The big shift: Could urban Ottawa re-elect Larry O’Brien?

14Jun10

I found myself chatting today with Peter Raaymakers from Public Transit in Ottawa. The topic of discussion? Larry O’Brien’s voter base. We wondered who might vote for the current mayor if he decides to run for a second term.

As it stands, Jim Watson is apparently just counting down the days until he’s once again mayor of Ottawa. He’s got more than half of the city’s support, after all, according to one poll, and the election is only a few months away.

The two leading (declared) candidates so far are Watson and city councillor Alex Cullen. We know that Watson is hesitant to support the current plans for light rail in the city, and we also know that Cullen is hesitant to support the current plans for Lansdowne Park redevelopment. That’s a pretty simple split right there.

Not long ago, the Citizen‘s David Reevely mused that Watson’s and Cullen’s reluctance to support both major city-building projects effectively means they “are each grabbing one of O’Brien’s arms and trying to drag him into the race.” It’s a fine point.

We now know that O’Brien is, for now, waiting until June 29 to announce his decision about whether or not he’ll seek a second term. Like any serious candidate, O’Brien is probably looking at demographics and polls, and he’s probably wondering if he has the support to win.

Last time around, O’Brien looked to the suburbs and exurbs as big sources of votes. This election could be much different.

This map demonstrates what most Ottawa readers already know, which is that O’Brien’s support in 2006 came largely from suburban and rural Ottawa (Kanata being the exception), just as he planned. It’s representative of a pretty basic urban/rural divide that’s significantly impacted a number of important council decisions.

Why did those non-urban voters cast ballots for O’Brien? Again, it’s well known that those voters largely invested in O’Brien’s “zero means zero” commitment to tax growth.

Now, though, those 2006 votes might be looking for a new home. O’Brien broke the biggest promise he made, when he couldn’t stop tax increases, and that could loosen his support outside of the core.

But urban voters are a different story. Many still resent his initial victory, and many others still consider him a sleazeball. But still others might appreciate the mayor’s support for two huge projects that have gained quite a bit of support, those being the plans for light rail and Lansdowne Park.

It’s strange ground for O’Brien and stranger ground for some of his former foes, but it could make an election that includes Larry O’Brien much more interesting than a Watson cakewalk.

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7 Responses to “The big shift: Could urban Ottawa re-elect Larry O’Brien?”

  1. 1 Lucas

    You know who should run for mayor? Someone who is willing to bully council into selling off landsdown. Then uses the profits to make the different parts of City whole again (like Nepean which had no debt before amalgamation). Then shatter the city back into the many cities pre-amalgamation. Let local areas do what is best for them and let’s let this failed City of Ottawa experiment end once and for all.

  2. What I’ve learned and seen consistently reinforced since moving to Ottawa is the following: Nepean was fiercely proud of its record as a municipality on all kinds of fronts. People who grew up there miss it, and they want it back. I don’t think the same can be said, at least with the same spirit, about most other former cities that have been absorbed by megacities.

  3. 3 Lucas

    I miss Kanata how it was. It used to be really nice. Community based. Now it’s a giant shopping mall that sucks to even go near because everyone West of the city shows up. It had some strict bylaws, but people liked them. Now the snow removal service sucks, the salting the road sucks, the grass cutting sucks. It’s like Kanata was relegated for no good reason other than to absorb the debt of Orleans or Ottawa proper.

  4. Really great writing! Honestly..

  5. Dear God, you’re scaring me. I supported O’Brien last time around (and, still in retrospect, I don’t recall any other good choices), but I’d hate to see him back.

    And it’s a good point that Watson seems to be very confident. That couldn’t possibly come back to bite him in the you-know-what, could it?

  6. The Eco tax is the Watson Achilles heel. Watson will fall if this becomes the major issue in this election. Cullen is non existant.

    Also Focus on pushing for lowering taxes but maintaining services.

    Zero means zero needs to be passed to the counsellors.


  1. 1 O’Brien To Announce Mayoral Plans June 29 … Maybe | Ottawa Election News

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