Endorsements Not for the Faint of Heart

I take writing endorsements seriously.
I don’t do them lightly and I try to remember that behind every candidate’s name is a person who cares about their community. They wouldn’t have put their name forward otherwise; they wouldn’t be devoting all their time to door-knocking, sacrificing their family time and risking their reputation.
The first time I wrote endorsements was in the early 80s for the Sunday Herald.
In hindsight, I was far too young and far too inexperienced to be writing them.
I remember vividly being at a social gathering after the election I’d made my first endorsement – and a city staffer for an incumbent I hadn’t endorsed – and had lost – said he was out of a job.
“Yeah, I’m out of a job thanks to Sue Sherring,” he said.
I was horrified. I think of that every time I make an endorsement. So I do my research, attempt to be fair and take it all very seriously. For me, endorsements are simply another tool for anyone researching who to vote for.

RogersTV has had all-candidate debates for every ward, the Citizen has asked all candidates to fill out surveys, as has the CBC, And most serious candidates have their own websites. Check it all out. I have.

With all of that being said, there are some races where I simply don’t feel confident enough to make an endorsement; others where I want to throw up my hands in frustration.

In Rideau-Vanier, there are four candidates – incumbent Mathieu Fleury, Thierry Harris, Salar Changiz and Matt Lowe. While all four names are on the ballot, I really see this as a two way race between Fleury and Harris.
Rideau-Vanier is a complicated ward to represent, there’s the Byward Market, Vanier, Sandy Hill and of course a large student population. The Salvation Army relocation debate has dogged this election, and finding the truth behind that is more than difficult.

I’m tempted to throw my endorsement to Fleury, who is clearly dedicated to the community and his residents. And I know he cares. But I realized that would be based solely on knowing Fleury from council. And Harris has proven himself to be a strong contender. This is a tough one. You’re on your own here.

It’s also a real struggle in Barrhaven as well. It’s where I live and where I’ll be voting.
I still don’t know for who.
Incumbent Jan Harder has been a popular councillor in this area for years – with good reason. She works hard, cares about her ward and knows the issues better than anyone.

It’s been years since she’s had a serious challenger. This time around is different, and apparently Harder doesn’t react well to serious competition. Taking Harder on in a televised Rogers debate were candidates
Franklin Epape, Atiq Qureshi and Hadi Wess. There is a fifth candidate registered – Ahmad Malgarai – who didn’t attend the debate and doesn’t have a website.

The debate was an absolute dog’s breakfast, with Harder frequently interrupting the other candidates, calling Wess a liar and dismissing the thoughts of her fellow candidates. There were many times all of the candidates were talking over each other. Pretty difficult to even hear their election promises, as the quartet tried to speak over each other – seemingly oblivious to what viewers were seeing. And they were seeing a real mess for much of the time.

Moderator Mark Sutcliffe had his work cut out for him. He was of course up for the challenge.

Harder was clearly the target of this debate. And being Harder, she didn’t just tell the candidates they were off base, she tried more than once to tell Sutcliffe how to do his job!

One of the key areas of contention is the issue at Stonebridge Golf Course, where Mattamy is talking about increasing the density of that golf course community. Wess seized on the issue during the campaign, knocking on thousands of doors and garnered a lot of interest in his candidacy. Harder appeared slow to take a stand, giving Wess an opening to gain support.

And Harder isn’t taking his success at the doors well – often referencing his recent move into the ward.
Harder herself lives just outside the ward boundaries, something she doesn’t like to share. Asked in a CBC survey if she lived in the ward, Harder wrote that she’d lived in #mybarrhaven for decades.

And she wasn’t about to give an inch to Wess.

“You’re lying again, lying just like you do at the door,” she said.

Epape was an impressive candidate, and was good enough to say some kind words about the incumbent – if ever so briefly.
“I give a lot of credit to Jan Harder,” he said, right before suggesting she hasn’t been responsive enough to her entire community.
“We need someone who will talk to us, and when she doesn’t reply (to the community) that’s a huge problem,” Epape said.

Of the four candidates, Qureshi appeared to have the weakest platform, relying on his financial background to attempt to convince voters he could better get a handle on the city budget.

While the incumbent in any race has a huge advantage, they are also the only ones forced to defend their record.
So Harder was bang on when she suggested during the debate, “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years in Barrhaven. It’s easy to promise the world when you haven’t got a record to run on.”

If you’re happy with the status quo, Harder is your only choice. If you’re looking for change, consider Wess or Epape.

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