Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

Leadership style at issue in Capital ward debate

With five well-spoken candidates who have similar concerns, the question of which candidate can deliver at City Hall was raised during the Capital ward debate Thursday.

Incumbent David Chernushenko has some well-known challengers

There are five candidates running in Capital ward. Clockwise from top left: Shawn Menard, Christine McAllister, incumbent David Chernushenko, Anthony Carricato and Jide Afolabi. (Provided)

It was standing room only at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday evening for an all-candidates debate in Capital ward, where contenders took on a wide range of issues from controversial developments to transit fares to taxes.

There was even a question about what to do about cyclists who don't use lights at night.

While there were certainly differences in the candidates' platforms — one is promising a "maximum" two per cent tax increase, while another wants to introduce free transit service on Bank Street — many core concerns of the candidates were similar.

There is a shared frustration that zoning rules and community design plans appear to be routinely ignored, little progress on addressing climate change in the city, low recycling rates and speeding on Bronson Avenue, for example.

Too nice?

The candidates were all well-spoken and four of them have full-fledged campaigns and platforms. 

As two-term incumbent David Chernushenko himself put it: "There's a real race here."

So for many voters, the real question was which of the contenders could actually get things done.

Chernushenko said that he hears at the doors that he's too nice and that perhaps the ward needs "somebody who's tougher at City Hall."

But he points to "40 accomplishments" over the last eight years, such as getting a complete street on Main Street and completing the footbridge over the Rideau Canal as proof his "consensus-building personality" works. 

Christine McAllister said that, as the former president of the Glebe Community Association, she helped bring the community together after the fractious debate over the Lansdowne redevelopment.

She also was involved in getting a better, if not ideal, design for the Beer Store redevelopment in the Glebe.

These are the collaborative skills she hopes to bring to City Hall.

Encouraging engagement

Shawn Menard, an openly progressive candidate and public school trustee, is proposing another way.

He said he's going to work to get residents — in all wards — to lobby their councillors to vote for things like lower bus fares and climate-change measures.

It's how he helped get the student transit pass, known as the U-Pass, approved at council for both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. 

"At the end of the day, it's about ensuring that folks call and email their councillor that put pressure on them — their constituents, their residents," said Menard. 

"Those are the people that are going to do it, not being friendly at city council or trading votes."

Financial reform

Anthony Carricato, who also sat on the board of the Glebe Community Association, vowed to attend — and stay for the duration — of all community association meetings.

He also promised to keep taxes at two per cent or lower and tackle what he called "unfairness" in the way taxes are based on assessed property values.

And Jide Afolabi suggested the city raise revenue through new ways, such as taxes on tourism and AirBnBs.

He also wants to see the campaign donation limit of $1,200 cut in half to reduce what he described as the influence of developers at City Hall.

All five candidates said they were not knowingly taking contributions from anyone in the development world.