New Faces at City Hall: Meet David Brown and Clarke Kelly who will represent Ottawa’s rural neighborhoods

New Rideau-Jock and West Carleton-March councilors bring political experience and rural priorities

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Ottawa elected 11 new city councilors Monday night, who bring a range of life and professional experiences and perspectives to city government. We spoke with each of them about their ambitions for their first mandates.

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There are two new councilors elected in the four wards that make up rural Ottawa; both men in their 30s with behind-the-scenes experience in politics and lifelong residencies in the communities that just voted them out.

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As David Brown and Clarke Kelly come to the council table with priorities that reflect life in Ottawa’s most remote neighborhoods, they say they want to work constructively with all their new colleagues, regardless of their proximity to the Greenbelt.

David Brown, Rideau Jock

David Brown is Rideau-Jock's new councillor.  Jean Levac/Postmedia
David Brown is Rideau-Jock’s new councillor. Jean Levac/Postmedia Photo by Jean Levac /Postmedia

David Brown promised the residents of Rideau-Jock that if elected, he would not change the cell phone number he gave during the election campaign.

Now, the 31-year-old future councilor is gearing up to answer the calls of his new constituents, who span 11 different villages and rural communities in the sprawling southern Ottawa neighborhood he won a resounding mandate to represent.

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Incumbent Scott Moffatt is stepping down after three terms and Brown was able to earn the victory that eluded him when he went from Moffatt staffer to challenger in 2018. Brown easily defeated his handful of opponents with 67% of the vote cast, and connects his important votes count for the resonance with the locals of the ideas with which he ran.

Roads were the hot-button issue at the gates, Brown said, and he expects their budget funding will be the first initiative he will focus on at City Hall. It’s a priority he sees shared by new mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who has pledged $100 million over four years to improve roads, sidewalks and improve maintenance. And it’s a shared concern across all four rural neighborhoods, according to Brown, who wants to work with those colleagues so they can bring a collective voice to move the issue forward.

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“Roads are the primary public asset used by residents of rural Ottawa because we don’t have direct access to many of the other programs and services offered by the city.

« Everyone has their own particular road that they want to fix. But that’s the general message: ‘Just fix the road.' »

His campaign material also called for an « independent budget watchdog » to review city spending, argued that council’s next term should involve finding an alternative to its current practice of disposing of waste at the Trail Road landfill with waste-to-energy technology available to cities, and pointing to the state of the city’s finances, outlined his view that the next council must « respect taxpayers and admit that he cannot do everything.

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Having worked for Moffatt and Carol Anne Meehan at the municipal level as well as Jeremy Roberts, then PC MP, and Pierre Poilievre, MP for Carleton, Brown has plenty of experience observing politicians in action. Site visits are something he’s done throughout his decade in politics (before that he worked in dairy farming), and one he plans to incorporate into his own practice as an adviser, as well as regular meetings with the leaders of all the community associations in the neighborhood as a kind of “neighborhood council”.

“I want residents to be able to call me directly. I want them to have that sense of access and that sense of openness,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, the local government is the one that is closest to the inhabitants. And so I hope to be able to embody that kind of style as we move forward into the next term of the board.

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Clarke Kelly, West Carleton-March

Clarke Kelly is the new councilor for West Carleton-March.
Clarke Kelly is the new councilor for West Carleton-March.

West Carleton-March has always been the home of Clarke Kelly. Today, he and his young family live one door down from the house where he grew up.

He believes his deep roots in the community, as well as a strong country field game, are what landed him at the top of a crowded field to replace longtime ward councilor Eli El-Chantiry. .

Although Kelly’s professional background includes working for Liberal MPs Karen McCrimmon (now retired) and Ryan Turnbull, he says his campaign’s supporters and volunteers represented the entire political spectrum –– and that’s a point of pride.

Kelly, 35, tendered his resignation on Parliament Hill in June when he decided to run for municipal office, and not just focus on full-time campaigning, but also « cut all ties I had with partisan politics. »

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One of the reasons he was drawn to municipal politics is that there is no party system, said Kelly, who has noticed in recent years that political discourse at other levels of government, in Canada and south of the border,hasn’t been very productive or respectful » and wants to strive for consensus in his work on the board.

Needs in rural neighborhoods are different from those in urban neighborhoods, he noted, but he rejects the idea that a divide is inevitable between those who represent each type.

“What a councilor wants to achieve for his constituents may not be the same as what I want to achieve for mine. And that’s not a problem. It’s just a conversation we’re going to have to have and it’s going to have to be give and take and compromise. And that’s how you build consensus, and I think that’s how you build the best possible policies for the greatest number of people.

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Kelly said he only made a few campaign promises because he wanted to be realistic with residents about his ability to deliver on his promises as sole council member, but those promises he made included fighting for « development practices that are less destructive to natural habitats », working with colleagues on the issue of ambulances not being available when needed (known as « level zero ») and pushing for a review of the city’s procurement process « to ensure residents and ratepayers receive the best value for their money. »

He also wants to create constituency and agriculture advisory councils and hold town hall meetings to discuss projects and issues specific to the various communities in the neighborhood, which spans more than 700 square kilometers.

« A year from now, if more people in West Carleton feel like their voice matters or that they’ve had an influence or at least some sort of say in the process of how the city creates its policies and goes from forward from now on, so I think I will definitely have achieved one of my main goals.

Ottawa's 11 new city councilors stopped for a photo before their first real
Ottawa’s 11 new city councilors stopped for a photo before their first real « school » day, at City Hall, learning the ropes of serving on council. Sean Devine: Knoxdale-Merivale Jessica Bradley: Gloucester-Southgate Steve Desroches: Riverside South/Findlay-Creek Wilson Lo: Barrhaven East Photo by Julie Olivier /Postmedia

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