You may recall that four years ago, I didn’t think the River Ward race had much to offer. With a popular incumbent deciding rather late not to seek re-election, it was a fairly crowded field and no one really stood out. (This time around, Orleans experienced a similar situation, have 15 true candidates and some of them are quite interesting.)
This year, first-term councillor Riley Brockington is seeking re-election (full disclosure: I know Riley personally, outside of politics, and knew him before he ran four years ago), and he’s being challenged by three people: Fabien Kalala Cimankinda, Kerri Keith and Hassib Reda.
This one is a bit tough for me. I didn’t know of any of the challengers before the race started, and so I’m going off what little I’ve gleaned from the web and their performance at the televised debate (unfortunately, Reda didn’t participate in the televised debate).
Endorsement: Fabien Kalala Cimankinda.
Cimankinda has an interesting backstory. Originally from the Congo, he moved to Ottawa (and River Ward) in 2005. A few years later, he went to Ottawa U, played football for the Gee-Gees and then played three years of pro ball in Belgium. In 2011, he was jailed in the Congo for his political activities. He’s since returned to Ottawa, and seems to be quite active in the community.
No doubt, his perspective–as an immigrant, as a young person, as a person of colour, as a person from a lower-income neighbourhood, as a goddamned political prisoner–would be quite a good addition to city council.
But, you know, that’s not even why I’m endorsing him. I was intrigued by his website and his social media presence, but I was thoroughly impressed by his performance at the Rogers debate. He knew what he was talking about. He has certain key issues (mainly, crime) that he was incredibly well-versed in. He was able to stand up to Brockington and challenge him, repeatedly. Very few challengers can really do that against an incumbent. And Riley’s not a dumb guy–he came prepared. Still, Cimankinda was impressive.
This is tough for me to write. I like Riley. He’s a nice guy, who generally wants to do right by the ward and the city. I know a number of his residents have been happy with his service. And, really, another four years of Brockington wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to council.
But there have been issues: Mooney’s Bay, disparaging comments about Rideau Street, sometimes he hasn’t been fully up-to-speed on certain files that have come before council. He’s responsive as a councillor, but that’s just not enough.
Cimankinda appears to have the energy, the drive and inclination to be just as responsive. He certainly seems to be smart enough for the job. He’s done his research. He’s focused. It’s a bit of crap shoot to go with a less-experienced candidate, but both my head and my gut tell me he’s the choice.
I have this nagging thought that I’m only picking Cimankinda because he’s the challenger, the underdog. It’s appealing to play the contrarian, and if he wins, I can take some credit for being prescient (and if he loses, I can claim the moral high ground any time Brockington might make a bad decision).
But, no, that’s not it. Any contrarian appeal is tremendously outweighed by the risk of choosing the unknown.
It’s easier to go with choice you already know, but sometimes you just need to take that chance.