Predictions, Re-visited

So the other day, I was on the Lunch Out Loud election preview podcast. I made predictions on a few words, let’s see how I did (remembering that I wanted to do better than 3/11):

  1. Somerset: Martin Canning or Jeff Morrison (yeah, I wussed out and picked two)

    Winner: Catherine McKenney
    I underestimated the power of McKenney’s machine. This isn’t a bad choice.

  2. Rideau-Rockliffe: Tobi Nussbaum

    Winner: Yay Tobi!

  3. Rideau-Vanier: Marc Aubin

    Winner: Mathieu Fleury
    Aubin’s vision didn’t spread throughout the ward. I hope he’ll remain active in the community.

  4. Kitchissippi: Jeff Leiper

    Winner: Yay Jeff!

  5. River: Riley Brockington

    Winner: Yay Riley!

  6. Osgoode: George Darouze (I’m really guessing here, but this is a really interesting race with lots of good candidates)

    Winner: Yay George!

  7. Gloucester-South Nepean: Susan Sherring

    Winner: Michael Qaquish
    Qaquish knocked on the doors and demonstrated his knowledge of City Hall to win comfortably.

  8. Alta Vista: Jean Cloutier

    Winner: Yay Jean!

  9. Bay: Mark Taylor

    Winner: Yay Mark!

  10. Innes: Jody Mitic

    Winner: Yay Jody!

So no these, I went 8/11; I’ll take that.

 

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Comment Rescue–Rideau-Vanier Race

Yesterday, I wrote about Rideau-Vanier candidate Catherine Fortin LeFaivre. In the comments, a supporter of Marc Aubin gave her assessment. In the interest of discourse, I’d like to highlight it. Here’s what reader Martha Scott wrote:

I did not know either candidate (Aubin or Fortin Lefaivre) last March, 2014. I sat down with each of them and a friend and we actually “interviewed” them. As women, we would have been delighted to support a woman.
We decided on Marc. The reason was his experience and his commitment.

He is a community activist whose work life has been as a transportation planner. The fact that he has been actively engaged – chairing his Community Assoc. and the King Ed Ave Task force as well as appearing for residents before the OMB, shows a depth of commitment no other candidate can offer.

In 2010 we elected an inexperienced candidate hoping he could learn on the job. He did not, and that combined with his Conflict of Interest with regards to 60% of the more than 2000 proposed new units coming up left us looking for better representation and minimal learning curve.

In the 8 months since meeting the two candidates I have never regretted my decision to support Marc. He definitely brings the commitment and sincerity as well as the experience Rideau Vanier needs.

Regardless who wins, you can’t doubt the passion in this race.

Catherine Fortin LeFaivre and the Rideau-Vanier Race

After writing about the Rideau-Vanier debate (and offering a prediction), I was contacted by a member of Catherine Fortin LeFaivre’s campaign team offering a chance to speak to the candidate directly. Time permitting, I’ll chat with pretty much any candidate who asks (though Fortin LeFaivre is only the second to ask); it’s a very good way to get a better handle on both the candidate and the issues facing the ward. So with that, here are my takeaways from the discussion.

First a side note, I met Fortin LeFaivre at Fleur Tea House on Somerset Street East, just near Russell. I used to live just down the street about ten years ago, and it was nice being back in the neighbourhood. Fleur Tea House is only about two years old, so it was also nice to check out a new business. The coffee was very good and the atmosphere was both interesting and comfortable. This might be a place I need to visit again in the future.

Now onto business…

Fortin LeFaivre is often considered the third candidate in this race, trailing incumbent Mathieu Fleury and challenger Marc Aubin, but she’s not willing to be relegated to also-ran status. Fortin LeFaivre grew up in the ward, having gone to De La Salle High School before heading to U.S. for university. Due to her travels, she hasn’t spent as many years in the area as the other challenger, Aubin, but it’s clear when she talks that this area is her home.

Interestingly, though Fortin LeFaivre’s academic background is in business, she’s not one of those candidates that espouses running the city like a business. She believes that background will help her (experience with budgets and operations, for example), but it is clear her calling is far beyond just being a money manager at City Hall.

This is a good thing. Rideau-Vanier doesn’t need one of these Larry O’Brien or Mike Maguire-esque candidates. This is an area that needs representation, social services and smart development.

Fortin LeFaivre’s more recent experience is in advocacy and lobbying. She believes this is one of the strengths she offers the community. Competitor Marc Aubin has been active in community associations since he was a teenager, and it is this experience that Aubin often promotes. Fortin LeFaivre’s history does not include the same level of community involvement as Aubin, but she believes her education and work experience balances that out. Listening to her, you’d have no reason to doubt it.

Fortin LeFaivre hasn’t always been out in front during this campaign. Even though she registered to challenge Fleury before Marc Aubin did, Aubin’s campaign was stronger and more visible earlier on. Make no mistake about it, Aubin has offered the community a vision, and he has rarely strayed from delivering that vision (other than when he would go on the attack against Fluery).

I like Aubin’s vision. He has put forth dozens of objectives he would like to accomplish. Even if he wins, there’s no chance he would get them all implemented–that’s just the nature of politics–but taken together, they tell you what Aubin wants to see for the city and the ward.

Fortin LeFaivre challenged me on that vision. Despite his wonderful graphics and slick messaging (and I’m saying “slick” in a positive way), there isn’t always as much substance behind it. Fortin LeFaivre notes that Aubin has all these objectives listed, but he doesn’t offer supporting information. You don’t know how he’s going to get there from here. She also argued that if you have so many objectives, you may have no priorities.

Over the past month or so, Fortin LeFaivre’s campaign has grown and has started to direct much of the debate. It is Fortin LeFaivre who first brought up the idea of a new library in the ByWard Market. She pushed the idea of a Safe Injection Site. She was the first to announce that she would disclose her donor list. These stances and issues have since been addressed and mirrored by her competitors.

