Ottawa
9 min

The race for Somerset Ward

Responding to the needs of the GLBT community

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Councillor Elisabeth Arnold’s departure from city council has set off a heated race in the Somerset Ward for the Nov 10 municipal elections.



Arnold has been at City Hall for nine years and has been a visibly strong supporter of the gay and lesbian community. Somerset Ward’s gay and lesbian voice has been very important to city council and traditionally, councillors in this ward have been supportive of the GLBT community.



But Arnold’s departure from council, along with that of Alex Munter, has led to a perception that gay and lesbian issues – such as funding for services, homelessness and safety in the community – will not receive the attention they merit.



There are seven candidates vying for her seat on a council whose priority will be to identify cost savings of $120 million in the city’s operating budget.



***

BILL DRIVER



Bill Driver is a former Bank of Montreal employee who has held a variety of jobs. He was a truck loader and member of CUPE Local 1338, where he was secretary and treasurer and involved in grievance and negotiation. He has been active in various community associations and is a former member of two political parties.



His number one priority is the fact that a lot of people are losing faith in democracy. He says the current council was “out to lunch” on financial and planning issues.



Driver says it will be a tough three years and he would like to see a fighter and someone with political smarts representing Somerset Ward.



***

DIANE HOLMES



Holmes was first elected to Ottawa City Council in 1982 and served as regional councillor for Somerset Ward from 1994 to 2000. After amalgamation, the regional councillor position disappeared. Holmes retired and pursued volunteer interests.



Holmes says she will speak out for strong communities supported by safe and secure residential neighbourhoods, connected by efficient public transit.



Holmes says she will support responsible administration: wise investment in public and human services, controlling the high cost of urban growth.



***

DAVID MACDONALD



MacDonald came to Ottawa 10 years ago to pursue a law degree at the University of Ottawa, graduating in 1996. He was called to the bar in 1998 and began a solo practice at Preston and Somerset. He was a duty counsel at the landlord and tenant tribunal advocating on behalf of tenants.



In 2001, he took a position with the federal government in the Intellectual Property Office as senior trademarks examiner. Prior to law school, MacDonald owned and operated a small business in Toronto for five years. Former candidate Mike Jung supports MacDonald.



MacDonald says he will demand that developers set reasonable and fixed affordable housing objectives to increase rental housing availability.



MacDonald says we need to spur economic growth by cutting taxes, red tape and regulations, which stifle the growth of small businesses.



Capital Xtra attempted on several occasions to reach David MacDonald for an interview. MacDonald did not return any calls.



***

WILLIAM A OSTAPYK



Ostapyk was born, raised, educated and lives in Somerset Ward. He is a former school board trustee of 15 years, and a retired high school teacher of 40 years.He attended Carleton University, St. Francis Xavier University, the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Teacher’s College.



Ostapyk sees balancing the budget without raising taxes or going into debt as a priority.



***

SOTOS PETRIDES



Petrides is a local businessman and former activist who describes his platform as pro-environment and pro-business. He is the owner/operator of a small project management firm that specializes in market branding and offers workshops on energy efficiency. He holds a diploma in journalism from Humber College in Toronto and a Bachelor of Social Sciences from the University of Ottawa.



Petrides says Somerset Ward is home to seniors, the young, a vibrant gay and lesbian community and many who ride bikes, walk and shop in the area.



Petrides says we need to ensure the area is safe and boasts a healthy balance for both work and leisure.



***

DAWN PICKERING



Pickering is a trained marketing professional, facilitator and strategic business planner. She is currently the corporate planner for the Standards Council of Canada and a business planning consultant. She has held previous positions in marketing and communications with the Standards Council of Canada, the University of Ottawa Sports Services and Public Works and Government Services Canada.



Originally from Chatam, Pickering moved to Ottawa a decade ago to pursue an undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa.



Pickering says the city must find strategic solutions so Ottawans can rely on the services and lifestyle they demand, and still make sure there is fiscal accountability.



Pickering says police should work towards a “tough-but-smart” policy in which they will aggressively police lower-level crimes to enhance our sense of safety and decrease overall crime.



***

STEVE SWEENEY



Sweeney has operated his own software consulting business for the past three years. He moved to Ottawa in 1997 to accept a position and over the next six years worked in various fields of software development.



Sweeney attended Wilfred Laurier on full scholarship and earned his Honours Bachelor of Science in computing and computer electronics. He went on to a Master of Science degree in physics from the University of Guelph, where he also worked as a research associate beginning in 1995.



Sweeney says the city of Ottawa is facing a $170 million deficit for 2004. Once the budget is released we will need to find out where spending went out of control, work ourselves out of this deficit and commit to keeping the budget balanced.



Sweeney says making Ottawa officially bilingual has more to do with a political agenda than serving the population. Instead the city of Ottawa should focus on meeting the needs of a growing, multicultural society through innovative and cost-effective programs.



***

QUESTION PERIOD



How do you see the “gay vote” factoring in the results of the election for Somerset Ward?



Driver: This ward has probably one of the largest gay populations in the city and it is an important factor in the election.



Holmes: There are quite a number of the GLBT community that live in Somerset Ward so I think it’s a significant factor. Most of them are politically active and they follow municipal affairs – so they do watch what the candidates are saying and what their positions are – so that’s useful. I am very supportive of the GLBT community and their various issues and have been for many years so I try to make that clear when I’m talking to people.



Ostapyk: I think it will definitely have an influence.



Petrides: I think that the “gay vote”will have a strong bearing on the results.I think that the “gay vote” probably represents about 25 percent of the voter turnout. That’s going to be my prediction, anyway.”



