Calling all Kanata North Voters

For political observers, it’s a fascinating race of five in Kanata North where incumbent Marianne Wilkinson is stepping aside.
And in her exit, she’s endorsed candidate Jenna Sudds. Certainly, if I’d devoted as much time as Wilkinson has to her community, I’d want to leave my constituents in good hands as well, with someone I could trust.

At a televised Rogers debate, only four of the candidates made an appearance: David Gourlay, Matt Muirhead, Lorne Neufeldt and Sudds.

While not as well known as the others, Neufeldt revealed himself to be a solid candidate with a great sense of humour. And he was thoughtful with his ideas on public transit.
“You don’t want me on the road, you don’t want a blind man driving,” he said.

While Sudds is Wikinson’s pick, Mayor Jim Watson favour’s Gourlay.
While he comes with some credentials, being Watson’s pick sends off some very loud alarm bells for me. Gourlay is married to Danielle McGee, who works in Watson’s office. As an aside, it was also disappointing to see him announce his candidacy before Wikinson officially announced her retirement. Not classy.
Frankly, while Gourlay presents okay – just don’t expect him to take Watson on for any issue of importance,

Sudds is a community volunteer, though she doesn’t live in the ward. Both Muirhead and Gourlay have tried to make some hay with that, personally don’t see it as a huge issue. You might feel differently. Of more concern, it was disconcerting to see how quickly Sudds dismissed Muirhead’s idea to cut councillors’ office expenses. It’s a good idea and worth some consideration. Being open to areas of cost-saving should be front and centre.

While Sudds is Wikinson’s pick, Gourlay is Watson’s man – I’m a huge fan of Matt Muirhead – have been for years.

And if you care abut Kanata North and want someone to be a strong representative for your community, who knows the community and someone who will treat your tax dollars with respect, Muirhead is your man.
He waited patiently in the wings when Wikinson said the 2010 election would be her last. Then she denied saying that, backtracked and admitted she had – but would still be running. Muirhead was already working on his campaign and took her on. He came in a solid second.

Since that time, he’s continued to devote his time in the community – and clearly cares about the ward he lives in. From where I write, Muirhead is the candidate deserving of your support.

Mayor Watson Calls on Electorate to Toss his Detractors at the Polls

“When I see candidates who are always angry and wanting to “fight” on every issue I say look for a more positive and collaborative person – one who will work well with neighbours and colleagues. That’s how our level of government works best and obtains positive results!”

The above is a tweet made by Mayor Jim Watson over the weekend, and frankly, it’s driving me crazy and I just can’t let it go – for so many reasons.

Positive results? Let me decipher for you. That’s code for approving what Watson wants. If councillors are fighting the mayor from time to time, it’s because they’re frustrated with Watson trying to force decisions on them instead of having an open and honest debate. This nonsense from a mayor who said it would be totally inappropriate to encourage women candidates over others. That doing so was just not the role of the city.

Fascinating stuff. So now it’s okay for our city’s mayor to use falsehoods, essentially urging residents to turf out people who disagree with him? At the top of his hit list is College Coun. Rick Chiarelli. Watson has not made a secret of his feelings for Chiarelli. He despises him and doesn’t pretend otherwise.

When the city unveiled its last budget, Chiarelli left his seat to talk to reporters. Chiarelli told reporters the spending plan was a “fake budget.” It was a great line, reporters ate it up and used it. Chiarelli certainly wasn’t the only councillor concerned about the budget numbers – just the funniest. And you could almost watch Watson’s blood boil. He was just incensed.

“I’d encourage members of council to read the budget before they criticize it,” said Watson at the time. I know that Councillor Chiarelli missed the presentation…because he was doing a press conference up in the press area.” Well, I have no idea if Chiarelli had read the budget, but I do know he’d read enough to be concerned there was a bit of smoke and mirrors being used with some of the numbers.

At the end of a news conference following the budget, in an exchange between myself and Watson, I questioned why the mayor let Chiarelli get to him so much, why he hated him so much. “And I don’t understand why you like him,” Watson lashed back.

If the likes of Chiarelli, Gloucester-Southgate Diane Deans or Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney don’t always fall in line with Watson’s vision, isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that we why elect our councillors and our mayor – to study the issues and debate them? Honestly, it’s Watson who creates the dissension by doing his best to shut out his dissenters. Would you seriously vote for a candidate who vowed to follow Watson’s lead? Who promised to be collaborative, even if it meant hurting the interest of his or her ward? If that’s what you’re looking for, why bother?

If you’ve taken the time to watch a council meeting, you likely have seen Watson scold a councillor for asking too many detailed questions, directing them to attend at the committee level. Ridiculous. Watson admits he’s a control freak, but this is supposed to be a democracy. The meetings are so controlled, there are meetings where a stream of ceremonial events takes longer than the actual council meeting.

It surely can’t just be a coincidence that Chiarelli received several emails recently in quick succession from people he hasn’t had any contact with telling him they weren’t going to be voting because he wasn’t collaborative. I’ve joined the dots for you here!

