By Barrhaven Independent Staff
Ottawa’s new Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is still settling into his new office at city hall. The longtime broadcaster, journalist, and business owner was elected into municipal office with a narrow majority this fall.
It’s a big change for Ottawa which was under the helm of Jim Watson for 12 consecutive years, the city’s longest serving mayor who also sat in the chair from 1997 to 2000.
As a journalist, Sutcliffe prided himself on having an unbiased approach to interviews and was well liked by politicians from all backgrounds. He never considered entering the city’s political landscape until this spring when the city’s top position was left open.
“I had been approached about running for office before but I always enjoyed what I was doing and it wasn’t the right time for me and my family,” Sutcliffe told the Barrhaven Independent this summer. “I didn’t expect that would be the case this year either, but the more I talked to people, they were concerned about the lack of a strong, sensible, centrist candidate in the race; somebody who could bring people together and be the Mayor for all of Ottawa.”
Now in the job, Sutcliffe said he’s looking to unite city council which for years has been divided. In the few months since the new council was sworn into office, disagreements have rarely become personal, says many sitting councillors.
Sutcliffe said he expects there will be a lot of new changes and sees that as a good thing. His personal priorities are to expand light rail transit, improve bus service in suburban communities, strengthen police presence, and invest more in roads and infrastructure.
“Ottawa is a very big city geographically and the reality is that we don’t have enough police officers on the road sometimes,” he said. “It’s a big city with a growing population and we are not going to protect and keep Ottawa safe if we don’t increase the number of resources we have in the police service over the coming years.”
To better police resources in the downtown core, Sutcliffe wants to see a police response center built in the ByWard Market.
On the transit front Sutcliffe said he wants to see better and more regular bus routes in place which can take commuters where they want to go in a fast and timely fashion. He said it’s a big project which will take time to solve.
“Barrhaven residents have told me about how they were trying to get to Carleton University and how it’s not easy to do; it takes a long time,” Sutcliffe said. “There are people who live in Barrhaven and work in Kanata and it’s not easy to get from one to the other. There may be different approaches we can take for routing so we can take people where they want to go in this post-pandemic world.”
Sutcliffe would also like to see further expansions of the city’s light rail transit system, including to Barrhaven, Kanata and Stittsville.
The phase 3 extension from Algonquin College to Marketplace Station is expected to cost $3 billion, a price tag that would almost undoubtedly go up by the time a contract is signed. Given current timelines, it could be another five years before any paperwork is signed.
Ottawa’s new mayor also pledges to fix the local roads which are showing their wear.
“We have two of the worst ten roads in Ontario according to the annual report that comes out from the CAA. I’ve committed to investing in roads going forward,” Sutcliffe said. “We have an existing budget to do that but we will increase that budget because it’s just not safe for cyclists and cars and pedestrians.”
In the final weeks of the campaign, Sutcliffe pledged to fast track construction on Barrhaven’s Greenbank road realignment, a project Half Moon Bay residents have been expecting for over two decades.
Newly elected Barrhaven ward councillor David Hill also campaigned to fast track the process, and created a petition which garnered hundreds of signatures.
Sutcliffe said he will accelerate the timing of the Greenbank Road Realignment Project for inclusion in the Transportation Master Plan from 2032 to 2024. Current timelines have construction beginning in 2030 with a completion date in 2032.