Pickering: Obviously, there is a very large gay population in Somerset and their voices are very important. I hope they are going to go out and vote. In terms of who they would vote for, there is certainly quite a number of candidates to choose from and I believe that most of them are certainly in a position where they are supporting the gay community, although some, maybe, more actively than others.



Sweeney: As far as I’m concerned, the “gay vote” is simply another group of citizens so their vote matters the same amount as everybody else’s vote does.



***

The new council will face tough financial decisions. Where do you stand on the role of the city in helping provide services to the GLBT community?



Driver: One ofthe measures that you judge a true democracy by is how it treats its minorities. The community is a minority, but it has concerns like any other minority group and it’s up to governments to respond to those concerns and give them equal consideration. This is one of the problems we have, politicians tend to play this “divide and rule” game, favouring one group one day and another group the next.



Holmes: Yes, it’s quite unclear, really,as to what the financial situation is going to be because we don’t know whether we’re going to get the provincial and federal funding that the city has been asking for for some time. So how big the financial problem will be? I don’t know.



But certainly, one of my priorities will be the GLBT community in Somerset Ward and its needs. So I would not be voting to cut any of those kinds of services, in fact I know that the GLBT community has more needs than we are fulfilling at the moment. So, for things like Pink Triangle Services etc we want to maintain the funding.



Ostapyk: Well right now, with the budget, it’s a difficult situation. I wouldbe open to any new initiative or support system after, and only after, the budgethas been balanced, we’ve paid off our debts and we’re right up to date without having to raise taxes or carrying a debt like the city of Toronto. I don’t want to see Ottawa get into a debt situation. The city council that’s in existence now, they should have satisfied this situation but they’re leaving it for the new council.



Petrides: Instead of cutting existingservices or raising taxes, I believe that the best approach would be to have a four percent hold-back on all programs, on all budgets. That doesn’t mean that the groups involved don’t get that money,it means that on a quarterly basis, if they want that four percent they have to makea case for it… those programs that seriously need the money will step up and request it. There will be other managers who will feel that for four percent they may be able to get some of their suppliers to sharpen their pencils; they may be able to eliminate something that won’t have an obvious effect on services.



I believe that having a four percent hold-back that is reviewed on a quarterly basis will help us recover some of the overrun. Which in turn will keep services at the level that they are. The only people that are really going to come back for that money are the health services.



Pickering: I know that there have been some efforts in the GLBT community to try and establish a new centre in the ward. That’s something that I certainly think is well needed. And if resources are available I would certainly support having them attributed there. Of course, you know that we’re in a budget situation where we have a… shortfall, so that’s going to make it tough to get funds to some of the interest groups like (the GLBT community) that have very valid needs.



I’m in a position where I would definitely like to see some funding attributed to causes like the centre, but how muchI can’t really say at this point. With program review happening we obviously have to prioritize. I will say I believe in balanced funding and it would be much better to have every group get some level of funding than to give larger amounts of funding to certain groups.



Sweeney: It’s critical that the council deals with the deficit and then providesa balanced budget going forward. Now,the definition of essential services may vary, but there are going to be optional services that are going to come under scrutiny. And I don’t think that I would make my decisions based on the definitions of the groups that benefit from such services, whether it’s the gay, lesbian and bisexual community that views it as an essential service or whether or not it’sthe seniors community that views it asan essential service. It has to be from the city’s perspective whether or not something is an essential service.



***

What will you do to ensure Ottawa remains a safe city for the GLBT community?



Driver: “Everybody has a right to be treated with respect,” says Driver.And although he says he has more gay women friends than gay male friends he sees a police bias against gay males.



“I know that the police hate gays,”he adds, “they hate’em, gay males, they hate’em and they cheer every time one of them gets beat up or whatever, I know that for a fact because I’ve talked to one of the police officers. There is that bias. And here again, the police should be neutral.”



Holmes: We want to make sure that the liaison committee that works with the police service stays in place. I was instrumental in helping set that up and it has been very successful and copied throughout Canada. I would certainly want to make sure that that remains and that we have a good working relationship between the GLBT community and the police.As well, to ensure the lines of communication between council and councillors and their local communities. Certainly, I would work in conjunction with the local GLBT community and its various groups -and there are many groups – you certainly want to make sure that the communication is there so that the needs are clearly expressed to the councillors. I would certainly continue to meet with the full range of groups: the service groups, and I know there’s a group interested in a new GLBT community centre and providing better health services and the whole range of GLBT community service needs.



Ostapyk: I was thinking of introducing something along the lines that for anykind of aggressive behaviour to anyonewe could set up some kind of by-law where there would be an initial fine and if it’s a second offense it will become an exorbitant fine.



Petrides: I’m a strong believer in safe streets and I’m a strong believer in working with the police services board in ensuring that there is community policing, that there is more police and more compassionate policing. So we have safer streets not just for GLBT but for seniors.



Pickering: Obviously, we want to make sure that everyone feels safe in their community. We want to make sure that thereare not hate crimes that are being perpetrated, especially in our ward because, as you know, we have a very large and diverse group of various ethnic minorities, interest groups, the GLBT community and so on. And every one of them certainly has concerns with respect to their safety. At all costs we want to protect the safety of these people – and of all people, you don’t have to be a member of a minority group to have your safety in the community protected.



Sweeney: We want to ensure that Ottawa is a safe community for all members of the community, but certainly making sure that there is an adequate police policy and police presence whenit comes to crimes targetted against the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. Regardless of people’s preferences or outlooks or philosophical stances in life they should have a feeling of being safe where they choose to live and how they chooseto live.