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.