Why are some people attracted to politics and others not?
Shawn Little, now 45, represented Kitchissippi on Ottawa council from 1997 to 2006. After a four-year break, he is going after Bay ward — a seat recently vacated by mayoral candidate Alex Cullen.
In an interview with Xtra at the Bay home previously owned by his grandparents, Little says the biggest thing he misses about the job is the personal touch he had with his constituents. The son of two teachers says he still enjoys walking through the neighbourhood and speaking with people about community issues. Even when he was away from politics, collecting cheques from a sales job and later as the head of a local high-tech firm, he never left his people. He remained active in Bay ward community affairs, a place he has called home for the last 16 years.
“Being away from city hall gave me time to do things I always wanted to do. It also gave me time to reflect,” says Little.
Anyone can Google Little’s name and read about the controversy he faced while in office. In his 2000 election campaign, he was charged with overspending $2,600. Charges were later stayed, but the case left him in near financial ruin. His personal life was also marked by the battle. While in office, he was sued by his mother over a house he bought from her. Earlier this year, he was in court after he and his former roommate and former partner had an altercation at home. His roommate was charged, but he was later acquitted.
“We were roommates by that point. I was thrown a few curves in life, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” says Little, adding that while both his professional and personal life are in order, his personal life remains “personal.”
But if one looks deeper, Little’s legacy as an effective councillor emerges.
When Little first took the Kitchissippi seat, the ward was plagued with crime and economic uncertainty. Every third shop in Westboro was empty, many buildings abandoned. Hintonburg had 67 known problem rental properties, and a keen eye could see used drug needles nearly everywhere. In less than 10 years, with his time and the will of the community, both neighbourhoods changed: Westboro and Hintonburg continue to thrive and are often rated the most desirable neighbourhoods to live in Canada.
“What was done in Kitchissippi can be done anywhere if we put our minds to it and have the proper things in place,” says Little.
Little says he can do the same thing for Bay ward as he did in Kitchissippi. He says he wants to work with local businesses and the community and do something about the “dog’s breakfast” in the ward. And to help the area’s seniors and youth, he hopes to bring more facilities and programming. He also wants a community police office on Ritchie St to deal with crime and work with minorities.
Currently, there are 10 candidates contending for Bay ward, including Terry Kilrea, who made headlines after he alleged he was offered an appointment to drop out of the 2006 mayoral race against current mayor Larry O’Brien.