Yesterday on CKCU I had a conversation with Shawn Menard on the “Our Ottawa” group. There’s been lot’s of hints over the past few months as to what exactly the organization is, much to the consternation of some. They’ve been pitching themselves as a “network of community organizations”, and their first real release was more than a little cagey, though it does position them of being generally in favour of centre-leftish (with an emphasis on the centre) urbanist ideas. You won’t find much disagreement in this corner with things like restricting the urban boundary, supporting services like Crime Prevention Ottawa, or a more general push to city-wide thinking.
I think the interview clears things up a little bit more, leaving a bit of a better scope of who is actually involved. It’s also pretty clear that there is some manner of organisation behind the group, and they aim to make it more than an umbrella title for a coalition of like-minded groups. While they aren’t going to run a slate of candidates, they are going to do some decidedly slate-like things and (I paraphrase here) endorse candidates that are willing to endorse their principles, and maybe even look out to find some people to carry the flag. It seemed pretty clear that endorsement will come with at least some organizational and volunteer support.
That’s a pretty big deal, especially if they are as organized as they make it sound. Unseating incumbent councillors is a daunting prospect, even if you have a group of dedicated and connected volunteers, but is certainly not impossible. The real advantage will probably be in open contests, of which there are at least three so far. Council candidates have a notoriously tough time trying to build profile, so being able to associate with a larger group of ideas can only help.
We’re still a ways off from the election, and it’s still a bit early to tell exactly what effect this will have at the ballot box. At this point, I think that its fair to say that they will be an important part of the campaign, and should make the council races a whole lot more interesting. Short of it being a spectacular failure, I expect that we’re going to see more coordination like this in the future, and especially from those that disagree with what Our Ottawa ultimately advocates.
Our Ottawa is organizing a rally today at noon at City Hall to oppose the re-opening of the urban boundary, so if you are around you should go and check that out.