108 – Election Day

Four years ago, my vote in the municipal election would have come down to equal parts name recognition, what the polls said, and a quick read of the top issues for each candidate.

Then the O-Train plan for cancelled, costing us $100 million in settlements and expenses. Then there was a bus strike, in which I often walked to school for 40 minutes in often sub -25C conditions. Then an idea for a random tunnel came down and was hailed as a billion times better than the first plan to extend the current train to the Airport, which is all of 5 minutes away anyway! Oh yeah, and our mayor was out fighting criminal charges.

So I followed this one a little more closely. In 4 years time, the Web has changed dramatically. Candidates are tweeting and answering questions directly, are putting debates on YouTube, aggregating every article that mentions their name… It’s become so much easier to see where everyone stands, and to hear others’ opinions, and agree or disagree with them. I honestly don’t know how people did it before!

I think my most important vote is for city councillor. I never heard anything from my current councillor during the bus strike, and certainly not a whole lot came from him in the seemingly endless battles at city hall over important issues like transit, taxes, Landsdowne, etc. The key qualities I looked for was open communication, leadership potential, ability to work with others, and transit opinion.

The best thing I did was start a dialogue with every candidate through YouTube (view here). And right away, I got responses. The most unusual thing was that not everyone responded. And I’m not talking the little guys, but one particular candidate with huge signs everywhere! I’d like to thank everyone who took time to get their message out to me. Means a lot!

After this experiment and reading through websites, I’ve decided to vote for James O’Grady. His leadership in my backyard lends well to what I’d like to see in the ward as a whole. He has really solid ideas on how to improve the area and supports LRT and wants to see it now. He also has a firm grasp on how to make municipal work exciting and active through empowerment and not hogging the spotlight. While he isn’t overly active over Twitter, he took the time to discuss his vision over the phone with me when clearly there were a number of other phone calls coming in in the background, without hurrying or trying to get me to go away.

In terms of mayor, I was on the fence the whole campaign season. Jim Watson knows what he’s doing and seems to have the ability to make things happen. Clive Doucet, however, has a romantic whimsy about what Ottawa should be. And I like it. He’s interested in having a transit system that works and expands its userbase to become even more useful to everyone as a whole. He’s a champion of the O-Train and the U-Pass (while I never got in on that, it’s a fantastic idea), and to quote my January 2009 self,

In other news, I’m really starting to like Clive Doucet. He’s a city councillor for the Capital ward, central Ottawa. He speaks his mind, and usually his mind is on the people whom he represents. He thinks the 15ish million saved from the bus strike so far, and what they’ll continue to save, should be funnelled back into making OC Transpo free for as long as possible once service resumes. This is probably the most brilliant thing the city can do to gain as many riders as possible.

I owe him one for at least trying to end the bus strike, while nearly everyone else at the time treated it as business-as-usual. Thank you, Clive! He’s the first politician that I started following on Twitter, seems that he would continue that if he becomes mayor, and this huge online push in the last week or two really shows his and his volunteers’ passion, when everyone else (especially the incumbent) showed signs of fatigue and dare I say disinterest. I don’t want anyone who could care less whether he or she leads my city. I want progress. Clive will get my vote when the polls open Monday Morning.

I wish James and Clive the best of luck, as well as everyone else! And everyone, please take your signs down in a quick and orderly fashion Tuesday morning!