Ottawa's Mayoral Race - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: I'm not his biggest fan for reasons I'll get into later, but I don't feel any dread or dismay at the prospect of Jim Watson becoming mayor of Ottawa. I'm very confident that he'll do a capable and competent job of running the city over the next 4 years, or less, I guess. Not that I ever really understood that line of criticism... if someone's no longer happy in any job, it's not productive to force them into continuing. Anyways, there's nothing too bad in his platform, and I think he'll do a good job implementing as much of it as he can.

The Bad: I'm a little concerned by the general consensus that Jim's the right mayor for Ottawa... and what that says about our city. Ottawa has a reputation as a sleepy government town, and I'm not sure that the election of a cautious-but-capable mayor is going to change that. This isn't to say that his challengers were right for the job. Larry O'Brien and Clive Doucet both had plenty of faults. And it's not to suggest that there aren't great people in Ottawa, there are, and I consider many of them friends. But having grown up here, and over the past year since I moved back after living in cities like Toronto and Boston, I get the impression that the majority of people here just go through the paces until they grow old and die, and more damning, they're not particularly motivated to change that status quo. It'd be nice if traffic was lighter and utility costs were lower, but we can't have tall buildings casting shadows so intensification is a no-go. It'd be nice if we had LRT in 4 years rather than 8, but we've already thrown out so many plans, let's just go with what we have. This isn't an "I'm right, and most people are wrong" sort of thing - it's more like "I've got my views, you've got yours, and maybe we aren't a great fit for one another." And if my mindset is at all representative of other young professionals, I think there might be reason to be concerned about the longer-term implications for this city. Ottawa isn't going to turn into a retirement community with a median age in the 60s overnight, or ever, but given the choice between cities like Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, I don't know many people my age for whom Ottawa would be the first choice. Should that make people worried? Should it be a priority to take on bold projects that inspire civic pride, or just to capably manage things so that the status quo can be comfortably maintained? If Monday's results suggest where the majority of the city stands, it'll be interesting to see how things go when the recession ends and employers other than the public service start aggressively pursuing young talent.

The Ugly: This is kind of a funny story. On election day, a whole bunch of anonymous and fairly new Twitter accounts starting smearing Jim Watson on the #OTTVote hashtag. You can find an example here - there were others using photographs from old news stories as avatars, and a little detective work (thanks Tineye!) made it immediately apparent that they were fake, full of crap, and not to be taken seriously, so I called them out. Particularly fun was one who accused Watson staffers of taking down O'Brien signs, but who said couldn't take a picture on their Blackberry because they were driving. When I pointed out that they were tweeting these accusations from an iPhone, they made their account private. Eventually it died out, but it definitely put a sour taste on the day, the unfortunate downside of internet anonymity. That evening, a friend had asked for volunteers to help out with Rogers' election coverage, so I offered to cover O'Brien headquarters. I thought it'd be interesting to go to that kind of event when the candidate had already thrown in the towel with his public statements. Almost all of the people I met there were decent, friendly, and accommodating, which I think we need to remember more often - regardless of our disagreements, we all have a responsibility to work together on making this city a better place. Then one of the accounts slagging Watson called me a fag. A few minutes later, a couple guys in their early 20s started giving me a hard time, telling me not to be there, asking how much Watson was paying me to be here, blocking my ability to get footage of the event, and so on. At a certain point, I realized it wasn't worth the trouble to stay. For better or worse, Larry was mayor of the city for 4 years, and you don't disrespect that by causing a scene as his concession party, even if they were in the wrong. And besides, whoever those cowards are, their guy lost. The words "suck it up, princess" leap to mind.


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2 comments

  • @jiminqos was indeed the account I called out. There were a couple others, but they've since been deleted.

    • Brian Alkerton
  • Way to fight the good fight Brian. Who knew Larry O'Brien fans would stoop to dirty tricks?

    Incidentally, was @jiminqos the account that you called out for using a stolen photo?

    • Dennis "DenVan" VanStaalduinen