By Charlie Senack, Manotick Messenger
Former city councillor Steve Desroches is hoping to make his return to city hall and is putting his name on the ballot to represent Riverside South-Findlay Creek in the upcoming fall municipal election.
Desroches, who served as city councillor for Gloucester-South Nepean from 2006 until 2014, always campaigned on only serving two terms. But with his kids now older and eight years passing since last being in office, he wants to make a return to municipal politics.
“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 told the Manotick Messenger. “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.”
It will be a crucial municipal election for the City of Ottawa with many new names and faces sitting at the council table come December. At least seven current city councillors have announced they are retiring, with some announcing a run for Mayor.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has also announced he’s stepping aide after serving three terms. It will be the biggest shakeup city hall has seen in decades.
City Hall has been criticized for its divisiveness and attacks on one another throughout the last term of council. Meetings have been long and many times tense.
Desroches said he’s served under two Mayors and isn’t looking to play politics with his hopeful future council colleagues.
“I’m not known for attacks on my colleagues, I don’t think residents particularly enjoy that,” he said. “We heard recently from the ethics commissioner that she was receiving complaints regarding the interaction of councillors and I think we need to be careful that we are showing that we are there to work for our constituents. We can certainly be strong and passionate with our views, but at the end of the day we need to work closely together to achieve results over four years.”
Of the files Desroches wants to see achieved is building a community centre in Riverside South. It’s plans which started when last in office over a decade ago, but any form of development has been stalled.
“I want to bring urgency to the recreation complex for Riverside South and Findlay creek,” he said. “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, and he’s never had the benefit of a local swimming pool or hockey rink in our community.”
Desroches also wants to see improvements made to public transportation in the ward, saying we need to look at a new model as the world has changed. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, federal public servants are no longer commenting downtown five days away between the hours of nine and five.
Riverside South is home to the second phase of Ottawa’s light rail transit line, which will bring commuters from the community to Bayview Station. Worker strikes, the pandemic, supply chain issues. and other factors have delayed the project from opening by at least a year.
The council hopeful says OC Transpo needs more skilled rail experts on hand to deal with the changing public transportation landscape in the city. He also wants to see changes to transit fare prices, but isn’t in support of making it free, which some downtown-area councillors have been calling for.
“I’m very worried when I hear comments about free transit and shifting the cost of the transit over to the taxpayer,” said Desroches. “When I hear free transit I think of free health care and free education. It’s positive, but those are strained systems.”
As city councillor Desroches advocated hard for the building of the Vimy Memorial Bridge which connects Barrhaven to Riverside South. He says it’s that fight which made him successful last time, and is looking to do it again on key issues.
Both Riverside South and Findlay Creek have rapidly grown in the last eight years, with thousands of new homes being built, and thousands more to come.
Riding boundaries in Ottawa are changing this election with Gloucester-South Nepean being split into two wards: Riverside South-Findlay Creek will become its own district, with the other side of the Rideau River becoming Barrhaven East.
Desroches is up against Em McLellan who doesn’t appear to have released a website, Salah Elsaadi who registered in the final few hours, and Zainab Alsaliy, who was the final person to submit their nomination papers.