Candidates from the four leading parties — the Liberals, the PCs, the NDP, and the Greens — will appear at a debate on Thursday night at the Glebe Community Centre, where they will tackle a range of topics and field questions from residents of Ottawa Centre.
The debate, which was jointly organized by all 11 community associations in the riding (including the Centretown Citizens Community Association and the Hintonburg Community Association), will touch on both local topics — like the widening of the Queensway — and broader issues, like climate change and universal prescription drug coverage. It’s also slated to be a fairly open affair, with the questions coming not only from the moderator, and the community associations, but from members of the audience, who are encouraged to participate.
Many of the organizing community associations are among the city’s more dense, urban neighbourhoods, so there is likely to be a focus on affordability and urban infrastructure.
Larry Hudon, president of the Hintonburg Community Association, said that their organization had two main questions: the first being how each candidate’s party plans to “ensure that hard and soft infrastructure and services keep up with such rapid development,” as has been seen in many urban centres, and the second being whether each party was committed to “help maintain diversity in our central cities by increasing affordable housing stock either by more social housing, a return to co-operative housing support or quotas for developers.”
Thursday’s debate will be the third in as many days: on Tuesday, five of the eight candidates squared off in a televised debate moderated by Mark Sutcliffe, while on Wednesday, Liberal Yasir Naqvi, the NDP’s Joel Harden, and the Green Party’s Cherie Wong participated in a debate, hosted by the Now What alliance, that focused on poverty and gender-based issues. (Colleen McCleery is not participating, but did not respond to the Citizen asking her why not.)
Meet the Candidates
Yasir Naqvi, Liberal
Yasir Naqvi is a major figure for the provincial Liberals, one that they’ll be especially keen not to lose. Since 2016, he’s been the province’s attorney general, and is also the government house leader. Before that, he oversaw the introduction of the Strategy for a Safer Ontario as the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. He is generally well-liked and well-known in the riding, and he’s consistently fared well here: He has held this seat since 2007, and won with more than 51 per cent of the vote in 2014.
Joel Harden, New Democrats
Probably the biggest threat, at least historically speaking, to unseat Naqvi is currently Joel Harden, who won the NDP nomination contest last October. He is backed by an impressive labour pedigree — he has a PhD in political science from York University, was an organizer with the Leap Manifesto, and has deep ties with the Canadian labour movement, including working with the Canadian Federation of Students.
Colleen McCleery, Progressive Conservatives
Colleen McCleery, a management consultant from Ottawa, was appointed as the PC nominee for Ottawa Centre in April. She had been expecting to contest a nomination vote, and was surprised when the party scrapped those plans and appointed her instead. She has a varied educational background, with a bachelors in applied sciences from the University of Waterloo, an MBA from Queen’s University, and a medical degree from the Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica.
Cherie Wong, Green Party
Cherie Wong is the youngest candidate in the riding, by some measure: she only graduated from the University of Ottawa last year, with a double honours degree in psychology and criminology. She has come up through the Green Party’s youth wing, and was one of the organizers of last year’s People’s Climate March in Ottawa. She’s also volunteered with Elizabeth May on Parliament Hill. She has so far focused her campaign on the need for greater diversity in politics.
Bruce Faulkner, Ontario Libertarian Party
Not much is known about Bruce Faulkner, candidate for the Libertarian Party. According to his party biography, he has been a truck driver for 27 years, as well as working for a local radiator and heating company. (Neither Faulkner nor the Libertarian Party could be reached.) He is running under the banner of the Libertarian Party, whose platform focuses on cutting regulations and the size of government — both dramatically — as well as opening up health care and health insurance to the private market, letting people opt-out of OHIP.
Stuart Ryan, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)
Stuart Ryan is a long-time trade unionist in the city, and has run as a nominee for the Communist Party several times at both the provincial and federal level — in his last provincial run, in 2011, he finished last, winning just 160 votes. He was previously the president of his Canadian Auto Workers local chapter. He’s also a father of two who has lived in Ottawa for nearly four decades.
Marc Adornato, None of the Above Party
Marc Adornato, a local artist now moonlighting as a political candidate for the None of the Above Party, may as well be the poster child for not taking yourself too seriously. To wit, his campaign platform begins with a declaration: “my name is Marc with the None Of The Above Party, and I do realize I have little to no chance of winning.” It’s similarly hard to tell where the serious ideas end and the wit begins in his platform, too: policy proposals include banning single use plastics, ending daylight savings time, turning Sparks Street into a Red Light district with legal prostitution, and a promise to bring the “worlds largest internet cat video festival to Ottawa.”
James Sears, Canadians’ Choice Party
The unpredictable element in the race, James Sears — better known in Toronto circles than in Ottawa for his perennial political campaigns, his controversial newspaper Your Ward News, and his pickup artist alter-ego Dimitri the Lover — is functionally running a campaign against Yasir Naqvi alone. Naqvi, the attorney general of the province, charged Sears with hate speech for inciting violence against women in 2017; now Sears is parachuting into Ottawa Centre for a chance to go toe-to-toe. Nominally, he’s running this time around as a candidate for the Canadians Choice Party, though Sears is the founder of the New Constitution Party, which claims to represent the values of National Socialism, the governing ideology of the German Nazi party.
A candidates debate will be held Thursday, May 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave. The evening will be moderated by the Citizen’s David Reevely.