The federal election race is on and Ottawa Centre will likely be a key capital city battleground to watch, with no incumbent and a multi-billion dollar health-care issue at its core.

As candidates canvas neighbourhoods in the downtown riding, their hope is that knocks on the door will bring opportunity.

Once an NDP stronghold, Ottawa Centre was won by Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna in 2015, who has chosen to not run again. With no incumbent, NDP candidate Angella MacEwen wants to see a return to orange.

“We have a real good chance,” says MacEwen. “We’ve had really strong NDP candidates that were able to get stuff done both locally and federally.”

The decision to call an election in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19 has been a point of contention for some residents, but a key issue in the riding is the new $2.8-billion Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus which is to be moved east on Carling Avenue near the corner of Preston Street.

“There's a lot of challenges with the location which were known early on,” says Karen Wright, President of Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association, who plans to express the project's concerns to each candidate. “We really need someone who can help steer this complex project to resolve some of these very important issues.”

A four-storey parking facility, which was supposed to be buried underground, has been re-designed to go above ground and will be farther away from the hospital. Wright says LRT remains an ongoing challenge and many trees will be removed from the site. She has concerns for the protection of the green space around the area, including the nearby arboretum and the Central Experimental Farm.

“This is not just the city of Ottawa, but beyond. The entire valley will be using this hospital, so it really affects a great number of Canadians,” says Wright. “If this is the location, we need to do it right and I can’t just hope for a major change that will remove some of these struggles or challenges.”

MacEwen says there has been a lack of open and honest consultation with the public about the hospital and that community members should be heard.

“We shouldn’t be taking down trees to build parking lots,” says MacEwen. “We’re in a climate emergency and we should be prioritizing public transit; we should be prioritizing public green spaces; we should make sure that we’re developing Ottawa as responsibly as we can.”

Liberal candidate Yasir Naqvi is running in the riding as well. For 11 years, he held the provincial seat for the Liberals.

“There’s no perfect site for a hospital in the downtown core,” says Naqvi. “What I do not want to see, and I’m hearing it loud and clear from the community, is a decade’s long delay in building this hospital. We need a modern 21st century hospital in the downtown core as soon as possible.”

Both Naqvi and MacEwen say ensuring mass transit to the hospital, including the LRT, will need to be a priority for the hospital project. The city's planning committee will vote on the plan Sept. 9.

Candidates seeking election in the riding of Ottawa Centre:

  •  Conservative Party: Carol Clemenhagen
  •  Green Party: Angela Keller-Herzog
  •  Liberal Party: Yasir Naqvi
  •  NDP: Angella MacEwen
  •  People's Party of Canada:  (no candidate declared)