Transit, affordable housing among concerns for students heading into election year

Transit, affordable housing among concerns for students heading into election year

After a year that saw a host of issues including rising rental costs, LRT service problems, and the ongoing pandemic, many are looking for changes to be made. Photo taken by William Eltherington.

Young Ottawans say their priorities for local politicians heading into an election year include addressing ballooning housing costs, LRT service disruptions, climate change and rising police budgets.

The Raging Twenties asked several students about what kinds of issues they are concerned about going into 2022. The election is set for Oct. 24.

University of Ottawa student Jenna Mitchell Dueck, who studies international development and globalization, said there are several issues that need to be addressed but climate change, affordable housing and police budgets are top of mind for her.

While she said she does not always pay attention to municipal politics, someone who stands for those issues would likely motivate her to vote.

She added issues like affordable housing can help address large-scale problems such as climate change.

“If it’s possible for people to actually live and have a place to stay that they can afford, that doesn’t take their entire paycheque, then climate change and other things can also be addressed, she said. “It’s all interrelated.”

Dueck added a lot of young people are concerned about how much money is going to Ottawa police.

Transit is “definitely an issue for students,” said Alexander Elinov, a third-year student at the University of Ottawa.

Students walking on UOttawa campus.
“If it’s possible for people to actually live and have a place to stay that they can afford, that doesn’t take their entire paycheck, then climate change and other things can also be addressed,” Dueck said. “It’s all interrelated.” Photo taken by William Eltherington.

Combined with the transit issues in the city, he said the competitiveness of the urban rental market has forced students to live further outside the city.

The unreliability of the transit system has made others choose to walk instead.

“I do know friends that kind of have to ‘bite the bullet’ and have had to walk an hour or so,” he said.

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard said among the issues young people should be paying attention to prior to next year’s election are accountability at city hall, developer influence, transit and climate change. 

“There are several areas where the council has fallen short,” he said. “We don’t see enough student affordable housing because we’re not holding developers to account and are allowing developers to influence municipal candidates during elections.”

Students should be more concerned over what developers are allowed to build in Ottawa which is driving up rents, he added. 

Meanwhile, one of the biggest issues from the year is from the problems related to the LRT, which has reduced trust in the system. 

On Wednesday, Menard introduced a motion to the transportation committee to study free transit to potentially help with affordability and encourage more to use the system.

“A lot of students have student debt and need an economical way to get around,” he said. “For students it would be a huge economic uplift.”

Menard, who has sparred with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson online and at some council meetings, said he is ready to see a change in leadership.

He said he has worked closely with Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who has also been an advocate for better transit accountability and has stated they are considering running for mayor.

Menard added he is waiting for Watson to announce whether he will seek re-election in 2022 before making any decisions regarding his own political future. “McKenney definitely reflects my values,” he said.

With Parliament returning, young members of a defeated Green Party grapple with its racism and transphobia problem

With Parliament returning, young members of a defeated Green Party grapple with its racism and transphobia problem

Annamie Paul, centre, resigned on Nov. 10 amid poor election results and internal party disputes. Photo by courtesy of Rebecca Wood through Creative Commons license.

For Kayne Alleyne-Adams, 20, the Green Party of Canada represented an important voice for young people to address the issues of climate change and social justice.

Like other young Greens, he is now grappling with his place in the party following allegations of racism and transphobia within many of the party’s inner circles.

“There are a lot of party spaces that are extremely unsafe for members, especially members of colour, Jewish members and members from the LGBTQ+ community,” said Alleyne-Adams, who is Black and identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In a year that saw the hottest temperatures in Canadian history, and record-breaking floods this week in B.C., the stage was set for the Greens to take command of the climate issue in the Sept. 20 federal election. However, with Parliament now set to return on Nov. 22, the Greens are arriving back in Ottawa without a leader and with a host of internal equity issues, which has many supporters wondering how the party can move forward.

Internal Green Party report details strife

On Aug. 31, an internal report detailed complaints of racism and transphobia in the party. The complaints stem from a variety of “spaces” such as campaign events and Facebook groups. Members reported the comments and remarks made by other members in these spaces to senior levels of the party, who they say failed to address them.

Some generation Z and millennial members — who represent an important source of support for the party — are reckoning with their confidence in the party’s management of discrimination.

“I can’t be part of a movement where I don’t feel as if I can bring people in … If I feel guilty bringing in a friend or bringing in a family member. I just don’t see that as a space that I want to dedicate my time to,” Alleyne-Adams said.

“And until the Green Party of Canada makes it clear that organizationally, they want to create a safer environment, it’s just not the place for me.”

photo of Kayne Alleyne-Adams working at a desk
Kayne Alleyne-Adams says he was initially inspired by Annamie Paul’s vision for the Green Party. He became frustrated with senior members who failed to address systemic problems of racism, transphobia, and anti-Semitism. Photo courtesy of Darcy Higgins.

