Ottawa municipal election 2022 – Lessons for the Black community
So, the municipal election for Ottawa has come and gone and we have a rookie mayor for only the second time in our city’s history. But the question that needs to asked is: what lessons if any, should Ottawa’s Black community take away for our inability to make any inroads to the national capital’s municipal governance structure?
For starters, let’s examine the results as they affected the Black candidates. We had one successful candidate, Rawlson King, incumbent councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe, who was re-elected with a resounding 80% of the votes cast. Our best hope for a second Black councilor, Yvette Ashiri, came a poor second with 21% of the votes in Orleans-South Navan, compared to the to the successful incumbent Catherine Kitts, who came in with a resounding 76% of the votes. In Barrhaven West, Taayo Simmonds, recorded a creditable 33% of the votes compared to 43% for the winner David Hill. In College Ward, Vilteau Delvas scored a miserly 2.8 % of the vote, compared to 52% for the winning candidate Laine Johnson.
In the mayoral race, Ade Olumide and Bernard Couchman hardly registered on the electoral radar with 0.20% and 0.15% of the votes respectively, compared to the winner, rookie politician Mark Sutcliffe with 51% of the votes.
So what lesson should we in the Black community learn from this election? First off, if you aspire to run for political office, start your preparation from the grass roots. Volunteer with your community organization, your church, your children’s school, the local food bank. Doesn’t matter, just volunteer and give your best in your volunteer placement so your supervisor and fellow volunteers will remember you and speak highly of you.
Second, join a political party, preferably one of the big three: Liberal, Conservative, NDP. But don’t just pay your membership fee; knock on doors and distribute flyers for your local candidate. The experience and the connections you make will be invaluable when you decide to run for office, even for municipal elections which are not based on political affiliation. Better still find an experienced political mentor, a sitting municipal councilor, member of provincial parliament or member of parliament. Put in some volunteer hours in their office; their endorsement of your candidacy could pay off big time late on.
Next step is to make yourself visible, by speaking up on issues that affect not only the Black community, but the larger community: property taxes, school dropouts, crime, employment and so on. You can do this during community consultations or by contributing op-eds to local newspapers. Black Ottawa Scene, for instance, welcomes such feature articles on issues trending in the national capital. Remember, you need to appeal to all segments of the city’s racial diversity groups: white, Asian, Arabic, Black, Hispanic and more. Focussing your attention solely on the Black community will only get you so far; we are a minority, and you have to extend your reach beyond our community. But the starting point should be your community; as the saying goes, charity begins at home.
Borrow a leaf from former US President Barack Obama; his biography details his remarkable record of community volunteerism, activism, mobilization and advocacy for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, all this long before he ran for elective office. By which time, he was a household name among the people whose rights he had fought for over the years prior. Nothing like what we have seen in Ottawa these past few years; people appearing to spring from the woodwork and asking you to vote for them simply because they were Black like you. It just doesn’t work that way!
And finally, here is a plea. It is time for the city’s Black community to come up with a plan to increase our representation at all levels of government. Time for one of our recognized community organizations to take the lead in this process. Start with a 5-year systematic plan to provide training and mentoring for those aspiring for political office. There are many grants available for community capacity building; make a strong case for this funding and recruit experienced current Black legislators to provide this training. The African Canadian Association of Ottawa (ACAO) is well positioned to take the lead in this important initiative. Black Ottawa Scene will be there to provide whatever support is needed for the success of this endeavor. Support from Operation Black Vote Canada (Home – Operation Black Vote Canada (obvc.ca) would be an important part of this strategy. Engaging with the Parliamentary Black Caucus would also add value to this master plan. Let’s not wait till the next election before discovering that political office success does not drop like manna from heaven; we, as a community have to do the hard work and the heavy lifting needed to achieve this goal.
And in other news………
Our Top Story for November 2022 is the United Way Community Builder award to Jean-Marie Guerrier, Vice President of Black History Ottawa and the inscription of his name on the City of Ottawa Wall of Inspiration. Bravo JM! The appointment of Nigerian-born Kelechi Madu as Alberta’s Deputy Premier, is a cause for rejoicing for Canada’s very first Black deputy Premier. Way to go Kelechi! Next stop Premier of Alberta! Black Ottawa Scene also congratulates three other community Builder award winners: Wale Ade Sanya, Patrick Bondo and Angelica Kalubiaka. A shout out also to Fred Ngoundjo Cornwall first elected Black male councillor.
In this edition we also bring you the first collaboration between Black Ottawa Scene and Carleton University’s School of Journalism, with feature articles by two of their students: “Ottawa Public Health confronts systemic racism” by Gail Pope and “Trolls are targeting journalists — and women and racialized reporters bear the brunt of their hate” by Hermona Kuluberhan.
All these and more in the November edition of Black Ottawa Scene. Here is the result of the October 2022 poll: Do you believe Canada is becoming a more violent society? Yes 58% No 42% Thank you to all who voted.
Here is the November 2022 poll: Should Premier Doug Ford testify at the trucking convoy inquiry?
All the best to all our dear readers and their loved ones.
Godwin Ifedi Editor
Lessons….FINANCIAL! FINANCIAL! FINANCIAL
Political candidates = Financial expenses
We need to gather a list of financial and sustainable DONORS to set up a Financial ‘Political advancement account’ to help Black candidates. We also need to choose & pick ridings for our candidates. Yes. It is time for the city’s Black community to come up with a plan to increase our representation at all levels of government….. with a 5-year systematic plan… We really need to use successful candidates as mentors.
Thanks once again for creating a space for such important conversations.
I would suggest the most valuable first step would be to meet with Rawlson to learn the details of his success. As far as I know, NOT being aligned with a federal or provincial party has been part of it. Secondly, we need to understand why our people – especially our young folks – aren’t voting, let alone running for office. Clearly, many don’t see how municipal issues affect them, even as they continue to be stopped by police, try to find $125 for a bus pass or continue to live at home because they can’t afford to rent or buy their own place.
Your suggestion that people volunteer to get experience and make connections is spot on, as is your advice to focus on issues that affect a broad range of Ottawa residents. Finally, I’d suggest a 4yr plan since the next election is 2026. And rather than one organization leading, I’d suggest a more decentralized approach that empowers the community broadly to train folks in their communities – and share strategies. Perhaps one organization could lead on creating a way to share info.