Vicky Smallman
Shaping Kitchissippi With You

2006 Ottawa Municipal Election
Ottawa Council • Ward 15

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Voters to have few real choices

The Ottawa Citizen, Pg. D1 - Sep. 12th 2006
Randall Denley

More new candidates would help council race

The focus in this year's municipal election campaign has been mostly on Ottawa's interesting three-way mayoral battle, but the races that will determine the other 23 seats on council are collectively more important. If council isn't in sync with Ottawa's next mayor, his ability to act will be limited.

At first glance, the city council picture is mostly discouraging. The majority of those now on council will be returned to office and some don't even have an opponent. Worse, some former politicians are trying to make a comeback, which would make council even more old and tired than it is. Fortunately, there are some interesting new candidates and a surprising number with Conservative party affiliation. Voters will have choice, but not much.

When councillors voted themselves a big raise for the next term, they confidently predicted the higher pay would attract hordes of high-powered candidates. Not quite, but it has made their former colleagues eager to get back on the gravy train.

If you happen to think council is short of aged veterans who go way, way back, then by all means vote for former regional councillor Frank Reid, former Kanata mayor Marianne Wilkinson or former regional chair Andy Haydon. They can join Orleans councillor Bob Monette, who was elected in a January byelection, wowing voters with his two terms on Cumberland council back when. Or Diane Holmes, who was on council forever, took a small break, and got her second wind in the last election. Or Gord Hunter, who recently celebrated his 25th year in politics.

At least 13 of the 21 people now on council are almost sure bets for re-election. Three of those are unopposed. Just something to think about when you're wondering whether to take a chance on a new person in your ward.

I sent an e-mail questionnaire to many of the new contenders, hoping to find background relevant to the job, an early start to the campaign as a sign of serious intentions, and ideas that make sense. Some good candidates might not appear on this early list, but a few do stand out.

In Capital Ward, voters should take a look at Jay Nordenstrom, a 29-year-old with a background in community associations and university politics. His focus is on core services and he's unimpressed by some of the ideas of incumbent Clive Doucet, who has championed toll roads and city-run water bottling enterprises. Nordenstrom believes councillors should be limited to three terms, a very sensible proposition.

When the provincial government recently changed the municipal election rules to extend terms to four years, it failed to add a term limit. Pity. The wide-open race in the new Gloucester-South Nepean Ward is an example of what we can get when a seat is open. Andy Haydon intends to run in this ward, but the real story is likely to be the battle between Eric Lamoureux and Steve Desroches. Both have been working hard to be the first councillor in this new ward. Lamoureux has been campaigning for eight months and Desroches has canvassed the ward twice. Both have backgrounds in community organizations and both are styling themselves as tax fighters. Their hard-working campaigns are a good indicator of how they'd approach the job on a council that desperately needs a tougher line on taxes.

One hesitates to use the term slate of candidates, but Conservative viewpoints are unusually well represented in this campaign. Those affiliated with the party include Lamoureux, Dan Cowley in Kanata North and his opponent Matt Muirhead, Allan Hubley in Kanata South, J.P. Dorion in West Carleton, Gilles Chasles in Stittsville-Kanata West, Robert McKenney in Gloucester-South Nepean, and Scott Moffatt in Rideau-Goulbourn.

Of these, Matt Muirhead is a candidate who quickly impresses. He's an idealistic young high school teacher who wants to offer the public service he talks about in his civics classes. His focus is on improving fiscal management and getting a handle on planning. At a glance, he seems an interesting alternative to a Marianne Wilkinson rerun.

The Conservative group seems strong, and the so-called conservative wing on council could really use some help. Many of them are red Tories, at best.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Vicky Smallman is an intriguing candidate in Kitchissippi Ward. She seems like the dynamic community activist type, which would be quite a contrast to Councillor Shawn Little. Voters there can only hope one of Little's many opponents stands out enough to end the Little regime.

If your ward is lucky enough to have a serious alternative to your city councillor, give him or her good luck. Our city council needs change.

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