I watched the mayoral debate on CBC television Tuesday evening, and soon realized that we have an anti-bike candidate running to be Ottawa’s next mayor. His name is Mark Sutcliffe.
During the debate, Mark Sutcliffe made a point of repeatedly attacking and ridiculing Catherine McKenney’s plan to make “Ottawa a world-class city for cycling” by spending $250 million on cycling infrastructure over the next four years. In recent weeks Mark Sutcliffe has made his attacks on McKenney’s cycling plan a major theme of his campaign.
This is significant because Mark Sutcliffe and Catherine McKenney are the front runners in the mayoral race. Given the tight nature of this race, it’s possible we could not only lose out on a sizable investment in cycling infrastructure, we could be stuck with a mayor who got elected on an anti-cycling platform.
In the past Mark Sutcliffe often portrayed himself as someone who is sympathetic to active transportation (walking, cycling, etc) because of his background in promoting running and other physical activities. However, this image of Sutcliffe appears to be at odds with what he is now saying on the campaign trail.
In attacking McKenney’s cycling plan, he goes out of his way to pander to any anti-cycling sentiment that may exist with some people who live in Kanata, Orléans, and Barrhaven, and who often depend on their cars to get around. Moreover, he insinuates bike lanes work against the interest of people who bring their children to hockey practices and elderly parents to medical appointments. (An emotive tactic if ever there was one.)
[View the CBC debate on transportation ]
(advance to time 6:10 for what Sutcliffe has to say about cycling)
In pursuing his campaign strategy, Sutcliffe has also taken a page out of Rob Ford’s play book when he tries to paint McKenney’s cycling plan as a ‘war on cars‘. This tactic has worked so well, the debate moderator even referenced ‘war on cars’ when posing a question about Catherine McKenney’s position on transportation issues. (I note that the moderator didn’t challenge Mark Sutcliffe about a ‘war on cyclists’.)
In this particular context, it looks like Mark Sutcliffe is the new Rob Ford. (For those of you with short memories, Rob Ford was the notorious anti-bike mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014. He was very fond of saying that he would end the ‘war on cars’.)
When criticizing Catherine McKenney’s position on cycling, Mark Sutcliffe likes to say he has a balanced approach on transportation matters. He has made a habit of repeating ‘balanced approach’ ad nauseam when campaigning. Needless to say, he has nothing of the sort, but the words ‘balanced approach’ have become political code for ‘I’m your anti-bike candidate’.
I have to laugh a bit when I hear Mark Sutcliffe use the word ‘balanced’ when describing his position vis-a-vis cycling issues. You only have to think about it for a few seconds to realize how unbalanced the situation really is when you look at the infrastructure that has been put in place for cars compared to what has been put in place for cycling. In reality, it’s actually Catherine McKenney that has the ‘balanced approach’. Unfortunately, Mark Sutcliffe has corrupted the meaning of these words in the same way that the so-called Freedom Convoy corrupted the meaning of displaying or flying the Canadian flag under various circumstances.
I hope cyclists turn out and vote in municipal elections on October 24, 2022.