Never has there been a better argument for ranked choice voting that the election in Orleans Ward, where every registered voter is running for council, ensuring a 1-vote tie across the the board.
Okay, I’m kidding there are “only” 17 candidates running. Bob Monette surprisingly stepped down, creating a void that was amply filled by councillor hopefuls. What’s interesting is that of the other wards without an incumbent running–Innes (4). Kanata North (5) Bay (5)–none of them even get into double digits in terms of candidates.
Last time around, Somerset and Osgoode both had 11 candidates, but 17 is a whole other level.
And, really, it’s quite daunting. I haven’t lived in Orleans (or anywhere close to it) in over a decade, and I don’t know any of these candidates. Honestly, I’ve kind of been avoiding the ward race. I have checked out websites, and I’m following whomever I can on Twitter, but there’s just so many of them. And, as an outsider, I don’t even have a sense of who are the top tier candidates.
So, here’s what I’m going to do for you, dear readers, I’m going to do a real quick rundown, based on candidate websites (and maybe any other info I have), and try to figure out what the heck is going on out there.
And at the very end, I’ll give you an assessment of the candidates that I’m most intrigued by (whether they have a hope in hell of winning or not.)
I may also then send this blogpost around to the candidates and invite them to either comment on the post or send me an email response. I’ll be sure to post any pertinent responses I get.
So here we go. I’m going in reverse alphabetical order, so that there’s no favouritism, and just to be different.
Don Yetman: First off, that’s quite a website. It loads slow and doesn’t quite function as I’d like, but it’s got a fun retro-DIY feel. He’s a long-time resident of the ward, seems to have had an accomplished career and has done some volunteer work. So far, so good.
I like that his priorities include ward-level and city-wide issues. At the ward level, he wants to rejuvenate St. Joseph. He wants safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure. And he wants to make sure LRT leads to better commuting. These are all good things.
He’s got some fine ideas for the city–making sure LRT works, thoughts on zoning and development, a focus on community–but then there’s this, “Control the expansion of Safe Injection sites to protect Residential neighbourhoods.”
Here’s the thing: Safe Injection Sites protect residential neighbourhoods. The only way I can read his statement is that he doesn’t consider, say, Lowertown to be a “residential neighbourhood”. Further, I worry it’s a let’s-keep-all-the-bad-stuff-in-certain-areas mindset. This is how the Sally Ann’s megashelter gets foisted on Vanier. This is how the needs of low-income households get ignored in the ‘burbs.
Now, I don’t know that there are plans to put SIS in Orleans. I kind of doubt it right now…but considering that we are seeing overdoses in suburban areas, if some place like Orleans needs an SIS, then we shouldn’t reflexively oppose it in order to “protect Residential neighbourhoods”.
Sigh. He was looking promising.
Kevin Tetrault: Okay, he has a Facebook page rather than a website, which is ok…but it makes it a tad more difficult to find info. Here’s what I know: he was born and raised in Orleans. Went to U of O, was in the Cameron Highlanders and he seems to be a Tory. His campaign is about jobs and smart infrastructure investment (which he does not define). And he seems fond of Bob Monette.
That’s all I got.
He posts pictures of canvassing. He says that constituents are concerned about bike lanes (for or against, I dunno), parking downtown and safe injection sites–I can’t find any reporting on SIS coming to Orleans. Maybe I missed it?
Verdict: underwhelming, but need a lot more info.
Louise Soyez: I got nothing. No website, no obvious web presence. Sorry.
Qamar Masood: Masood came to Ottawa in the ’70s. He appears to have been a rather successful businessman for the past few decades, and also very active in the community (he received a City Builders Award). He also has some clear priorities: hydro amalgamation, LRT-transit connectivity (this is good; we need to get people to LRT stations), carpool lanes on the 174 (uh…), support for Movement d’implication francophone d’Orléans (MIFO), crime prevention, St. Joseph rejuvenation…and not increasing property taxes. No, I don’t know how he plans to pay for everything if he’s reticent to increase taxes.
Like Tetrault, he, too, is a fan of Monette.
There’s a lot to like, but there’s also the typical failing of a candidate who wants a lot of stuff but doesn’t want to have to pay for it. From what I see, he falls into the stereotypical (and often unfair) profile of suburban politicians.
That said, getting more diverse perspectives on council ain’t a bad thing.
Matt Luloff: Interestingly, when the avalanche of Orleans candidates had just barely started smothering us, a candidate in a central ward told me to check out Luloff, suggesting he’d be a good candidate. So here we are.
