Change coming to Ottawa as new council sworn in

It's the beginning of a new chapter at Ottawa City Hall.

After more than a month of waiting, 23 councillors and the mayor were sworn in Monday. Seven new faces will be taking seats at the table, including Laura Dudas, Jenna Sudds, Glen Glower, Theresa Kavanagh, Shawn Menard, Carol Anne Meehan and Matthew Luloff.

Mayor Jim Watson was sworn in for a third straight term, along those new faces, and familiar ones too.

"There's a good balance of new people with good ideas and steady hands that know how this city operates," said Watson.

"I think that's great in a democracy that you have some new blood that comes in."

This year's council will be facing a number of pressing issues, some more urgent than others. With the legalization of marijuana, the City of Ottawa will have to decide whether or cannabis retail stores will be permitted in the city. The city will be holding a public meeting Dec. 13 to go over a report submitted to the city.

"It's unfortunate that we've had this thrust upon us relatively quickly," said Watson.

"We've got a lot of input, I haven't seen the full report they just told me the full report, it's about six or seven thousand e-mails."

Councillor for Gloucester-South Nepean says pot shops are an opportunity for Ottawa to negotiate with the province.

"Say to them we want more control over location and number," said Meehan.

"I think we can negotiate for a better slice of the revenue pie."

Watson also addressed whether the new council could play a role in getting the Lebreton Flats project back on track, but says it's too early to tell.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense for us to do public consultation when the plan may not be the plan we finally land on"

The drafting of the 2019 municipal budget will be one of the first tasks to tackle. Watson campaigned on a promise to cap property tax increases at three per cent. But with each councillor bringing their own agenda, that could be a challenge.

Councillor for Kanata North Jenna Sudds says traffic and congestion, as well as affordability is a priority.

"The congestion on our roads, a number of roadways are congested in peak times," said Sudds.

"So the need is there not only to invest in infrastructure and course LRT in our community."

Orleans councillor Matthew Luloff says he will support Franco-Ontarians.

"Traffic is an issue and we want to make sure we support Franco-Ontarians," said Luloff.

"We have a major contingent in Orleans."

A new city councillor determined to bring about change is Capital Ward's Shawn Menard.

"Fare are still too high in the City of Ottawa," said Menard.

"We've seen a reduction in ridership because of the high fare and we have to make sure the operational issues are taken care of."

Changes are not just coming to the current council, but the future too. Barrhaven councillor Jan Harder announced after 21 years of serving the exploding suburb, this term will be her last.

"Sometimes it's the right time," said Harder.

"I intend to complete a lot of major work this term before passing the torch."

"I think there's going to be change this council," said Menard.

"And this is the start of that."