Most importantly, it is Fortin LeFaivre who has pushed the topic of social services into the debate. As I noted in my review, Aubin’s strengths are urban development and traffic. He’s most comfortable talking about these issues, and he has made them focal points of his campaign. This is fine, as these are two significant issues. However, he had not made social services a priority.

I have heard a criticism of Aubin that his focus is on Lowertown, Sandy Hill and the ByWard Market, paying less attention to Vanier, and I can understand this. Fortin LeFaivre argued that this issues that are most important to Aubin are not the ones most important to Vanier. She believes that social services and community safety are the big issues for that area of the ward. It’s hard for me to disagree with her.

With Fortin LeFaivre pushing these issues, we are starting to hear both Fleury and Aubin address concerns. The city has problems with childcare. We’re sitting a pot of money that we just don’t know how to spend. We’ve changed the service delivery methods, but haven’t properly communicated those changes with the residents using the services. It’s a problem, and it’s an issue that too few people (in any ward) are talking about.

Fortin LeFaivre also talks a lot about the issues around representation and cooperation. She hasn’t made as big a deal of Fleury’s conflict-of-interest as Aubin has, but she, like Aubin, notes that there is much discontent in the ward with Fleury’s (lack of) representation. She wants more transparency and engagement (granted, these are nice platitudes that many candidates talk about). She has pledged to keep door-knocking throughout her term in office. This would counter the impression given of Fleury’s term.

For all the engagement and debate they have had in Rideau-Vanier, there has also been a lot of nastiness, and Fleury and Fortin LeFaivre have received the most of it. There have been personal attacks and sexist comments. Social media has been filled with supporters of the various candidates attacking each other and the candidates. The debates have seen planted questions and astro-turfing. It’s quite sad, and its a testament to the candidates that they’re willing to put up with it.

Amidst all this, Fortin LeFaivre posits herself as the best able to bring disparate groups, including the Mayor and council, together to meet the needs of residents. She, essentially, has two arguments to support this stance. First, her advocacy background demanded that she broker agreement between different groups. Second, she hasn’t spent the last four years alienating either the community or the mayor. For all the positive qualities of Aubin and Fleury, I think it’s easy to see that they have created more adversaries among community and civic leaders than Fortin LeFaivre.

These are three community leaders. If Fortin LeFaivre wins, I can see her working with both of her main opponents. I don’t know how much collaboration there would be between Fleury and Aubin should one of them win.

Fortin LeFaivre shared an anecdote that helps demonstrate the type of councillor she would be. She canvassed apartment buildings in the south end of Sandy Hill, just a few blocks from her own home. A woman living there–a single mother of four–was being harassed. Fortin LeFaivre found the different city agencies that should be available to help this woman, but each phone number they were given provided no relief. This woman is still living with harassment.

The frustration for Fortin LeFaivre was evident. She lived just a few blocks away from this woman, but, stonewalled by the city,she just couldn’t get her the help she needed. Fortin LeFaivre wants to keep trying to help this woman after the election, regardless of who wins.

I don’t doubt she will.

West Carleton-March Discussion

I watched the West Carleton-March debate a while back. It was a clear example of an entrenched incumbent, Eli El-Chantiry, facing a number of flawed candidates.

Jonathan Mark has a history in broadcasting, and it showed. He was quite comfortable on camera and spoke well. Fittingly, he has made communication a central point in his campaign. Unfortunately, he didn’t offer much more in terms of substance.

James Parsons had the most amusing performance. His body language and facial expressions demonstrated his exasperation with politicians who, for some reason, didn’t agree with him. He also displayed a key flaw that so many candidates display. When the city moved to bi-weekly garbage pick-up (which Parsons opposes), we were promised that it would cost less than weekly garbage pick-up, but Parsons’ tax bill hasn’t gone down!

So here it is: you can’t use the level of taxation to determine if one specific service costs too much. Further, you can’t compare the cost of bi-weekly garbage pick-up against a previous year’s weekly pick-up. Costs are increasing; weekly garbage pick-up would have cost more this year than last. Going back to weekly garbage pick-up, if only for part of the year, would cost millions more.

I’m hopeful for Brendan Gorman, but he didn’t come off that well in the debate. His platform is fine, and he seems dedicated to the community. That doesn’t mean he’d be the best councillor, but it is a start.

Alexander Aronec is young, but demonstrates a knowledge of the issues and challenges facing City Hall that you might not expect from someone his age. He’s got some rough edges, and he still didn’t quite take command of the discussion, but he was quite promising.

El-Chantiry came off as the strongest candidate. As you would expect of the incumbent, he had the best grasp of the issues and provided details when others offered generalities. His debating style was strong. He never seemed brusque or defensive. He challenged his competitors, forcefully at times, getting off a few good zingers, but he was also gracious and polite.

If he didn’t have such a horrid perspective on police abuse and sexual assault, I’d suggest everyone vote for him. But he does, so he deserves the support of no one. This should be a deal-breaker for any voter who isn’t a sociopath.

It might be best for the ward to re-elect El-Chantiry, from a pragmatic perspective. He’d probably be the most productive, and serve the ward the best, even if Parsons’s Blustery Buffoon of the People schtick would provide a lot more enjoyment. So I imagine El-Chantiry will take it. Day-to-day competence will likely trump rape culture concerns for most voters. It is incredibly dispiriting.

Lunch Out Loud Election Preview

The guys from Lunch Out Loud Ottawa invited me onto their podcast yesterday to chat about the upcoming election. We focused on a handful of wards (and I think I talked way too much), and they even got me to give some predictions.

You can listen:

[Author’s note: Crap, I can’t get the embed to work. Just click on the link above.]

