By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
A local business owner and project manager of rail operations for the City of Ottawa has put his name forward to be the next city councillor in Barrhaven West.
Jay Chadha has officially registered for the position which will be left vacant after longtime councillor Jan Harder announced she won’t be seeking re-election after two and a half decades.
Chadha has worked for OC Transpo for the last 19 years, and has called the community home for 25 years. He has concerns over the large sum of spending coming from city hall, and feels existing funds could be better spent.
“It’s a dysfunctional city council right now. Our debt is rising — we are three billion dollars in debt,” Chadha told the Barrhaven Independent. “A city with a million people, that’s roughly about three thousand dollars per resident. We are spending money where we don’t need to and we aren’t putting money where it should be focused.”
An example Chadha gives is with the new central library being built downtown. The project is already facing construction delays and is hundreds of thousands over budget.
“Let me be clear: I am all for libraries; I think they are great resources for people of all ages to go and connect,” he said. “However the new central library downtown right now is $330 million over budget. We have not got our money’s worth from Lansdowne’s recent developments, and now we are talking about Lansdowne 2.0 without any public consultations. Not only that, it comes with a price tag of $150 million. We cannot look at taxpayers like a blank cheque where we keep drawing from an account.”
Locally, Chadha says infrastructure hasn’t seen the upgrades needed to keep up with the growing suburban community and traffic congestion is becoming a real problem. He’d like to see the Greenbank Road realignment sped up by working with all levels of government to secure funding.
The project has been in the planning stage for over a decade and a half, with the realignment needed to provide easier access for Half Moon Bay residents. Under current plans, construction won’t begin until at least 2030.
“It’s absolutely not an easy solution. If it was, it would have been done by now. But we haven’t seen the advocacy needed from elected officials to put pressure on the city,” states Chadha. “It means we need to work within our means to find that funding sooner, but we also must work with other levels of government collaboratively to help cover the costs.”
When it comes to transportation, Chadha says OC Transpo routes in Barrhaven need to be revisioned to better serve the localized community. Park and rides now sit empty with travel to and from the downtown core becoming minimal. The days of in-person office work seem over with many suburban employees working from home instead.
In the first quarter of this year, OC Transpo lost $18 million in revenue. It costs approximately $400 an hour to run a single bus, meaning the profit coming in is minimal.
Chadha said he wants to bring his career experience to the table to help fix the struggling system.
“OC Transpo is in bad shape as we all know. I have 19 years of experience working for the company,” he said. “We need our system to be reliable before we can think of anything else. I don’t think we need free transit, but we do need to make it more affordable. We also need to make sure that people can go from their homes to Marketplace, Walter Baker, or anywhere else in a reliable fashion. I’d love to put my kids on the bus right now so they can do that but I just can’t; It takes too long.”
When it comes to Phase 3 light rail transit out to Barrhaven, Chadha says he wants to put the plans on ice for now. The current price tag for the project sits at $3.52 billion in today’s dollars, meaning it would be even higher if built in a decade from now.
With transit riders patterns changing, the local ward 3 council candidate says consultations need to be taken again, and routes need to be reorganized to better utilize the existing transitway, which works well.
“It has been a while since we have done consultations for light rail and the climate was different when we started talking about trains coming to Barrhaven,” said Chadha. “Transit riders patterns have changed, the need to get downtown from Barrhaven isn’t as great any more, so we need to ask the people who use our transit system what they want. We have a great transit way that is the best in North America, and one of the first in the country to have bus rapid transit. It works well when we have enough buses and proper routes.”
Chadha has started a petition to address the rising crime levels seen in Barrhaven West. In 2021, the ward saw a crime uptick of 20.7 per cent, more than any other community in Ottawa. It has garnered over 400 signatures of support.
The council hopeful says he would like to see more youth engagement in Barrhaven to help with the rising crime, and wants to look for more indoor activity space, especially for in the winter.
Chadha’s name is one of four on the ballot for Barrhaven West. Others eyeing the council position include: Taayo Simmonds, a lawyer by trade, Sadaf Ebrahim who owns a UPS store and is a community activist, and David Hill, who’s served in the military for many years.
The municipal election will be held on Oct. 24, 2022.