Why I’m running: Lilly Obina in Ottawa - New Canadian Media

Why I’m running: Lilly Obina in Ottawa

This is an occasional column on immigrants running for political office — at the municipal, provincial or federal level. Here, we feature a candidate contesting an Ottawa…

This is an occasional column on immigrants running for political office — at the municipal, provincial or federal level. Here, we feature a candidate contesting an Ottawa City ward on Oct. 27. New Canadian Media does not endorse candidates or political parties. 

I ran for this same office in 2010 and got 32 per cent of the vote. I am hoping that the people in Ward 10 are willing to replace a veteran Councillor, Diane Deans, who has held this office for 20 years and has probably run out of ideas, with a fresh new face with new ideas and a big heart that cares. My quest to run this time has not been an easy one. I have been battling the City of Ottawa in court as they did not want to allow me to run since I had not filed an audited financial statement when I ran in 2010 because I lacked the resources to retain an auditor. The judge concluded that I acted in good faith and ruled in my favour. So, here I am running again in 2014.

Here are the key areas I would like to focus on if elected:

In order to make key decisions, the community must be consulted, informed and involved.  I will involve the community in major council decisions. My office will be accountable to the community.  I will convene monthly meetings where constituents can ask questions and offer opinions on issues of the day. I will create a smartphone app that will link the Councillor’s office to the community. I will consult with the community at the commencement of key projects.

We must fix neighbourhoods like Heatherington: an area that houses mainly immigrants, many of them from Somalia. We must provide them with a Youth Center that will allow children to participate in supervised activities. We must clean up the streets. Let us not think that residents have no value to society so we just ignore them. Let us respect them and do right by them. Many of them have not chosen to be in that situation, but life put them there. For most, it is temporary. When I first came to Canada, I lived in subsidized housing and I encountered bugs from time to time.

With good education and hard work, today, I own a home and live a life like any other Canadian. Let us not forget our neighbours. When they succeed, we all succeed and our home value goes up because we have beautiful and crime-free neighbourhoods.

Let us not forget our neighbours. When they succeed, we all succeed and our home value goes up …

Economic platform

My plans for economic development for this ward are different from Councillor Deans’. She has built warehouses upon warehouses, union offices, truck washing bays, City work yards and a juvenile prison. She has created mainly retail jobs where people have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet which takes them away from their families. Every four years, she builds a playground or splash pad and we think that is development for our families.

Now, she is fixing a bit of road by Airport Parkway and Hunt Club given that this is an election year. Her major projects have a cycle of four years and they coincide with elections. Look at the Hunt Club Ramp congestion and traffic issues as a result of the Hunt Club ramp opening. She does not have as much invested in this ward because she doesn’t live here. She lives in a gated community in River Ward. When gun shots are ringing out here, she is fast asleep, enjoying her crime-free neighborhood.  When our children are confronted with drug dealers in our neighbourhoods, she is out of touch with the community. I hope the people of this ward will see through this this time and vote for a candidate with a new vision and heart.

From an economic perspective here is what I propose to do. This ward is strategically placed with the international airport and Highway 417 as main entrance points to the City and we need to take full advantage of that. More than five million passengers come through the airport every year. That is a potential spending opportunity in this ward. Why do we allow that money to just drive by through our beautiful Airport Parkway, going through our unfinished bridge to be spent somewhere downtown or in Kanata, for example? My vision is to entice these visitors so they can spend their money right here, creating jobs for our professionals. I want visitors to make a stop over here, to hang out in a beautiful neighborhood with exotic cultural cuisines and amenities.

Attracting employers

We have a large student population who go to Carleton and Ottawa Universities. Currently, these students and all of us professionals have to look for work outside the ward. One key reason is we don’t attract professional employers because they need spacious, beautiful office buildings. Why can’t we have the Blackberry headquarters here; why can’t we have Cisco headquarters here? Many companies that do business worldwide would probably prefer to have an office by the airport so they can travel in and out quickly. I propose that we work with investors and developers who can build world-class office towers. We need to build Business Parks here. This will provide jobs to our graduates right here.

My mother taught me to always respect my elders and treat them well.

I want to help more people get into the middle class and build an environment that can even create millionaires in this ward. That is why I want to support small businesses with information on grants and funding to help with start-ups. I will have a full-time Community Business Advocate in my office, if elected, whose job will be to help businesses set up in this community. I know there are many immigrants in this area, they don’t need to speak English to start a business; they only need a brilliant idea. We also need a business improvement association that will determine what kind of businesses will add value to this area of the city.

I am also a firm believer in education. Education is key to one’s success. As Councillor, I will focus on policies that will build a strong foundation for education. Many parents do shift work or work shifts that take them away from their children; we cannot allow these children to fall behind. We should provide homework clubs in this area. That will give them a foundation from an early age and will actually push them into the middle class.

Finally, our seniors must be respected and accorded reasonable service. They have served and raised us. My mother taught me to always respect my elders and treat them well. We will one day be in their shoes. Let us provide our seniors with a comfortable and engaged lifestyle. Improving Para Transpo service for our seniors will be a key initiative I will focus on. My volunteer work with the Citizen Advocacy has enlightened me on how bad the service can get.

Lilly Obina was born in Uganda and has lived in Canada for 21 years. She has an MBA from Dalhousie University and been a project manager for a global IT/Engineering firm managing multi-million dollar product lines for over 15 years.

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