By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Ottawa is a week away from one of its most critical municipal elections in recent history, one that will completely transform city council.
Nine wards will not have incumbent councillors running, two new wards are being created, and a new Mayor will be at the helm of it all. That means at least half of the faces sitting around the council table next year will be new, bringing fresh perspectives and ideas to city hall.
A total of 14 names are going to be on the ballot in the Mayor’s race, with three seen as serious contenders.
Right after current Mayor Jim Watson announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election, Somerset ward councillor Catherine McKenney announced they would be throwing their name into the ring. McKenney picked up increased support around Ottawa after being vocal about their discontent during the trucker convoy in February.
McKenney is expected to do well in the downtown area and surrounding wards, but could struggle more in the suburbs. With a left-leaning background, Mckenney is passionate about free transit and protecting the environment.
The current urban councillor turned Mayoral candidate has tried to win over the suburban vote, speaking about their former life living and working for the councillor in Kanata. McKenney is also hoping their public transit platform will catch suburban voters who rely on public transit to go downtown, or throughout their ward.
Mark Sutcliffe, a longtime journalist and radio personality who has hosted shows on 1310 News and CFRA, has also put his name on the ballot. He is also the founder of Great River Media which owns the Ottawa Business Journal and Kitchissippi Times.
Much of Sutcliffe’s campaign mirrors the work and priorities of Watson’s reign. He wants to get Phase 3 of LRT off the ground, get employees back in the offices downtown, and increase funding for existing city services.
Sutcliffe was recently in the Barrhaven area to meet with local farmer Peter Ruiter to talk about protecting farmlands. He also stopped at the local farmers market at the Nepean park and ride, and met with local business owners in the community.
Bob Chiarelli, a Barrhaven resident who sat in the Mayor’s chair from 2001 until 2006, and served as regional chair for a little over three years before that, wants to make a comeback. He more recently he served as the member of provincial parliament for Ottawa-West Nepean from 2010 until his defeat in 2018.
At almost 81, Chiarelli is campaigning on his prior political experience hoping it will sway voters. He’s also promised to freeze property taxes for one year if elected. On day one he would hire financial experts to do a “top to bottom review” of costs, a task which would be completed in the first 100 days.
Mike Maguire, who ran for Mayor in 2010 and 2014, is hoping that a third time will be the charm. Eight years ago he came in second place with 46,341 votes, totalling a little over 18 per cent. Watson won the election with a 76 percentage point lead.
Maguire, a resident of Kars, is focusing much of his platform around transit, and has revived his 2014 plans for a commuter rail service. He’s also passionate about housing and affordability.
Param Singh, who has worked with the Ottawa Police Service for 19 years, is hoping his safety background will interest voters. He decided to run after not being happy about how Ottawa’s city hall is being run, a common concern for many who put their names on the ballot.
Singh says he wants to make the city inclusive for all, wants to invest in affordable housing, and invest in Ottawa’s COVID-19 economic recovery.
Then there are the lesser known names on the ballot such as Brandon Bay, who is concerned about the cost of housing in Ottawa, Bernard Couchman, who wants to end stigmas and create a “judgement free” city, and Celine Debassige who told residents at a recent debate that she’s running “because I can.”
Graham MacDonald is running on a platform of accountability, Ade Olumide is running on competence and ethics, and Gregory Guevara wants to serve humanity.
No information can be found on Zed Chebib, who is also running for Mayor.
Then there is Gregory Guevara, who appears to be running just for fun. Their website says they will build a big wall around the city, separate Ottawa from the rest of Canada, and give everyone government jobs.
And on the final day of nominations, 19-year-old Jacob Solomon put his name in the hat for Mayor.
On August 16, the first Mayoral debate was held outside the new Barrhaven Fellowship Christian Church on Jockvale Road. Eight of the Mayoral hopefuls were in attendance with Sutcliffe and Chiarelli notably absent.
About 30 people attended the debate which focused on climate action. Most candidates put an emphasis on improving the local transit system to get more cars off the roads. They also focused on protecting the existing green canopy and planting more trees, an issue made more present after the May long-weekend storm knocked down tens of thousands of large trees across the city.
This election will decide if voters are looking for old or new in terms of experience, but either way, it will be a drastically new city council come the fall. Ottawa will know who the next Mayor will be on Oct. 24.