Ottawa·Updated

Diane Deans ends mayoral bid, won't seek re-election as councillor

The longtime city councillor says her changing her mind and not running at all this autumn was prompted by her reflections on the "deep divisions" exposed by the Freedom Convoy protest-turned-occupation.

28-year council veteran says she couldn't commit to serving more than one term

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, seen here in April, says she has ended her bid to be Ottawa's next mayor. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Coun. Diane Deans has ended her bid to be Ottawa's next mayor and will also not run for council again in Gloucester-Southgate ward.

In a statement issued Thursday, the longtime city councillor said she was setting aside her run for "personal and professional reasons."

She said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Friday it's no secret she had a health scare three years ago, but that her decision not to run for mayor or her seat on council this autumn "is really about the future of the city" and prompted by her reflections on the "deep divisions" exposed by the Freedom Convoy protest-turned-occupation this past winter.

"It shook me in a lot of ways ... how people have changed, and how the attitude toward politicians has changed, and perhaps the sense that people have that they can talk to politicians like they're not real people," Deans said.

Instead of coming together to deal with the crisis, Deans said council instead chose to "settle some old scores."

She referred to her ouster as chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board for efforts to replace then-chief Peter Sloly, who had just resigned. Councillors Rawlson King and Carol Anne Meehan resigned from the board in solidarity with Deans.

At the heart of the dispute was the leaked news that the board had swiftly hired an interim police chief from outside the city without a competition or telling council.

"It was a hard time for me personally and it has taken a little while for me to get beyond that," Deans said.

Deans, seen here in 2018, fought ovarian cancer in 2019. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

There are currently seven candidates who have filed papers to replace Jim Watson as Ottawa's next mayor, including Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and former mayor and provincial cabinet minister Bob Chiarelli.

Deans said Friday she remains convinced she could win the mayoralty and has a strong team around her, but decided that not running is in the best interest of the community.

A long-term commitment is needed, and "at this point I've just decided I don't have those years to commit," she said, adding she couldn't commit to being more than a one-term mayor.

Two people have put their names forward to represent Gloucester-Southgate: Aria Alavi and John Redins.

28 years as city councillor

Deans has spent nearly three decades around the council table, having first been elected in 1994. She's served in a number of high-profile roles in that time.

In her statement, Deans said divisions on city council have "exacerbated" issues like rising municipal debt, a shortage of affordable housing and a transit system "plagued with problems."

"Ottawa residents need their council to come together and put the needs of community first," she wrote.

"The next mayor must bridge all of Ottawa's unique communities ⁠— rural, suburban and urban ⁠— and find a balance that can end the divisions we see today."

Deans also fought ovarian cancer in 2019, returning to the council table one year later. That experience galvanized her to run for mayor, Deans said when she announced her bid last December — before the convoy.

Ottawans head to the polls to choose their next city council on Oct. 24. There will be at least seven new city councillors along with the new mayor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevor Pritchard

Assignment producer/reporter

Trevor Pritchard is both a digital reporter and the weekend assignment producer at CBC Ottawa. He's previously reported in Toronto, Saskatoon and Cornwall, Ont.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

now