Shawn Menard pulled off a major upset in Capital ward Monday night, defeating two-term incumbent David Chernushenko and three other strong contenders to win the seat on city council.
Menard, the most progressive of the candidates running in Capital ward, promised to push for free transit in the city and a mansion tax on homes sold for more than $3 million. “The top one per cent in this world needs to be taxed more often so the many can benefit.”
As election results came in Monday night, an organizer at Menard’s election night party turned the volume off on Mayor Jim Watson’s victory speech saying “we don’t need to hear any more from this windbag” — an indication Capital ward’s newest councillor will likely play an opposition role on the new council.
“The reason we came to victory is because of the type of ideas we espoused,” he said. “That is why we won this election.”
The race was tight throughout the night. Menard, with 28 per cent of the vote, beat second-place Christine McAllister, a business woman and former head of the Glebe Community Association, by fewer than 400 votes.
Chernuschenko said he was disappointed but knew he faced tough competition. In 2014, he won the ward with 77 per cent of the vote.
“I could see right from the outset that I faced really strong campaigns. I upped my game like I never have before. I had incredible people, and the feedback was great. So frankly, I am very surprised.”
He advised Menard to “listen to all opinions” and reach out to other councillors. “If you want to win anything with this council, you’ve got to find a way to work with people with whom you may not have as much in common as you’d like.”
The campaign featured five strong contenders for the councillor’s job, including former Green Party member Chernushenko and his challengers, two of whom were endorsed by sitting politicians from two major parties.
Former public school board trustee Menard was endorsed by NDP MPP Joel Harden as well as by former federal NDP MP Paul Dewar; McAllister was endorsed by Liberal MP Catherine McKenna.
Two other strong challengers vied for the seat: Anthony Carricato, a policy analyst and House of Commons Speaker’s staffer; and lawyer/negotiator Jide Afolabi.
Several of the candidates said they heard while door knocking that there needs to be more clarity and better communication when it comes to development. Several urged more respect for community design plans.
Menard, who ran an energetic campaign, was, by far, the most progressive of the contenders, with a platform that included a free bus along Bank Street as a move toward free transit in the city. He also called for barring planning committee members from accepting developer donations, improving the planning process to improve community input and giving more weight to community design plans.
Chernushenko cited the construction of the Flora Footbridge across the canal (set to be finished next year) and making Main Street a complete street (designed to safely accommodate all modes of transportation) as major achievements during his last term in office. His platform included more affordable housing, “prosperous, safe and welcoming” streets, the inclusion of nature and recreation in planning decisions, increased funding for sidewalks, trails and roads and stricter rules on tree conservation, among other things.
Capital ward, like other older parts of the city, has seen growing numbers of small and large infill developments.
The ward, bounded by Highway 417 in the north, LeBreton Street S., the Rideau Canal, Bronson Avenue and the Airport Parkway in the west, Walkley Road in the south and Bank Street, the Rideau River, Smyth Road and Riverside Drive in the east, has also seen some of the city’s largest developments in recent years — at Lansdowne Park and Greystone Village in Old Ottawa East, among others.
Shawn Menard will represent Capital ward for the next four years, ousting incumbent David Chernushenko, who was running for a third term.
With 100 per cent of the polls reporting, it was a tight three-way race. Menard won with 28.1 per cent of the vote, followed by Christine McAllister, who took 25.2 per cent and Chernushenko with 23.4 per cent.
"It was nerve-racking all night. I think it is a testament to the other four candidates that ran here," he said. "Everybody in this ward hit doors, put up signs, talked to voters — that is very rare."
Menard said city hall pays too much attention to developers and the wealthy, and he wants to change that.
"The very first thing we need to start talking about is how to ensure policies for people, those that are less fortunate, those that don't always have a voice, are going to have a voice at city hall."
The incoming councillor said the vote was a testament to the changes people want to see in the ward.
"I think this was really a referendum on development in our area," Menard told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday. "I was offering big change."
"The official plan review is coming up this term with council … so we are going to be organizing around that to make sure that people come first at city hall, and not just development companies."
Menard said he will continue to work toward universally free transit by pushing for a pilot project on limited routes such as Bank Street.
"We have some of the highest fares in North America with declining ridership," he said. "We are putting a marker out there to say, look, free transit does exist in other cities, it can work [here]."
Despite holding different views on some issues, Menard said he's ready to work with the Mayor Jim Watson, who was elected for a third term Monday night.
"I think sometimes we have divisions on ideas and policy and that's going to continue," Menard said. "But I'm ready to work with city council and this mayor to ensure that the City of Ottawa really gets … positive, progressive policy."
"Right from the start it was an NDP campaign," he said. "They out-organized me, and they had the means to do that."
He acknowledged on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday that his loss had much to do with residents' dissatisfaction with the impact developers have had on the ward.
"Any councillor in an urban ward is up against this monster," he said. "People are feeling really upset about the lack of control, the lack of say in their own neighbourhoods."
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