On to Cumberland

I have a fondness for Cumberland. A few years before her passing, my mother-in-law moved out there with her soon-to-be-husband. We had many good times visiting them for special occasions, hitting up the Santa Claus Breakfast at the Lion’s Club or heading out the Cumberland Museum. My wife and I even attended a wedding reception at the Cumberland Community Centre (I caught the bride’s garter). There was about ten years when Cumberland played a very important role in my life.

I haven’t been back much since my mother-in-law died. I wonder if the museum still has the little train you can ride.

Anyway, I’m writing about Cumberland because we’ve got a by-election coming up in about a month, and I figured it’d be good to check out the debate and weigh in on the race. (For the record, I’m still working at City Hall, so this is a bit of a busman’s holiday. I wonder if anyone will try, futilely, to get me fired for this sort of thing again.)

But, y’know, I figured before I really dug into the debate, I should acquaint myself with the candidates, so I knew what to look for when the debate. We’ve got a fairly crowded field (this is turning into a trend), and I’m not really familiar with all the candidates, so it was time to look through their websites to get an introduction.

Here’s a quick, first impressions preview of the candidates, in whatever order I feel like:

Catherine Kitts ran in the crowded Orleans race in 2018, doing fairly well. Who knows, if there were a few fewer candidates or ranked choice voting, maybe she could have edged out Matt Luloff. I don’t remember too many specifics about her campaign, but she did seem like one of the more promising candidates back then.

She should definitely be considered one of the front-runners, with her past campaign experience, her work as a community journalist and possibly the choice of Mayor Watson–she was seen at an event with Watson and former councillor Stephen Blais. It was, apparently, unplanned, but the optics certainly say something. (The lack of physical distancing said something else.)

She hits a lot of good notes in her platform (road safety, helping seniors, protecting farmland, etc.), but there are some worrying things, too (policing).

I wondered why she was running in Cumberland after running in Orleans two years ago. I’m not a huge fan candidates who appear to be campaign-hopping, but apparently she has moved into Cumberland since the last election.

Patrick Uguccioni–another former community journalist, having run the paper Your Community Voice for the past little while–would also be a strong candidate. A former staffer for Mayor Larry O’Brien, as well as other pols, he’s got the knowledge and experience to help when debating or when discussing issue with residents. From his social media persona, you’d think he’d be another potential Watson candidate, though his past work with O’Brien and his endorsement from Bob Chiarelli, might say otherwise. He also has endorsements from former local politicians Doug Thompson and Brian Coburn.

His main issue seems to be the ward boundary. He has a long explanation for his support of Watson’s plan to expand the urban boundary. It’s a little disjointed with some logical flaws, but it’s always good to know where candidates stand on these things. The weird thing about it is that this is an issue that’s already been settled. He’s never going to have to vote on this. I don’t know why his primary issue would be something so stale.

Oh yeah, he doesn’t seem to like defunding the police…though he doesn’t make it clear that he knows what that actually entails.

Nonetheless, he is poised to do well.

Yvette Ashiri would seem to another strong challenger. No, she’s not another journalist, and, no, she doesn’t have the tacit or explicit endorsement of local politicians, but she seems to be campaigning hard, and she’s garnered support of the grassroots political group Horizon Ottawa (full disclosure, I know some of the people at Horizon Ottawa, but I’m not involved with them). This support has, weirdly, raised the ire of a Random Twitter Man who seems to think it’s some sort of downtown Trojan Horse or something. (He also seems to ignore the suburban residents of the ward, so…).

She has an impressive resume, with a lot of public service and commendations. The platform on her website is fine, though website platforms only mean so much. She touches on a lot of good notes: working for people, not developers; social inclusion and fighting social isolation; protecting the environment; and bridging the rural-urban divide (by the way, the urban-rural divide is really just suburbia).

It’ll be interesting to see how she does in the debate. There’s a lot to potentially like here.

Jensen Boire ran last time, too. He had no website, no social media presence and didn’t show up for the televised debate. I wouldn’t even assume he exists, but my wife knew him when they were younger, so I guess he’s a real person. He’s got no website again (according to the city website). We’ll see where his campaign goes, this time.

