McKenna says local issues will be focus of 2019 re-election campaign

Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna says she will once again be focusing on local issues to win over Ottawa voters in the upcoming federal election.

In 2015, McKenna upset three-term Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar to secure her seat in the House of Commons. Her campaign was focused on local issues, including a focus on more bike paths through Ottawa Centre, a plan for the Ottawa Library and a new footbridge over the Rideau Canal.

The same strategy, she said, will be used this time. In fact, she told Rob Snow that she is already door-knocking in her ward.

"In the last campaign, I was definitely the underdog, and I did something a little bit unusual - I ran a local election campaign,” McKenna said in a wide-ranging interview on News and Views with Rob Snow.

“My focus is delivering things to the people of Ottawa-Centre that are going to improve lives for everyone.”

The federal riding of Ottawa Centre includes all the central areas of the nation’s capital between the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. Historically, the riding has been a two-way race between the Liberals and the NDP.

McKenna could face stiff competition from NDP candidate Emilie Taman, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and past federal crown prosecutor. In 2018, Taman was named one of the top 25 most influential lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.

McKenna would not elaborate on what specific items are in her platform this time around but said she has delivered for the people of Ottawa Centre.

Key to her 2015 campaign was the promise of a new footbridge over the Rideau Canal that would improve access to one of Ottawa’s best-known landmarks. McKenna was at the press conference alongside Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and then-Glebe councillor David Chernushenko when the new footbridge was announced in August 2016.

The newly-named Flora Footbridge will cross the canal just north of the Canal Ritz restaurant.

“That’s helping people in the Glebe, old Ottawa East and get around better ... in a cleaner way,” she said.

The project will cost $21 million, with half of the price tag funded by the federal government. Construction on the bridge is currently underway.

McKenna also cited a $74.7 million federal investment for affordable housing as another success during her time as Ottawa-Centre MP. The money will support the construction of a 27-floor rental building at 70 Gloucester Street with 227 rental units available at a reduced price as well as a passive housing project on Arlington Avenue.

However, McKenna’s tenure in Ottawa Centre was not without its challenges.

In 2016, the National Capital Commission announced that Tunney’s Pasture would be the site for the new Ottawa Hospital. The choice was rejected by local politicians on all three levels of government (including many prominent local Liberals), political observers and the board of the Ottawa Hospital because it would be difficult to access via public transit.

But McKenna supported the new location, saying in a press release at the time the NCC’s decision was “great news” for her riding.

Then local politicians came up with a new location - the former Sir John Carling Building near Dow's Lake. At the December press conference to announce the decision, McKenna fielded a few questions and quickly left out the side door with her staff.

 In retrospect, McKenna said her handling of the Ottawa Hospital file was a rookie mistake.

“I was new to the job,” she said. “There’s a whole history with how that decision was made...but look, I think we got a good outcome in the end.”

The Ottawa Hospital's $2-billion Civic campus was eventually approved on the eastern edge of the Central Experimental Farm. The new super hospital isnt expected to open until 2026.

Canadians will head to the polls on October 21, 2019.