Oh. My. God.
So, dear readers, you know I’ve watched a bunch of municipal debates. I’ve watched the Capital Ward televised debate twice, and that’s only one of the 16 ward debates I’ve watched. Well, tonight I went to the local all-candidates debate for Capital Ward. That was a slog.
Before I get into it, I do want to point out that the local community associations put in a lot of work, and it really was a tremendous undertaking that they pulled off very, very well. Further, Postmedia’s David Reevely did a fine job as moderator, keeping things moving, but not getting in the way of the candidates.
Still. Two Hours. In those chairs. Listening to a bunch of the same lines from the televised debate (and not just slogans or tag lines, word-for-word arguments). I just wanted to get out by the end.
(Also, don’t expect the best grammar, spelling and whatnot…I’m exhausted, and I’m putting as much energy into this as I can. I will, however, do my best not to swear.)
Still, it was somewhat illuminating. Let’s take a real quick run-through the debate performances. I’m going to go in order they were sitting.
Jide Afolabi came off well. He has a lot of ideas. He calls them bold, but I’m not sure that’s how I’d describe them. They’re definitely outside-the-box, and he is thinking of different solutions to local issues, so that’s something. He didn’t stand out too much; his performance was very similar to his Rogers debate performance. So I’d still say he’s a much stronger candidate than I thought he was at the outset of the campaign, but I still don’t think he has much of a chance. The others seem to have bigger bases of support.
Anthony Carricato has been the biggest disappointment in this campaign. I met with Anthony back in the spring, and I was impressed. I though he had some good ideas, and he seemed to have a good perspective. That’s not how the campaign has worked out, though.
He’s repeated his 2% should be a ceiling not a floor promise. He dodged a question about transit fares, claiming that people don’t take the bus because of service (fair point), fares have nothing to do with it (uh…). Despite his desire to not raise taxes, he still has plans to spend more money, so I don’t how that’s going to work out.
It kind of feels like he’s trying to stand out from the crowd, but the reason no one recently has been willing to make a zero-percent-tax-increase argument is because it’s just not feasible. Menard pointed out we know what zero-means-zero actually means in this city.
Carricato did make himself stand out in one way, one horrible way. He wants to force bicyclists to wear helmets. (There wasn’t even a question about helmets; it was about bike lights.) Yeah, there’s no evidence that they do any good, and there’s preliminary evidence that the make bicycling more dangerous, but still. He also decried bicyclists not following the rules. Drivers have to, so bikes should, too.
Okay, once more, the reason bicyclists break the law is to save their frigging lives. I ride the sidewalk on the Bank Street Bridge and on Carling Avenue because those streets are horribly dangerous. I roll through stop signs and jump reds because it gets me away from traffic. I salmon down my street because otherwise I have to turn left onto Bank Street, then immediately turn left off of it, without the aid of a stop light.
Carricato doesn’t like these innocent, necessary measures that help ensure my safety. He wants to outlaw my life and health.
So, basically, if you want a suburban councillor to represent Capital Ward, vote Carricato.
David Chernushenko has become a man of mysteries. I pointed out how in the Rogers debate, he wanted to have everything both ways. He supports bikes, but he killed a bike lane! He opposed Fifth + Bank but he voted for it! He pledged to the 2% target, but wouldn’t be bound by it! Well, it continued.
He said all that stuff again, yes, but his whole demeanour was different. He talked about how he didn’t like to talk about his accomplishments, yet he held up a list of 40 accomplishments, and regularly talked about all the stuff he’d done (he even kind of took credit for the work of a long-established charity, the King’s Daughters & Sons).
He opened up the whole thing by talking about how he’s a nice guy (he closed on this, too) and how that’s good because we don’t need angry politics, we have too much of that (fair). But then he spent a good chunk of the debate angry, lashing out (even at Somerset Ward councillor Catherine McKenney).
He talked about his support for biking, but he also said that we have to have four lanes of car traffic on the Bank Street Bridge.
Carricato ragged on him for the “tired” comment, and it was a pretty good hit. Chernushenko closed saying that he had a lot of energy now and a lot more
miles kilometres* left on his bike.
…but, y’know, I saw him driving home from the debate, so maybe not that many more
miles kilometres. (Though, with four lanes of car traffic, biking over the Bank Street Bridge is stupid dangerous. Maybe the next councillor can give him a safe route to his neighbourhood.)
Christine McAllister was her same strong self. She spoke well, and had some good ideas. In her opener, she set herself up to be the candidate of choice, saying there were three things people should look for…but she didn’t really pay that off.
