At its best, politics is about bringing people together to find solutions. That’s not what we’ve seen at Ottawa City Hall in recent years.

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At long last, Ottawa has an interesting mayoral race. The candidacy of broadcaster, businessman and community volunteer Mark Sutcliffe offers an attractive option for those who don’t share progressive councilwoman Catherine McKenney’s worldview or think that 80-year-old former mayor Bob Chiarelli is past his political prime. .

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After years as a radio host, Sutcliffe is familiar to many Ottawanese who know him as an impartial and knowledgeable interviewer, but he is much more than that. A serial entrepreneur, Sutcliffe has started a number of businesses, including the Ottawa Business Journal. He has been on many community boards and has chaired the United Way and the Ottawa Board of Trade. Although he is new to politics, Sutcliffe has been fully involved in city life for decades.

Now, Sutcliffe wants to add mayor to his resume. His decision to run, he said in an interview, was something he didn’t expect to make. Sutcliffe assumed that several city councilors would compete for the seat vacated by outgoing Mayor Jim Watson. In the end, they did not, and Sutcliffe felt that a sensible centrist was needed in the race.

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Sutcliffe’s apparent weakness is that he has never been elected to political office and now wants to start with the highest job in town. The new candidate points out that while he has no electoral experience, he does have leadership experience in the business and volunteer sectors. He has followed the city’s problems in detail for years, interviewing politicians and leading election debates.

At its best, politics is about bringing people together to find solutions. That’s not what we’ve seen on the Ottawa city council in recent years, as the mayor inflamed a divided council rather than trying to constructively engage those not on his team.

Sutcliffe wants to change that tone. Long ago. He presents himself as a nonpartisan leader willing and able to work with any councilmember. It’s almost a definition of the mayor’s job. With his optimistic and mediocre style, Sutcliffe has often been a local booster during his journalistic career. That’s not a bad quality for a mayor.

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While he doesn’t yet have a detailed platform, Sutcliffe has identified some key areas of interest. He wants a city that is safe, reliable and affordable. That’s a shorthand way of saying he’s concerned about the causes of crime, he wants the LRT to really work, and he doesn’t want huge tax increases.

It is not yet clear how it would achieve those goals. Crime is a complex problem and the mayor does not run the light rail. Keeping taxes low will be a real challenge as inflation also hits the city’s costs and some areas, like road repairs, are underfunded.

Sutcliffe’s campaign ad showed a degree of political savvy. Although he lives in the West Wellington neighborhood, the candidate chose to make his announcement in Kanata, emphasizing that he will listen to suburban and rural voters. Support from those areas is key to victory in the October elections.

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Sutcliffe has always struck a fine balance between optimism and realism. Yes, the city has problems, but Sutcliffe believes we can solve them by working together, and that’s what he wants to do if he’s elected mayor. It’s a refreshing change to be told by veteran councilmen that the operation of city hall is so screwed up that it will take eight years to fix.

Sutcliffe represents a significant demographic in Ottawa, a city well stocked with reasonable people who aren’t particularly partisan. That is particularly true when it comes to the municipal level. We all want a city that runs efficiently and a leader who can bring out the best in us.

If Mark Sutcliffe is able to convince voters to support him, he has the potential to restore people’s faith in city politics. That is desperately needed.

Randall Denley is a political commentator and author from Ottawa. Contact him at [email protected]

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