Jenna Sudds targeting tech park transit pains in new job as Kanata North councillor

Sudds
Kanata North councillor Jenna Sudds. File photo.

One week after her successful entry into municipal politics, new Kanata North councillor-elect Jenna Sudds says she’s not forgetting her tech park roots.

Sudds will replace retiring councillor Marianne Wilkinson in the Kanata North ward after defeating challengers Matt Muirhead and former Ottawa Champions president David Gourlay in the Ottawa municipal election on Oct. 22. She confirmed to OBJ that she’ll leave her current position as executive director of the government of Canada’s CIO Strategy Council after wrapping up a few lingering commitments.

Sudds, the inaugural executive director of the Kanata North Business Association, says she’s been inundated with orientation activities to get ready for her role on council when the new term begins on Dec. 1.

One of the issues on her radar has been transit concerns in Kanata North. Traffic congestion tends to pile up on March Road and Terry Fox Drive, Sudds says, and there’s a need for better transit options to alleviate this stress for the tech park’s more than 20,000 workers.

City staff have considered extending the light-rail transit system directly to the Kanata Research Park after the second phase of its development, but in a report tabled last spring, the idea was dismissed as too costly.

Current plans would see an eventual third stage take the LRT line through Kanata to Hazeldean, but bypass the tech park. The report suggested feeder service to the park via buses or, in a slightly futuristic solution befitting the tech park, autonomous shuttles.

LRT stage

Then-councillor Wilkinson indicated her support for the proposed alignment, but had mused previously about a “spur line” to KRP.

When asked whether she’d push for an LRT extension directly to the tech park, Sudds said she supports the current plan as a “good spine” for the system, but believes “we need to find a way to better serve the north end of Kanata and the tech park as well.”

Sudds also doesn’t want to wait on an eventual LRT line, which currently does not have funding secured and would potentially come after 2031.

“LRT is quite a long ways away for Kanata, so that's not something we can wait on when it comes to the current pain points that we have,” she says.

Kanata business community lends support

Having successfully run her first political campaign and after a week to reflect on the eight-month process, Sudds says the support from the more than 100 regular volunteers on her team was surprising to her.

“Having not been involved in politics or campaigns in the past, it was really overwhelming the amount of people that came out to support me,” she says.

Roughly half of those volunteers were people she met through her role with the KNBA, she says. Kanata businesspeople such as Mitel’s Amy MacLeod and Calian CEO Kevin Ford were among those giving Sudds their seal of approval when she first announced her intention to run.

Sudds intends to return that support to the workers and residents of Kanata North, two demographics with a lot of overlap. She believes she can communicate the value of the tech park to the rest of Ottawa from her seat on council and act as a voice for the more than 500 businesses that call Kanata North home.

“I also think it's really important for Kanata North to have a councillor who can bring that perspective and … really advocate on behalf of that economic engine,” she says.

“I look forward to digging into (big issues) and working on productive solutions to make sure that as we continue to grow that we do it well.”