See, here’s where I struggle with McAllister. She’s good, definitely, but she doesn’t really stand out that much. I disagree with her on a few issues, but she generally has some very good perspectives on issues, and she definitely cares, but there’s just not that payout. She’s not really going that next step–offering solutions, offering a vision, differentiating herself, even from the incumbent.
She didn’t really get into much of a back-and-forth with anyone…and I don’t just mean silly debating things; I mean demonstrating the real contrast between platforms. Part of the issue is that her platform is very process oriented. There are things she wants to achieve, but she tends to talk a lot about how we need a plan for this and we need to set up a process for that.
That’s fine, to an extent, and she’s definitely thought about a lot of important issues, and I think she’s generally good on most of them, but more is desirable.
Shawn Menard started out nice and friendly and approachable. It was an interesting juxtaposition to Chernushenko. Whereas Chernushenko had to tell people he was nice, Menard came off that way in his opening statement.
And on that note, this was, in many ways, a debate between Shawn Menard and David Chernushenko. Menard was the first one to go on the attack against the incumbent, and the onlyl one to do it consistently. He contradicted Chernushenko on his record (and Chernushenko regularly had no comeback–like his repeated support for transit hikes).
There was a notable exchange talking about collaboration with other councillors (I think that’s what it was). Menard spoke, then Chernushenko spoke, then Menard spoke again (which wasn’t really the format, but was allowed). He really hammered at Chernushenko’s track record and his (lack of) accomplishments. Chernushenko then spoke again. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with the barrage.
That’s actually the way it’s been. Chernushenko doesn’t look comfortable. He looks threatened and worried, and he doesn’t come off well in such a scernario. He gets chippy and defensive. He gets snide and cynical (even when calling other councillors cynical). He gets angry and combative.
Yes, when his job is on the line, he gets angry and combative. When it’s our neighbourhood or our city on the line, he’s friendly and conciliatory.
Menard was definitely the most productive in the debate. He scored the most blows against Chernushenko. He pressed the issues more than anyone else (other than maybe Carricato, but, well…) and he presented as many policy proposals as anyone else. Further, he demonstrated that he had a better grasp on general city issues and solutions than the other challengers.
Carricato took aim at Menard at one point, saying that others will come up with these ideas that have worked in other cities, but… actually, I forget the rest of his argument (maybe something about scaling back and living within our means? Look, I’m tired, ok?). It was a bit of an odd attack–you have too many ideas that have proven successful somewhere else!
Okay, enough with the stupid re-cap.
Endorsement: Shawn Menard.
Maybe Shawn Menard has an advantage, here. He has a background that no other candidate has. He worked for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He worked for the Big City Mayor’s Caucus. He currently works with municipalities across Canada. So he definitely has an advantage in understanding the issues facing Ottawa.
But here’s the key: it’s not an unfair advantage; it’s further demonstration of why he’s, head-and-shoulders, the best candidate.
Menard understands city issues, because he clearly has a passion for the city, the community and for urban development. He’s clearly interested both in working in the community (based on all the work and all the success he’s had as a community activist), and in understanding how city’s function.
When he speaks to issues, he speaks about them, holistically. Transit isn’t just a transportation issue; it’s an environmental issue; it’s a gender issue; it’s an equality issue; and it’s economic issue.
Poverty and homelessness is a question of compassion and dignity, but there’s also an economic benefit to helping people get off the streets.
We don’t see this from the other candidates, certainly not to this degree. For instance, Chernushenko will speak to the environmental aspect of an issue, but he doesn’t acknowledge the gender or class components.
We can’t fix our city, without a holistic understanding of the issues we face, and how they interact. We can’t just have bold ideas without a grounding in how they’ll work, and we can’t rely solely on a commitment to working for the community without a full understanding of what that work will entail.
We do need a councillor who can build bridges, as they say, and work in collaboration with other councillors, but Menard has a track record of doing that. Further, when that issue came up, he was the one to talk about how urban, suburban and rural issues aligned.
Nonetheless, we can’t keep having the same complacent, conciliatory voice at the council table. We do need someone who can, at times, pound the table for the most important issues facing the ward and the city. We need someone who will speak up and won’t capitulate. That’s not what we have now.
Different councillors have different things to offer, but no other councillor offers all that Menard does. For the last four years, residents in this ward have looked to other councillors, neighbouring councillors, for inspiration, support and leadership. It would be nice to get that from our own councillor.
If we choose Shawn Menard, we can.
*A reader noted my use of “miles”, and I know how irritating it is when people don’t use the right type of measurement, so I’m changing it to metric. I wasn’t trying to quote him, there, but I’m pretty sure he did, indeed, say kilometres.