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The perfect candidate

Posted by Alistair Steele

In case you're wondering whether Brent Colbert was happy to step aside and make way for Randall Denley, a quick visit to his web site offers a clue. He wasn't. "It is with sadness that I announce that effective immediately I will be suspending my campaign for the Ontario PC Nomination in Ottawa-West Nepean," Colbert writes. "Unfortunately it has been decided that someone else will seek and win the nomination." He goes on to say he'll remain loyal to the Party, and to leader Tim Hudak who flew to Ottawa this morning to announce Denley's candidacy. Colbert is best known locally as chief of staff to former mayor Larry O'Brien.

Former Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group leader Ade Olumide is even less chuffed. "I was told by a party official that there will be no nomination, Tim Hudak was obviously not consulted before this official free lanced on the democratic rights of the membership," Olumide announced today. He's refusing to give up his nomination bid.

When he's not running for elected office or writing columns for the Citizen, Randall Denley is a novelist. His oeuvre includes this political thriller

Watson's backtracks on 'divisive' naming

Posted by Alistair Steele

Here's the full text of Mayor Watson's memo to his council colleagues explaining his reversal on naming the city's Archives building after Charlotte Whitton:

Dear Council colleagues,

I am writing to inform you that I am withdrawing my suggestion that we transfer the name of Charlotte Whitton from the old City Hall Archives to the new facility on Woodroffe Avenue. This item, which passed FEDCO last week, was scheduled to go to Council on Wednesday.

These kinds of commemorative namings should be positive occasions that bring the community together. Instead, this suggestion, which was mine and mine alone, was creating disunity in parts of the city, and as Mayor, I felt it my obligation not to allow the matter to continue to divide.

While I was and am appreciative of the fact that a clear majority of you were prepared to support the transfer in an effort to honour Dr. Whitton, I nonetheless believe that the divisiveness and character of the debate was becoming very unpleasant and for the good of unity in our community I will not proceed with the report.

Even in death, Dr. Whitton is a controversial figure, and one who draws strong reaction and emotions both for her many accomplishments, as well as for her faults and shortcomings.

I have spent a great deal of time immersed in the history of Dr. Whitton before and after the report was tabled and have found a wide body of contradictory information on her many statements and actions.

In the spirit of not furthering a long drawn out debate on her history, merits and faults, I felt it best to not pursue the naming.

With this withdrawal, I will now ask the Ottawa community for their suggestions on who we should name this new building after. While it is scheduled to open next month, we will proceed with the opening, and retroactively name it after we have heard from the public and council has made a decision.

I want to thank all members of Council for your input into this debate.

I also wish to thank the three dozen citizens and organizations who took the time to express their views, both for and against the FEDCO recommendation that I received last week.

Jim Watson, Mayor

City of Ottawa

Cannings, Clark and "The List"

Posted by Alistair Steele

When Richard Cannings contacted our newsroom shortly after last October's municipal election with allegations of campaign shenanigans by Peter Clark, we listened to what he had to say. We called Clark about this alleged "top secret electoral tool called the Liberal List." We talked to a couple Liberals about The List, and how it might have ended up in Peter Clark's hands. But lacking a shred of evidence, we dropped the story. Today the city's Election Compliance Audit Committee reached the same conclusion, and it didn't take them long.

The crux of Cannings' complaint is that such a list, complete with automated call capacity, is worth as much as $50,000. It says so in his original submission to the committee, citing unnamed "marketing industry reps" (although in another version distributed today, his estimate is a more modest $10,000 to $20,000). Cannings also describes conversations with University of Ottawa prof Gilles Levasseur and former councillor Georges B├ędard in which both men confirm Clark has the list. There was an unnamed constituent who got five calls from Clark. At one point, Cannings told the committee, "It's all over the neighbourhood. Everybody knows about it, people talk about it, my barber told me."

You don't need to be a lawyer to see the opportunity there. Unfortunately for Cannings, Clark happened to have a lawyer with him anyway, and it didn't take long before Cannings' story was in tatters. Clark even produced receipts showing the true cost of his phone campaign: $1,999.72. Clark says he got the numbers the old-fashioned way: "Based on postal codes. Oh, what a surprise."

Unsatisfied with spinning just one unconvincing yarn though, Cannings presented the committee with four fresh allegations. 

1. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his campaign website, which probably cost between $3,000 and $10,000, plus assorted fees.

Most municipal candidates launch decent sites for a fraction of that. Scott Moffatt, who designed and maintained his own site, says it cost him exactly four dollars a month. While it's true Clark didn't list his website expenses seperately, he was able to show the committee he paid $67 for his domain and $113 for hosting. Volunteers designed it. If I recall correctly, Clark's site was a pretty basic affair.

2. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his phone and internet. It should have been $3,000.

Clark declared $1,000.89. The commitee saw no reason to challenge him on that.

3. Clark failed to declare the true cost of his campaign headquarters rental, which should have been $4,500.

Clark declared $3,898.81 under "office expenses." The committee didn't ask him to elaborate.

4. Liberal MP Mauril Belanger broke the law when he donated $500 to Clark's campaign, because the Municipal Elections Act forbids "a federal political party...or a registered candidate at a federal election that was endorsed by that party" from making such contributions. Cannings threatened to take this one to Ottawa Police for a "possible criminal investigation."

This might have been a problem had the writ dropped five months earlier, but it wasn't. When Belanger made the contribution he was an MP, not a registered candidate. 

Following today's meeting, Clark suggested Cannings needs psychiatric help. That's unkind on a number of levels. But Cannings did tell reporters he's interested in pursuing this in court. Unless he can come up with better evidence than barbershop gossip, he might want to sleep on it.