson, and the resulting gridlock enveloped Council proceedings. The candidate for Rideau-Vanier does not see issues on Council as a barrier to getting things done. Izzetpanah says that debate is the central aspect of finding solutions to issues; she adds, “I’m not the candidate that’s going to be in the middle; I don’t think being in the middle is the right way to get things done.” She says, “we need to have the tough conversations to deal with the problems we’re facing.”

Izzetpanah says she doesn't align with any of the mayoral candidates 100% on policy, but once elected, she looks forward to working with the new mayor. She is keenly interested in holding the new mayor accountable.

Izzetpanah says she's committed to not dancing around the issues if elected. “I’ve seen firsthand how hard it has become for residents, workers, and businesses in Rideau-Vanier.” She loves the area and believes it can become a true gem in the crown of Ottawa.

For more information on Jwane Izzetpanah’s campaign, visit votejwane.ca