A very polite Rideau-Rockliffe debate

Rideau-Rockliffe is in an interesting position this election season. There’s an incumbent with high name recognition, but the ward looks prepared for a change. Voters appear ready to move on from Peter Clark, who has served as a community leader for many many years. So it is (or should be) a wide open race. Here are some observations, mostly from the televised debate:

  • All six registered candidates attended the debate, and none seem to be fringe candidates. It was nice to see a full slate of candidates discuss the issues rationally.
  • Going into the debate, I felt Tobi Nussbaum and Cam Holmstrom were the strongest contenders. I would suggest they’re still the top candidates, but the separation between them and the rest of the field is much smaller than I ‘d thought.
  • This wasn’t really a debate. It was more like sequential statements. The candidates didn’t really engage each other that much. With each topic, they basically took turns answering. It was very orderly.
  • The only real engagement came when Jevone Nicholas suggested moving OC Transpo to a Hub-and-Spoke system. Holmstrom came out swinging against that system, calling it garbage (he used it when living in Peterborough).
  • I am not convinced a Hub-and-Spoke system would be a positive change. Nicholas’s reasoning was that most people don’t work in the downtown core, so we need to get them from suburban hub to suburban hub. Although many people may be commuting from the suburbs to a job in Kanata, I don’t think we need to spend a lot of money shuttling commuters from Orleans to Barrhaven. I think Nicholas misunderstood the implications of Ottawa’s commuting patterns.
  • It may seem like a small thing, but that suggestion from Nicholas is, to me, a pretty big blow against him. If you have a number of good candidates bunched together, even a small error in judgement can make for a clear difference.
  • The discussion of an east end bridge to Quebec brought out the worst NIMBYism in all the candidates. First, many were either ignorant or dishonest about the state of the last proposed bridge project. The Kettle Island bridge should be under construction. The project was actually approved by all governments before the province cynically cancelled it for naked political opportunism.
  • Nicholas proposed a ring road to get trucks out of downtown. Now, Ottawa may need a ring road, but what we need in order to get trucks out of downtown is a bridge. In fact, if you build a ring road all the way around the city, eventually you’ll hit water.
  • Many of the candidates conveniently suggested a new bridge either just to the east or just to the west of the ward.
  • Cam Holmstrom was willfully obtuse when discussing a toll for a possible truck tunnel under King Edward. The possible tunnel, which is already being studied, would be created as an alternative for trucks driving through our downtown core. It would b expensive, so the natural inclination is to make it a toll road. These trucks are using our city as a cut through from Quebec to Quebec, so it makes sense for them to pay for the convenience. Holmstrom argued no trucker would use the tunnel if there was a toll; they’d just keep using King Edward.
  • Nussbaum helpfully noted that if we build the tunnel, we would ban trucks from King Edward. (As everyone involved in the planning process already understands.)
  • Nussbaum was the only one in the debate who noted that the lack of an east end bridge has adverse effects on the ward, as the vehicles have to go through the ward to get to King Edward. He’s also the only one who showed any concern for Lowertown. Councillors have to focus on city-wide problems and they have to work together with other councillors to get things done. Having a vision and having empathy for others is a big benefit. Nussbaum wins on those counts.
  • Going into this debate, I was most interested in the candidacies of Nussbaum and Homstrom. Nothing dissuaded from the notion that they are likely the strongest candidates. However, I was struck by the strengths of all the challengers. It looks like the ward should be well-represented.

If I were in Rideau-Rockliffe, I am quite sure I would vote for Tobi Nussbaum. He has the vision and the understanding of municipal governance to be a responsible candidate. I have a few worries about Cam Holmstrom. I’m a little worried that he’s too much into the political side of things rather than the governance side (he’s a Parliament Hill staffer). There were a few moments during the debate that underscored this concern. It doesn’t mean he would be a poor representative; it just makes me a little worried about his perspective. Nonetheless, I think he would make a viable councillor. I won’t be sad if we see him on council.