At the same referenced budget meeting, Watson got personal, saying Chiarelli didn’t do any work.
So who’s not being collaborative?

And Never the Twain Shall Meet

I liked this following e-mail so much I asked the sender if I could share it on my blog.
He agreed.
Mr. Gray, who asked I not use his first name but only his first initial, was referencing one of my previous blogs where I endorse Jeff Leiper in Kitchissippi and also suggest he’s mayoral material.

Not only is the note well-written, thoughtful and thought-provoking – it sadly reveals the divisions that still exist in this city so many years after amalgamation.
As a Barrhavenite myself, Mr. Gray could well be right. I can’t speak for the entire Barrhaven community, but believe – yes – most of us here in Barrhaven do expect our roads to be cleared before downtown bike lanes.

Here’s the note.

Hi Sue

Been following your blog to see your picks.

Jeff Leiper is my councillor and I agree he is a easy pick for re-election.

Unfortunately he will never be mayor because he will not take money from developers even through the backdoor like some councillors are doing. His fundraising form asks if you are a developer or work for a developer. Without that cash you could never run a campaign big enough to win. To bad but that is the reality.

Secondly he is a biker and in this city he would have a better chance if he was a Hells Angels member. I don’t own a bicycle and drive a car but I want to give people who want to bike the ability to do it safely and that makes me a lefty in many peoples eyes.

The first major snowstorm every year people lose their mind if the bike lanes on Laurier are plowed before their street in Barhaven. Those people will never vote for Mr. Leiper.

Then Mr. Leiper buses it out to Barrhaven to go to one of Ms. Harder’s townhalls. It was the talk of Westboro because we hoped than Jan Harder may come to one of Jeff’s ward meetings. As chair of the planning committee it would be nice if Ms. Harder could hear directly from people of this ward about the effects of uncontrolled development and infill. It was not to be.

I hope the next council can bridge the gap between the core wards and the ones outside the Greenbelt. There are a lot of common problems but I believe the mayor cultivates the animosity between the two because the numbers work for them.

I really hope that Carol Anne wins because I see her as someone who can bring the two sides together, she is a great communicator, a free thinker and has a city-wide appeal.

The facts are that this city is facing greater and greater challenges and we need the best and brightest working for us and not just settle for the guy who already has the job.

One other thing. Since I retired I have been able to follow city hall more. One of the things that blow me away is the people that work on the community associations. I am amazed at the time that they put in and the knowledge that they have. Many probably know more about the ward then their councillor and they do it all for free.

Best Wishes
T. Gray

Deans for the Win, with Apologies to Orleans

It’s a busy field of five candidates in Gloucester-Southgate where incumbent Diane Deans is running again to continue to represent her ward. Seems to be a unified theme here among her challengers that it’s time for a change. That may be true, but only the voters can determine that – for the candidates challenging her – it’s not much of a platform.
Yes, Deans has been on city council for a good chunk of time, but she continues to be one of the hardest working politicians on council. She’s also a real leader, building alliances on council to push her residents’ agenda forward. And she has a vision for the city, not just her ward. That’s hard to argue with.

At the Rogers all-candidates debate, three of her four challengers were there to make their case. And honestly, all-candidates debates aren’t an easy thing, (More honesty, as a columnist, with some really strong opinions – I was terrified at my first debate – and knew I hadn’t come across well at the end of it. That suspicion was confirmed when a resident came up to me after the debate, told me my resting face looked angry and I should smile more!)

But enough about me and back to Gloucester-Southgate.
At the Rogers all-candidates debate, challengers Alek Golijanin, Sam Soucy and Robert Swaita were actually pretty impressive. Save for the number of times the phrase “I couldn’t agree more with you” was uttered, they appeared to have some very thoughtful comments on the ward. But as much as the incumbent has many advantages, it’s far too easy for challengers to make promises that – in truth – they simply can never deliver on. You simply can’t with any legitimacy, promise to keep taxes down and yet promise the world.

Do they know their limitations? Don’t think so. Go to council. Spend some time there.

If you want change, you’ve got some alternatives. If I was voting in Gloucester-Southgate, I’d make a quick mark for Deans – a hard-working candidate who has been fighting for her ward and this city for years.

MY APOLOGIES TO ORLEANS: It’s a bit shocking to see the number of candidates running in Orleans, the ward left without an incumbent with the surprise exit of incumbent Bob Monette. He’s been a solid rep for the ward – and a great city rep as well. More on Monette in future blogs. But here’s the truth. I simply can’t evaluate all of the candidates running to replace Monette – and I would never, ever endorse someone unless I was 100% confident of that endorsement. You’re on your own, with my apologies,

Heat is on in Innes

Here’s the truth. Talk of a boring municipal election has been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, your money is good on Mayor Jim Watson soaring to victory on Oct. 22. And sadly, when there isn’t a strong mayoral race, voting tends to drop off. But there are several fascinating ward races taking place and their outcomes can change the face of council.

Fingers crossed.