Growing up as the eldest of four, raised by a single mother with disabilities, Alleyne-Adams was inspired by Annamie Paul and identified with her story as the daughter of immigrants. He felt she had a passion for integrating diverse views and youth voices into her campaign and would go on to serve as the chair of the Young Greens of Canada Council and as Paul’s debate prep coordinator.

After over a year with the Green Party, he became frustrated with the party’s senior governance in addressing problems of racism, transphobia and anti-Semitism within the party. Alleyne-Adams said he reported the incidents of racism against him to the membership review and complaints process but received no resolution.

“Oftentimes, I wouldn’t even receive as much as a reply or even an acknowledgement that they’ve received this letter in the first place,” he said.

But racism is not the only issue facing the Greens.

‘Transphobia seems to go unchecked’: B.C. Green Party candidate

The Aug. 31 internal report also describes the governance level of the party failing to address complaints of transphobia.

“I’ve just noticed that transphobia within the federal party seems to go unchecked,” said Nicola Spurling, 31, a candidate for the provincial B.C. Green Party in Coquitlam-Maillardville and a member of the federal Green Party.

photo of Nicola Spurling
Nicola Spurling says federal party leaders stayed silent and allowed transphobia to occur in the party. She ran as a candidate for the B.C. Green Party in the 2020 provincial election. Photo used by courtesy of Nicola Spurling

During the 2020 provincial election, Spurling, who is openly transgender, was harassed and doxed by a man who claimed to be a fan of author J.K. Rowling and protested at several sign-waving events for her campaign with anti-transgender signs.

Spurling said she felt supported by the B.C. Green Party following the harassment who offered to pay her legal bills and provide any support she required.

“That, to me, was really impressive to have a party that really cared about me,” she said.

Although she felt supported in the provincial party, she says trans members of the federal Greens face a significant amount of transphobia and the party has not supported them.

“If the party continues the way that it has been, sort of staying silent on these important issues… I have doubts about whether it can last,” she said.

At this time, Spurling says she is unsure whether she will renew her membership to the federal party.

‘Struggle for the soul of the party’

In the 2021 federal election, the Green Party finished with 2.3 per cent of the popular vote, down from 6.5 per cent in 2019. Former leader, Annamie Paul, finished in fourth place in her riding of Toronto Centre, prompting an internal battle over what went wrong.

Paul, who officially resigned on Nov. 10, said in her resignation speech, “there is a struggle that is going on for the soul of the party.”

Despite the decline in the national vote and internal conflict within the party, the Greens were saved from a calamitous loss in seats by Mike Morrice, who won a surprise victory in the Ontario riding of Kitchener Centre.

For Morrice, who joined the party in 2019, running for the Greens wasn’t the most politically advantageous, but he felt he needed his first choice in politics to be one he believed in.

“I wanted to start myself on a track that ensured I could stay true to who I am and focus on democracy first and foremost and give me the best chance to hold on to my integrity,” he said.

Morrice, 37, will be one of two MPs in the Green caucus and is left to pick up the pieces of a fractured party.

“Racism is systemic, and we need to be calling it out and rooting it out. And that’s an ongoing process,” he said.

Morrice is calling for the party to centre anti-racism policy in the most senior levels of government and says they need to focus on listening to racialized voices and the issues they are illuminating.

“Those are voices that the party needs to be listening to and learning from, but like I said, this is the reality of systemic racism that exists in every institution across the country,” he said.

Many of these decisions need to come from the federal council which governs the complaints and membership review process.

Maya Linsley, 19, is also grappling with her place in the party, but feels the Green Party still represents an important platform for young people.

Linsley was a volunteer for Morrice’s 2021 campaign which was the first time she got involved in politics.

photo of Maya Linsley
Maya Linsley volunteered for Mike Morrice’s 2021 campaign. She says she was inspired by his campaign and his focus on community. She is disappointed with the senior levels of the Green Party. Photo courtesy of Maya Linsley.

Trust in new Ontario Green MP

While disappointed with how the party is handling its internal issues, Linsley said she felt inspired by Morrice’s campaign and his commitment to her community.

“When people see that their concerns are actually registering, that’s when they start caring because they really feel like they’re heard,” she said.

Linsley’s belief in the values that Morrice brings to the Greens helped her to reckon with the issues in the party.

“We trust him to represent the community, and I think a party like the Green Party, because of the way they’re set up, they bring those people forward, the people who will just represent the needs of the community, regardless of the party agenda,” she said.

The party, in her view, still has an important place in Canadian politics but needs to change.

“I think a Green Party is the thing that we really, really need,” she said. “And I wish they wouldn’t mess it up.”

For Alleyne-Adams, politics are taking the backseat for now, so he can focus on school (he’s studying sociology and creative writing at York University) and his mental health before getting involved again.

“I think there’s a necessity for parties to be inclusive, to be open, and to be willing to listen to and hear young voices,” he said.

“I don’t think the Green Party has that right now. I don’t think the Green Party has been that for a little while.”

To learn more about the issues youth are facing as Parliament resumes, check out Andrew Stetson’s article, Economic recovery, reconciliation leading issues for young Ottawans as Parliament resumes