Mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney stays in their lane, runs their own race

Ottawa will elect a new mayor in October, and veteran city councillor Catherine McKenney, 61, is one of the front-runners of the race, according to a Mainstreet Research poll. McKenney, who uses they/them pronouns, strives to build an Ottawa that works for everyone and said they have a “very strong vision for the city.” McKenney […]
Photo: Magan Carty
More than 80 volunteers came out to canvass for McKenney on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Ottawa will elect a new mayor in October, and veteran city councillor Catherine McKenney, 61, is one of the front-runners of the race, according to a Mainstreet Research poll.

McKenney, who uses they/them pronouns, strives to build an Ottawa that works for everyone and said they have a “very strong vision for the city.”

McKenney has been the city councillor for Somerset Ward since 2014. They live in West Centretown with their wife and daughter and have roots in Ottawa’s downtown as well as the Kanata suburbs.

Prior to being elected to city council, McKenney was a political staffer for former councillors Alex Munter and Diane Holmes. They said they were “shared” by the Kanata and Somerset wards for a period, working for Munter in the mornings and Holmes in the afternoons.

I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked for some of the strongest and most progressive politicians in the city,” said McKenney.

Their mayoral platform includes working towards a greener, healthier and more connected Ottawa where climate change is at the centre of all decisions, everyone has a safe place to call home and transit is as reliable and affordable as possible.

“It’s a change. It’s bold. But I will stick to it, and I have the experience to make it happen. I am not promising anything I can’t deliver,” said McKenney.

They said they have a plan to ensure small businesses thrive in Ottawa’s growing community. They also pledge to restore trust, transparency and accountability at city hall.

We need voices that will fight for people,” they said.

When McKenney was working at city hall in 2011 as chief advisor to city manager Steve Kanellakos, they said they saw the mayor make serious cutbacks to transit operations and “knew it wasn’t going to work.”

“I could see more cuts coming and decided then to leave my job in administration and run for council,” said McKenney.

McKenney did not run against Holmes, their “favourite councillor of all time,” but filled her shoes upon retirement from 30 years in municipal politics.

According to Holmes, the upcoming election is a unique opportunity for change in Ottawa.

“Catherine has the vision and will to build the green, inclusive city we’ve been dreaming of,” said Holmes.

“They know what they want to accomplish and the steps to make it happen.”

McKenney delivers a speech at Capital Pride on Aug. 24, 2022.
McKenney delivers a speech at Capital Pride on Aug. 24, 2022. Photo credit: Courtesy/Media Kit

Eight years after replacing Holmes as city councillor of the Somerset ward, McKenney refuses to compromise their vision to earn votes for mayor.

“It’s extremely important I stay true to my values no matter what, even if it means I don’t win. No one should run for mayor just to have a job. You should do it because you genuinely care and believe you can make a difference,” they said.

The most positive part of McKenney’s run for mayor has been the “enormity” and “energy” of their campaign team.

“I’m surrounded and supported by so many people I’ve never met before, and the team just keeps on growing,” they said.

The most difficult part of their election process has been the “negativity that comes with campaigning”. They’ve received backlash for the price tag of some of their promises, including fare-free transit.

Mark Sutcliffe, another front-runner in the mayoral race, criticized McKenney’s plan to rapidly expand cycling infrastructure in Ottawa. He called it “incredibly expensive,” claiming it prioritized bicycles over cars and downtown over the rest of the city.

Negativity is to be expected in any election campaign, according to McKenney, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.

“I stood up to an illegal occupation for three weeks. I can withstand criticism,” they said.

Ottawa’s municipal election is happening Oct. 24.

If McKenney wins the election, the first thing they’ll do on the morning of Oct. 25 is get up at 5 a.m., as they always do, and go for a run. Immediately after, they’ll start to consider who they need to talk to – who will be able to transition Ottawa to a city that is healthy, green and connected.

“My first day as mayor will be in contemplation of who I need around the table to transition us and realize the potential of the city, McKenney said.

“We haven’t tapped into the expertise of people who live here. If I’m fortunate enough to be mayor, I intend to do that.”

To learn more about the other mayoral candidates and who is running for school board trustee or city council in your ward, visit ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/elections/2022-municipal-elections.

The Algonquin Times has also reached out to mayoral candidates Bob Chiarelli and Mark Sutcliffe for interviews. Follow the Times for ongoing coverage of the Ottawa municipal election.

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