Candidates matter in a healthy democracy

Anthony Carricato (centre) walking with his campaign team in the Capital Pride Parade in August 2018

By Anthony Carricato

As many residents in Capital Ward will recall, I was a candidate for City Council in the 2018 municipal election. I met many of you along the way – at your front door, at a local event, during the all-candidates debates or waving you to work in the morning in different parts of our ward. Being a candidate is an experience I cherish. Learning more about the needs of our community, bringing people together, amplifying voices and promoting new ideas were the honour of my life.

Since then, many have come to know me as an active board member of the Glebe Community Association (GCA), as chair of the renewed Lansdowne Committee and through my setting up of the Glebe Community Pop-Up Art Gallery at Lansdowne. I am also a member of the GCA’s Planning Committee, a fundraiser for the Ottawa Food Bank during the Great Glebe Garage Sale and, to my neighbours on Fifth Avenue, a dogwalker who escorts our dogs Winston and Bruce while delivering the Glebe Report.

After much consideration, I have decided not to run again in the upcoming municipal election.

Four years ago, I decided to run because I felt our community was seeking a new vision and fresh energy at City Hall. In my role then as vice-president of the GCA, I saw first-hand the passionate desire our residents had to improve our community. This passion inspired me, and I met with David Chernushenko, our incumbent councillor at the time, to discuss my interest in municipal politics. Even though my candidacy might affect his chances of re-election, he was very supportive and encouraged me to run. Chernushenko knew that democracy needs citizens to challenge incumbents and their records, so they are held accountable.

Having always been drawn to public service and elected office, I thought, “why not me?” The moment I expressed this publicly, support from my neighbours and friends was incredibly positive, and I will forever be grateful to the volunteers and donors who supported me and my vision for Capital Ward and the City of Ottawa.

Running for office is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and the most rewarding. It’s an honour to stand up for our community and be considered by the voters. I vividly recall a man named Larry, whom I met on his front porch in Old Ottawa South; when he told me that I had earned his vote, I will never forget the sense of responsibility I felt after leaving his house.

But strong democracies don’t just need candidates; they also need volunteers and non-elected citizens who support our elected officials and public servants by offering their skills, knowledge and time to build a better city and keep our democratic institutions strong. After finishing fourth in the 2018 election, I still wanted to stay involved and to serve the community. I successfully applied to be one of the three citizen transit commissioners who joined eight councillors to make up the new Transit Commission. I was subsequently added to the Transit Fares Working Group and the ParaTranspo Working Group. It is an example of the many ways residents can serve their communities without being elected.

I will continue to support good candidates of all political parties and ideologies, because our differences make stronger representatives. After the events of this past winter in Ottawa, we can all agree that we need to listen to people we don’t agree with.

If you feel you have something to offer our community, you should absolutely consider running. Regardless of your success at the polls, your contribution will make a positive impact. Fresh leadership matters, new ideas matter, and new approaches to old problems matter. I am looking forward to following and cheering on all the candidates in this fall’s municipal election. We are all better off because of you.

Anthony Carricato is a former candidate for City Council (2018), Citizen Transit Commissioner, Glebe Community Association board member and resident of Fifth Avenue.

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