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.

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