Since I made predictions there, I’ll list them here. If I get 3/10 correct, I’ll be happy:

  1. Somerset: Martin Canning or Jeff Morrison (yeah, I wussed out and picked two)
  2. Rideau-Rockliffe: Tobi Nussbaum
  3. Rideau-Vanier: Marc Aubin
  4. Kitchissippi: Jeff Leiper
  5. River: Riley Brockington
  6. Osgoode: George Darouze (I’m really guessing here, but this is a really interesting race with lots of good candidates)
  7. Gloucester-South Nepean: Susan Sherring
  8. Alta Vista: Jean Cloutier
  9. Bay: Mark Taylor
  10. Innes: Jody Mitic

By the way, these aren’t endorsements, just predictions. Though I think most of these people would make solid councillors

 

Rideau-Vanier Review

I have a confession. I’m getting a little worn out by the municipal election. As of yesterday, I had watched 18 of the 24 televised debates. Tonight, I watched the Rideau-Vanier debate, and I really don’t know how much more I can do. Regardless, I watched it, so I’m going to write about it.

This is a three-horse race. It’s between incumbent Mathieu Fleury and challengers Marc Aubin and Catherine Fortin LeFaivre. Instead o f an in-depth review of the entire debate, I’m just going to focus on those three.

Marc Aubin

How on earth did Aubin get a question about traffic safety right off the bat!? That’s a big fat beach ball lofted across the plate for Aubin. As you might imagine, he handled it quite well. King Edward and Rideau are far too dangerous for residents and Aubin has been working to get things changed for a long time. He was able to really nail Fleury on the lack of progress on that file (and that’s not all on Fleury, but his response wasn’t good and he has to wear some of the lack of progress). This was some of Aubin’s best spots in the debate, and it’s probably not bad to have them right away to establish a good impression (and because things kind of devolved near the end).

Aubin is strong on safety and development, two very key issues. He wasn’t as active in some of the other discussions (that’s partially because of Fleury, ore on that later). This isn’t as bad as it might seem. He participated in the debates and had fine answers on transit and social services, but he really came alive when talking about streets, development and representation.

Aubin went on hard on the issue of development and intensification. His positions are strong (we need intensification, but we need the right intensification). It was during this debate that Aubin and Fortin LeFaivre tag-teamed Fleury. Fortin-LeFaivre noted that there was the question of accepting developer donations. She said she doesn’t take them, and Aubin said the same. Then Aubin went after Fleury’s conflict of interest, noting that Fleury couldn’t represent the ward on about 60% of the development issues.

Fleury has a conflict of interest with Claridge, and even though Claridge only had a handful of applications, they accounted for 1100 of 1800 new units being developed. That’s a big difference, and Aubin is correct that this is the correct metric to use. One giant tower could damage the character of a neighbourhood far more easily than a handful of single family homes.

All-in-all, Aubin didn’t “win” the debate, but he didn’t hurt himself, either. I see Aubin as the front-runner right now, so that’s maybe an okay performance to have.

Fleury

You can tell that Fleury is the incumbent. He has all the talking points about recent city work and special projects. He also name-checked the most neighbourhoods in the area. Regardless, he didn’t do anything to win, either. If he’s lucky, he was able to stem the bleeding a bit.

Fleury talked. He talked a lot. He talked so damned much.

Despite all of his jibber-jabber, Fleury managed to say very little that was actually substantive. He talked around the issues; he gave us loads of details, but it mostly just went in circles. At one point, he engaged in a little Q&A with another candidate who has zero chance of winning (and only a slightly better chance of saying something useful).

I’m inclined to believe this was intentional. He was able to use David-George Oldham as his foil, making himself look good, and he was able to burn the clock. Fleury very much had the presence of someone who was just trying to hold on–survive and advance, survive and advance. It’s a cynical ploy, but it might be his best shot. He was hurt on the question of conflict of interest. He couldn’t open himself up much more.

At this point, I want to point out that this conflict of interest does not mean that he’s corrupt. It just means that he has to recuse himself on certain issues. Unfortunately, Barrhaven’s Jan Harder would take his place on these issues. It’s not a good choice. She’s no friend of downtown. If Rideau-Vanier was going to have anyone else represent them, they really would have needed someone like Diane Holmes or David Chernushenko, if you wanted real representation.*

Fleury would also use his debating skills to bully his way through the debate. It was really quite distasteful. In this debate, a number of candidates actually asked each other questions; it was refreshing. When Fortin LeFaivre went after Fleury on social services (specifically childcare), Fleury cut in to talk about some of the things the city was doing (but totally failing to address the issues Fortin LeFaivre introduced). Fortin LeFaivre tried to cut in to, Fleury just steamrolled through. OK, that’s not great, but it’s just sort of the debate.

He then went off on some tangent about Quebec daycare, asking Fortin LeFaivre why Quebec has $7/day daycare…and then he wouldn’t even let her answer.

When he and Aubin got into it about development and Claridge, Fleury tried to cut in to ask a question, Aubin just plowed ahead. The two just talked over each other for a minute or so. Again, it was just the way the debate was going (and pretty similar to the way he had treated others during the debate), yet he still felt compelled to appeal to Mark Sutcliffe to…I don’t know…stop Aubin from pointing out a major flaw in Fleury’s campaign?

None of this was becoming of a councillor. He tried to use his City Hall trivia to let all the oxygen out of the debate. He asked questions, but gave no opportunity to answer. And when someone did something similar (though not as bad) to him, he complained. It was like one of those after-school specials where the bully gets punched in the mouth and shrinks.

Catherine Fortin LeFaivre

Fortin LeFaivre had difficulty getting her footing in this debate. Much of that is due to the rampant chatter of Fleury (did I mention how much he talked). After a bit, she became more forceful, barging her way into the discussions (and not in a bad way, in a necessary way). She started to score more points later in the debate. She was strong on development, linking it to the safety issue that came up early in the debate, and definitely the strongest on social issues.

The childcare issue is significant. We, as a city, have funds to help families (either by subsidizing daycare or by providing the actual services directly). This isn’t to suggest it’s an easy fix, but there are things that we could do that we currently aren’t. Fortin LeFaivre noted this. She pointed out that the service delivery has changed, and it’s not resident-friendly.

