I just watched the Rideau-Goulbourn debate on Rogers. I had a bit of a running commentary on Twitter, but I thought it’d be good to give a re-cap here.
First, some background information. It’s a two-person race. Scott Moffatt is the two-term incumbent and he’s being challenged by Dave Brown, who spent the last year or two as a staffer for Moffatt. Before that, he was a staffer for Pierre Pollievre.
All right. Let’s do this!
Moffatt started things off. He seemed nervous in his opening statement, but it wasn’t bad. He spoke about his work as councillor. He spoke about he felt councillors had a duty to not only represent their ward, but also that they were councillor’s for the city. This is a good perspective, and one Moffatt has claimed before.
Brown’s opening statement was much more polished, but also really short. I wasn’t able to compose an entire tweet before it ended. His main thing is that he doesn’t like taxes and he wants to represent rural residents and rural concerns at City Hall.
The debate covered four main topics: Growth, Taxes and Services, Size of City Council and Term Limits, and Waste Disposal. Following that, there was a lightning round with two question: do you have a big idea for the ward, and do you support a women’s bureau and increased diversity at city hall.
I’m not going to go through all the answers (you can find them in the Twitter thread), but a few things stuck out to me.
Dave Brown wants to be a champion of the (rural) people. The former City Hall and Parliament Hill staffer tried to paint Moffatt as the political insider, the establishment sort of politician who hasn’t been getting things done for rural residents.
Unfortunately for Brown, he didn’t have a good handle on the issues (which is weird since he’s been working at City Hall. Pay attention, man!).
When asked about waste disposal, he brought up incineration, looking to Durham as an example. Moffatt pointed out that in order to pay for the Durham model, the added cost would amount to a 5% property tax increase.
And speaking of property taxes, Brown doesn’t like them. He thinks there should be no more tax increases, and politicians should just find a way to cut spending. Moffatt noted that police and fire salaries account for big increases in the budget (does Brown want to cut police and fire services?), and that the city does review spending…every year since 2012.
Moffatt, bless his heart, also noted that increased spending is driven by sprawl. MY GOD A NON-URBAN COUNCILLOR GETS IT.
On the size of council, Brown tried to score points saying that there were no strong rural voice on council. Moffatt went on to talk about all the committees rural councillors were on, and how they chaired may of them.
(Uh…maybe rural councillors are too powerful.)
This led to a memorable exchange. Brown asked, “But if we’re major leaders now, will we be tomorrow, next term, the term after?” To which Moffatt replied, “if you re-elect me, yes.”
It was a damn good line, and it came right at the end of the allotted time. If you watch the debate, Brown gives a bit of a smirk. I didn’t take this as Brown being irritated; it looked like he appreciated that he was bested in this one exchange. It looked like a competitor acknowledging their debate opponent got one on this.
And this brings us to my problem with Dave Brown. I think he sees this as a game. I think he sees politics as something to win, a contest to prove that you can do politics better than your opponent. He’s not a career politician, but he’s working on a career in politics. I’m not sure he cares as much about the city as he does about politics.
Moffatt is different. He was definitely good at the debate, and judging by his activities at council and on Twitter, he, too, likes the debate. But he also seems to like investigating things. And I think he likes representing his constituents and trying to make the city better.
I’ve critiqued Moffatt a lot in the past, but coming out of this debate, I genuinely believe he wants to serve his residents. I truly believe that he’s in politics for the right reasons. He may have a penchant for social media debates, but he takes his role seriously.
I see no evidence that Brown takes the role of councillor seriously.
I think Brown wants to achieve certain things as councillor. I think he wants to go to bat for rural concerns. He wants lower taxes and more driving. He wants to burn garbage. And he wants an antagonistic approach between ruarl and urban councillors at City Hall.
He demonstrated that he has significant disdain for public transit. He thinks money going to transit should go to roads, instead. Even when talking about waste disposal, he had to bring up spending on LRT.
His other views are less than stellar, too. He supports the Women’s Bureau, but his response was…problematic (saying that if women think it’ll advance their agenda, then sure, let’s have it). Talking about diversity, he said that “youth are underrepresented”.
Talking about diversity, he said nothing about people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, or even issues pertaining to class and income. He only spoke of youth.
The question about the Women’s Bureau was an interesting one for Moffatt. You may recall he had a twitter exchange with local writers, podcasters and activists Erin Gee and Amy Kishek about representation at City Hall (Erin and I also do the Ten O’Clock Talk with Mark Sutcliffe on W1310 every Friday morning; tune in!). Moffatt did not come off looking the best.
In his response, Moffatt said he had supported the Women’s Bureau. He said that he initially questioned the need, but after some research and after speaking to councillors Deans and McKenney, he came to realize the need.
This is the sort of thing we need from our politicians. He had an opinion on a subject, but he was open to new information and upon reflection, he changed his mind.
That’s a whole lot better than saying that diversity means getting more youth at City Hall.
Moffatt also came out against sprawl, supported complete communities, and talked about the need for city officials and politicians to properly manage residents’ expectations when it comes to planning and development.
Oh my God, I think I might like Scott Moffatt.
On every measure, Moffatt out-shone Brown. He understood the issues better and he was far more reasonable. Further, he talked about the need for council to work together and not to start fights with each other. He really came off as exactly what the people of Rideau-Goulbourn should want in a councillor.
The question will be, do they want Moffatt?
Brown has ties to the Conservative Party, and the Tories are pretty popular out there. Will Brown be able to leverage that, paint Moffatt as a typical City Hall politician, and whip up some populist and uninformed rage among voters.
This is a dynamic we’ve seen before. There’s a significant amount of anger and resentment in a lot of rural wards. It tends to be unfounded (or it’s just that they don’t want to be part of the city…which, fair), but it tends to be vocal, too.
Moffatt’s record, his approach to city politics and his performance in this debate should make him a slam dunk winner. But, man, you just never know what a bit of populism mixed with a bit of discontent might bring.