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'I'm not the villain in this story,' mayoral candidate Sutcliffe slams 'trolls'

Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe speaking on CTV Morning Live on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022
Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe speaking on CTV Morning Live on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022   | Image Source:

Ottawa mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe is calling for civility, saying community members and elected officials who have attacked him are contributing to a "toxic environment" at City Hall.

"I was expecting trolls," he told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday. "What I didn't expect was that there are people who don't think they're trolls, but act like trolls."

“There are people who are even in elected office or have other roles in our community who want a certain outcome in this election, who support another candidate and think it's okay to be abusive or to be bullied or personally attack people who are also applying for the same job," he added.

"I think these people, some of the people I'm talking about, should know better, frankly, and not contribute to what has become a toxic environment in politics, including Ottawa City Hall."

Sutcliffe did not name names. But the media personality and entrepreneur has faced heat on social media for what critics say is divisive issues in the campaign. For example, Sutcliffe said he would not declare "war on cars" or other means of transport.

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Sutcliffe is one of 14 mayoral candidates in the Oct. 24 election, along with City Councilor Catherine McKenney, former Mayor Bob Chiarelli and others.

Sutcliffe said this in an interview on Tuesday when asked what the biggest surprise of the campaign was for him. He said his 13-year-old son had read some of the criticism online and heard about it at school.

"It's something that you worry about, that you may encounter and that your children may encounter," he said. “They hear about things at school, their friends know their dad is running for mayor, and their friends read things online and repeat it to them,” he said. “I don't think any family should have to go through that.

"There's a lot of stuff on the internet, I'm sure all the candidates will experience that, not just me," he said. “If you want to attack the ideas I'm presenting or my vision for the city, that's one thing. But personal attacks against my integrity and honor, I don't think it's right," he added.

“I'm just raising my hand and saying I'm ready to serve my community as mayor of Ottawa if you want me to. And if not, that's okay. I'm fine. Life will go on. But I'm not the villain in this story. I'm just a person trying to serve my community."

Some current city councilors who are not running for re-election have cited increased online abuse as a reason they are not staying in public life. And McKenney, who identifies as trans non-binary, has faced constant attacks on social media during his two terms on the council.

Sutcliffe said this was unacceptable in any setting.

"I know some people would say ... if you didn't want any of it, you shouldn't have gone into politics," he said. "But we don't say that about other jobs. If it's a toxic workplace or if there's bullying going on in schools, we don't say, 'Oh, you shouldn't work there if you don't want that environment.' We try to fix that."

Sutcliffe says tax plan will be 'based on reality'

Sutcliffe has yet to reveal his fiscal plan and said they will soon have a "very clear answer" to his tax plan. Meanwhile, he criticized the other candidates' tax obligations as unrealistic.

"Bob Chiarelli said he's freezing taxes — that's not realistic, that's a political stunt," he said. “Catherine McKenney said they would stay within the three per cent tax increase. … “Many of the promises Catherine is making right now are costing the city hundreds of millions of dollars, so it's not realistic that they should come to three percent.

"We will have a number, but it will be based on reality, not a political promise."

Sutcliffe says he's not 'Watson 2.0'

Sutcliffe was characterized as a candidate for founding the company. His list of 24 honorary campaign co-chairs includes a number of current and former politicians.

Among other things, Bob Chiarelli called Sutcliffe "Watson 2.0" and said he was running as a status quo candidate to follow in the footsteps of current Mayor Jim Watson.

Sutcliffe said it doesn't bother him, but it's not true.

“If you look at who is most like Jim Watson in this race, it's not me. It's Bob Chiarelli,” he said, noting that both men served as mayor of Ottawa and provincial Liberal cabinet ministers representing Ottawa West-Nepean.

"I'm not a career politician like Jim Watson and Bob Chiarelli," he said. "There's nothing wrong with spending your career in politics, but I've served my community in other ways."

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