Gun crime in Ottawa’s south-end sparked discussion in a Gloucester-Southgate debate that saw two candidates go up against longtime incumbent Diane Deans.
Brad Pye, a member of the audience, asked Deans specifically how much money she wanted from Ottawa City Council to fight gun violence in the ward.
“If you (Deans) get elected for four more years what’s going to change? You haven’t been able to produce the result in four years… The guy who was shot in front of my house was 16, that means he was 12 four years ago,” Pye said in his question.
None of the candidates committed to a specific dollar figure, but Deans, who has been the ward's city councillor for 24 years, said she has been an advocate for many crime prevention groups to get funding from the city. She said she has asked the Police Services Board to put more money into the police force and to return to community policing, which hasn't been done yet.
“You’re right, city council hasn’t done it but it’s not because of my advocacy, because I’ve been there making that case every step of the way,” she said.
Next question: What will you do to stop gun violence in ward?— Drew May (@DrewMay_) October 11, 2018
Deans: It's troubling, says she's advocated for more police here. Return to community policing, prevention and resilient communities.
Soucy: City's strategy not working, too reactive. Wants to start youth council.
The question came after a recent increase in gun crime in Ottawa, especially in the city’s south. A 2017 report from Ottawa Police Services says the ward’s violent crime rate rose by around 25 per cent between 2016 and 2017. The city’s overall rate rose by around 20 per cent in that time period.
“We all want to be safe where we live, this is a complex issue, it’s not an easy issue to get the tiger by the tail, we have to work together,” Deans said.
She said the city needs resilient communities to recover from and prevent future gun violence. She said she wants to focus on youth programs and employment opportunities as part of a strategy at stopping crime in the ward.
Alek Golijanin said he agreed with a comment from other Ward 10 candidate Robert Swaita in an Oct. 10 debate, that crime disproportionately affects certain demographics. He said the conversation is sensitive but needs to be had.
Golijanin said he also supports hiring more front-line police officers and putting more in the community.
“We’re one stray bullet away from someone losing a loved one,” he said.
Sam Soucy said the current approach to policing is not working in Gloucester-Southgate and the issue has not been addressed properly over the past four years on council. He advocated for a more holistic approach.
“We can talk about all our plans here as individual councillors, but it comes down to city council as a unit working together to fix this issue,” Soucy said. “We have to make sure that it’s all 23 councillors and one mayor working together.”
Other candidates Swaita and Perry Sabourin did not attend the Thursday evening debate.
Candidates were also asked how they planned to pay for the cost of their promises, if they are elected.
Deans said she would continue to support affordable tax increases for citizens of Ottawa, but people expect value for their tax dollars.
Golijanin said he supports finding efficiencies first, property tax increases second and won’t let the city make “terrible deals."
Soucy said residents need to get a proper return on investment for their money and supported looking at councillors’ office budgets for cuts.
Ottawa voters go to the polls on Oct. 22.