By Charlie Senack
Wilson Lo is making history in multiple ways after winning Barrhaven East ward with 37 per cent of the vote.
Lo is the first Asian-Canadian to sit on Ottawa city council, and the first councillor for the newly created ward.
“I am exhausted but I am really happy and grateful for the support I got from the community and the trust they put in me,” he said after his historic win.
“I know that visibility and representation matters, but my parents raised me to be Canadian,” Lo added. “I campaigned as a neighbor, a resident of Barrhaven, and a former employee of OC Transpo, so that we can make our community even better.”
Lo is one of seven candidates who ran in Barrhaven East (ward 24). He won all but two poles and received 4,403 votes cast under his name. Richard Garick came in second place with around 25 per cent of the vote and Patrick Brennan came in third with 18 per cent. Kathleen Caught, Atiq Qureshi, Dominik Janelle, and Guy Boone, each took less than 10 per cent.
Out of the 31,307 eligible voters in Barrhaven East, 39.11 per cent cast their ballot.
The new Barrhaven East city councillor credits his win to the hundreds of hours he put in campaigning. Lo said he knocked on every door in Barrhaven East, and walked 960,000 steps — totalling around 720 kilometers.
Before running for office, Lo worked at OC Transpo for nine years, seven of which were spent as a bus driver. The state of Barrhaven’s transit system was one of the top priorities heard at the doors, Lo said, hoping his first-hand experience will be an asset around the council table.
“We are still clinging onto this hope that everyone is going to go back downtown every single day of the week. That is an irresponsible use of our resources and money,” Lo said.
Lo wants to see better routes in place to take commuters from the heart of Barrhaven to employment districts in Hunt Club, Colonade, and other underserved areas. He’d also like to see easier options for students going to Carleton University.
When it comes to light rail transit one day rolling through Barrhaven, Lo said he’s not against the idea, but existing plans need to change. With ridership patterns shifting after the pandemic, and fewer people traveling across the city, Lo says priority needs to be given to localized bus routes.
“We have this gift of time. We have three years before Stage 3 contract negotiations even begin,” he said. “In this time we need to make sure that we are using lessons learned from Stages 1 and 2, and take all recommendations for the review and apply it to the contract.”
Lo also wants to fix the condition of roads in Barrhaven East and ensure there is a greater police presence in the community.
“There are times when it is worth making the extra investment upfront so we don’t have to pay to repair it again and again or replace it much sooner than we need,” Lo said. “That includes the quality of asphalt we are buying or making sure we repair a sidewalk properly with the materials it is supposed to be built with.”
Barrhaven as a whole will be served by two councillors, Lo said it’s important to remember it’s still one community.
A recent ward boundary review saw parts of Barrhaven West become part of newly created Barrhaven east. The former Gloucester-South Nepean ward was split into two separate districts, with Riverside South-Findlay Creek becoming its own ward and Barrhaven east becoming the other.
A large portion of the new Barrhaven East boundaries was represented by longtime Barrhaven West councillor Jan Harder, whereas the other section was represented by councillor Carol Anne Meehan. Both incumbents did not seek re-election.
Ottawa city hall saw a major shakeup this election with 11 new faces getting a seat around the council table. A new Mayor will also lead the group after Jim Watson decided to leave city politics.
“Even though you are a councillor for just one ward, what you do has an effect in the end on the rest of the city as well,” said Lo. “We have to collaborate to get things done and we need to move things forward so we don’t delay major projects.”