This morning, I spoke with Mayor Larry O’Brien about his campaign for re-election. We talked about what’s he’s achieved over the past year, his financial plans, setting up a arms-length agency for OC Transpo, and E-governance. The mayor made a quick comment at the end about his ring-road proposal, which I wish I’d remember to ask about earlier.
To say that the Mayor has had a rocky term is a bit of an understatement, but he is certainly a lot more polished now than before, even when we go outside of what I presume he would have prepared for. He laments “professional politicians” a couple of times during the interview, but in terms of the actual practice of politics he has gotten much better.
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.
This morning, Josh and I had a chance to chat with Ottawa mayoral candidate Jim Watson. We talked about why he was looking to come back to municipal politics, the challenges of a 10-month campaign (especially with the burden of a “front-runner” moniker), and talked specifically about transit and Lansdowne.
Watson clarified his comments from last week a bit, but still used some the phrasing that frustrated Reevely so last week (“Cut the suit to fit the cloth”, etc.) We pushed a bit on the transit issue, but he’s still pretty vague as to what something being affordable means. That said, he was pretty clear that it’s important to move forward on these files, and it doesn’t sound like he is going to look to change decisions that have already been made should he be elected. That’s a good thing.
Anyway, Watson is going to be an interesting force over the next year: he’s pretty clearly the front runner, and suspect that he’s going to be pretty tough to beat over the course of it. That means that, as we decide on these big issues, his opinion should have some affect amongst the public, even if he doesn’t get an actual vote at council.
This is the second of our conversations with mayoral candidates, having previously spoken with Alex Cullen. We’ll keep plugging away as time and circumstances permit, and will endeavour to speak with people again as things actually start to happen. We also won’t limit ourselves to the city-wide race, and will likely start turning our eyes to some choice council seats closer to the date.
This morning, we spoke with Bay Ward councillor and mayoral candidate Alex Cullen. The audio is below.
Cullen is first out the gate, and is obviously quick to frame himself as an experienced guy that knows what he’s doing and is unafraid to speak realisitically about taxes and services. His efforts on transparency are along the same vein. You can expect that this will be a dominant theme from a couple of candidates, including some of the rumoured high-profile ones, so it makes sense to try to associate himself with it early.
Also, as a heads up, I’ll be trying to get all of the candidates, as they declare, for similar interviews. I’ll probably also touch back with candidates as things move forward.
Also also, you should check out Cullen’s website at www.electalexcullen.ca. He’s right that it’s a bit rough (and there was some twitter catcalling to that effect yesterday), but he does have a fair number of ideas and issues up there, so it’s worth a look.