Looking ahead to the 2022 municipal election

With the 2018 election behind us, and a number of interesting developments (seven new councillors, four new women on council), it’s about time to start looking into what the next election has in store for us. Will Jim Watson run for a fourth term? Which councillors will be angling for their own mayoral runs? Which councillors might be in trouble? Which candidates might come back strong next time.

It’s time to take a look at these questions. Continue reading

Predictions, Endorsements and our Best Possible Council

A few weeks ago, a friend asked on Twitter about the best candidate who had a chance to win their ward. This would be a slight deviation from pure endorsements (his example was that we know Jan Harder is winning in Barrhaven), but definitely with some overlap.

It’s a neat idea, but I kind of put it on the back burner while I took care of other stuff…but now with a bit of time, let’s give it a whirl. For fun, I’ve combined it with my predictions (which are, again, different), and I’ve included my endorsements for references. I’ve called the best candidate with a chance to win “Best Hope”. Also, I decided to be generous in terms of what constitutes having a chance.

Also, I’ve got a small bet on with a City Hall insider on predictions…so I better friggin’ be right. (Also, I hate doing predictions,) Continue reading

The #OttVote Dream Team

In my College Ward endorsement, I noted that Emilie Coyle was one of the best candidates across the city. This led to a couple of people wondering about who would be my Top Ten candidates.

Well, I’m not going to do that, exactly–a Top Ten feels restrictive, but since council has 24 members, how about the ideal council, ignoring wards and including all mayoral candidates. This list is in no particular order, but if a candidate is near the top of the list, they’re more likely to be one of my top candidates than someone listed at the bottom of my list. I’ll include their ward, just for reference.

This is kind of a dumb post, so I’m going to do this quickly, and it may not be 100% accurate and it may not be exactly 24 people. Let’s ride! Continue reading

Mayoral Endorsement

Yesterday, a friend asked when I was going to publish my endorsement for mayor. I told her that I intended to do it last night. But last night, I fell asleep before I could write anything. If that’s not a good synopsis of this mayoral campaign…

Fine, enough with the meaningless preamble.

They key point about this mayoral election is that it is time for Jim Watson to go. He’s been an underwhelming mayor, and his rhetoric no longer matches his performance. His “steady hand” has led to deficits, crumbling infrastructure, surprise LRT delays and a city that continuously fails to live up to its potential.

He has show a general disdain for issues relating to gender, as well as to the well-being of vulnerable residents. From his tight grip on an intentionally opaque and inscrutable budget process, to blocking residents on twitter when they disagree with him, to ducking important debates during this campaign, his contempt for democracy is clear.

So this election is about finding someone else. Despite the large field of challengers, the pickings, sadly, are rather slim.

Sure, Moises Schachtler has the best twitter handle Ottawa politics. And, yes, candidates like Bruce McConville and Ryan Lythall are earnest in their devotion to building a better, more welcoming city, most of the challengers just aren’t up to the job.

So I’m left with two candidates from who to choose: Clive Doucet and Joey Drouin.

Clive Doucet joined the race on the last day of registration. He said he wanted to bring fun back to City Hall, and many observers thought he’d present a decent challenge to Watson (not necessarily in terms of winning, but at least in terms of pressing him on the issues)…of course, when Watson ducks so many debates, it’s hard to press him on much of anything.

Unfortunately, Doucet’s campaign did not go as most of us hoped. His Big Idea is a regional rail plan. I mean, maybe that’s okay, but it’s certainly not the most pressing issue in the city or for city transit. Added to that he spoke of delaying LRT Phase II and cancelling Baseline BRT (I don’t think he’d actually get to do that…the mayor is only one vote at council, after all). He had other decent ideas in his platform, but, sadly, they got overshadowed by the regional rail plan.

Well, that and his sudden pivot to weekly garbage pick-up. I don’t really even want to talk about that. It’s not happening, and it was disappointing that Doucet, of all candidates, was resurrecting that zombie issue.

Unfortunately, Joey Drouin isn’t much better. He doesn’t have a background in local politics, and it showed. He doesn’t have what I’d consider a full and well-rounded platform, though he does have some good ideas, and seems generally thoughtful. I don’t think his lack of experience counts against him so much as he doesn’t have a track record to bolster his campaign.

But worse than all that is his Bid Idea: merging Ottawa and Gatineau. So, like, this is never going to happen, and I really don’t see why anyone would think it should happen. Amalgamation didn’t work out so well for Ottawa; I really can’t get on board with this super amalgamation gambit.