Fleury countered by talking about what the city is doing, implying that Fortin LeFaivre wanted to undo what has already been achieved (and then, as noted, did his best to stop her from rebutting). He wilfully ignored the actual issues and just talked. It was, again, quite cynical. Residents deserve better.

Conclusion

This debate is probably not going to decide very much. If you had your favourite going in, you’re probably not changing your mind from this debate. Fleury did the best job of avoiding conflict. Aubin and Fortin LeFaivre had very similar performances, each having their own, slightly different, strengths.

The one takeaway I have is that Fleury, though maybe a very nice person, isn’t the most likable politician. His performance was kind of gross. If you were undecided, he wasn’t going to win you over. He displayed a lot of the negative trappings of the typical politician. People see that, and they see through it.

*Yes, yes, there are protocols to this. It doesn’t matter. Turning urban representation to a suburban councillor is sub-optimal.

Freeways and Ring Roads

In the Ottawa Citizen, I argue that we should demolish the Queensway. Just tear up, smash it to pieces and use the land for… well, just use the land. There’s so much we could do with that stretch of central real estate. Anyway, I’m going to assume that you all read it. There are two critiques that I understand and couldn’t or didn’t address sufficiently in the piece.

First, there is this line:

And, luckily, the National Capital Commission supplies Ottawa with freeways along the Ottawa River.

To be clear, this was a veiled shot at the NCC for ruining our waterfronts. The parkways may not be freeways, but they are four-lane thoroughfares that barricade the river from the rest of the city. It’s a travesty. I can understand how readers not familiar with my writing may not have got my message.

The second objection relates to the idea of a ring road. I wrote:

The question becomes: what would we do without the Queensway? The simplest answer is that Ottawa needs a ring road, and, thankfully, we are building that sort of infrastructure. New developments like the Hunt Club extension and Vimy Memorial Bridge can move people around the core, rather than through it. There is talk of extending Brian Coburn Boulevard and expanding Earl Armstrong Road. These would connect us east-west.

I was not clear in this (and I thought the details were sort of secondary to my main argument). I don’t love the idea of ring roads. As many will note (and have), ring roads outside cities will eventually wind up inside cities as cities grow and sprawl. This is undoubtedly true. My point was not that we needed a ring road, but that we, essentially, have a ring road.

I have lived in the suburbs in the past. Within the past ten or so years, I have lived in Barrhaven and Orleans, and often needed to travel between the two. During these times, I occasionally worked in Gloucester, Kanata and Bells Corners. I have needed to travel across the city, from suburb to suburb. From Orleans to Barrhaven, I would generally go from Innes to the 417 to Walkley to Hawthorne to Hunt Club to Prince of Wales to Fallowfield (IIRC). From Barrhaven to Kanata, I could take Fallowfield to the 416 to the 417 to Terry Fox.

More recently, we have extended Hunt Club and built a bridge. As I’ve noted, suburban and rural councillors are pushing for more road expansions and extensions (some of which are already planned). This is what I mean when I say that we are building “that sort of infrastructure”. I was not calling for a ring road, per se; I was acknowledging that people will want to travel from one end of the city to the other, and noting that we already (roughly speaking) accommodate for that.

Granted, the trek from Orleans to Kanata around the city (assuming you won’t use the LRT and bus transfers…because I’m proposing killing the Queensway as the next big project) won’t be super fun (not that the trip along the Queensway is a barrel of rainbows), but that doesn’t mean we should just cut up central neighbourhoods to accommodate sprawl. Sprawl is bad and uneconomical on a number of levels. The Queensway is an enabler of sprawl that steals our lands, hurts development and partitions our neighbourhoods. We tolerate it because it’s already there. It’s sheer status quo bias. If we didn’t have the Queensway right now, it would be ridiculous to suggest destroying parts of the city for it.

Further, building these sorts of roads that will eventually be engulfed by new communities (mixed-use, please!) is a valid concern. But this isn’t really an object to my overall piece. The concern would be, it seems to me, that these major roads would soon be within the city bounds, cutting through and between neighbourhoods, and we wouldn’t want that.

Exactly! And we shouldn’t want it with the Queensway, either!

When this sprawl is inevitably overtaken by new development, it will be a lot easier to transform these roads into more community-friendly roads. It won’t be like dealing with a highway in a dense neighbourhood. (Also, if you go out to Barrhaven, when development comes, we expand these sorts of roads. Just consider what has happened to Strandherd.)

So that’s another 600-ish words on this subject. Hopefully it makes things a little clearer.

Cumberland! [Updated]

The Cumberland race features newcomer Marc Belisle taking on first-term incumbent Stephen Blais. Belisle originally registered to run in Orleans, where he lives, but switched to Cumberland a few months ago. There’s nothing wrong with this; Belisle plans to move into the ward soon, and, hey, Blais didn’t live there when he first ran (though he lives there now).

This has been a bit of a nasty campaign, with Belisle taking regular shots at Blais, and Blais regularly firing back. Belisle is taking a very David-and-Goliath posture, challenging Blais to debates across the ward and claiming Blais is ducking him. However, for all his talk, Belisle looked live a junior varsity team taking on the state champs when the two met for the RogersTV debate.

Belisle came off as a well-intentioned but thoroughly over-matched candidate. Blais displayed both the advantage of the incumbent (having a thorough understanding of the last four years at council and how it has benefited the ward) as well as someone who clearly did his homework. He attacked Belisle’s platform, showing the inconsistencies. He attacked the policies of the Property Owners slate, which Belisle had signed on to and Belisle didn’t seem to know what he was talking about (the other day, Belisle decided he would no longer be a part of the slate).

At one point, as Belisle was talking about the cost of LRT, he actually asked Blais for confirmation of the cost of LRT. It may have been a rhetorical device, but–in the overall context of the debate–it demonstrated how Blais was operating at another level.

But, as I said, Belisle came off as earnest. When Blais offered a cycling vision for the ward, the plan seemed to catch Belisle off guard (and, fair enough, I don’t recall Blais championing it before), Belisle admitted that it was a good idea. We need more politicians who are willing to acknowledge good ideas from their opponents. Too many will try to turn a point of agreement into a point of disagreement.

