More coverage of Ontario Votes 2011
CBC Ottawa

Packing the Room

Getting your supporters out to mayoral debates is nothing new. It's a time-honoured tradition at every level of office. But at last night's event, hosted by the Kanata Chamber of Commerce and the Kanata Kourier-Standard, one candidate made especially good use of the home crowd.

As with the OTAG debate, audience members were asked to submit questions and declare which two candidates they wanted to answer them. Larry O'Brien supporters may have a lot of great attributes, but subtlety isn't one of them. Many, if not most of the audience questions last night were aimed squarely at the mayor's main rival, and designed to give O'Brien a leg up. Where do O'Brien and Watson stand on the question of a ring road? We already know the answer: It was one of O'Brien's marquee campaign promises last week. The burning question on another resident's mind: What will the candidates do about the paucity of public washrooms in the vicinity of the War Memorial? Watson didn't really know how to handle that one. O'Brien did. He had an answer all ready, including an account of a meeting with the NCC on that very subject. What are the odds? And what was with all the questions about Watson's ties to the McGuinty Liberals? Everyone's aware of Watson's CV, but forcing him to publicly explain his support for the loathed ecotax and HST is clearly designed to benefit the incumbent. O'Brien's sister even asked a question.

The question that really left people scratching their heads had to do with Capital X-tra, the free newspaper that caters to Ottawa's gay and lesbien community. A woman wanted to know what candidates Watson and Maguire would do to prevent children from seeing such "inappropriate material" in public places. Where did that come from? Yes, there was a story concerning a mother who was upset her child had stumbled upon an ad she deemed obscene in a city-owned building. But that was a year ago. Forgotten until last night. What point was the questioner trying to make, exactly? To Watson's, and especially Maguire's credit, they handled the question smartly and with tact.

On another subject: My CBC colleague Maggie Padlewska is taking on the mammoth task of speaking with every single nominated candidate for mayor and council. That's right, every single one. Watch for her mini-profiles here on our election website, starting with the 20 folks who want the city's top job.

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