Endorsement: Clive Doucet

Here’s where we’re at: for all his faults and unfortunate top-of-mind ideas, Doucet still has a better overall platform than Drouin. Further, we know what we’d be getting in Doucet, considering his history as city councillor. Finally, Doucet’s Big Idea (regional rail) actually has some merit to it, whereas Drouin’s is more just sloganeering.

I believe when we’re making these decisions, we need to take a holistic look at the candidates. It means we need to consider what they’ve done (if they have that experience), what they say they’re going to do and what kind of mayor they’ll actually be. (This isn’t totally satisfying; at the best of times, we have candidates with solid platforms and admirable visions, but sometimes, we don’t, sadly.)

If you sit down and talk to Doucet, you get an understanding that he understands how the city works and how to make the city work. He’s got a history of having a sound urban vision. Doucet the Former Councillor is different from Doucet the Candidate, and we’re likely to see more of the former and less of the latter as mayor. It is very unfortunate that his campaign went off the rails (haha), and it’s even more unfortunate that he wasn’t able to take Watson on in a battle of ideas–had that happened, his candidacy would be looking a whole lot better, I believe.

The things you hate about Doucet’s campaing–the focus on regional rail, weekly garbage pick-up–these probably aren’t going to happen. I don’t believe council would get behind him on these (and he won’t have the head-bobbing get-along gang that Watson has), but he would be able to switch the focus of city governance from Watson’s unimaginative pandering to something approaching a vision this city desperately needs and definitely deserves.

Orleans Ward Endorsement

Okay, I’ve only got like twenty minutes, so let’s whip through this.

If you’ve been following along at home, you know I’ve been slowly whittling down the list of candidates that I’d support in Orleans Ward. It started with 17 candidate, but then two unofficially dropped out. I went through all the information I could find online and reduced it a bit more. I watched the Rogers non-debate and, again, reduced my choices a bit more, still.

I’ve thought more on it, and I’ve reviewed more stuff online, and I got my choices down to the following four candidates (in no particular order): Catherine Kitts, Miranda Gray, Mireille Brownhill and Shannon Kramer. (Yes, all women. This both achieves the goal of greater representation on council and they’re the candidates I like best, regardless.)

This race went insane early on. At first, Bob Monette was running for re-election and only Gray was challenging him. Then he stepped back from politics and the candidate list exploded. What’s really interesting (to me, at least) is that this gave the chance to a lot of less-experienced candidates to give the race a shot, without being seen as too much of a neophyte.

Look at someone like Jarrod Goldsmith. It’d be a learning experience (as he admitted) to be councillor, but he does seem like he’d be up to the challenge.

Or then there’s the question of age or one’s profile in the ward. I’m thinking of Shannon Kramer here, as an example. She has a lot of knowledge about city-building, but she’s not as prominent in the ward. Her platform is well-thought out, though a little green–with many spending priorities, but also a desire to keep a cap on taxes.

These are just two examples of the people we’ve seen step forward, who we wouldn’t have, otherwise, and it’s actually pretty great, if a little overwhelming. (I’d speak more to this, but, twenty minutes…now ten.)

Let’s get to it.

Endorsement: Mireille Brownhill

She was one of the first candidates I’d had my eye on. There was a nice mix of community involvement, civic dedication and thoughtfulness. I wondered if she might be a little green on some issues..and, she probably is. If you’re not working at City Hall or some loser who watches every single municipal debate, you’re going to have a bit of a learning curve.

But here’s what I’ve seen: she’s working her way up that learning curve, quite quickly.

I’d lamented the fact that many candidates didn’t have much information online, or they didn’t have real platforms. Brownhill has come out with a six-age platform that is to-the-point, and really solid. Though I think Shannon Kramer is a little more dedicated to urbanism and city-building, I think Brownhill’s platform is a little more balanced and thoughtful.

(I’ve been using “thoughtful” a lot this election–I’ve come to believe it might be the most important quality in a councillor.)

Further, I think it’s clear where she may be a little behind in a dedication to city-building, she makes up for it in a dedication to community-building…and I think this dedication will help her adapt to and grow into the role of councillor.

With 15 active candidates, I wasn’t sure how certain I’d be able to be with this pick–I thought I might have to go with my gut or maybe just endorse a handful of people for the rest of y’all to choose from, but with her community experience, hard work on the campaign trail and a really solid platform, Mireille Brownhill wins out for me in Orleans.

No hedging. No caveats. No qualifications. No second choices. I’m choosing Brownhill with confidence and, in the end, without hesitation.

(19 minutes. Hell yeah!)