OK, his is the best website so far. I know that doesn’t actually matter, but it’s politics. Keep appearances in mind. He’s a former soldier who now works on the Hill. He also went to high school in Orleans.
Right, enough bio stuff. What does he stand for? He wants to build (a) the community; (b) the economy; and, (c) better mental health service, “especially for our first responders, soldiers, veterans, and public servants”, clearly a cause important to him (though I don’t understand why one is more deserving of such support if you work in the public sector rather than the private sector).
Here’s one thing he says about building community: “We need to widen Highway 174, improve LRT infrastructure, including a larger park-and-ride at Place d’Orléans, and improve access to Petrie Island.”
We need more highway and better LRT infrastructure? The point of LRT is to get fewer people driving. Why on earth should we widen the 174?
Aside from talking jobs, here’s what he says about building the economy, “I will vote to keep our property taxes low and predictable to help seniors, families and businesses plan for the future.”
So, more money for LRT, more money for roads (that’ll kill transit use), more money for park-n-rides and Petrie Island, more money for mental health services…but no more money coming in to the city’s coffers.
That isn’t a particularly well-thought-out platform, what with multiple internal contradictions.
Shannon Kramer: All right, we might have our first urbanist candidate (but, don’t worry, it’s not about turning Orleans into Centretown, it’s about an urbanism that fits within Orleans’s current suburban context). Kramer’s an Industrial Design graduate from Carleton (Go Ravens)…but that’s about all I could learn about her personally. That’s not a problem; I’m just noting it.
So far, she clearly has the most extensive website (which also means I skimmed much of it). She speaks of healthy communities, walkability, transportation choice, gentle density and affordable housing. These are all really good things for council to focus on. And, again, she speaks to them in a way to make them fit into Orleans, rather than radically altering it.
She appears younger than most of the other candidates, and I worry that’ll hurt her. But, so far, she seems the most promising candidate.
Catherine Kitts: Kitts’s website is “Coming Soon”. I do know that she was born and raised in Orleans.
I follow her on Twitter, and I know she’s very supportive of women running (which is great!), but I don’t recall anything else that really drew me in.
Geoffrey Nicholas Griplas: Welp. No website. Sorry, I got nothin’.
Miranda Gray: Oh my god, her website isn’t done, either.
Gray was the first of the candidates to declare, and the only one who declared before Monette. She’s also fairly active on Twitter, so I do have a good handle on where she’s coming from, and, so far, I like what I see. She seems to be thoughtful about city issues, and she seems to have a sound vision for Orleans and the city…but seems is key here.
I’d like to see a platform rolled out, Miranda.
Jarrond Goldsmith: He plays the saxaphone.
Okay, that may seem like an odd way to start, but that used to be the first thing you saw when you went to his website. He’s since changed it to be a little more election-focused.
His bio doesn’t really tell me much about him. His priorities seem pretty good: shorter commute times, revitalizing St. Joseph, accessibility, community safety, and arts and culture. They’re all on his home page. Let’s see if we can dig a bit, and see what those mean to him.
He says he supports sustainability and ‘”complete” streets and cities’–this would seem to include balancing transportation needs and offering transportation choices (he says, “expanding safe cycling options just makes good sense,” so that’s a plus). I think he wants to do something about traffic and commute times, but I’m not sure how he plans to tackle those (unless it’s through better transpo choices, which, yeah, that’s a good start).
He rounds out his vision talking about arts and recreation, social responsibility, and culture (all of which seems good); and economic success (which is mostly just buzzwords).
Honestly, I seem to recall not being too impressed the first time I checked him out, but this vision is looking pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised reading through it.
Doug Feltmate: Doug Feltmate thinks a federal employment node should be located in Orleans.
That’s the very first thing that greeted me on his site, so I thought I’d share (it’s possible that after 1600 words, I’m getting a little punchy…not sure if this will be an advantage or a disadvantage for the candidates still to come).
He also wants to revitalize St. Joe Blvd. This seems like a common idea, and I love it. I think St. Joe is nowhere close to reaching its potential. I think it has the potential (to overuse a word) to be a really cool Traditional Mainstreet. Orleans is different than Kanata or Barrhaven, it has an existing framework for a…dare I say it…urban village. Again (again), not to completely change the character of the area, but to make it come alive.
…but I digress…
There doesn’t seem to be a full platform on his site, but he does have some vision points. Aside from the ones I’ve mentioned, he wants to enhance Petrie Island, improve transit connectivitiy, make sure St. Joe is accessible and that it offers amenities for all residents, improve infrastructure, get more sports and rec facilities, and put in a festival plaza along St. Joe.
