“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
I swear to god that was said, at minimum, 20 or 30 times. If you all agree with each other so damned much why are you all running!
Seriously, I’m not kidding. The three challengers could not stop saying it. Multiple times every question, they would say it. It was comical, bordering on the absurd.
(Yes, it’s great when candidates will acknowledge common ground or good ideas from their opponents, but this became a verbal tic–a vacuous, throw-away line that really meant nothing other than…I don’t know, to show their gracious superiority?)
Diane Deans has been serving Gloucester-Southgate since before Gloucester-Southgate was Gloucester-Southgate. This demonstrates a certain degree of popularity and competence (one would hope), but also opens up a line of attack for opponents.
This year, Deans has four challengers, but one, Perry Sabourin wasn’t at the debate. Sabourin seems like a nice enough guy and has some okay ideas, but I never got the sense he was a strong challenger, so (for me, at least), this wasn’t a huge loss, even if I would have preferred seeing him there. But things happen.
At the debate, Deans faced off against Sam Soucy, Alek Golijanin and Robert Swaita.
Swaita, a local businessman (he runs a popular family restaurant in the ward, from what I understand) seemed like the best positioned to challenge Deans. He’s older, has deeper roots in the community and can pull out that “as a business owner” line so many people like.
That said, he didn’t shine. He fell into the trap of promising caps on taxes, but then wants to spend more and more money on various things (roads, after-school programs, cops, etc.), and he wasn’t really able to hit Deans on any issues of substance (he promised that he wouldn’t run for re-election if he didn’t get the Airport Parkway widened…but this was after Deans had already said it was scheduled to be widened in 2021…so not much of a promise, there).
Golijanin really drove the debate, attacking Deans on a number of local and city issues, and covering a lot of ground–at one point, Swaita interrupted an extended exposition on the failure of the green bin program to remind Golijanin that the question was about term limits for city council. But in the end, his proposals didn’t differentiate him from anyone (including Deans) and he just wasn’t quite as well-versed on the issues as the incumbent.
Soucy is a Parliament Hill staffer, and you could definitely hear his predilection for politics in his answers. He spoke about his experience and how it relates to public safety and… a bunch of other issues tangentially or denotatively related to the affairs of City Hall. He talked a lot about the need for change (city council apparently hasn’t changed in 20 years, despite Gloucester-Southgate not being part of Ottawa 20 years ago) and the need for consultation. There were some decent ideas. There were some buzzwords.
Deans was pretty much Deans…though a bit disappointing. She’s really been a driving force at council this past term and I would have expected a bit more thrust in her sparring. She was able to defend her record and correct some misinterpretations by the other challengers, and by the end she was rolling a bit more, but, still, it wasn’t her greatest performance. We all have our off days, I guess.
Endorsement: Diane Deans
So the debate wasn’t as definitive as one might like, but Deans was still clearly the best candidate. She had a solid grasp on all the issues (as you’d hope a sitting councillor would), and she presented her ideas well. There were some unfortunate moments–like when she and Swaita had a competition seemingly about who most wanted to waste money on a poorly-though-out widening of the Airport Parkway, or her belief that traffic calming measures are very limited and what we really need is enforcement–but Deans has built up a pretty good track record at council, so these quibbles don’t really detract that much from her candidacy. What you think you have with Diane Deans is what you actually have, and there’s a lot more good than bad in her history.