Barrhaven Election Primer: Breaking Down the Issues

By Charlie Senack 

The countdown is on with only hours left in the snap fall federal election. The race has been close with the Liberals and Conservatives staying neck in neck in the polls. In Barrhaven, the Conservatives are hoping to paint the riding fully blue, with the Liberals hoping for a third win. 

Last weekend advanced polls broke records for voter turnout, with 5.8 million Canadians voting during the four days, according to elections Canada. That exceeded numbers seen in 2019 by 18 per cent. 

Another 1.2 million eligible voters opted to vote by mail in this election cycle, as a way of staying away from polling stations amidst a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a few million short of what Elections Canada predicted, but still more than double the 500.000 Canadians who voted by mail during the 2019 election. 

In Barrhaven there are five names on the ballot: incumbent Chandra Arya who is running again for the Liberals, Lobbyist Matt Triemstra who is running for the Conservatives; Arlington Woods resident Sean Devine who is running for the NDP; Gordon Kubanek who is running for the Greens; and Jay Nera who is running for the PPC. 

According to a 338 Canada Polls and Electoral Projection dated September 18, Chandra Arya and the Liberals are likely to win over the riding of Nepean with 43 per cent of the vote — a nine per cent increase over Conservative candidate Matt Triemstra who is at a projected 34 per cent. Sean Devine and the NDP are at a projected 15 per cent; the PPC is at a projected 4.5 per cent; and the Greens are at a projected 3.6 per cent. 

The Barrhaven Independent reached out to the three leading candidates to ask their opinion on issues that matter most to Barrhaven issues. The Conservative and NDP candidate agreed, while Liberal candidate Arya declined our many requests for an interview. 

Housing prices 

Barrhaven has seen bidding wars and hundreds of offers on homes in the area over the past few years, making the community a competitive one to live in. In August 2021, the average Freehold House Price in Ottawa was $730,304 — up 12.6 per cent — and the average condominium price in the capital was $413,624 — up 5.9 per cent. 

It’s been an issue which has been widely discussed by all main party leaders this election cycle, with Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole making a campaign stop in Barrhaven to promote his party’s housing strategy. 

Nepean Conservative candidate Matt Triemstra says it’s an issue he frequently hears about at the doors. 

“Too many people just can’t get into the market and there is not a lot of space to rent,” he said. “We think the issue is with supply. We are not building enough houses to keep up with demand, and that is why we have a plan to build a million houses in our first three years in office.”

Triemstra says it’s also important to build those houses in areas close to public transit. There is also an issue with foreign investors purchasing homes, he says, with the party releasing a plan to stop that. 

Conservative candidate Matt Triemstra (Charlie Senack photo)

“There has also been an issue with foreign buyers buying these properties and not living here — just using it as an investment,” the Conservative candidate said. “To those foreign buyers I’d say ‘we welcome your investment in Canada, but we are going to ban those purchases if you are not going to live here. Instead why not buy and invest in rental housing?’”

Sean Devine and the New Democrats also feel foreign buyers are driving up prices, but have a different plan to tackle the issue. 

“If you are a first time house buyer, it is nearly impossible because you are competing in the house bidding war, while you just don’t have a way of winning,” he said. “We are going to put a tax of foreign house buyers because they are entering the market as a business, not as a place to live.” 

“We are also going to put a capital gains tax on house flippers,” Devine added. “It’s just not right that deep pocketed investors are buying multiple homes — not for the sake of living in them, but for making a profit.” 

Affordable housing 

It’s been often said that Ottawa is in an affordable housing crisis, with years long wait lists and thousands already in the queue. In Barrhaven, that affects organizations like the multi-faith housing corporation located on Longfields, also known as ‘The Haven.’ 

ACORN Canada, a national low and moderate income families organization, has released their own election platform, calling on all parties to make funding conditional; being targeted to households making between $10,000 and $30,000 annually. They also want to see housing remain affordable in perpetuity, unlike current time-limited affordable housing deals.

Jagmeet Singh and the New Democrats have focused a large part of their campaign on affordable housing, and Devine says their party’s platform goes farther than any of the others. 

Nepean NDP candidate Sean Devine (Charlie Senack photo)

“The cost of rent is skyrocketing; being able to find an affordable place to live is hard; so the NDP, like all other parties, recognizes that we are in an affordable housing crisis,” the Nepean NDP candidate said. “The NDP will put in 500,000 new affordable housing units over the period of 10 years — with half of those being done in the first five years. There will be new affordable housing units in Barrhaven.” 

The Conservatives say they also want to build more affordable housing, and have talked about converting some federal office buildings into affordable housing apartments. 

LRT to Barrhaven 

It’s still years away, but phase three of Ottawa’s light rail transit system will bring trains out to Barrhaven. But after various problems and delays with phase one, and a large decrease in ridership due to the pandemic, some are wondering if the plan should be revisited. 

The 10 kilometre extension to the confederation line, would take trains from Baseline Station at Algonquin College to the core of Barrhaven at Marketplace Station. Shovels however won’t be in the ground until at least 2025, after phase two is complete. 

Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives have already committed to fund the phase three expansions out to Kanata and Barrhaven. 

“LRT is really important to Ottawa, and I myself rely on it to get to and from work downtown, as do a lot of people throughout the city including Barrhaven,” said Triemstra. “Erin O’Toole announced his support for the LRT out to Kanata to get people moving (and) it’s going to help people in Barrhaven get to and from the Sens games. When it comes to Barrhaven we are going to support the community as well.”

But Triemstra says some parts of the plan would need to be revisited. Under the current plan, 120 low-income homes would have to be bulldozed, leaving about 300 people homeless. The townhomes which are situated in the Manor Village and Cheryl Garden Communities, rent for about $1200 a month and are considered on the low income scale. 

“I understand there is an issue with the city and province that we are going to need to remove some houses,” said Triemstra, who is also the chair of the board of directors at the Ottawa Mission. “That is affordable housing that is going to be torn down so we have to adjust that situation with compassion.”

Devine says the NDP are also in support of creating more public transit options, which is also part of their climate change plan. 

“If this is the part of Ottawa that will be drawing in the most amount of people over the next 20-30 years, then we need to invest in smart ways to get people to and from work,” he said.  

Devine would also like to see more affordable public transit options for those on a reduced income, and more incentives to leave the car at home.  

Support for families. 

One thing both the NDP and Conservatives agree on is life is becoming less affordable as prices skyrocket. Issues surrounding gas prices, food prices, and the cost of childcare. 

Devine says the NDP has always been the strongest supporter of young families, and investing into the future generation. 

“The NDP has always been the strongest and most committed advocate for quality, affordable, childcare,” he said. “When the NDP says they will bring affordable childcare in, you know it is a promise they are going to live up to.”

“Affordable childcare — $10 a day childcare — is the one of the strongest things that will drive the economy because people will get back to work,” Devine added. 

But the Conservatives on the other hand have strongly disagreed with this approach  and feel their plan will go even farther for more families. 

“On the issue of childcare we fundamentally believe that parents can make the best choice, and I think our plan to give tax credits will give the lowest income brackets immediate relief,” said Triemstra. “The promise for $10 a day daycare has been decided in the making and has not really come into fruition.”

Triemstra also says the price of food is going up, noting that food prices have risen $550 this year over last. He says we need to bring in stricter penalties for price fixing, and bring in more competition for grocers. 

The Conservatives would also like to do away with the carbon tax to reduce gas bills.