know your politicians

There are many ways to find out important information about our elected officials.

Most voters form their impressions of politicians based on the taxpayer-funded, developer-subsidized propaganda that is delivered to them before and during elections. Media reports, photo ops and word of mouth also influence citizens’ opinions.

The best way, of course, to know which politicians are worthy of our support is to research the issues and actually meet and interact with the politician, but most voters don’t have the time or the opportunity to do that.

I have, and I don’t like what I see in College ward.

Here’s something that journalist Bruce Deachman in the Citizen came up with – putting the same personal questions to all of the municipal politicians.

Just be aware that the politician’s answers are carefully calculated to curry political favour with the readers.

Rick Chiarelli spins himself as the hip, smart-talking, lovable warrior for basic Conservative values, like nostalgia for the good old days of Nepean and Ben Franklin.

Liberal Jim Watson’s surrogate in Bay ward, Mark Taylor, comes off as a decent, God-fearing, prudent administrator with some soft-hearted values. I included him because many readers of this blog live in Crystal Beach-Lakeview and are often in Bells Corners.

Conservative Bob Monette’s shtick is selling himself as a plain-talking simple regular guy. I included him for contrast.

Here are Mr. Deachman’s photos:

Here are some of Mr. Deachman’s questions along with the answers the politicians and their political strategists came up with:

– What was the earliest thing you can recall wanting to be when you grew up?

Rick: Batman. So every Halloween I have gone out with my kids dressed as Batman. As far as they knew, I was Batman.

Mark: A fireman. There was a fireman’s helmet where I attended pre-school. There was only one in the trunk of dress-up clothes and I wanted it all to myself, all the time.

Bob: I had always wanted to be an RCMP officer.

– What was on your bedroom walls as a kid?

Rick: Posters of Ken Dryden, David Cassidy, John Lennon and a hockey puck hanging by a string from the ceiling just over my bed. I was a goalie. The puck taught me concentration.

Mark: Mostly posters of the solar system, planets and stars. I was a bit of a nerd that way.
Hockey and CFL photos.

Bob: Hockey and CFL photos.

– What comment most often appeared on your report cards?

Rick: “Richard needs to overcome his shyness.”

Mark: “Mark is a solid, reliable student who works hard and gets along well with classmates,” or some combination of those things.

Bob: “Needs to be more attentive in class.”

– If you could have 100 pounds of anything, what would you choose and why?

Rick: Cash. No, make that gold. My daughters want “things.”

Mark: Food. So I could donate it to the food bank. There are too many in our community, especially children, who go without.

Bob: Nothing that comes to mind.

– Weddings and births aside, if you could go back and re-live one day in your life, what would it be and why would you choose that day?

Rick: June 12, 1984. That was the day Catholic schools got full funding. Until that time they were in the ridiculous position of being funded to the end of Grade 10 only, forcing students to pay tuition for the upper years of high school. I was both the youngest person elected in Ontario and the head of the provincewide Catholic high school students association. We took the province to court on the issue. We helped get the political win and, eventually, the Supreme Court came out with a unanimous decision in our favour, ending an inequality that had stood since Confederation. Like songwriter Don MacLean, I have lived happily knowing I will never top my first important accomplishment.

Mark: The last day my mother was conscious before passing away in hospital. A sad day for sure, but I’d love to have told her so much more about how I thought she was the absolute best person I’d ever known, and how grateful I was to have been her son.

Bob: Dec. 10, 1991. That was the day that my mother passed away, and I was not able to see her before she passed on.

– What would your friends most like to change about you?

Rick: Well, it pertains to my sleek, panther-like physique.

Mark: You’d have to ask them, but likely, my tendency to tell them the same stories over and over again.

Bob: My assertive behaviour.

– What makes you squirm?

Rick: That thing from the movie Aliens that sticks to your face and people who openly show blanket disrespect to politicians but then, at the same time, decry the fact that young people are less interested in politics today and that voter turnout is declining.

Mark: June bugs. Hate them. They are like flying walnuts.

Bob: Snakes.

– What useless skill(s) do you possess?

Rick: My law degree. OK, I try to make some use of it during council debates, but that’s sort of like a surgeon using a scalpel to open an envelope.

Mark: Too many to count.

Bob: None that I am aware of.

– What are your favourite and least favourite buildings in Ottawa?