One of those deserving attention is Innes ward, where four strong challengers are vying to represent the area left without an incumbent by the exit of Jody Mitic. The four vying for their community’s vote are Laura Dudas, Donna Leith-Gudbranson, Tammy Lynch and François Trépanier. All four have pretty good resumes.
Lynch worked in Mitic’s office; Trepanier has been a longtime volunteer and like Dudas, ran in the last election; Leith-Gudbranson has been a long-time volunteer and resident, and worked for both former Innes Coun. Rainer Bloess and Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney; Laura Dudas has also volunteered for many years in her community, ran last election and has first-hand knowledge of how the city works as a city employee (she’s on a leave of absence).

Dare I say, after watching the Rogers debate, save for Leith-Gudbranson, the quartet needs some schooling in debates.
Leith-Gudbranson has a calm about her, while Dudas appeared to be almost rushed, and too loud.

But in the end, two candidates have emerged as the top contenders: Dudas and Leith-Gudbranson.
Ottawa, being the small big city it is, I have a relationship of sorts with both of them.
Dudas is a former colleague of mine from the Ottawa Sun. She was volunteering even back then, spending part of her time helping out the paper’s union. I admired her then, still do.

Leith-Gudbranson, for much of her time working for Bloess, was going through the horrendous ordeal of her youngest son Dennis suffering from cancer. With his future uncertain, the two of us shared many tears, bonding as mothers. Her experience with Dennis led her to volunteerism with CHEO, the hospital which helped save her son’s life.
Both women are strong candidates, both know the issues, know the ward, care about the ward and volunteer in the ward.
That’s clear.
It’s concerning that Dudas accepted the endorsement of River Coun. Riley Brockington, a train wreck of a candidate. What was she thinking?
She put that endorsement on some of her campaign material. Not smart.

Leith-Gudbranson, during the Rogers debate, was confident and calm. She knows the issues, she’s part of the community and cares about it. She’s also the only female running in Innes who is fluently bilingual. In this ward, that counts for a lot.

Everything considered, Leith-Gudbranson gets a strong nod for your vote.

It’s Your Vote

For starters, let me make it clear I have the utmost admiration and respect for anyone who registers to run for political office.
Having done it myself, I know the time and effort most of you are putting out there. It’s not easy. Hats off to all of you.
And believe me, before I ran myself, I didn’t have an appreciation for what it takes to be a candidate. Knocking on doors and receiving blank stares from people who didn’t know there was an election and have never heard of you can be challenging!

But the opportunity to meet new people, to discuss the issues they care about – and those they don’t – yes – priceless.
I will never regret running, it was an amazing experience, though admittedly losing was harder than I anticipated.

That being said, some candidates – in my mind – are taking on incumbents that are serving their constituents well. And while debate is always good, simply put, from where I write – several deserve re-election for the way they’ve served their ward. This of course isn’t true for all incumbents. But more on that later.

A broken wrist has prevented me from getting to any of the all-candidates debates. But I’ve researched all of the candidates, watched anything related to the all-candidate debates, read their election material and media content. When judging incumbents, I take into consideration how they represent their ward, their city and how effective they are at council,

But please, don’t take my word for any of this, educate yourself and if you read me at all, just either ignore me or consider me as another research tool you may want to consider.
It’s your vote, not mine.

So to be clear, these first two endorsements are for two incumbents who I believe both deserve to be re-elected.

For starters, there’s Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney – a dedicated constituent worker who practices what she preaches. When I phoned her recently for a story I was working on, she was campaigning on a scooter! She doesn’t just represent her ward, she’s a part of it. One of her most admirable traits – and this will be a common theme in my endorsements – is her willingness to take on Mayor Jim Watson. That puts her in a very selective – and very admirable – group on council. When you spar with Watson, you do so at your own risk.

McKenney appears to simply do what she believes is right. She really does practice what she preaches. Many of her council colleagues seem far too willing to bow to his behind-the-scenes demands – believing if they don’t do the mayor’s bidding – their wards will lose out. McKenney doesn’t let him ride rough shod over her. She represents her ward. Plain and simple.
If I were making my vote in Somerset ward, despite our sometimes political differences, I wouldn’t hesitate to cast my ballot for McKenney, a mother, a wife and a strong leader on council. Somerset residents are lucky to have her.

Many of the same accolades can be given to Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who represents one of the most difficult wards in the city. The neighbourhoods are diverse – often placing conflicting demands on their councillor. Just ask former city councillor Katherine Hobbs who had difficulty juggling the varying interests of the ward. A strong believer in public transit, Leiper is also a big proponent of increasing bike safety – and yes – he is a four-season cycler. No surprise there.

Leiper is facing longtime activist Daniel Stinger. I have a lot of time for Stringer. He’s the real deal. But it’s near impossible to take on an incumbent who’s doing a great job. And Leiper is.
When Leiper heard changes to bus routes were negatively hurting Barrhaven residents, he took public transit out to a Barrhaven public meeting to hear their concerns first-hand. Very impressive. And that’s how he operates. A strong ward rep with a vision for the city. Definitely mayoral material.
Leiper keeps his residents happy. He’s one of them.