Ottawa Centre is an urban federal electoral district in Ontario, Canada, that encompasses the nation’s capital. Ottawa Centre is represented in the House of Commons by Paul Dewar from the New Democratic Party.
The riding covers most of downtown Ottawa, including the Parliament buildings. From the UNESCO World-Heritage Rideau Canal, the riding stretches west encompassing the neighbourhoods of Downtown, Centretown, Centretown West including Little Italy, Dalhousie, Lebreton Flats, Mechanicsville, Hintonburg and Westboro. The Ottawa River marks the northern border of the riding. The riding also encompasses neighbourhoods south of downtown, including The Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Lees Avenue, Old Ottawa East, Civic Hospital, Carleton Heights, and Hog’s Back. It also includes Carleton University and its student residences, Saint Paul University’s campus, as well as Federal Experimental Farm.
Ottawa Centre enjoys an active and engaged citizenry. It has one of the highest rates of electoral participation in federal elections. Numerous citizens associations represent local priorities. It has an educated constituency and is home to the headquarters of many of Canada’s non-governmental organizations. Through regular community dialogues, citizens take an active role in making policies that are advocated by Paul Dewar in Parliament.
As of 2001, the average family income in Ottawa Centre was $84,956 with a median household income of $50,069. Small businesses in Ottawa Centre thrive with community’s support. Dewar has advocated for making credit more accessible for existing small businesses and new start-ups.
Despite its strong economy, however, Ottawa Centre experienced an unemployment rate of 6.8% before the most recent recession. Due to current economic recession and challenges for high tech giant Nortel, Ottawa Centre has lost some valuable jobs. The job losses call for stronger protection of the unemployed through the Employment Insurance and measures that protect severance packages and retirement funds. At the same time, the economic challenges call for investments in high technology sector both as a means of stimulating the sector as well as advancing innovation for a new, green economy.
Like other urban ridings in Canada, affordable housing, homelessness and poverty remain serious issues in the riding. Dewar has advocated keeping Canada’s healthcare system public and universal while calling for homecare for the riding’s aging population. Dewar has also worked with other colleagues in parliament to establish a Canada-wide prescription drug program, phasing in drug coverage for all citizens, beginning with catastrophic drug costs, in cooperation with the provinces and territories.
Environmental sustainability has been a cornerstone of public participation in Ottawa Centre. As an embodiment of thinking globally and acting locally, Ottawa Centre residents are active in the global movement to reduce carbon emissions, while engaging with their Member of Parliament in preserving the Ottawa River (the city’s source of drinking water) and protecting the Gatineau Park.
The riding enjoys a high level of public transit use. Residents also rely on cycling and walking as major modes of transportation. As such, investments in improving public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure are important issues to the residents of Ottawa Centre.
Residents pay particular attention to community safety and advocate for progressive approaches to community policing, prevention and treatment. Early childhood education and affordable, quality childcare are important issues to residents and have been advocated strongly by Paul Dewar on their behalf.
Ottawa Centre is a diverse riding with sizeable minorities of new Canadians. Paul Dewar’s efforts on family reunification, ensuring government’s respect for citizenship rights of all new Canadians, and facilitating the fair recognition of professional credentials of new Canadians have been supported by Ottawa Centre’s growing population of immigrants and new citizens.
The riding is also a major cultural centre in Canada, home to federal institutions such as the National Arts Centre as well as numerous local arts centres including the Great Canadian Theatre Company, numerous galleries and independent cinema theatres. The riding is the site of vibrant and diverse festivals during the year. Given the residents’ support for arts and culture in Ottawa Centre, government’s cuts to arts funding or its poor management of the Portrait Gallery file have rallied the residents behind Dewar’s campaigns for arts and culture.
The voice of the riding’s strong women’s movement and its vibrant GLBT community has made a significant impression on policy making in parliament. The community’s progressive values are reflected in its knowledge of and engagement in global politics. It has a strong peace movement which has always advocated for nuclear disarmament. Many businesses in the riding are advocates of fair trade and corporate social responsibility. These values have led Paul Dewar’s work at the Foreign Affairs committee.
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