You’ll notice that I’ve written that Belisle “came off” as well well-intentioned and earnest. I also noted how ugly the campaign has been. Early on, Belisle alleged wrongdoing by Blais in the 2010 election. He complained that Blais received illegal campaign donations. Blais threatened a lawsuit. Tonight on Twitter, Belisle started at it again, claiming Blais broke the law and the he, Belisle, was after the truth.

Belisle’s allegations hold little weight. Blais disclosed all of his donations after the 2010 election, just as he is supposed to, and no wrongdoing was found. Belisle has been touting a very poor article in Metro to support his stance, but that report doesn’t really address the meat of the issue.

[Update: Apparently, I mis-read the situation with Blais. Although Blais disclosed all of his 2010 donations, they were not challenged and, therefore, no one scrutinized the specific donations Belisle is citing. Consequently, we don’t have an official ruling one way or the other. Apologies.]

Politics is an ugly game, and, sadly, these sorts of tactics will surface every now and then, but I doubt it will matter. He has a huge fight ahead of him, and I doubt we’ll see a new councillor on October 28.

The Somerset campaign persists

A while back, I gave some first impressions of the Somerset race. It’s a tough campaign to assess. There really are at least five or six solid candidates, and I imagine that the ward will wind up with a very good councillor on October 28.  As you may or may not recall (and you may or may not care), when I wrote that piece, I was leaning towards Martin Canning and Conor Meade as the two strongest candidates.

Saturday night, I finally watched the RogersTV debate. Below are my thoughts, as they came during the debate. I’m not really going to go back and edit them because it’s not really worth it, so be prepared for spelling and grammatical mistakes! There’s a tl;dr section at the end.

Opening Statements

  • First thing Edward Conway says is he’s a homeowner, because that makes hims better candidate, I guess.
  • Conor Meade claims to have the most extensive platform in the race. Bold statement, but it might be true.
  • Jeff Morrison is quite animated and engaging in his opening statement. He comes off strong, style-wise. He clearly appeared the most comfortable.
  • Denis Schryburt Has done a lot in the ward; the question will be if he can translate that into a vision for the ward.
  • I don’t get how Lili Weemen can keep talking Complete Streets when she wants to get rid of the Laurier bike lane.
  • Martin Canning drops his “New Ottawa” slogan effortlessly. In his opening statement, he doesn’t offer much of a vision, but he does list a number of accomplishments he’s had as an activist in the ward.

First Question: What will you do about jobs and people leaving downtown?

  • Conway jumps to road tolls. Phrased that way, it might seem a little out there, but he has a good point. Major roads are built to and through the core. That’s the only way flight to suburbs and bedroom communities can be facilitated.
  • Canning discusses the need for better, more environmentally-friendly businesses. This is good, as far as it goes, but more is needed to maintain the vibrancy of downtown.
  • Morrison is the third to speak, and he disagrees with the premise of the question. Somerset ward is vibrant. We’re seeing more and more development. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry about the core, but it’s not the hollowed neighbourhood it was when I was growing up.
  • Ooh Canning and Morrison going at it (tangentially about Somerest House). Canning went on the offensive. Does this mean he sees Morrison as a big threat?
  • Schryburt pivots to the idea that the city needs to get tough on all derelict lots, not just high profile ones (similar to the comment he left on this site a few days ago).
  • There’s a bit of, which is great.
  • Weemen claims that families don’t live in the condos that we’re seeing downtown. I tend to disagree, however, a good housing mix (which was her underlying point) is a worthy goal.
  • Canning’s “New Ottawa” mantra could get old really quick.
  • McKenney sounds a bit more like an incumbent than the others. Morrison sounds like the activist.
  • Meade talks about bringing in businesses that will give great new opportunities to young people. He talks about supporting restaurants and bars, as well as our “creative culture”. I’m wondering if there’s a bit of a Richard Florida perspective here.
  • McVeigh has a very similar view as Meade.
  • Weemen is now complaining about the format, saying only the loudest get to talk. Sutcliffe points out she’s already spoken on this question. She wants the same amenities as the suburbs… but she doesn’t say what that is.
  • Schryburt also wants to bring in business, primarily local businesses.
  • What is it with the lack of a movie theatre being a major issue? Is that really what Somerset residents want out of their councillor?
  • Meade offers a “tangible” suggestion. The new library (which should stay in Somerset, he argues) should also be an incubator, teaching code and linking into the digital age.
  • Canning’s back to green buildings. I think he needs another tool in his toolbox regarding economic revitalization.
  • McKenney is talking trees, pedestrians and cycling to bring more customers to downtown businesses. This is true (pedestrians and cyclists tend to spend more money than motorists), but the framing of the question was more about office vacancies.
  • As you can see, everyone is kind of going to their pet topics.
  • Time is up, and Weemen is arguing about the format again.
  • Oh, Conway says everyone else is missing the point. He’s attacking suburban flight. He’s not wrong.

Next up, intensification. How high is too high?

