Misty eyes, phone bots, modest promises – it’s character time in the mayor’s race

Calling frenzy - phone bots, circa 1914

Today — October 14 — is the last advance poll before election. The pace is hopping! Debates, fundraisers, doorknocking, phone calls, coffee parties, community events – campaigns are working hard to generate momentum, solidify support and shift the undecided. They’ll be encouraging volunteers and firm supporters to vote early, then starting to gear up for election day.

As I write this, half of my twitter feed seems to have received an automated survey call from Larry O’Brien. Last night I got a similar call – not a survey but a plug for his latest campaign video.

Ah, the campaign video. No one actually seems to be spending the cash to put them on TV these days, but you can get a lot of mileage by spreading links to video on social media. Or, in Larry’s case, by getting lots of coverage in traditional media for blasting your opponent with an attack ad.

It’s not a particularly surprising ad, linking Jim Watson with the now-somewhat-unpopular Dalton McGuinty and using the three issues that Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak is currently flogging in his own ad campaign: the HST, Hydro rates, the eco-tax (with a little crack pipe fearmongering thrown in for good measure). Clearly O’Brien is trying to play to his base, and perhaps win back some of the support that might have eroded.

Will it help make up a significant gap? Is “Political Jim” an easy target?

Not so much. Jim’s running a pretty safe campaign – as he is fond of saying, he’d “rather under-promise than over deliver”. The riskiest idea – the reduction of the number of councillors – was introduced early in the campaign, and minds have turned to other issues. New spending on housing and freezing rec fees is using the money from the provincial government uploads (and they are pretty modest spending promises as it is). He’s portraying himself as a competent manager; his campaign videos show him strolling through the city, inviting the viewer to join him in building a “better Ottawa”. His digs at O’Brien are less ham-fisted, but intended to question O’Brien’s leadership and fiscal record. Still, though: *yawn*

And Clive? He’s got videos, too. In the latest, he gets all misty-eyed about the O-Train. It’s a real contrast from the others – longer, more personal, giving viewers a sense of what inspires and drives the candidate. He’s banking on a sense of frustration in the kind of politics the other two candidates are playing. The question is, can he build enough momentum in a short period of time to pull off what David Miller did in Toronto?

Andy Haydon doesn’t seem to be putting out video, but is holding two pressers in a row on “Devastating Financial News”. Don’t get too excited about the prospect of Haydon branching off from his single issue. While today’s presser and blog entry focused on the growth of the city’s debt under O’Brien, Haydon’s conclusion is the inevitable cancellation of the LRT and the adoption of his BRT plan.

Among lesser-known Mayoral candidates, Charlie Taylor seems to be looking to tap in to voters’ frustrations as well, acknowledging he is a long shot and offering himself up as a vehicle for protest. I admit I’m a little curious to see whether his work on social media, or the tactic of talking to voters outside of debates held for the frontrunners, yields results on voting day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn off my phone. You never know when an automated Larry will call.

Image courtesy Royce Bair


  1. Larry has attack ads, Jim vague promises. Same old, same old.  Clive is a different type of politician and I think jaded voters are turning to him, maybe in time for the election.  An honest politician – how refreshing!

  2. I am really, really, REALLY hoping for a Miller-esque victory on this one – Clive sneaking up from WAY behind and showing he’s not the lefty/hippie/emotional art-fart caricature some people see when they look at him without actually listening to what he says.

    He knows city processes and history better than any of the others. They show up to radio interviews with their speeches on paper, whereas Doucet has all of those facts and arguments in his head, because he lives and breathes them. 

    I voted for him last night. Fingers crossed!

  3. I think Clive’s momentum is building enough to win on election day.  His campaign reveals a lot about his character — he cares more about his city than his ego. He’s our leader.

  4. Yawn is right. Watson’s as inspiring as a moldy Mr. Potato Head. A competent manager? Sure we don’t want a wild man as mayor – thanks Larry, now move along, huh, yer startin to freak out the pigeons. But do we just want a super-CAO? Like if senior city managers are aiming for competence, I’m okay with that, but the Mayor’s supposed to be a leader. Leadership entails vision and passion and a lovable demeanor. “Watson For Assistant Manager – Coventry Canadian Tire” has a nice ring to it. Doucet for Mayor sounds even better to me.

  5. I know Clive Doucet through international solidarity work, and I’d love to see him as mayor of Ottawa.

    Among other things, Ottawa needs a public transport policy worthy of its rank as a city (not to mention Canadian capital). That means a métro or light rail and trams, not just buses. When my parents worked in Ottawa during the war, it did have tramlines. Bring them back.

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