Ottawa

2 Ottawa councillors could get their seats back without a race

With just two days left for candidates to put their names on the ballot for the October municipal election, a couple of Ottawa city councillors are poised to reclaim their seats without a race.

Would-be municipal candidates have until Friday at 2 p.m. to register

Ottawa city council will see new representation in at least 11 of 25 seats next term. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

With just two days left for candidates to put their names on the ballot for the October municipal election, a couple of Ottawa city councillors are poised to reclaim their seats without a race.

As of late Tuesday, no one had yet signed up to challenge Laura Dudas in the re-mapped and renamed Orléans West-Innes ward, nor Rawlson King in Rideau-Rockcliffe. Both are seeking second terms.

It has been a high-profile and divisive four years for the outgoing Ottawa council, which has governed during a global pandemic and truck convoy protest, and overseen the launch of a new light rail system whose breakdowns led to a public inquiry.

Nearly half the current group of local decision-makers will not be back next term.

Nine current councillors and Mayor Jim Watson have stated they will not seek re-election in their current seats. With the addition of one new ward, that means 11 of the 25 places around the horseshoe-shaped table at city hall have no incumbents.

College ward's Rick Chiarelli, whose pay was suspended for 450 days after two integrity investigations for misconduct, has yet to register. If he does not, Ottawa would see a dozen races with no incumbent.

Despite the expected turnover, the 2022 election has so far drawn fewer registrations than in the past. About 100 have registered overall.

Acclamations last seen in 2003

Would-be future mayors and councillors still have until 2 p.m. Friday to visit the City of Ottawa's election office on Cyrville Road — after making an appointment — to file their forms, pay their fees and provide a list of signatures from 25 electors who endorse them.

If no one else puts their names forward in the two unchallenged wards, Dudas and King would be declared elected by acclamation at 4 p.m. on Monday, according to Ontario's Municipal Elections Act.

It would be a situation not seen for the last four municipal elections in Ottawa. One has to go back to the 2003 race, when three councillors were acclaimed: Chiarelli in College ward, Peter Hume in Alta Vista, and Doug Thompson in Osgoode. 

It appeared Tim Tierney might also go unchallenged in Beacon Hill-Cyrville in his bid for a fourth term, until Miranda Gray filed papers last week.

The regular city hall watcher ran in the neighbouring ward in 2018 and always planned to vie for a seat again in 2022. Gray registered close to the deadline in part because she was waiting to see which councillors might not face competition for their jobs.

"I don't believe anyone should be acclaimed," she said, explaining how she thinks local politicians should have to debate ward issues and hear ideas at election time.

"I don't want anyone coasting in based on what they did before."

Gray was surprised no one else materialized over the past few months to challenge Tierney, given the legal troubles he faced after the last election's nomination period closed.

Tierney was charged with corrupt practices under the province's Municipal Elections Act. Those were later withdrawn, and he had to apologize for trying to induce the only other ward candidate to drop out of the 2018 election.

"There's so much change in the air, I kind of assumed someone else might say, 'This is a chance to make change in my ward,'" said Gray.

Tough job requires more pay

An associate professor at York University who focuses on local government said it's "peculiar" that some Ottawa races might not see major contests.

"In other cities where there's been the same sort of acrimony, you usually see more challenges," said Zachary Spicer, pointing to the 2014 election in London, Ont., after its mayor was convicted of fraud, and the current race for Hamilton council given the judicial inquiry taking place about the safety of a parkway.

Spicer sees an anecdotal trend across the province, however, where people are "taking a pass" at running for elected office this cycle, and expects Ontario could see more acclamations than usual.

"The last term has been particularly hard," he said. Municipal officials have had to make "uncomfortable" decisions to close facilities and transit to curb the spread of COVID-19, Spicer said, and have faced some strong public criticism for it.

Spicer also argues local politicians ought to be paid more. Many professionals would have to choose to take a pay cut in order to run for office, and get a job that involves working long hours in the public eye.

Councillors in Ottawa earned $105,683 in 2021, while the mayor received $188,996. Most communities pay far less. The approved salary for incoming councillors in Kingston, Ont., is $45,000, for instance.

Ottawa councillors who have decided not to run for re-election include: Jean Cloutier, Diane Deans, Mathieu Fleury, Keith Egli, Eli El-Chantiry, Jan Harder, Carol Anne Meehan and Scott Moffatt.

Catherine McKenney will be on the ballot for mayor rather than Somerset ward, and a new ward has been created in Barrhaven.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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