  • First up is Meade, and he’s up for intensification and 27-storey towers in certain areas, Bank Street, the core and Catherine Street, for instance. He’s up for limiting height in the Golden Triangle, Little Italy and Centretown West. He’s clearly pro-intensification, but not rampant intensification. Seems like a solid, measured position.
  • Weemen wants parklets near highrises. This is true.
  • Morrison agrees with Meade, but stressed the importance of CDP. He thinks the ward has a good CDPs. He also notes how the OMB is ruining Ottawa. Good for him.
  • McKenney focused on re-orienting the perspective of city staff.
  • McVeigh claims our CDPs are enforceable. Yes and no. Yes, if council decides to (and they don’t design them with gaping holes). No, because OMB. He’d like to reform the OMB (I think), but notes that without the OMB, property owners would appeal through the courts.
  • Morrison and McVeigh going at it regarding CDPs and the OMB, McVeigh makes good points, but in the end, Morrison’s right. The OMB ignores CDPs. They re-write development rules. They encourage sprawl. And they’re a law unto themselves.
  • It’s great seeing most everyone dump on the OMB.
  • Conway calls everyone who wants to overturn the OMB “radicals”. He also claims the OMB enforces provincial rules. That’s demonstrably false. Leading into this debate, I didn’t list him as one of my preferred candidates (though that was as much out of lack of familiarity than anything). He’s not moving up the ranks, so far.
  • Also, he seems to think that urban sprawl is intensification.
  • Okay, he goes from all that to saying that the problem is that we’re not defending CDPs properly. There’s some truth to that, so he gets half points.
  • Canning switches from attacking the OMB, to attacking the set up of the OMB. He sees the OMB as a way for communities to appeal bad decisions, but notes that communities have no resources to take on these fights (other than whatever they can stir up). He wants to switch that up. An OMB that wasn’t so pro-developer would be a welcome developer.
  • Sandro Provenzano is clearly fond of his community. He also seems to have a good idea of the issues facing the ward. He hasn’t yet given any indication that he’s the one address those issues at City Hall.
  • McKenney notes that (despite complaints) we have good development downtown, too. This is a sound strategy for her: (1) she comes off as positive, and not just a malcontent; (2) she’s a City Hall insider; she could wind up owning some of its decisions. A “City Hall is screwing up” campaign wouldn’t totally help her.
  • That said, talking about the bland, token re-development of the Met is way off. It’s an ok development, but the way it’s tacked on to the old front face of the Met is just silly.
  • I think we’re going to see everyone basically agreeing on this (and many) issues. That’s what we’ve got so far.
  • McKenney goes back to saying planners need to treat residents as clients. I hope that’s the last time she uses that line.
  • She brought up the Norman Street development. Morrison uses the opening to go back at the OMB. That’s all well and good (and correct), but he’s going to seem like a one-trick pony.
  • Getting a bit testy. Morrison kind of mocks Conway and Conway fires back.
  • Weemen may have suggested that Ottawa is turning into Detroit.

Supervised Injection Site

  • McVeigh answers first. He supports SIS and all other forms of harm reduction. He takes a not-so-veiled shot at McKenney who used to be against an SIS, but is now mushy on the issue, claiming to want a made-in-Ottawa solution.
  • McKenney responds, claiming that in the past we didn’t have enough research to make a made-in-Ottawa solution. She’s still very non-committal.
  • Schryburt supports Insite in Vancouver, but he’s not sure we should have the same thing. He’s kind of parroting McKenney. He then pivots to speaking about other forms of treatment and recovery.
  • Canning calls this a litmus test of political leadership…and then he goes on to say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
  • Morrison notes that McVeigh was right about McKenney. She was against it and now she’s “for” it with a whole lot of caveats.
  • Morrison is totes for it, BTW.
  • Morrison also finally notes this is a health issue.
  • Weemen seems for it. She also seems to equate heroin use with abortion.
  • Yup.
  • At the 43 minute mark, Silviu Riley and Morrison take a drink of water in perfect tandem.
  • Provenzano and Morrison are the only ones who speak of drug users as people.
  • Riley is the first one to note that an SIS can be connected to recovery services.
  • Conway does not seem to like Morrison.
  • Conway argues that this whole thing is moot, because the feds won’t let us. First of all, that’s not necessarily true. Secondly, this was his same perspective regarding the OMB, that it was a provincial body and we couldn’t do anything. This is a rather defeatist attitude. Cities often have to seek assistance and changes in legislation from higher levels of governments. I wouldn’t want a councillor who saw all such attempts as futile.
  • Also, he noted the whole discussion was “sterile”. I really hope that was a pun, but I doubt it.
  • He supports needle exchange, no more.
  • Canning (I think, it was a voice off screen) notes that we didn’t realize that Conway was a spokesman for the federal government. Good line.
  • Sutcliffe lost control a bit. He gives an “I’m trying” sort of shrug to the camera. Municipal treasure, that man.
  • Meade credits McKenney for changing her mind after more research.
  • McKenney defends herself against such a baseless slur, “I have not done more research,” she tells us.
  • She goes back to her made-in-Ottawa boilerplate. The fact is that she gave an interview and was against SIS. Now she’s hedging. If she hasn’t changed her mind (or wasn’t totally misquoted), she’s obfuscating. She’s not actually lying, but she’s not being completely honest.
  • Meade is right, though, that candidates should be commended for keeping an open mind towards new research and information.
  • A nice bit of politicking by McKenney, seamlessly goes from talking about SIS to harm reduction to “safe consumption services”… which, of course, could just be the status quo.
  • Wait, after all that, McVeigh corners her. He asks, “Would you vote Yes or No for a single [Safe] Injection Site in our ward?” McKenney’s response, “Yes, of course I would.”
  • What the hell? Then why has she been wasting our time talking in circles? And if she hasn’t done any more research, why has her position changed?
  • [The cynic in me would say, “politics”.]
  • Schryburt is taking us back to recovery. He notes that all the services (harm reduction and recovery services) should be aligned, so that the entire system works together. Right now, people wait to long to get into recovery services.
  • Canning takes another dig at Conway regarding “speaking for the federal government”. We heard you the first time…well, no, we kind of didn’t, but I did.
  • He follows that up by talking about the need for community buy-in. He did not talk about getting community buy-in, just the need for it. Again, not leadership.
  • I am pretty sure that Canning is supportive of SIS, but I wonder if he is more concerned about making an error or alienating voters in this debate, rather than putting everything out there. It might be a worthwhile tactic. As an outside observer, I’d like to see more.

Next! We’ll combine the issue of tax increases and social services.

