Ottawa’s election: still no narrative

Watching paint dry: a better story than our mayor's race?

At just over 130 days away from the ballot and it’s barely registered to most in the city that an election is around the corner.

Sure, incumbents are slowly rolling out sleepy reelection campaigns. A few upstarts are getting their cars wrapped and shiny new social media profiles in order.

But, the mayors race only seems busy because Jim Watson keeps an inhuman pace. A long standing Ottawa joke is that Watson will attend the opening ofan envelope. It follows that if Watson is the hare, the Alex Cullen team is currently the tortoise. A sleeping tortoise. Which, I suppose is fair considering one of them actually has a full time job right now.

f you missed what passes for bluster in the 2010 election: Watson is fretting about costs on the LRT project. O’Brien called him a “little old lady” on CFRA. The media failed to really engage in the misogynistic comment or the issue at hand. Plus ca change.

I suppose all of this posturing and community picnicking is really just filling time until June 29th. Until then it’s impossible to truly have a debate without the unknown factor declaring his intentions. The Mayor.

The man who wanted to bring swagger to Ottawa now must decide if he wants to put his bravado – and record – to the electorate again. Apparently, he needs to know how the Lansdowne vote will go down before deciding if he wants to try and keep the office. A move like that may be smart in business; but it’s not clever in politics.

In Toronto things are already rocking in the mayoral race and several ward races. A lot of this can be linked directly to incumbents announcing their retirement. The busiest and liveliest of the Ottawa races are where incumbents have either announced their intention or signaled they might not run again.

But, does any of this mean there is a white-knight in the wings? A princess in shining armor waiting to race to the voters with a plan?

No, I fear not.

I’m afraid to report that after a few phone calls to reliable sources there is simply no one else thinking about running for the top job. At least, no one that could challenge the fundraising and organizational power of those already declared. I can think of a few politicians, business leaders and even a public worker or two that would give this dilapidated lot a run for their money.

We are stuck with Watson, Cullen and likely O’Brien. It could possibly be the most boring mayoral race Ottawa has ever seen.

Update on CityVote videos: a few bumps in the road and our decision to build a full fledged studio has delayed the release of the first few videos to engage candidates; I’m still looking for off-beat urban stories to help tell, issues to push to the front of the line and your ideas.

Photo by Scott Granneman