River Ward Malaise

The other day, a friend asked for my thoughts on the race in River Ward. Unfortunately, I have next to nothing to say about the race. I thought Mike Kostiuk presented some interesting ideas, but his platform is inconsistent, and he hasn’t had a good showing (or much at all) in the media. Mike Patton has the political chops, but he doesn’t offer many ideas. Also, he doesn’t live in the ward and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason as to why he’s not running in College (other than the existence of an incumbent, perhaps).

Jeff Koscik’s platform is week, but I’ve heard a few interesting things coming from his campaign. He’s young and maybe a little inexperienced. That’s a double-edged sword, though. You don’t really know what you’re going to get. It’s a low floor, but also a high ceiling.

I’ve heard some people support Riley Brockington. I know Riley personally, but in a different context, so I don’t know what kind of councillor he’d make. I haven’t seen a platform yet, so I don’t really know what he wants to do if elected.

There are more, but it’s just a giant blur to me.

Matthew Pearson was at the candidate “job fair” the other day, and I think he crystalized what is going in in the race:

Yeah, I think that’s about it.

Why does the Glebe want more cars?

852 Bank Street Rendering.PNG_img-250x250-INNER-852 Bank Street RenderingI don’t get it.

Listening to reports from the media and from local councillor David Chernushenko, apparently all my neighbours want more cars driving through our community. At least, that’s I how I interpret this story.

For those not paying attention to minor neighbourhood squabbles (hey, I get that), the lot at the Southwest corner of Bank and Fifth has been, essentially, vacant for quite some time now. There is a defunct service centre, but mostly it’s just used for parking. Finally, we have a proposal for a new development. It’s two storeys with a part of the second storey being a patio. It’s not perfect (I would like a bigger setback, personally), but it’s good, and we’re never going to get “perfect”, anyway.

Outgoing councillor Peter Hume criticized it for not being tall enough. He wondered why we wouldn’t have a building go up to four storeys there. It’s a valid question. The land is zoned for more than two storeys. The rest of the block is two storeys, so going a bit higher wouldn’t be a drastic change, and it would add a bit more density without adding a monstrous tower. In the end, though, it was a compromise. The developer isn’t providing any parking spaces, and it was felt that a higher building would require more parking.

This is a wonderful compromise. We block out less sky and we don’t waste prime land on a parking lot. Kudos, developer people.

But residents aren’t happy. They want parking spots on that lot.

I get their worry; they don’t want all the surrounding streets getting jammed up with cars, but creating an incentive for more people to drive to the area is not going to help that. As it stands, we will have this new development, but there will be a clear statement (just like with Lansdowne and the most of the rest of the shops on Bank Street). Don’t drive. We don’t want to create a neighbourhood to which people are regularly inclined to drive rather than bus, walk or bike. We should be removing car infrastructure rather than adding to it.

And, let’s not forget, there is not a shortage of parking in the Glebe. Bank Street is never completely full. Rarely is an entire block even full. Add to that all the side streets, and you’ll see that we already give way too much space for cars (and, don’t forget, we’re planning to build a four storey parking garage at Bank and Second).

This new development is within a block or so from my home. I’m glad the lot will finally be used for something other than a monument to urban decay. And I am very thankful that we won’t be wasting the space housing cars. We do enough of that already.

A Gloucester South-Nepean Dumpster Fire

Gloucester South-Nepean has no incumbent. It has seven candidates and four showed up for the Rogers TV debate, Jason Kelly, Scott Hodge, Susan Sherring and Michael Qaqish. It was not a great debate.

I went into the debate intrigued by Scott Hodge. He seemed to have an okay grasp of the issues and he didn’t exude any crude populism. He opened the debate talking about needing change the project management oversight framework of the city. Implementing Six Sigma principles will functionally ration externalities, allowing the deployment of methodological protocols that will maximize the holistic synergies of hardened enterprise-wide deliverables, allowing for a municipal systematic scheme of performance optimizing killer robots.

