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Transit tops municipal election issues; taxes, housing also key factors: Nanos poll


Ottawa’s public transit system is the most frequently mentioned issue for voters in the capital’s municipal campaign, according to a new poll.

A Nanos Research poll for CTV News Ottawa asked respondents, “What is the most important issue for the upcoming municipal election in the City of Ottawa?” It took open answers.

The LRT and public transit were mentioned by 21.4 per cent of respondents, making it the most frequently mentioned issue on the campaign trail. In a near-tie for second place were taxes or property taxes at 15.4 per cent and affordable housing at 15.0 per cent.

Climate change and the environment were fourth at 5.6 per cent, and roads and infrastructure followed with 4.9 per cent of respondents naming it as their top issue. 2.6 per cent of respondents said they were unsure what their most important issue is and 2 per cent said they had no top issue or weren’t following the campaign.

Transit was consistently high among different respondents, ranking as the top most mentioned issue overall for both men (21.7%) and women (20.1%) and among all age categories (23%, 18-34; 21.7%, 35-54; 20%, 55+). Transit was also the most frequently mentioned issue among residents in east (25.6%), and rural Ottawa (20.7%).

Residents in west Ottawa mentioned property taxes (20.2%) more often than transit (18.2%) as the top issue. Downtown residents mentioned affordable housing (25%) as their top issue, followed by transit (20.8%).

A Nanos Research poll for CTV News Ottawa shows transit and the LRT topped the list of unprompted issues for voters in the 2022 municipal election. (Nanos Research)

Transit pledges have been key and early elements of campaigns for mayoral candidates in Ottawa. The last term of council was dominated by the launch and subsequent repeated failures of the Confederation Line LRT, but the term also included an early and controversial vote on approving Stage 2.

The transit system has since been affected by deep revenue deficits caused by a major drop in ridership due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. OC Transpo and Para Transpo ridership has not returned to 2019 levels and the transit service is projecting an $85 million deficit this year if senior levels of government do not provide additional funding, as they had in 2020 and 2021.

Nanos conducted an online representative non-probability survey of 479 residents of Ottawa, 18 years of age or older, between Sept. 23 and Oct. 3. A margin of error is not applicable for this type of poll.


OC Transpo fares emerged early as an election issue when a report was published in July suggesting that providing transit service that is free at the fare box would lead to a significant increase to property taxes.

Estimating that eliminating fares would cost approximately $209 million, based on pre-pandemic transit use, city staff said such a move would increase the transit tax for the average property owner by an additional $482 in the first year.

An adult transit rider using a monthly pass is paying $1,506 at current fare for an entire year of service.

Candidate Mark Sutcliffe came out early opposing any plan to broadly eliminate transit fares by increasing tax levies, arguing that improving service would be the key to restoring ridership. His transit plan includes a one-year fare freeze for all transit riders—expanding a previously announced plan to freeze low-income and seniors’ passes—and to provide more transparent and current data on system performance.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, the current front-runner as found by a Nanos Research poll for CTV News Ottawa, is pledging to freeze fares, increase transit service by 20 per cent, and make fares free for all riders 17 and under. McKenney is also promising a top-to-bottom review of OC Transpo within the first 100 days of the new term.

Former Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli has also promised a top-to-bottom review of OC Transpo with the first 100 days in office, if elected, and has said he is opposed to eliminating fares through increased taxation.


Taxes and property taxes were the second most cited top issue, edging out affordable housing.

Younger voters were far less likely to name property taxes as their top issue compared to other age groups. Only 8.5 per cent of respondents age 18 to 34 named taxes as their top concern, compared to 19.3 per cent of people 35 to 44 and 17 per cent of people 55 and older.

Men were twice as likely to name taxes as their top issue as women were, with 20.8 per cent of men saying it’s their most important issue compared to 10.5 per cent of women.

Residents in west and east Ottawa were also more likely to consider taxes the top issue compared to downtown and rural voters.

One-fifth (20.2%) of west Ottawans said property taxes were their top issue, ahead of transit (18.2%) and affordable housing (14.1%). In the east, transit still topped the issues list (21.7%) but property taxes were close behind at 20.8 per cent.

Taxes were still the second most mentioned item for rural residents after transit (20.7%) at 13.7 per cent, but only 8.8 per cent of downtown residents considered taxes to be a key issue.

McKenney has promised to cap property tax increases at 3 per cent per year if elected mayor, which was the policy in the last term of council. Sutcliffe said he would keep tax increases between 2 and 2.5 per cent if he becomes mayor. Chiarelli has said he would freeze taxes in his first year if he is elected mayor.


Affordable housing ranked third overall in the most frequently mentioned issues on the campaign trail, but demographics suggest it’s a key issue for younger residents and those living downtown.

A quarter of downtown respondents (25.0%) cited affordable housing as their most important issue. It was also the second-most frequently cited issue for women (17.3%) and for residents 18 to 34 (18.5%).

McKenney’s housing plan includes a significant focus on ending chronic homelessness by building supportive housing for 250 individuals through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative and housing another 250 people through housing allowances.

McKenney said they would be seeking $108 million from the federal government’s $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund to build new affordable housing in the city and would also work with community housing agencies to build 1,000 non-profit housing units per year across the city.

Sutcliffe has committed to a plan to build 100,000 new homes in Ottawa over 10 years and 1,000 community housing units each year. He says he will use targeted building incentives, zoning changes and city lands to help build affordable housing.

Chiarelli’s housing plan includes a specific pledge to protect R1 zoning; that is, zoning that prohibits larger, multi-unit buildings from being built in neighbourhoods made up largely of single-family homes. He said reaching Ottawa’s intensification targets for growth could be achieved through building on existing city land, and above commercial space. He also said he would fast track applications for attic and basement suites to provide more housing space for people.

Approximately 6 per cent of eligible voters in Ottawa have already cast ballots in advance polls. There is one more day of advance voting on Friday ahead of Election Day on Oct. 24. CTV News Ottawa previously reported that Nanos Research found 35 per cent of respondents were undecided on whom to elect as mayor.

CTV News at Six will host a mayoral debate on Thursday, Oct. 13. Coverage will begin on CTV News at Five, with extended post-debate coverage on Top Stories

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