A Look at The Council Candidates in Riverside South-Findlay Creek
By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
The newly created ward of Rideau-Jock will have new, or possibly old representation at city hall.
Ward 22, currently known as Gloucester-South Nepean, included Barrhaven East which is now becoming its own separate district with a new ward created. The incumbent, one-term councillor Carol Anne Meehan, initially decided to run there but then withdrew after a change of heart.
With four names on the ballot, a familiar face is expected to make a city hall comeback: Steve Desroches, who served the area for two terms, is aiming to make a return to local politics.
He’s up against: Em McLellan, Salah Elsaadi, and Zainab Alsalihiy.
Currently sitting at a projected population of 36,066 residents, Riverside South-Findlay Creek is expected to grow to a little over 40,000 people by 2026. The ward is 36 square kilometres in Sox’s.
The Manotick Messenger asked all candidates a series of questions. Portions of their answers can be seen below.
When Steve Desroches stepped outside of city council chambers for the last time in 2014, he didn’t expect to come back eight years later. The two-term councilor campaigned on serving only eight years — and kept his word.
But with at least 10 fresh faces around the council table and a new Mayor at the helm of it all, Desroches said someone with experience is needed to serve the residents of Riverside South-Findlay Creek.
“I think I left on a very positive note, and residents would recall that I made the commitment to step down in 2014 — which I did — to enable some turnover and new faces,” he said. “That’s over eight years ago. One of the great benefits is I can now campaign with my two older sons and they have been knocking on doors with me. I’m reintroducing myself to the community. Many of the people know me but some may not as they are new to the area.”
Desroches is campaigning in finally getting a recreation complex built in Riverside South, a project that has been in the books for well over a decade, but has never been lifted from the ground. He has recommended modifying plans from previous recreational amenities (the Minto Recreation Complex in Barrhaven for example) to save time and money.
“I want to bring urgency to the recreation complex for Riverside South and Findlay creek,” said Desroches. “It’s been in the planning books for sometime and we have been collecting developer charges for over a decade to build this facility. When I was on council we changed the policy so we could build the recreation centre sooner rather than waiting. That’s why the Barrhaven Minto Rec Centre was completed in a quicker fashion. My son is 17-years-old; he’s lived in Riverside South his entire life. He’s never had the benefit of a local swimming pool or hockey rink in our community.”
Riverside South will soon be home to Phase 2 of Ottawa’s light rail transit system, a project that was supposed to be launched this summer but has been pushed back a year due to construction delays and supply chain shortages.
Ottawa’s transit system has struggled through the COVID-19 with OC Transpo reporting only 50 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels. They predict a return to 2019 levels won’t ever occur.
With ridership habits changing, Desroches said the transit system is in need of a complete overhaul. Riverside South, like many suburbs around Ottawa, have lacked fast and reliable transit options.
On a city-wide scale, Desroches said Ottawa needs to focus on infrastructure projects across the entire city. With Riverside South seeing development at a rapid pace, he noted infrastructure needs to keep up with the demand.
Em McLellan said she moved to Riverside South with her two sets of twins in 2005. She was a stay-at-home mom due to the expensive costs of daycare, and then worked as a school crossing guard. To help pay the bills, she now works at the salad bar at the Independent grocer in Riverside South.
McLellan decided to run for city office after watching a special council meeting in February, when Diane Deans was ousted from the Ottawa Police Services Board. The unexpected and shocking move — which some labelled as dirty politics — came after Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly was pressured into resigning amid the so-called “freedom” trucker convoy.
“I watched it and in my opinion it was one of the worst meetings I had ever witnessed,” she said. “There were these elected officials who came across as entitled and arrogant and just a sad bunch of people. There was no governance, no accountability. It was like watching a train wreck going into one.”
McLellan said Riverside South and Findlay Creek were communities built in the middle of nowhere. She would like to see more traffic calming measures in school zones and paint all Crosswalks the colours of the rainbow Pride flag.
The council hopeful said she’d like to get a Muslim grocery store and butcher shop in the ward, and wants to bring more accountability to OC Transpo.
McLellan said the world is falling into a recession and isn’t a supporter of funding any large-scale “mega” projects. She’s also against bringing in free transit.
“OC Transpo is an absolute mess; it’s the culture at the place,” said McLellan. “If I had my joy, I would fire everyone from middle management to the top. The culture there seems to be that we are only providing a service to the everyday people. Somehow this equates to non-accountability on behalf of OC Transpo, their attitude is that the millionaires are not taking the bus and only the everyday people do.”
Salah Elsaadi said he’s lived in Riverside South for the last 18 years and is passionate to serve his community.
“I’m running to help make our community a better place for all residents. Having followed the last term of city council, I’m concerned about the future of our city. We need to restore public trust and accountability at city hall,” he said. “Riverside South and Findlay Creek are some of the fastest growing communities in Ottawa, yet the city has failed to keep up with the services required for our new neighbourhoods.”
Elsaadi said the city has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. He is not a supporter of free transit, and believes the system should be funded by both taxpayers and fares. That money would then go towards improving the local bus system, particularly until Phase 2 of LRT in Riverside South is launched.
If elected to council, Elsaadi said he would work to secure a new community centre within the next term of council, and said a balance between green areas, parks, houses and businesses are needed to keep up with development.
“The City of Ottawa will face many difficult decisions during the next term of Council, and we need someone who will be a strong voice for Riverside South and Findlay Creek,” he said. “We can’t afford a self-serving opportunistic politician who will run anywhere and say anything to get elected. I have the skills and expertise to help deliver results for our residents on day one.”
Zainab Alsalihiy has lived in Canada for the last 33 years after immigrating from Iraq. She moved to Riverside South in 2016 and works as a public servant.
“With our increasing population public safety is a concern. I support funding of the police department to levels needed to manage the growing population,” said Alsalihiy. “I would work with city staff to identify and attract small businesses that would be interested and qualified for city contracts to better serve our community.
If elected, Alsalihiy says she will advocate to enhance the service of public transportation in the community, and wants to ensure there are enough outdoor recreational amenities for families.
Alsalihiy wants to look at the pros and cons of freezing spending for a year, but says at minimum, a 90 day freeze is needed for a top to bottom review with the help of consultants. On the topic of free transit, she said it’s a no because the funds would have to come from somewhere.
“I would like to see we implement and enforce more dedicated bus lanes starting with problematic bus routes,” said Alsalihiy. “These segregated lanes are the best way to make buses more efficient, they eliminate the problem of buses stuck in unpredictable traffic. We need to develop a better schedule according to demand, with a view to creating conditions needed for non-transit users to leave their car at home and use transit.”
A new recreation centre in Riverside South is needed, said Alsalihiy, who said once construction begins, it will still take two years for completion.
The municipal election is being held on Oct. 24.