Leadership for a Safer Ottawa

All residents of Ottawa deserve to feel safe in their own neighbourhoods and wherever they travel throughout our city. Each and every one of us should feel confident that in the event of an emergency, fire, paramedic, and police services will have the resources available to help us. And everyone should be treated fairly and equitably by all emergency services.

 

Unfortunately, Ottawa is not as safe as it used to be. And confidence in our emergency services has declined dramatically for a number of reasons:

  • Violent crime rose by 12 per cent from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, Ottawa’s crime rate and the severity of crime were higher than Toronto’s. And in the first half of this year, crime was up 25 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, with rises in threats, car thefts, assaults, sexual assaults and robberies.

  • Ottawa has experienced a decline in confidence in its police service, with concerns about systemic issues and a failure of leadership during the convoy in February.

  • In the first seven months of 2022, Ottawa’s ambulance service was at “level zero” 750 times, meaning there were no ambulances available to dispatch, leaving residents vulnerable.

As mayor I would act immediately, together with city council, to address these safety issues.

 

Here’s what that means for you:

 

For Residents Concerned about First Responders and Emergency Services

It’s time to take the politics out of policing. We cannot cut spending on emergency services, including policing, when crime is rising and the city is short on available paramedics. Instead, we must invest in and modernize emergency services, address leadership issues, inequities, and systemic flaws, and restore public trust.

Residents of Ottawa must be confident that not only are there enough resources available to respond in an emergency, but that their police service treats all people and all communities consistently and equitably, and is responsive to public concerns.

We need a fresh approach that sees the city’s police and other protective services work together with community partners and social service agencies and other levels of government to deliver a safer Ottawa for everyone.

A new approach is also needed when it comes to paramedic services. Residents must be able to count on ambulances being available when they need them.

 

For a more responsive, resourced police service, I will:

  • Reject calls to defund our police service. Some candidates in this race have voted to cut funding from our emergency services. Some activist organizations are advocating that the police budget be slashed by over $200M. I do not support either of these proposals. 

  • Add at least 100 new positions over the next four years, with a focus on priority areas including violence against women, hate and bias crimes against marginalized communities, and gun violence.

  • Ensure proper leadership and representation on the Ottawa Police Services Board, in the following ways:
    • I will sit on the Board, and ensure every region of our city is represented on the Board. 

    • I will work with Council and the provincial government to ensure that each group of appointees to the Board have the necessary skills, experience, diversity and training to hold the leadership of our police service accountable for their performance.

    • Working with others, I will recruit a strong independent community member who is qualified not only to serve on the Police Services Board but also step into the role of Chair. 

  • Improve our response to violent offences involving firearms. There was a record number of investigations into shootings in Ottawa in 2021. The Guns and Gangs unit of the Ottawa Police Service needs to be prioritized to ensure they are receiving the resources needed to address gun violence.

  • Place greater emphasis on preventing and reporting gender-based violence, including instances of domestic abuse, sexual assault and harassment. This means directly and regularly engaging organizations who provide support and resources to victims of gender-based violence, such as the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa and the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre.

  • Ensure members of the Ottawa Police Service are adequately trained and resourced to respond in a timely and compassionate manner to incidents of gender-based violence, sexual assault, and harassment.

  • Accelerate and expand the city’s anti-racism strategy to ensure the community is safe for everyone. This includes improved training for emergency and protective services, increasing diversity in those services, and regularly consulting with communities to ensure incidents of racially-motivated crime are adequately addressed.

  • Reform the Emergency Measures Management Unit so that first responders are prepared to respond to a range of situations, from a major occupation such as the convoy, to a massive power outage. This reform will provide better collaboration and accountability for responding entities, rather than laying blame and playing politics when residents expect results. 

  • Renegotiate the annual funding arrangement between the federal government and the city to ensure local taxpayers are not covering the costs of policing a national capital.

 

For more reliable, resourced paramedic services, I will:

  • Make more ambulances available by investing $5 million in paramedic services to hire 42 paramedics, with funding from the provincial government.

  • Work with the provincial government to shorten wait times for patient transfers at hospitals in the city with the highest wait times, so health care costs are no longer being downloaded on the city.

