The other day, I recorded the Somerset Ward debate. I plan to watch it soon, but it’ll have to be at a time when I have an hour and half to devote to a debate in a ward in which I know longer live. I’m not so much interested in all the races as I am interested in having the necessary information to know as much as I can about the future council.
That being said, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to offer my impressions of the Somerset race and then see how much is confirmed or corrected from the debate.
1. This is a crowded field, and has been for a long time. There are five candidates that I would be comfortable have representing the ward In no particular order they are: Thomas McVeigh, Catherine McKenney, Martin Canning, Jeff Morrison and Conor Meade. Denis Schryburt also seems strong, but I have less of a read on him.
2. Early on in the campaign, Canning most caught my attention. For quite a while, he was probably my favourite candidate across all wards. I like his approach, the way he solicited input from the community and his vision. I like that he wants to hear from residents, but also puts forth a coherent platform. I’m not a huge fan of candidates who offer to be little more than a voice for their residents. That’s not leadership.
3. Thomas McVeigh was another one who declared and started campaigning early. I like his platform and his involvement in the community. He also seems like a hard-worker, which is handy in a councillor. Sometimes, I worry he’s a little too business-focused…but that’s a minor quibble.
4. McKenney seems like the front-runner, to me. Her platform isn’t that dissimilar to the other top competitors. She seems to have a good handle on the direction that an urban community needs to go. Her biggest strength might also be her biggest weakness, though. She’s a longtime city staffer. This gives her the experience to understand how the city and council work, and maybe how to work them, but it also makes her a bit of an insider. I’m not sure that’s what the ward or council need. (Side note: there’s a clear issue with women participating in civic politics. We don’t have enough running and we don’t have enough winning. Whether or not she’s my top choice, she should make a decent councillor and working towards some semblance of gender balance would be good.)
5. I don’t know if Morrison has much of a chance. I find he tends not to stand out from the crowd. So far, I don’t think he’s really staked his claim; he hasn’t owned an issue or presented a distinct enough vision.
6. Meade came in a bit later than the rest. He also doesn’t seem to have the established presence that the other four I’ve mentioned do. However, he has a solid platform, and he has an angle. He’s a technology guy, and he has a vision for Ottawa and Somerset as a leading technology centre. He wants to see a transformation to a more digital, more connected city. Some of it may be a bit out of reach, but I appreciate that he offers a vision. (For example: he seems to be the local politician who is most supportive of Uber.)
So there’s my initial assessment. I offer my apologies to the candidates I haven’t really talked about. It doesn’t mean that they’re not viable candidates (though it might). This is just my snapshot of the race right now. If I were voting and had to make a choice, it would be a toss-up between Canning and Meade…but we’ll see how things shake out with after the debate.