  • Riley does not think the mayor’s 2% increase is feasible. He implies that if we want to keep our services, we’ll probably need to raise taxes or ask the feds or the province to chip in.
  • Weemen thinks we should get rid of the fluff, in terms of city services. As is her thing, she then says we need weekly garbage pick up.
  • If you’re wondering, no, there is no congruity between those ideas. She goes back to her you can’t tell people not to shower every other day. No comment.
  • Weemen can’t stop talking about garbage and Canning seems amused.
  • OH MY GOD, SHE WON’T STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS.
  • And now she’s talking about litter…which has noting to do with bi-weekly garbage pick up.
  • Keep in mind, the question was about services. So do we talk about roads?, snow removal?, police? Nope. Weekly garbage.
  • Sutcliffe tries to step in and gain control. “Just a minute…” Weemen continues.
  • I wonder if Sutcliffe misses the Bay Ward debate.
  • McKenney notes that essential services are different for different people and different areas. She notes that we aren’t investing enough downtown (other than LRT, which isn’t really for the downtown).
  • Provenzano supports a 2% increase and bi-weekly garbage.
  • DON’T TROLL WEEMEN.
  • Sutcliffe scolds Morrison, kind of.
  • Provenzano starts talking about “The Seniors”. He wants to give them cheaper bus passes. He doesn’t actually give any statistics of the relative poverty of The Seniors.
  • Morrison wants a new hotel tax (which, apparently, other cities do).
  • Canning starts talking about childcare, social housing and recreation services. He also wants new innovative forms of revenue. He wants environmental tax reform.
  • Weemen is yelling over Sutcliffe again.
  • Conway is pretty snide about the fact that he came up with two policies Canning championed. Actually, maybe he wasn’t being snide, maybe that’s just how he talks.
  • Provenzano says people are off topic because they’re not talking about social services (which he equates to poverty fighting measures). Of course, the question was about taxes and social services, so revenue generation (how we pay for those services) is pretty much on-point.
  • Meade wants to increase revenue by growing our economy. He also notes that if everything’s a priority nothing is. He then says that he wants to fiscally responsible, take a centrist view of our services and maintain our essential services. He never says which services are essential.
  • McKenney spoke about “budgeting for growth”, and she’s absolutely right. She comes this close [imagine I’m hoding my thumb and forefinger really close] to noting that sprawl is not economically viable, and that the core subsidizes suburbs (as Conway has alluded too multiple times), but she doesn’t quite say it.
  • Sutcliffe has to cut off Weemen. I really hope he isn’t planning to ask a question specifically about garbage pick up.

Now we’re talking about bike infrastructure. Sutcliffe frames it negatively. Mark, we’re no where close to the potential limit of cyclists.

  • Morrison wants every street re-dev to be a Complete Street development.
  • He wants better maintenance and better, safe connectivity between bike routes.
  • Weemen wants more bike infrastructure, but she wants bikes to only be on one-way streets. Huh.
  • Canning speaks of the health and safety aspects (true) and he takes Sutcliffe to task for not understanding that cycling is a net-positive for the economy. This is the first time Canning has really presented a vision, offered details and been the candidate that he has presented himself as.
  • McKenney wants $70M spent on bike infrastructure over the next four years. That seems like a lot, but it’s actually less than cycling’s modal share would demand.
  • Provenzano wants a lot bike infrastructure to get people to bus or LRT stations. He thinks that will solve safety issues. That does nothing for cycling downtown.
  • McVeigh takes a shot at Sutcliffe referring to cycling as “fashionable”. “It’s not,” he says, “it’s a structural change.” Good on him.
  • He also wants to shift from a car-centric society. He wants to flip the viewpoint of planners.
  • Provenzano says that would take decades. I’m not sure why he thinks that, nor why he thinks his plan of biking to mass transit will save lives (if you live and work downtown, why would you bike to a station to catch the LRT to take you downtown?).
  • Meade’s strong on this. Says there’s a lack of imagination. Notes Amsterdam and how we could have similar year-round cycling, and definitely have 7-8 months of cycling.
  • Meade drops a Citizen’s for Safe Cycling reference and notes that, in scale, the $20M request isn’t much.
  • He says he’s fiscally conservative, but notes that active transportation is fiscally responsible.
  • Provenzano, who says he is a cylcist, doesn’t like Meade’s approach. He wants to mark lanes and get some signs up. Settling for that sort of infrastructure is how people get killed.
  • Conway equates CfSC’s request for $20M of the transportation budget to go to cycling in terms of the amount of childcare spaces it would pay for.
  • He doesn’t explain why it’s ok to use that $20M on car infrastructure, instead. Surely, babies are more important than Beemers.
  • Canning asks him how he can put a price on death. Good one.
  • Conway is going back to keeping cars out of downtown. Do you think he likes tolls and congestion pricing?
  • (Those are both good things, by the way, it’s just clearly his pet policy.)
  • Morrison talks proportionality and modal share, and, accepting that, bike infrastructure is underfunded.
  • Riley notes that building bike lanes, more people will bike…just like with cars and new roads.
  • Yes! Finally, a candidate acknowledges induced demand! This is a basic principle, and he is the first candidate in all the debates I’ve watched who has acknowledged that building roads increases driving.
  • I don’t know what Provenzano is talking about. He’s saying the other candidates are still talking cars. NO ONE’S TALKING CARS (other than in juxtaposition). He’s also talking LRT and getting people in Kanata to bike to the LRT. Wonderful, but what about Somerset residents who bike?
  • McKenney and Schryburt want Complete Streets.
  • Weemen wants cars to have sliding doors.
  • Canning brings up the need to have a strategy to sell cycling infrastructure to City Hall.
  • Morrison closes. He comes close to shaming cyclists and pedestrians. Hoping for respect from all road users is nice, but it’s a bit of a dead end. Infrastructure educates better than pamphlets or informational sessions. We’re near the end of the debate, and it was a bit of a down way for Morrison to end after a pretty strong showing.

