By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
With the municipal election less than nine months away, former Gloucester-South Nepean councillor Michael Qaqish is “seriously considering” a return to municipal politics.
In a statement sent to the Barrhaven Independent, Qaqish said he feels there is much “unfinished business” in Riverside South.
“During my term on Council, I had worked collaboratively with my colleagues to ensure everything was lined up for the Bank Street widening, community centre/library and LRT to the heart of Riverside South,” he said. “Yet, when I step outside my home and look to the east, none of those things have happened.”
Just before Christmas it was announced that light rail transit out to Riverside South was going to be delayed by nine months.
Qaqish, who says he’s been encouraged by many to run again in this fall’s municipal election, said local politics is important and there is a cost and price to a dysfunctional council.
“With a new mayor and many new faces expected on the next council , councillors will play an even more significant role,” he said. “We need steady leadership and a fiscally minded councillor who is ready to go on day one. This is especially true with the historic challenges and burden the city is expected to face as part of the post pandemic recovery. It wasn’t too long ago that Council was raising taxes as much as five per cent and debating additional levys. I don’t think residents want that.”
Qaqish lost the 2018 municipal election to former CTV Ottawa news anchor Carol Anne Meehan, who won with 42 per cent of the vote (5,960 votes). Qaqish, a one term councillor, came in second with a little over 38 per cent of the vote, with 5,420 ballots cast in his name.
The former councillor was born in Toronto and lived in Jordan before moving to Ottawa to earn a degree in Psychology from Carleton University. He is also the founding President of the Kiwanis Club of Barrhaven.
During his time on council Qaqish served as a member on the Environment Committee, Community and Protective Services Committee, Ottawa Board of Health, and Transportation Committee. He also served as vice chair of the transit commission.
In 2018 Qaqish came under fire for spending more than $90,000 on advertising and promotional items — more than three times the amount of any other councillor or even the Mayor. It was an item that many of Qaqish’s opponents used against him during that year’s election.
Qaqish notes that he returned money to city coffers from his office budget every year and was below average spender overall. He says the vast majority of that promotional money went to local community events and sponsorship. He also refused to take the councillors car allowance.
But what hurt Qaqish the most was when well liked and respected veteran news anchor Carol Anne Meehan entered the race. Meehan, who had been the face of CTV’s six o’clock news program for 28 years, was let go by the station two and a half years prior.
This time around the political landscape could look different for Qaqish if he decides to run. Gloucester-South Nepean is being split into two wards: Riverside South will become its own district, and the east end of Barrhaven will become its own ward as well.
Meehan has confirmed to this newspaper that she will run again, but hasn’t made a final decision as to where. At this point it looks like Barrhaven East, which will cover the left side of Greenbank road if entering the community. Barrhaven West will be its own unique race to watch after longtime councillor Jan Harder decided to retire after two and a half decades at the council table.
Steve Desroches, who was councillor for Gloucester-South Nepean from 2006 until 2014, says he’s also considering a return to politics. Desroches left city hall after only two terms — a promise he campaigned on when first elected.
“I have been approached by many residents in the Riverside South and Findlay Creek communities to put my name forward,” he said in a statement to the Barrhaven Independent. “I have been away from city hall for the last eight years and I feel very recharged with the energy to serve the community. I am giving the matter serious consideration.”
If Desroches does run again, it’s expected he too will run in the growing community of Riverside South.
Desroches played a key role in having the Vimy Memorial Bridge built, which connects Barrhaven and Riverside South together.
At this time no other names have come forward to announce they plan to run for council in Barrhaven East or Riverside South. The municipal election isn’t until October, but registration opens this May, with campaigning starting soon after.