Beyond the big three, Ottawa’s mayoral hopefuls struggle to be heard

There are 14 people running for the city’s top office, which makes it a challenge for many of them to cut through the noise

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Ottawa voters will have a long list to choose from when they vote for a new mayor on Oct. 24 and for candidates without the name recognition of the three perceived frontrunners, being heard above the din has been a challenge.

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“I know this is a crowded campaign, but I don’t think the media assesses candidates through a good lens,” said Nour Kadri, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a businessman who pitches himself as “a coalition-builder” with a talent for innovation and problem-solving.

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“(The media) made a big mistake when they ignored Trump in the leadership for the Republican party in the United States. In a crowded campaign of 14,” he said. “No one took him seriously and when he emerged the winner, a lot of people regretted that.”

Even Naheed Nenshi, who was mayor of Calgary for 11 years, polled just one per cent at the beginning of his first campaign in 2010, Noor said.

“Everyone thought he was a long shot, but the people felt differently.”

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Kadri said he’s been running a shadow campaign for months, but hasn’t drawn much attention until recently. He’s attended some 450 events, taken part in three debates and is “doing what we need to do” to reach voters.

“I am seeing the city in shambles,” Kadri said, citing problems like OC Transpo’s deficit and LRT dysfunction, increasing homelessness, and policing issues, particularly since last winter’s trucker occupation.

“I thought I could either complain like everybody else or I could roll up my sleeves and be part of the solution. And I chose the second one,” said Kadri, who’s running for office for the first time, but has decades of experience with the political process.

Param Singh is a 20-year Ottawa police veteran who’s been on unpaid leave since launching his campaign in May. Singh has also been vying for attention from the media, which have so far focused on big names such as Catherine McKenney, Mark Sutcliffe and Bob Chiarelli,

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“I know there’s the top three, but it is frustrating for the other candidates when we don’t get that media attention,” said Singh.

“It hasn’t been easy. But that’s part of the game,” said Singh.

Singh has been using social media and meet-and-greets with voters to explain his platform, which he says offers “a fresh perspective. A fresh face and a new way of doing business.”

As a frontline police officer, Singh says he’s seen firsthand the issues that people face every day.

“I’ve been trying to understand the problems at a fundamental level and maybe come up with solutions,” he said. “It’s nice to see city hall and bureaucrats work on legislation and bylaws, but I’m actually applying that on the practical side and sometimes I see that it doesn’t work.”

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Other candidates in the crowded field of 14 are Graham MacDonald, who boasts one of the more interesting backgrounds for a political candidate. He operates Ottawa Mortuary Services, a funeral home that’s expanded into London and Toronto.

That experience, he says, has allowed him to see “firsthand, the effects of addiction and the mental health crisis plaguing our Nation’s Capital.”

Brandon Bay is a software developer who’s lived in Ottawa since 2006. His campaign promises “effective, decisive, and responsible leadership” and says Ottawa has a unique opportunity post-pandemic to transform itself.

Mike Maguire has run for mayor twice before, most successfully in 2014 when he garnered 46,000 votes or 18 per cent of the total. He finished second, but was still far behind Jim Watson who cruised to a second term.

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Maguire, 61, is a management consultant who lives in Kars and told this newspaper in July that he leans more politically right than the front runners.

When asked why he was running again, Maguire responded: “When you think something that is broken, if you think you can contribute (to fixing it), you should.

Bernard Couchman is another candidate with experience on the campaign trail, albeit not much success. He was dead last in the 2018 and 2014 mayoral races, pulling less than 0.6 per cent of the vote each time.

Gregory “Jreg” Guevara is a 25-year-old YouTuber with nearly half a million subscribers who calls himself both a libertarian and a socialist. Guevara’s “post-ironic political campaign” includes “a touch of nihilism” and advocates building a wall around the city — the “Ottawall” — and promises to make Ottawa bilingual: Frenglish and “government speak.” He outlines his positions in a satirical YouTube video that has had more than 170,000 views.

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Ade Olumide, meanwhile, has spent so much time in court, most notably with the federal Conservative party, that has been declared a vexatious litigant by the Ontario Superior Court. His website includes a few policy statements on transit and policing alongside lengthy screeds about his mistreatment.

Celine Debassige is the only Indigenous candidate on the ticket, describing herself as Ojibwe & Dene, pan and poly, and as a radical socialist.

Jacob Solomon, who posted a 90-second video about his campaign, and Zed Chebib, whose campaign site links to a website advocating solutions to homelessness, are also running for mayor.

This article is available for free — outside of our paywall — because we believe this is a matter of crucial public interest. If you’d like to support us as we continue to provide journalism that matters for all Ottawans, please subscribe: 

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