Closing Statements

  • McKenney plays up her experience and stresses cycling, pedestrians, development and housing. Good idea to throw out all her accomplishments at the end, when no one can counter.
  • Provenzano talks about people needing a voice. He thinks he’s the only one committed to “those concerns, your voice”.
  • Oh God, Canning is going to say “New Ottawa”, isn’t he?
  • Yup.
  • He wants a livable, affordable, sustainable Ottawa–community-focused urban planning.
  • Weemen wants term limits for councillors. She also wants driverless cars.
  • Schryburt says we don’t need a “New Ottawa”. TAKE THAT CANNING! He wants cycling, affordable housing, green development and protecting Ottawa’s character.
  • Morrison humblebrags about being too idealistic. He also takes some veiled shots at not have the insider connections others do. Of course, he spent much of the debate talking about how much he has worked in the community to get council to do stuff, so he must have some connections by now. I’d say he’s also the most comfortable in front of a camera.
  • Riley wants a vibrant public sector (not sure what he means), more affordable housing, a $15 minimum wage and no pipeline.
  • McVeigh is a “small business socialist”. He has done a lot in the community and a lot in the business community. He wants people to be happy to live in Somerset Ward.
  • Meade says he has the best experience for the job (I don’t know about that) and the best plan for the job (this is more likely).
  • Conway asks, who will be able to handle your problems?, who will be able to best grasp the complex issues?, who is best to battle with you against developers?

Too Long; Didn’t Read

My impressions of candidates have only changed incrementally. When you have 10 candidates answering these questions, it can be different to discern the differences between them. They agree (or pretty much agree) on a number of issues, so the deciding factors will be fairly small.

So let’s walk through this:

I’d say Morrison, overall, came off the best. He had a solid handle of the issues, offered some nice back-and-forth (including with Sutcliffe) and presented a vision for the ward. He was able to show off his volunteer/activist experience in the community and he really looks like he would fight for what is best for residents.

Schryburt was quite strong, but he didn’t speak quite as much as some of the others. I didn’t hear enough from him to make him leap ahead in my nebulous rankings, and this could be an issue. Though it may not be the best to elect the loudest and most ardent debater, council is big and an effective councillor has to be able to have his voice heard. If you’re not getting your message across during this debate, will you get it across at City Hall? Maybe, but it’s hard to know. All that said, I’d still be ok with Schryburt winning.

Canning is very good at getting his message across… or, at least, his messaging. Too often, he offered platitudes. His vision only really came through discussing environmental issues and bike infrastructure. Now, those are two pretty good issues to champion, and it’s become clear over time that he does have a good vision for the ward and the city, but he didn’t do as much as he could have during this debate.

Meade was a bit quiet at first, but started to come on stronger as the debate went on. It appeared that there were certain issues with which he was much more comfortable. I’m inclined to take this to mean that he is a fairly quick study, and those are the issues he’s focused on. He is correct that he has a very extensive platform, and he definitely scored some points in the debate. He also made sure that Sutcliffe turned the mic over to Riley to give him a chance to speak. That’s not a big deal, but it’s not nothing, either.

McKenney still comes off as the quiet competent one. She’s a City Hall insider and it shows. She demonstrates an understanding of the issues, policies and workings of the city. Her platform is solid, though I’m not sure it really stands out. She kind of confounds me. She could easily be the best candidate of the bunch, but I just don’t have enough of a read on her or her vision.

Conway is a step or two behind the others. He has some good ideas, but his overall platform and vision isn’t fleshed out quite as well.

I can’t imagine Provenzano or Riley challenging in this race. Both seem bright, thoughtful and earnest, but nothing separates them.

Weemen isn’t so much running for council as she is crusading against bi-weekly garbage pick-up.

McVeigh is an interesting case to me. He has some very good ideas and he’s definitely been involved in the community. He’s been in the race for a long time and throughout it all, I’ve appreciated his positions, but he’s never become my favourite candidate. For much of the debate, he was just there, not offering much different (and that’s not really a critique; it’s a result of the dense, cluttered campaign), but he always persists. He always shows up with a respectable take on issues. At the end of day (and the end of the debate), he hasn’t grabbed me the way Meade or Morrison have, for instance, but he’s still there, a solid, attractive candidate.

So, here we are. I’ve watched the debate, and I’m probably even further from being able to decide. I would say it’s a real toss up between Morrison, McKenney, Canning, Meade and McVeigh.

 

AV Club

A few days ago, I noted that Alta Vista candidate Perry Marleau apologized for his behaviour during the televised candidates debate. I also noted that he didn’t really need to apologize for his behaviour. He was feisty and passionate, but those aren’t bad qualities. His bigger (valid) regret may be the way he helped Jean Cloutier’s campaign.

Cloutier is an experienced community leader. He also has the blessing of outgoing councillor Peter Hume. These two facts make Cloutier a formidable challenger. Still, he’s not the incumbent. He’s just like the other challengers.

From the very start of the debate, Marleau challenged Cloutier on the record of council. This attack made Cloutier look like the established incumbent. Worse for Marleau (and the rest of the field), Cloutier came to the debate incredibly well-prepared with facts and data to both support his policy preferences and clearly explain many of the issues to the audience. Marleau, for all his good intentions, became Cloutier’s set-up man. Marleau would attack and Cloutier would respond in a reasonable and informed manner.

The two candidates dominated the debate, which is unfortunate for voters in Alta Vista. As the debate wore on, it became clear that there were only two viable candidates in the race, Cloutier and Clinton Cowan, but with Cloutier being the prime focus, we heard less from Cowan, and we saw very little direct engagement between the two.

Like Cloutier, Cowan came prepared. But he wasn’t all numbers and figures. Cowan is the idea man in this race. He clearly has a vision for the ward and the city, and he can explain his approach to municipal issues through homegrown observations and developments in other cities.

And here we have the true choice in front of Alta Vista residents. Jean Cloutier displays competence and a thorough comprehension of the workings of City Hall. Clinton Cowan offers voters a vision and an understanding of how Ottawa can move forward. Both candidates appear dedicated to the ward. Both have devoted their time and efforts to improving their communities. I imagine either one would make a solid addition to city council.