“You’re not really having a conversation unless it’s two-way”

It turns out that knocking on over 5,000 doors over the summer is not only good exercise, but can also win an electoral campaign.

Katherine Hobbs, elected on Monday night as the new councillor for Ottawa’s Kitchissippi ward, referred to how she had lost 15 pounds during her dedicated door-to-door campaigning.

Hobbs beat the incumbent councillor Christine Leadman by approximately 600 votes, with 44 per cent of the total vote. She is one of 10 new faces on a new look city council, as four open seats were filled with newcomers and six incumbents fell.

The 40-strong crowd at Hobbs’ campaign office cheered each polling result, and erupted when the official result was announced at around 9 p.m. Her supporters, family, and friends spilled onto Wellington Street and drank champagne as they celebrated to Queen’s ‘We are the champions’.

When asked what her first step as councillor would be, Hobbs replied that she was going to first enjoy her victory.

“I’ll be heading next door for a beer, and a little bit of a party before heading back to the grind,” she said. “Kitchissippi residents can expect me to be in this community every day. I want to hear from everybody. I want to have a ward office and be accessible to everyone.”

Hobbs used to work at Scotiabank, Bell and Nortel.  She thinks that the business and negotiating skills gained through her work experience will be useful in dealing with developers in Kitchissippi. Intensification had been a hot campaign topic in the ward.

“You’re not really having a conversation unless it’s two-way – we need to get the voices of Kitchissippi heard.”

Kitchissippi is home to Westboro, which has developed into one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the city.

“Intensification and development are going to happen whether we like it or not,” Hobbs argued. “It’s my job to bridge the gap between the residents and the developers to make sure we all have a nice place to live.”

Criticism was also leveled at her predecessor, Leadman. Hobbs recalled how Leadman did not even vote on the crucial LRT issue at a city council meeting.

Hobbs’ campaign also stressed the need for Ottawa to attract more business and tourism, and that the city should tap into Chinese and Asian markets.

She was also highly critical of the 14 per cent tax increase the city has witnessed. “We need take a tighter check on what we’re spending and how we’re spending it,” Hobbs stated. “We have to make sure we have a vision for the city, and that we’re developing a blueprint to get there. We don’t need $100,000 spent on the Nepean equestrian park because they need better lights for horse shows. That’s wasted money. There are schools that don’t have regulation soccer fields.”

Despite this criticism, Hobbs was optimistic with the new faces on the city council, including a new mayor in Jim Watson.

“I’m looking forward to working with a mayor who can bring prosperity to the city, be a great leader, and somebody who will attract the world’s eye, because this is a capital city.”

In reference to the outgoing mayor, Larry O’Brien, she added, “I’m looking for a forward-looking mayor, and not someone who will march backwards, and not re-negotiate things and hit the reset button.”

Linda Davis, the former Kitchissippi councillor from 1994 to 2000, was present at Hobbs’ campaign office. She called Hobbs, “an extraordinary candidate for an extraordinary ward.”

Voter Georges Bouliane echoed Davis’ sentiments on Hobbs. “I liked her platform – her views on the environment. She’ll be good for the ward, but also for the city.”

Daniel Stringer, one of the other candidates, came over personally to congratulate Hobbs.

“A change was needed,” he said. “The past councillor no longer had the ward’s support.”

Leadman, the former councillor, was not available for comment. One of Hobbs’ campaign managers reported that Leadman had phoned to congratulate Hobbs’, but refused to do so directly.

The sounds of celebration emanated late into the night from Hobbs’ supporters. This was in stark contrast to Leadman’s empty, unlit campaign across Wellington Street.