A. Bruce Faulkner, also without a website, is one of those candidates that seems to show up in a variety of races, all across the city. He’s a self-described libertarian and, in the past, has demonstrated all the caricaturish poses often associated with libertarianism. He’s run federally (I think?) and provincially (maybe?) downtown, and municipally (IIRC) in…Kanata? I dunno. I guess he just runs. I doubt he’ll make a challenge in this race.

Lyse-Pascale Inamuco is another interesting candidate with an intriguing resume. Her platform hits on some good notes, though the desire to create a BIA is worrisome. Looking at her list of volunteer work shows some promise (Women’s March, Rotary Club, Healthy Transportation Coalition, Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans, 613-819 Black Hub Noir), and some diversity (Ottawa Board of Trade).

It’s at this point I’ll note that a lot of the candidate’s websites look really similar (two, even, seem to have chosen the same template), with a lot of overlapping issues (high-speed internet to Cumberland!). There’s going to take a lot of reading-between-the-lines when it comes to platforms and platitudes, and a lot of discernment to try to figure out who will actually work to get the things you want done at City Hall.

Denis Labrèche is not a candidate I was familiar with. Picking up on a theme, his background is media and journalism. He’s from Carlsbad Springs, helped establish the Community Association out there and has been serving as its president. Community Association President is not a bad stepping stone to city councillor (eg Jeff Leiper), but it’s no guarantee, either (eg Kevin Kitt).

His community work is very impressive. I assume this should give him at least a bit of a base of support (and volunteers). He seems to be running on two basic ideas: constituent service and communication, and merging Hydro One customers with Ottawa Hydro (this is an issue many candidates have identified–I know it’s been a long-standing concern for residents in rural areas, but it’ll also be a really tough thing to accomplish).

I can’t really glean much else from his website. He seems like ok guy, but no idea how that translates to being a candidate.

Craig MacAulay. I like Craig MacAulay. He’s a nice guy. He cares about community. And he wants a city government that’s run fairly. These are all good things.

We’ve seen Craig before. He ran in College Ward in 2014 and then for mayor in 2018. He lives in Bells Corners and keeps a blog about Bells Corners and city politics. He also runs a wonderful bike-taxi.

All that said, the people of Cumberland Ward aren’t electing a guy from Bells Corners.

Mark Scharfe is back again. The last time we saw him was 2014 and he was running for the open Osgoode seat, losing to the current councillor, George Darouze. Scharfe doesn’t live in Cumberland, and there’s no clear reason why he’s running–other than to push his curmudgeonness. Personally, I’ve never thought living outside the ward should be disqualifying, but if you don’t live in the ward, I want a good reason for why you’re running there, and it can’t just be it’s-an-open-seat-and-I-really-want-to-be-a-councillor.

Scharfe seems to be running only for the sake of his personal pet issues: weekly garbage pick-up, scrapping the green bin program and…I’m not really sure, something about Section 6 of the Charter and businesses and people making a living and him suing city council or something. My guess is he’s a pandemic truther and doesn’t think any businesses should have been forced to close to try to save people’s lives?

I don’t think he’ll play a role in this election.

(If you’re wondering, why yes, I have written about him and his politics before.)

Henry Valois is a volunteer firefighter. That’s the main takeaway I got from his site. He’s also clearly involved in his community. He doesn’t tell us what he’d do as councillor, but being a community-minded dude is a good start…but that’s it.

So that’s it for now. Of the ten candidates, I think we can automatically cross off four, with a couple others barely hanging on to relevancy. There are three or four strong candidate, but being a strong candidate isn’t enough; you need to have a strong campaign. When you’ve got a crowded field, a shortened timeframe and voters distracted by other things, you’re ground game is going to make the difference.

Sure, I’d love to say that the ramblings of a local blogger or some really neat social media campaign or a groundbreaking policy proposal will make the difference, but, nah, it’s about knocking doors, calling voters and getting out your voters.

This, of course, won’t stop me from rambling.

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