Okay, he didn’t really say that, but his focus was on managerial competence and performance reviews more than governance or growth. It was underwhelming.

Susan Sherring, the former Ottawa Sun reporter, was the biggest name. I was never impressed with her candidacy until the beginning of the debate, when she came off as the most thoughtful candidate. That is, until it came the question of the downtown library. She’s very much anti-library. Odd that a journalist would be so anti-reading. Worse still, the question of the downtown library devolved into a debate about who would get the best rec centre in Gloucester South.

For serious.

Jason Kelly, who seems like an above-average run-of-the-mill challenger, was the instigator of the library debate madness. He was asked the question, and quickly talked about a P3 for the potential rec centre.

I get that a central library isn’t going to be super important to everyone in the suburbs, but the issue should be. Even if you don’t want a new location for the library, then you should probably want a representative who will vote against such projects. Not one who will simply ignore all other issues. That’s not leadership.

Michael Qaqish wasn’t a whole lot better, but he was, maybe, a little better. He has experience at city hall and seemed to have a reasonable grasp of the issues (even if he was unable to properly articulate the procurement process the city uses). He’s not ideal, but he looks like he might have the potential to be a decent councillor. If I was choosing right now, he’d probably be my choice.

So that’s what we’re looking at in Gloucester South-Nepean, the chance to elect someone who might make a decent councillor.

Endorsements, Predictions and Horse Races

As I write about the municipal election, I will, at times, make comments about the state of ward races. Sometimes, I’ll comment on specific candidates or specific issues. I may endorse certain ideas or comment positively on candidates. However, I do not plan on offering endorsements across the city. Nor am I particularly interested in the horse race element of politics. When I’m “covering” a particular race, or candidates, or debate I’ll generally be assessing the issues and policies surrounding them. I think it’s more interesting to look at races and evaluate the different scenarios based on different candidates winning.

That being said, I’m not going to give equal time to every candidate or every ward. Not every candidate has a serious shot at winning, and not every candidate is particularly serious, so I’ll be focusing on the races and candidates who seem the most interesting. Allan Hubley’s cakewalk in Kanata North is thoroughly uninteresting, for example.

Back at home, I have little of interest going on in my ward of Capital. There’s no serious challenger to Chernushenko (maybe in another election Blurton will be a more developed candidate, but he doesn’t offer much just yet), and he’s done a decent job and offers a decent platform, so that’s where my vote will be going. For mayor, there is no serious challenger (sorry, Mike) for mayor, so, again, it’s clear who I’ll wind up voting for. Even my school trustee election is boring, as Shawn Menard is being acclaimed. So my choices aren’t particularly interesting.

Somerset House Concerns

The concern over Somerset House is hitting the news again (for a snarky refresher…). The city is tired of the building just sitting there, blocking public space and uglying up a major downtown intersection. For most of the past decade, they’ve been letting things slide, not charging the owner the fines he would otherwise incur by leaving that shell to rot at Bank and Somerset.

Thankfully, this has changed. I have no idea if this means that anything will happen, or that the owner will just become more obstinate.

The issue has spilled over in the the Somerset Ward race. Jeff Morrison has been a champion of recuperating Somerset House (as well as other buildings) for quite some time now. Good on him.

Unfortunately, another candidate has taken a different tack. Thomas McVeigh (living up to my concerns) has taken the owner’s side:

Somerset Candidate stands up for local businessman

Once again, the City of Ottawa has chosen to bully rather than help a local businessman and attempt to rewrite history.

The city is about to revoke a deal to waive the encroachment fees for Somerset House, thus risking the owner reviving a countersuit for 5 million dollars. This makes for great electoral optics, but this is not how we build trust with developers who want to save our heritage structures.

The attempts to rewrite history are painting an Iranian immigrant who has built several successful businesses in this city, and who has a good track record for doing heritage renovations the right way as  the kind of property owner who has been negligent and is letting buildings go through demolition by neglect.