Gloucester-South Nepean Endorsement

Coming into 2018, Michael Qaqish was one of those councillors who really deserved a strong challenge…hell, he’s one of the councillors who probably deserved to lose his seat at the council table. He’s work for his ward has been middling, at best; he’s provided no significant benefit to the city, as a whole; and then there was the whole embarrassing story about how he spent his ward budget (not to mention the time he had a novelty cheque created to celebrate not taking his car allowance).

Look, I’m not going to say this was an Anyone-But-Qaqish race, but it wasn’t completely not an Anyone-But-Qaqish race.

At first, it seemed like we might not have much of a race. No one stepped up and grabbed the challenger spotlight, right away, and I started to wonder if Qaqish might get let off the hook.

But then at the last minute, Carol Anne Meehan–a beloved media personality with more name-recognition than the incumbent–decided to throw in. Suddenly, the race got interesting.

Now, to be fair, it’s not a two-person race. Zaff Ansari, Irene Mei and Harprett Singh are the other candidates vying for the job. Singh and Ansari–and Singh, especially–shouldn’t be automatically discarded. (I don’t think Irene Mei has much of a shot; she came off as earnest but not quite up to the challenge in the Rogers debate.)

So, although I wasn’t going to automatically dismiss the incumbent, with at least three strong challengers, it seemed like it shouldn’t be too difficult to select someone new…and it wasn’t; it was just a matter of who.

Endorsement: Zaff Ansari

Going into the debate, I was leaning towards Singh. He seemed like a worthy challenger, running a good race, and it seemed like he’d be a reliable councillor if chosen.

I haven’t been as much of a fan of Carol Anne Meehan during the campaign. Her stance on traffic congestion and pot shops is not great. Worse, I thought some of her positions demonstrated a lack of understanding of city issues, and an reticence to learn. Further, in her response to the Citizen’s survey, she didn’t answer the questions about safe injection sites, whereas Sing and Ansari both support them, and support funding them if our cruel and incompetent provincial government decides to cut funding.

That being said, she did reasonably well in the debate, and I would probably choose her over Michael Qaqish.

(As you may be guessing, this decision came about much by process of elimination.)

Singh has a lot of good ideas, and is clearly a smart, hardworking candidate. However, he’s a bit of a unicorn candidate, too. In his closing remarks of the debate, he spoke of the need to keep taxes in check…then he talked about the city building an employment hub and economic incubator, and then about the need for a new LRT loop in the area. And of course there’s always issues with pot holes, park and maintenance and the “need” for road widenings. I don’t care how many efficiencies you think you can find; you’re going to need a lot more money for your wishlist.

Zaff Ansari never stood out to me. He didn’t take control of the debate, and he doesn’t seem to have a Big Idea he was pushing. However, he was steady. He doesn’t seem to hold any egregiously bad positions. He seems reliable, and he seems like he’d be a decent decision-maker at City Hall.

And in this race, I didn’t need to be blown away. I just needed someone I felt I could trust as a decision-maker, and someone who possesses the thoughtfulness and a certain degree of wisdom for the role. For Gloucester-South Nepean, that’s Zaff Ansari.


College Ward Endorsement

About a month ago, I did a re-cap of the College Ward debate. You wouldn’t think this would be an interesting, with Chiarelli firmly entrenched as the incumbent, but with two smart and intriguing candidates–Ryan Kennery and Emilie Coyle–it was a much more interesting debate, and a much more interesting race, than I would have expected back in the winter.

Four years ago, I wrote that College Ward deserved better than Chiarelli, but there was no better choice running. This time around, College Ward still deserves better than Chiarelli, but now there are real, good options for voters.

Endorsement: Emilie Coyle

Okay, here it is: Emilie Coyle isn’t just the best candidate in College Ward; she’s one of the best candidates across the city.

I’m absolutely serious here. If I were to rank the candidates from all ward races and the mayoral race, Coyle might just break the top-ten. She’s smart. She’s dedicated. She works hard. And she has a worthwhile vision for College Ward and the city.

Coyle recognizes that College Ward is going to go through changes…it absolutely has to. There’s pressure from the core, as intensification spreads outwards, but, butting up against the greenbelt, there’s still a lot of pushback from residents wanting to maintain the traditional, inner suburban communities they’ve had and love.

And you know, I get that and, more importantly, Coyle gets that. A neighbourhood that isn’t growing is a neighbourhood that’s dying, so, no, College Ward cannot be frozen in amber and maintained in its current, pure form. In Coyle, College Ward would have a councillor who has the wisdom and understanding to guide ward forward. Managing growth, without arresting it; enhancing the ward without radically transforming it.

Now, at the debate, Coyle didn’t have the depth of knowledge of the details of city matters that the other two showed. But that’s to be expected–one is a long-time councillor and the other is a former mayor and city staffer.