My favourite is Ben Franklin Place in Nepean. My least favourite was The Vox in Bells Corners, so we worked to get it torn down. Now my least favourite is the former Hooters also in Bells Corners. Hint, hint …

Mark: My favourite is Parliament. It’s a well of history. My least favourite is the old Shoppers City West, now demolished. Too many trips there as a kid to buy the annual school clothes.

Bob: Lansdowne Park is my favourite. I do not have a least favourite building because every building has some kind of character.

– What do you miss most?

Rick: Nepean, my girls being small, and being the only guy in Ottawa with an iPad.

Mark: Time. I wish I had more of it with my wife and two daughters. When we get it, I always feel like I didn’t make the best of it.

– What is the best thing you ever stole?

Rick: A line from former mayor Ben Franklin: “In politics, the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Mark: My wife’s heart.

Bob: I never stole anything.

– On what occasion have you most feared for your life?

Rick: Dave Smith and I were in Brno in the Czech Republic, right after the fall of communism. We had just raised several thousand dollars from Ottawa residents for a children’s hospital there. We were coming back from dinner when suddenly our tiny car was being chased by two automatic-weapon-toting, corrupt police officers in search of a shakedown. Dave was like James Bond at the wheel, eluding our pursuers and whisking through the twists and turns of unfamiliar roads that had no street signs (the signs had all been taken as souvenirs of the communist era). We screeched into the back parking lot of the darkened building we were staying at, ran inside and hit the deck, laying motionless on the floor until the flashing lights had disappeared.

Mark: I had an accident as a child where I fell through glass doors and over a second-floor balcony into thorny rose bushes. Lots of cuts and lots of blood. As a nine-year-old, I thought I was a goner.

Bob: None that I am aware of.

– Not including Ottawa, what is your favourite city and why?

Rick: Vienna. It’s clean, an overwhelming blend of history and modernity and people know how to work roundabouts.

Mark: Vancouver. I spent many summers there growing up and thought it was a beautiful city with so much to do for both visitors and residents.

Bob: Montreal, because of the vibrant atmosphere.

– What can you do better than anyone you know?

Rick: I have been told that I sometimes have the Curse of Cassandra. She was the ancient mythological character in the Aeneid who had the gift of being able to predict the consequences of today’s decisions and their future outcomes. However, she also suffered the countering curse that, no matter how often she was right or how much sense she made, nobody would ever listen to her.

Mark: Be patient.

Bob: Build alliances.

– Describe your ideal day off.

Rick: I would sleep in; then go skating or go to a hockey game with my family; then I would come home and write (I write screenplays for fun). At night, I would get Lida and the kids to watch a movie with me from the “hidden gems” section of the video store — or a random old movie.

Mark: Taking a day trip with my wife and two girls to any nearby town and exploring. Lunch and dinner in new places while enjoying the time spent with each other.

Bob: Spending the day with family and gardening.

– What piece of advice do you wish you’d received or heeded?

Rick: “Why don’t you go into hockey management and let your cousin Peter do the politics instead?”

Mark: I wish I’d received earlier in life the best piece of advice I now use to govern much of what I do: “Know what you know and know what you don’t know.”

Bob: Never get intimidated by anyone.

– Who or what will be the death of you, and what would you like your headstone to read?

Rick: Responding to e-mail at 2:30 in the morning and telling people what I really think. Headstone: “In the end, the race was only against himself ” or “He must have been doing something, because, in the end, he was doing it at a much higher level.”

Mark: I’m not really that stressed that I would say anything would be the death of me, but I would like my headstone to read: “To the ones I will meet again, see you soon. To those I won’t, so long, it’s been fun.”

Bob: “Family came first before anything else.”

Citizen readers’ comments:

– Michael Vickers: “Does family come before football?

It’s nice that Coun. Monette has for so long been keen on CFL football, but his single-minded support for the Lansdowne shopping centre/stadium scheme will certainly not be much good for my family or those of my neighbours that live adjacent to Lansdowne Park, when it permanently inundates our streets with more traffic and pollution.

And for all families throughout the City when it becomes clear just how bad a deal OSEG’s Lansdowne plan is for taxpayers:

I guess only his family, watching football, matters.”

Zeno: “Bob Monette epitomizes the small town politician that rose beyond his capabilities in a greater city of Ottawa. The signature quote from this interview “None that come to mind.” So very little did come to mind for Bob. Asking him to do the simple math on Lansdowne was too much.”

– MVO156: “Based on previous comments, we can see how people stretch a simple questionnaire into a full psychiatric evaluation. Mr. Monette is one of the most honest and dedicated politicians this city has.”

links to Mr. Deachman’s original stories:

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