  • Support the piloting of community paramedicine, in which emergency medical technicians operate in expanded roles by assisting with public health and primary healthcare and preventive services.

  • Expand the Targeted Engagement and Diversion frontline service program, which provides immediate care to individuals with symptoms of substance abuse and mental illness who would otherwise occupy ambulance and hospital capacity.

 

For Vulnerable People and Residents Living in At-Risk Neighbourhoods

We are facing a substance use disorder and mental illness crisis in Ottawa. In July, the Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force noted an increase in suspected overdose deaths in Ottawa. In one week alone, police responded to 22 calls for service about suspected overdoses, including five suspected overdose-related deaths.

A deteriorating system is not doing enough to support our neighbours, family members, and friends who are struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness.

We need a city-wide effort that demonstrates compassion to victims and is fair to residents and businesses that are directly impacted. We need a new approach that leverages the expertise of first responders, social workers, counsellors and others to deliver better results for these individuals.  

We must also take immediate, targeted action to address crime in at-risk neighbourhoods, including in the ByWard Market and in Centretown, to improve safety and restore them as welcoming destinations for residents and visitors. 

Restoring health and safety in these communities  will require a team effort. All corresponding city agencies, as well as the provincial and federal government must work together to help vulnerable citizens, our neighbourhoods and communities. This has not happened to date. I will make it happen.

 

For Individuals with Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness, I will:

  • Strike a Task Force within 30 days of taking office to conduct a long overdue review and deliver a plan. This Task Force will include representation from community service agencies, public health officials, and emergency responders and will present specific recommendations on solutions prior to the 2023 budget process.

  • Increase the City of Ottawa's contribution to organizations that provide essential services for those dealing with substance use disorder and mental illness, including housing, employment services, and counselling, with a focus on Ottawa's at-risk youth.

  • Introduce a new, integrated, cross-disciplinary response to incidents involving mental illness and substance use disorder. We must send the right resources to each situation and reduce the need for police intervention when specialized services will achieve better results.

  • Enhance the role of shelters and their staff in managing and supporting their clients off-site.

  • Change our approach to addressing chronic homelessness. We must move away from support that is temporary, ad-hoc, or emergency in nature, like the provision of inadequate hotel rooms for the chronically homeless. The focus must be on finding suitable transitional and supportive housing. I will work with the provincial and federal governments to obtain more funding, with the goal of dramatically reducing homelessness in our city.

 

For At-Risk Neighbourhoods, including the ByWard Market and Centretown

Crime is an issue throughout the city, but the ByWard Market and Dundonald Park in Centretown are two examples of neighbourhooods in Ottawa that experience persistent safety issues. Improving safety here is a first, critical step to making these neighbourhoods more attractive for residents, businesses and tourists.

In these neighbourhoods, I will:

  • Expand the presence of police and supportive services, through the deployment of Neighbourhood Resource Teams in the ByWard Market and Dundonald Park. This will complement existing Neighbourhood Resource Teams stationed in other neighbourhoods in Ottawa.

  • Support the targeted, limited use of CCTV cameras for investigative and deterrence purposes in at-risk areas. These cameras will not be used for active monitoring, but as a tool to support and monitor police work, similar to how they are presently used by Ottawa Community Housing and in other jurisdictions.

  • Create a Storefront Neighbourhood Operations Centre in the ByWard Market where police, public health, and social services have a reliable and effective presence to prevent and respond to issues.

 

My approach to improving safety for you and your family is rooted in five key principles:

 
  • I will not defund the police. Instead, I will modernize our emergency services to ensure we are delivering a safer Ottawa for everyone.

  • I will invest in priority areas including violence against women (including victim support), hate and bias crimes, and gun violence. I’ll also ensure there are more ambulances available to reduce or eliminate the number of “level zero” events.

  • I will act immediately to address at-risk neighbourhoods to make them safer for residents and visitors.

  • I will invest in social services and introduce new, multi-faceted, compassionate solutions for vulnerable citizens struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness.

  • I will ensure proper oversight by the Police Services Board and increase opportunities for community representation and input to re-establish trust and ensure our police service is better for everyone.

“Safety is essential to ensuring we protect and enhance our quality of life, grow our economy, attract residents and tourists, and help the most vulnerable. I will work hard to make Ottawa safer for everyone.