Last-minute entries pushes candidate list up over 200 for this fall's election
The mayor and 10 councillors aren't running for re-election, including College ward’s Rick Chiarelli
Zainab Alsalihiy just wasn't sure about running for city council.
The 39-year-old public servant and single mom of two had already gathered the 25 necessary signatures but it wasn't until Friday afternoon at 1:26 p.m., sitting in her home in Findlay Creek, that she decided to go for it.
"I looked at the GPS, and it said I will be there at 1:59 and I'm like, I still have time," Alsalihiy said.
The deadline was 2 p.m.
Indeed, Alsalihiy slipped into the city office on Cyrville Road just as elections manager Michèle Rochette stepped out into the parking lot, bellowing to anyone within hearing distance that the nominations were about to close. And once the doors were locked, anyone leaving the building wouldn't be allowed back in.
That caused momentary panic for Alsalihiy, who thought she had left her identification in the car, but she somehow ended up having the required documents. She said people just need to "trust the universe" and themselves. She's now a candidate in Riverside South-Findlay Creek.
Alsalihiy was the last person to register to run in this fall's municipal election, but hardly the only one to leave that decision to the last minute. Two dozen people walked through the doors of the Ottawa elections office on Friday.
Nineteen-year-old Jacob Solomon signed up to run for mayor, bringing the total vying for that job to 14.
That long list of candidates means that for the first time, the city election ballots will have to be printed on legal-length paper.
Josh Rachlis had his 25 required signatures ready to go — but didn't know what position he wanted to run for. He decided on school board trustee, as he sat in the waiting area of the elections office.
And then there's Kim Leclerc. He's worked in federal politics for years and wanted to run for office, but wasn't sure the timing was right for his young family. In fact, his wife had a baby earlier this week, but she insisted he register because he always talked about how he wanted to make a difference.
So after their post-natal doctor's visit this morning, Leclerc ran around getting the rest of the signatures he needed and gathered up his documentation, before arriving at the office after lunch.
"It was a crazy day," he said.
Leclerc is now the 10th person running in Rideau-Vanier, the most of any ward.
In the end, 210 people registered to run in the Oct. 24 election: 14 for mayor, 106 for councillors' seats and 90 for school board trustee positions. Eight candidates for both French-language school boards have been acclaimed.
1st open mayoral race in a decade
This will be the first election in more than a decade where the name Jim Watson won't appear on the ballot. But other familiar names will be.
Former mayor and Liberal cabinet minister Bob Chiarelli registered to run on the first day nominations were open, back on May 2. Since then he's promised to freeze property taxes and spending for 2023 if he's elected.
Current Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney (who uses the pronoun they/them) has spent the summer campaigning to make Ottawa the greenest, healthiest and "most connected" city in Canada, "where everyone has a home." Their full platform is expected after Labour Day.
Well-known broadcaster and entrepreneur Mark Sutcliffe entered the race just before Canada Day. He's promising a safer city by providing "adequate" funding to police, firefighters and paramedics, and being "tough on the causes of crime." He's also promising to keep taxes and recreation fees "as low as possible."
Also registered for the mayoral race are Brandon Bray, Zed Chebib, Bernard Couchman, Celine Debassige, Gregory Guevara, Nour Kadri, Graham MacDonald, Mike Maguire, Ade Olumide, Param Singh and previously mentioned Solomon.
Rick Chiarelli not running in College
In 2020, city council and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark both called for Rick Chiarelli to resign, but he refused. Now, for the first time in almost four decades, Chiarelli won't been running for public office. .
Through a statement from his office in June, Chiarelli said he expected to run for re-election and had made an appointment for late Thursday. But he didn't show up to that appointment, and didn't register on the last day of registration, either.
In 2020, Chiarelli's pay was suspended for 450 days over behaviour the city's then-integrity commissioner deemed to be harassment of a sexual nature.
Since then the College ward councillor has faced shocking new allegations, but because the current integrity commissioner's investigation was not finished by Friday, it must be put on hold for the duration of the election campaign. And because Chiarelli isn't running, it's unclear if it will be completed.
At least 12 new faces
That someone new will replace Watson — Ottawa's longest-serving mayor — makes this race one of the most important in more than a decade. But when you consider that almost half the faces around the council table will be different, 2022 is shaping up to be a true change election.
Of the 25 seats that will comprise next term's council — the ward of Barrhaven East is being added to represent the fast-growing community — at least 12 will be newcomers.
Incumbents who aren't running again, in addition to Chiarelli, include Rideau-Vanier's Mathieu Fleury, Eli El-Chantiry in West-Carleton March, Diane Deans Gloucester-Southgate, Jan Harder in what will be called Barrhaven West, Keith Egli of Knoxdale-Merivale, Scott Moffatt of the soon-to-be-named Rideau-Jock ward and Jean Cloutier in Alta Vista.
With McKenney running for mayor, Somerset will be also be electing a new representative. And one-term councillor Carol Anne Meehan had originally planned to run again in Gloucester-South Nepean, but withdrew late last month, saying it was time to check off items on her "bucket list."
Lame ducks and mail-in ballots
City clerk Rick O'Connor was able to certify all 210 nomination forms by Friday evening, which means all those names will be on the ballot in the fall, even if candidates change their minds about wanting the job.
O'Connor also sent out a memo Friday evening to remind council they are now operating under so-called "lame duck" provisions. Because so many incumbents are not returning, council can't make any new expenditures or sell land worth more than $50,000.
Some of the ward boundaries will change for the 2022 election and Rochette recommends that residents double-check what ward they live in by entering their address using Election Ottawa's "Who is running in my ward?" online tool.
For the first time, Ottawa voters will be able to cast a ballot by mail. The city tried it for the first time during the 2020 Cumberland byelection and is rolling it out city-wide this year. Residents will have to apply for a special ballot, which they'll be able to between Sept. 1 and 16 once the voters' list is finalized.
For those voting in person, there will be six advance voting days starting later in September, in addition to election day on Oct. 24.