McVeigh is correct that the city shares in the blame, here. More cooperation would have been prudent, but, in the end, the city’s biggest mistake was letting this go on for as long as it did. I’m with Morrison; it’s about time the city forced the owner’s hand.


A feminist perspective on the Kitchissippi debate

I watched the televised Kitchissippi debate a few weeks ago (or whenever it was on…this campaign is starting to blur). I have a number of thoughts on the debate, and the race in general, but I wanted to highlight one aspect of it, specifically the performance of Michelle Reimer.

The race is considered a two-horse race between incumbent Katherine Hobbs and challenger Jeff Leiper. There’s a reason for this analysis. Hobbs and Leiper have a greater presence in the ward. They have been incredibly involved in a number of issues, and they have the strongest grasp on the issues facing Kitchissippi, as well as the city as a whole. Reimer, for all her attributes, seems a bit green.

This impression carried on through the debate. I was quite interested to see how Reimer was to fair. At first, I wasn’t too impressed. She didn’t jump into the back-and-forth as much. She wasn’t getting her message across, and she seemed tentative, almost as if she just didn’t have enough of a grasp of the issues or solutions to hold her own against Hobbs and Leiper.

Then I caught myself.

It was Reimer’s tone and style that undermined her candidacy, not her actual arguments or policies. I realized that Reimer was speaking in a manner that society often conditions women to speak. If a woman is too assertive, she can be labelled as bossy. Strong women, who wear their strength on their sleeve, will either be undermined or demeaned, or they’ll be ignored or mocked for not knowing their place. Politics is still very much a man’s world–that’s obvious in this municipal race, and obviously a problem, too–and a female candidate has a fine line to walk. You have to play the game and stand up to men. If you don’t, you’re not strong enough to do the job. However, if you play the game too well, you’ll be cast a bitch.

So part way through the debate, I started listening to Reimer with this firmly at the front of mind. I noticed that she was polite and deferential. She demonstrated humility and acknowledged, implicitly, that others had valid perspectives to offer. I had to ignore these aspects of her performance to properly judge the candidate and the platform.

Her arguments were just as strong as the other candidates, more or less, and she displayed the intelligence and wisdom that we should all want in a civic leader. Her primary failing was that she too perfectly played the role that society tends to impose upon women. That’s absolutely no mark against her; it’s a mark against us.

This isn’t the only aspect of sexism that has reared its head in the Kitchissippi race, but for its subtlety, it might be the most insidious. Anonymous letters calling on voters to choose “the right man” can be called out for the clear misogyny they exhibit. But this barely visible oppression bleeds through all aspects of society, colouring our daily interactions and impeding the happiness and success of all women.

Hobbs has an advantage because she’s the incumbent. Leiper has an advantage stemming from male privilege. We need to be conscious of this sort of privilege, lest we dismiss the talents of qualified women, discouraging others from even entering politics.

I have no idea why Perry Marleau felt the need to apologize

I missed the Alta Vista debate on Rogers on Wednesday. Well, I didn’t miss it, I DVRed it and didn’t watch it right away. (Yes, I know.) On Thursday morning, candidate Perry Marleau tweeted this:

As you might imagine, this made me want to watch the debate all the more. (YES, I KNOW.) So, what did I see? I saw a candidate get into a passionate and spirited debate with another candidate. There were no low blows, no personal attacks, nothing that would warrant an apology. In fact, it’s the sort of back-and-forth we should want during the campaign.

So, apology not accepted, Perry. Apology not needed.

A Somerset Response

My impressions on the Somerset Ward race gained a bit of traction yesterday, as a few locals and candidates responded. The most substantive response came from candidate Conor Meade. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m not going to off any more substantive thought right now. I still want to watch the debate before saying too much more. However, I will say that this response is exactly the sort of thing we should want from candidates. He engages; he’s confident; and he’s feisty, without being nasty. This string of tweets makes his candidacy all the more endearing.

Somerset Impressions

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.