Still, as I wrote after watching the debate, she was able to hold her own. Throughout the campaign, she has demonstrated more and more understanding of city building and city governance. She has shown that she has the qualities necessary for a good councillor and that she has the capacity to learn more and really understand how the city–and how city council–works.

I’ve spoken about this debate with a handful of people, and without fail, everyone has been impressed by Coyle (and maybe a little disappointed in Kennery). Everyone I’ve spoken with has recognized her intelligence, her leadership and her potential. She has the temperament and the demeanour to be a valuable representative, and the wherewithall to be a strong voice at the council table.

Personally, I’m surprised that I’m so strongly endorsing Coyle. At the start of the campaign, she was intriguing, but I wasn’t sure how strong a candidate she’d be, but from her diligence out on the campaign trail to her thoughtfulness when speaking to city issues, she’s the absolute best choice in College Ward that I can see.

Barrhaven Endorsement and the Wess Mess

A few weeks back, a story appeared in the Barrhaven Independent claiming that candidate Hadi Wess was acting inappropriately and aggressively at the door while canvassing. Allegedly, he stuck his foot in a woman’s door to prevent her from closing it and then argued with her about her support for Jan Harder and his right to knock on her door (I’m not really explaining this well).

It was a pretty bad allegation, and one that, if true, would make someone unfit to be councillor.

Now, I have no reason to think the Barrhaven Independent made this story up. Yes, they have a particular editorial view and the headline of the story was pretty slanted against Wess, but it’d be pretty shocking if they’d made this up.

It is possible, too, that their reporting (headline aside) was true, but that the alleged victim was making it all up.

Last week, Wess came out with a statement saying that the police confirmed that there was no complaint or no investigation or something. The Barrhaven Independent released their own statement, and, well…it was a big mess. I didn’t want to take any one party’s word as gospel, so I felt it behooved me to do my own digging.

You see, Wess had been a very intriguing candidate. On social media, he seemed to be saying the right things. He seemed to be working hard. Four years ago, Harder had no real competition and was clearly the only reasonable candidate in the race (which is saying something). This year, Wess seemed to be a much more worthy opponent.

I have no love for Jan Harder’s politics and I don’t think she’s been a good councillor for this city, so, naturally, I was very intrigued by Wess’s candidacy…but I couldn’t in good conscience endorse him with these allegations hanging over his head (compare this to Tierney…I think voter intimidation is far worse and Michaeld Schurter is an abysmal candidate).

That is, in part, why I’d been holding off on doing this. I don’t have a lot of time to do my own investigation of the Wess situation, and I don’t even know if I’d be able to find out any additional information.

So tonight, I watched the debate, figuring I was going to have to do it sometime, and I didn’t want to watch the mayoral debate, yet. Well, here’s what I learned.

Wess is a terrible candidate.

This is such a goddamned relief. I was sort of hoping he wouldn’t be my preferred candidate, but I’d felt really strongly that he would be, and then I’d be forced to try to figure this whole mess out. But his performance at the debate ended all that.

Look, Jan Harder is going to win, anyway, and I’m not going to endorse Wess, so I feel absolutely no duty to try to dig out the truth.

Endorsement: Franklin Epape

Ha ha! Didn’t see that one coming, did you!?

This was the ugliest, most childish debate in the last two cycles. Early on, Mark Sutcliffe actually had to scold Jan Harder for her behaviour and unwillingness to stop talking over him, and it only got worse from there. All of them spoke over each other. All of them complained about the time other people were getting. All of them were petty and snide.

But Harder and Wess were clearly the worst. Neither one has the temperament or, hell, the manners to be a civic leader. They were bickering and talking over each other. At times, it seemed Wess was making things up, but at other times he was telling the truth and Harder claimed he was lying. Children. Spoiled little children.

It’s an absolute shame that this seems to be the best that Barrhaven can wretch out this year.

So this one’s a process-of-elimination endorsement.

Epape doesn’t quite have the handle on things that Harder does (this is one thing to giver her credit for: she knows how the city works and doesn’t make too many baseless claims about what can be done at council), but he seems quite committed to his community. He was easily the most positive and the most calm of the four.

So, yeah, we’ll be getting four more years of Harder, and all the pettiness that seems to come along with that.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’d probably vote for Harder over Wess, if it was a two-person race.

Alta Vista Endorsement (for real, this time)

[If you started reading this the other day, you’ll want to just scroll down to the endorsement.]

I’m starting to write this, and I’m still not sure who I’m going to pick, so let’s just get to the basics first.

