The Ontario municipal elections are approaching fast! On October 22nd, citizens across our watershed will be electing new leaders. In our national capital, residents will be voting for a Mayor and a Council representing the city’s 23 wards. At Ottawa Riverkeeper, we believe our elected officials must have a firm grasp of the issues affecting the Ottawa River and its tributaries. Our years of engaging citizens across the watershed have taught us that people attach immense value to the amazing rivers that flow in our nation’s capital and beyond. Therefore, we expect our elected representatives to develop creative, well-researched solutions to the challenges facing our waterways. For future generations to swim, drink, and fish safely in our rivers, we need action today.
While the City of Ottawa has made significant progress over the years on a number of water-related files, some issues of concern remain. To help you discuss those with your local candidates, we have put together a short list of questions to ask at debates and town-hall meetings. We invite you to consult these questions and bring them with you to public events – don’t be shy, step up to the microphone! Your river needs you!
Moreover, make sure you attend this election’s only Mayoral Debate on the Environment in Ottawa. We’re co-hosting it!
WHEN: Wednesday, September 26th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Shaw Centre (Room 215), 55 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa
WHY: Because a healthy river and clean water are important to us!
Register here: Ottawa Mayoral Debate
Finally, if you live in the Ottawa River watershed outside of the City of Ottawa, we hope that the questions below will inspire you to adapt them to your particular municipality. It is important to have our voice heard across the watershed. If you are taking a stand for our river in your town during the campaign, we’d love to hear about it. Contact email@example.com to discuss how we could collaborate further.
QUESTIONS FOR MAYORAL CANDIDATES
1. SEWAGE OVERFLOWS
Whenever we have heavy rainfall, or in the Spring when the snow melts, untreated water in our municipal sewer and sanitary system overflows into the river. This poses a significant health risk to the public. The City does publish information about overflows within 24 hours of an occurrence, but that leaves a long time for people to be swimming in, or paddling on, contaminated water. For almost two years, Ottawa Riverkeeper has been leading a campaign asking the City to commit to real-time reporting. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on. As Mayor, will you support this initiative and make sure residents are informed of all sewage overflows as they happen?
2. STORMWATER MANAGEMENT
A number of North American cities are adopting above-ground solutions, such as increasing vegetation around streets, for managing stormwater overflows that reduce the volume of stormwater reaching the sewers and spilling into nearby rivers. By introducing green infrastructure, street-side vegetation, and permeable pavement where possible, and looking at ways that both create more attractive and resilient city streets, these municipalities are able to address stormwater runoff at a fraction of the cost of the larger infrastructure projects. How would you approach a stormwater management plan for the City of Ottawa that goes beyond current, localised projects?
3. NUCLEAR WASTE
Approximately 200 km upstream of Ottawa is Chalk River Laboratories, a research facility that has been generating and receiving nuclear waste for more than 70 years. Radioactive compounds such as tritium are regularly found in the City of Ottawa’s drinking water, always below the allowable limits as set by Health Canada. There is a proposal on the table to build an enormous and permanent nuclear waste dump at Chalk River, in a wetland complex that empties into the Ottawa River. Municipalities in Quebec have been very involved in the Environmental Assessment, expressing deep concerns over the proposal. To date, the City of Ottawa has expressed no concern about this project, despite compelling concerns from experts. As Mayor, what will you do to understand the proposed project and the risks to our river and source of drinking water?
4. RIVER ACCESS
Across our city, there are public laneways that allow people direct access to the Ottawa River. These access points are constantly under pressure from “development creep”. People are building bigger homes and seeking approvals to develop 10 metres here and 5 metres there, reducing or eliminating access to our finest recreational asset in the city. What level of importance do you place on public access to our river and what can elected officials do about the constant desire to build on lands beside our rivers?
5. ECONOMIC VALUE OF THE OTTAWA RIVER
Can you share with us one or two ideas you have to maintain or enhance the economic value of our river?