He’s just all about the boulevard.
Doug moved around a bit as a kid, came to Ottawa to play junior hockey, went to Algonquin and ran a successful business in the food services industry. So that’s all pretty cool.
I’m intrigued by Doug, but, like others, I just don’t have enough details about his vision. I also didn’t see anything on his site about taxes. In some ways, that’s a relief, but it also makes me worried that he’ll be another of those I want everything but I don’t want to pay for it candidates. But I’m not going to assume that yet.
Dina Epale: He was/is the Executive Director of Orleans Chamber of Commerce. I can’t find a website. He’s got a Twitter account that doesn’t seem to be used much.
So, yeah, I’m gonna need more info to make any sort of judgement.
Diego Elizondo: All right, it took a bit, but I’ve learned a few things about Elizondo. First of all, all his Facebook messages are in French first. I kinda think this is a good thing. There’s not always sufficient francophone representation at City Hall, and he’d definitely change that (it’s one of his issues).
He’s also environmentally-conscious, it seems, not having any plastic lawn signs (which, sadly, could really hurt his campaign). He also wants better transit and better management of public finances. Unfortunately, I have no details on how he’d like to see these achieved.
He, too, is a fan of Monette.
Guy Desroches: Desroches is another long-time resident of Orleans. After recovering from a bilateral brainstem stroke in 2005, he has become an activist for accessibility issues. He’s running on the need for better and more affordable transit, accessibility and housing issues.
You might think he’s a one-issue candidate, and certainly, accessibility is a motivating issue for him, but it seems like he’s developed a broader vision, rooted in accessibility. I say, “seems”, because there’s not a ton of detail.
Mireille Brownhill: Brownhill has four priorities listed on her website: smart development around LRT hubs, safe streets and parks, encouraging community events, and revitalizing St. Joseph. We’ll just leave that fourth one, as it almost seems like cost-of-admission to the race (actually, one note: she wants to work with businesses and BIAs, and I get that, but I’ve just grown to recoil at such shoutouts).
The priorities seem sound–safe streets, transit, livability, community–this is all stuff I can get behind. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll get a few more details on where she’s coming from, and, so far, it’s quite promising.
Toby Bossert: Toby really lays it out there. He’s had some setbacks in his life. In 2015, he lost his father and his job. His wife was also laid off. She quickly found work, but he wasn’t so lucky. He’s worked a variety jobs in the past few years.
This isn’t the usual profile a candidate will present…but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lord knows, we have enough people on council who financially comfortable.
So, what does he want to do? He wants a bus route connecting all of Orleans; he wants to focus on safety and security in the ward; and he wants to revitalize St. Jo…well, you know.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of meat. And his Twitter and Facebook feeds don’t add a whole lot more (on Aug 10, he tweeted he’d make a statement about OC Transpo service, but there’s still nothing that I can see on his website or Facebook page). Personally, it’d be hard to throw support behind him without more information.
Rick Bédard: Bédard is, again, a long-time ward resident. He’s a civil servant who has been way into minor. He’s got a couple of high profile endorsements, and he used to ride a pony.
He has a rather detailed bio (as you might have guessed), but he’s not actually launching his platform until Thursday (he has a handy countdown clock). I’ll try to remember to check back in.
That’s it. I’m fucking done. I kind of hate Orleans now…but it’s also pretty great that there are so many people who want to represent their community.
So let’s TL;DR this thing. It will be nearly impossible for me to follow all these campaigns (especially because I’ll have no knowledge of their ground games), but here are my initial assessments…
My (Personal) Frontrunners: Mireille Brownhill, Doug Feltmate, Jarrod Goldsmith, Miranda Gray, Shannon Kramer and Don Yetman.
(Yeah, I went in alphabetical order this time.)
So, there’s still a lot to learn about all the candidates, but my three favourites right now are definitely Brownhill, Gray and Kramer. I’m not pronouncing on their electability, just my preference here. The other three are intriguing, but I find them to be a notch below.
404 Error: Guy Desroches, Diego Elizondo, Dina Epale and Catherine Kitts.
I’m intrigued, but I need to see more information from these four before I can say much. There’s promise, there, but too little info to go on.
Honourable Mention: Toby Bossert.
Toby seems like he cares. He seems capable enough. And he seems like he might bring a different perspective. But not only does he not give enough information, I’m a bit concerned by his tweet saying he’d make a statement about transit, then being silent for almost three week. But I’m not ready to give up on him.