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Rural Summit Will Give Local Voices An Opportunity To Be Heard

By David Brown, Rideau-Jock Councillor

Residents may have heard that Ottawa is set to host a Rural Summit. This summit, the first of its kind since 2008, represents a unique opportunity for our communities to have their voices heard, to share their views on the unique challenges facing rural Ottawa, and to contribute to solutions to meaningfully improve life for rural Ottawa.

Over the coming days and weeks, City staff will be working with a group of residents from all five of the City’s rural wards to design and shape how the summit will proceed. The summit will be composed of at least six meetings – a meeting in each rural ward and a final culmination meeting near the end of the year.

This summit is vital because rural Ottawa represents roughly 80% of the City’s geography but only about 10% of the population. To give a sense of scale, our ward is one of 5 rural wards and it is large enough to fit 20 suburban and urban ward inside it – and we’d still have space to spare. From such a large geography arises unique challenges and issues that must be given due consideration.

However, around the Council table, the interests of rural communities and villages are often left unaddressed or poorly considered when policies are developed. Through the summit, there is a unique chance to refocus Ottawa on the concerns and priorities that matter most in wards like ours.

Residents will have many opportunities to participate in the summit, so please stay tuned for more information; I will share information as I receive it in my newsletter.  You can subscribe to my newsletter at www.ward21.ca to keep in the loop.

While I do not want to put my thumb on the scale or presuppose the outcome of this summit, I do have some goals that I hope to achieve for rural Ottawa.

At the core of many issues facing our communities (such as truck traffic in Manotick, a lack of service delivery in rural areas, road and infrastructure maintenance, traffic control devices, and much more) is the fact that rural Ottawa is treated the same way as urban Ottawa. The “one-size-fits-all” approach means that rural Ottawa has difficulty solving issues that are unique to our communities as the process through which issues are solved is a City-wide process.

With this in mind, I would like for the summit to explore options to improve how decisions are made so that rural Ottawa can set its own priorities more effectively. Additionally, I would like to develop a system to make the City more responsive to rural concerns; it should not take as long as it does to implement simple solutions in our communities and it should not be as onerous as it is to navigate City services.

These are a few ideas that I will be advancing through the rural summit. It is important that residents participate in this process as the rural summit is an exceptional opportunity to make meaningful progress on the issues that matter most to our communities.

I would encourage everyone in the community to reach out to my office by email at ward21@ottawa.ca to share their thoughts on the kinds of unique challenges that impact rural Ottawa. My office will make sure that comments from residents are included as part of the process. Moreover, I will continue to keep the community informed about the progress of the rural summit and upcoming meetings as I have more information to share.

The rural summit is a unique opportunity for our communities to have their voices heard and to rethink how the City manages the issues that matter to us. I am looking forward to using this as a chance to continue fighting for our communities.