By Jared Davidson –
It was crowded in the Carleton Tavern the night Yasir Naqvi’s 10-year run as Ottawa Centre’s MPP came to an end. As the results rolled in, it became quickly apparent that the riding chose Joel Harden of the NDP and Yasir’s term was at an end, even before the nominee had arrived at his own election day party.
By the time Yasir arrived, thanks to the speed of the new voting machines, the race was decided. With 32 per cent of the vote, Yasir was edged out by Joel Harden’s 46 per cent share.
And so, as the MPP took to the tavern’s stage, the mood was distinctly subdued. This was a crowd whose party had suffered a historic loss, and yet they raised their glass to the man who had brought them there. Yasir stood beside his wife and in front of numerous red campaign signs, and he spoke to the news of the evening, to the Progressive Conservative majority that was only just being confirmed by the televisions at the bar.
His primary message, though, was more personal. He stood before the crowd, thankful for their support, but also for their friendship.
“Thank you for making me do better every single time,” he said. “I’m a better human being because of you.”
As the applause faded and he migrated through the crowded bar, his supporters thronged. The tone was congratulatory. Yasir had lost, true, but for the throngs in that tavern he would forever be a winner.
“Yasir has been an incredible MPP,” says Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper. “He as always fulfilled that promise he made to us to be an MPP first.”
He spoke of Yasir’s attention to progressive issues within the ward, something he hopes will continue under Joel Harden. Others, like MP Catherine McKenna, highlighted Yasir’s support of community investment and infrastructure, as well as his stance on climate change.
“For sure I’m disappointed,” said Catherine of Yasir’s loss. “Yasir Naqvi really delivered.” The minister listed light rail, affordable housing, footbridges, and his commitment to progressive rights among his accomplishments.
But on election night, Yasir was more interested in talking about the impact the community has had on him. He reflected on his 10 years in office, representing the riding and the ward.
“I’ve grown up a lot as an individual,” he says. “The community had taught me a lot.”
Since taking office, Yasir has married and started a family. His life, as he points out, would not be the same without Ottawa Centre. And though it is unclear what is next for Yasir, in his usual upbeat manner he told the media of his plan to make pancakes for his family the next morning, now a free man. Still, there’s a note of heaviness to his demeanor. He is sad to go.
“I want the community to continue to grow,” he says, pointing to the new campus of The Ottawa Hospital and increased zoning diversity along the LRT corridor.
“I’m a firm believer in democracy. People are always right and this is a part of that,” he says when asked for his feelings on the loss. There is no doubt that Yasir will be missed by many who respected his work in the community for years to come.