At its first meeting of 2019, Ottawa city council unanimously approved a byelection in Rideau-Rockcliffe to replace former councillor, Tobi Nussbaum, who stepped down barely two months into his second term to become the next CEO of the National Capital Commission (NCC).
Residents of the urban ward just west of Ottawa’s downtown core will go to the polls on April 15, councillors decided on Wednesday, in line with recommendations from city staff. An advance voting day will be held on April 5.
“It’s a relatively quick period but I think that’s important,” Mayor Jim Watson told reporters after council’s meeting. “We want to get the person in the seat as quickly as possible so residents of Rideau-Rockcliffe have a voice around the table.”
Nussbaum submitted his formal resignation from council on Friday, after having confirmed his appointment as new head of the NCC on Dec. 13, 2018.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury and Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier have been tasked with handling Rideau-Rockcliffe ward issues until a new councillor is sworn in.
Staff estimated a byelection in Rideau-Rockcliffe would cost the city $329,500. Watson said he was in favour of holding a byelection despite its price tag, arguing it wouldn’t be wise to pursue the alternative — appointing a replacement — so early in council’s four-year term.
The nomination period for the byelection began Wednesday. Candidates have until March 1 at 2 p.m. to submit their nomination papers.
Nussbaum, who was easily re-elected in Rideau-Rockcliffe in October with just over 80 per cent of the vote, only faced one challenger in that race.
READ MORE: Ottawa election results 2018
Watson said “a lot more people tend to come forward” to run in municipal byelections, adding that three or four people have already approached him about throwing their hat into the ring.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Ottawa resident Jamie Kwong had already registered as a candidate in the Rideau-Rockcliffe byelection. Kwong is a former executive director of the Quartier Vanier BIA and executive director of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.
After a lengthy debate — the longest of Wednesday’s meeting — council voted 19-3 in favour of changing the name of the environment committee to the Standing Committee on Water, Waste and Environmental Protection.
The committee was previously named the Environment and Climate Protection Committee. The motion to rename it was moved by the committee’s new chair, Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt.
In arguing against Moffatt’s motion, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans pointed to the omission of ‘climate change’ from the proposed new committee name.
“In my opinion, this change signals to our residents that climate change and climate protection efforts are not a priority for this council,” Deans argued, adding the committee was renamed last year. “While that may not be the intent, it is the message. And frankly, I think we need to be doing more to highlight the work that we’re doing around climate protection and green initiatives.”
Other councillors, meanwhile, argued that the work the committee accomplishes is ultimately more important than what the group is called.
(Watson’s vote in favour of Moffatt’s motion ultimately wasn’t recorded because he wasn’t in a designated council seat when he cast his vote.)
Council also officially rejected the Royal Thai Embassy’s application to rezone its property at 180 Island Park Dr. for office use.
The embassy wanted to tear down the existing residence and replace it with a new two-storey consular building. Planning staff supported that plan but their recommendations were rejected by planning committee on Jan. 24.
Watson on Wednesday also delivered his state of the city address, in which he highlighted big city projects and initiatives for 2019.
In the address, he also announced the names of five individuals who would receive the key to the City of Ottawa — the city’s highest honour — this year:
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