This is a race Jean Cloutier deserves to lose. He hasn’t been a great candidate for the ward and he’s been a pretty terrible candidate for the city. Going into election season, I’d assumed that he had little chance of winning, but as three or four quality candidates announced, I started to wonder if he’d squeak by with the others splitting the anti-Cloutier vote. I still think Cloutier will lose, but I think he now has a chance.

(Now watch him garner over 50% of the vote just to prove me an idiot.)

Raylene Lang-Dion was the first challenger to go public–or, at least, to get a lot of attention (whether or not she was the first to actually declare her intentions to run). She came out strong against the situation at Heron Gate and really upped her public profile. Back in March, I figured this was her race for the taking, impressive as she was.

Later, Kevin Kit and John Redins emerged in the race (again, don’t know he declared first). Kit is an established community activist having founded (I think) and led a local community association, helping to shape a problematic development in the community. Redins ran four years ago, and is an active…uh…activist on a number of issues. He’s strong on affordable housing and transit, and has led the public outcry against deficiencies in Para Transpo service.

Mike McHarg rounds out our field. He’s running on a soda beverage tax (which he failed to mention at the Rogers debate when speaking about tax levels), and wants to fight obesity. He’s earnest and all, but he’s not really in contention.

Finally, there’s Clinton Cowan. He entered the race right at the end, and that would seem to put him at a disadvantage, but with an established record of community service, a strong vision for the ward and city, and the experience of running four years ago, he immediately became a worthy challenger.

Right, so Cloutier should be out the door. From his ineffectiveness to the Cloutier tax and finally to having a swanky developer fundraiser planned (and then cancelled) on his behalf, he’s just not the councillor we should want.

For me, Cowan, Lang-Dion and Kit have all put out solid platforms and run good campaigns, and I think any of them would be a fine addition to city council. There’s a lot of overlap between them (as you might expect), but there are a few differences here and there. It’s never anything tremendously substantial, just little answers here and there in the debate, in surveys or on the podcast.

Four years ago, I thought Cowan was easily the best choice (and I bet a few people in Alta Vista are having some buyers remorse). When he entered this year, I figured I’d probably gravitate towards him…and I sort of have. But my worry was that I would be inclined to choose him because he would have been my choice last time.

(Also, full disclosure, I knew Cowan in passing in high school. We had some mutual friends and our bands played in some of the same talent shows. But this isn’t really going to sway me, one way or the other.)

You know what, I still don’t know. Stay tuned…

…aaaaaannnnnnnd, we’re back.

I’ve been thinking about this race a lot…really too much considering it’s not even my ward. And I’ve been thinking about this post I wrote earlier in the year, in which I declared that if two (or more) candidates were equally (or nearly equally) good, I’d support the woman. This isn’t about voting for someone because they’re a woman (though representation is important!); it’s really about acknowledging that women tend to be judged harsher, and so if I think two candidates are equal, there’s a decent chance that the woman is actually the stronger candidate.

Now, I don’t think I’m discounting Lang-Dion’s candidacy, but I would think that, wouldn’t I?

The one sticking point I have is the issue of street design and street safety. This is a weak spot for Lang-Dion. She wasn’t great on the issue of bike lane on Kilborn, and there’s been a lot of “yes, but…” answers when it comes to Complete Streets and active transportation. And that’s not an issue of bias. It’s stuff she’s clearly stated.

How could I ask the residents of Alta Vista to support a candidate who doesn’t full-throatedly support livability–an issue I demand of my own councillor.

Basically, either way, I’m a hypocrite. The question seems to come down to, which candidate would I most regret not endorsing?

Endorsement: Raylene Lang-Dion

The person I first thought would get my support, way back before the election officially began, dimmed a bit in my eye, but has come back around to be my choice.

Let’s talk about her strengths. She understands the issues that are facing the city. She has worked diligently in this campaign and, seemingly, throughout her career, so I expect she’d work hard for residents. She’s smart and personable. She seems to have both the strength and the empathy to be the type of councillor we want.

Where she’s lacking–livability, bike lanes, Complete Streets–I think she can improve, and I think she will. I don’t think she’s that far from the ideal position on the issue, so I imagine she will generally be a reliable advocate for such things. I mean, I’m kind of banking on it, otherwise I couldn’t make this endorsement.

Honourable Mention: Clinton Cowan

This one really was a coin-flip decision. I thought Cowan was the best choice last time, by a wide margin, and I think he might be the best choice this time… but we’re getting right down to the finest of margins between him and Lang-Dion. If you read this post and decide to vote Cowan, hey, I get that, I couldn’t fault you for it. If he were to win, I’d be quite happy. Hell, it’s possible when push comes to shove on election night, I’ll change my mind and root for him.

But for now, my choice is Lang-Dion.