By Charlie Senack
Ottawa’s new Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he’s hoping for a quiet transition into public office.
The well-known business owner and broadcaster from Kitchissippi was officially sworn in at City Hall Nov. 15, three weeks after being elected with more than 50 per cent of the vote.
“This whole experience has been wonderful and I’m really grateful to be the mayor of my hometown and serve the people of Ottawa,” Sutcliffe said in an interview with Kitchissippi Times a day after being sworn into office.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a little bit surreal to think about myself as the mayor of Ottawa. It’s also a little bit strange to realize that Jim Watson is not the mayor of Ottawa anymore because he was for so long.”
Sutcliffe took over from Watson, who led the city for 12 years over three terms.
Ottawa’s new mayor is no stranger to the community, growing up in McKeller park and founding the Kitchissippi Times almost 20 years ago in 2003.
“I moved into Kitchissippi in 1998, when I bought a home in Wellington West. I’ve lived there ever since,” Sutcliffe said. “I love the community, I love the character, and I love the people in Kitchissippi.”
Sutcliffe said he founded Kitchissippi Times to tell the stories of people in his community. He’s also known for his years as a talk-radio show host on both 1310 News and 580 CFRA. He moderated debates on Rogers TV during elections and hosted a national phone-in show on CPAC.
While his new job finds Sutcliffe on the other side of the microphone, he said his mission remains the same: serving the people of Ottawa.
This term’s council saw the biggest shakeup since amalgamation, with 11 new councillors around the table with Sutcliffe at the helm. He says he’s hoping to leave the divisiveness of the former term behind.
“I think we will see change and work really well together,” Sutcliffe said. “There is a spirit of cooperation. I think we all heard from the community that the residents of Ottawa expect council to work well together and I think we are going to be able to deliver that.”
Kitchissippi ward councillor Jeff Leiper, who has just started his third term in office, said he too foresees working well together.
“Many of us have the mayor’s cell phone number for the first time. Mayor Watson never shared his phone number,” Leiper said. “Working with Jim was through his chief of staff. I’m already engaged in multiple discussions with mayor Sutcliffe now.”
On swearing-in day after the official group portrait, Sutcliffe rounded up new and incumbent councillors for a selfie. Leiper said this small gesture symbolized a new era.
“We never took a selfie as a group with the mayor in the last term of council and that was one of the first things Mark did,” Leiper said. “It’s a different approach and it’s a more fun approach.”
Aware of Ottawa’s geographical spread, Sutcliffe said he wants to ensure that the needs of suburban, urban, and rural citizens are all reflected in city planning. He learned during the election campaign that Kitchissippi residents were most concerned about affordability, transportation, and access to city services.
“I heard about crime and safety from some residents. Housing is another issue because we need to build a lot more homes in Ottawa and people have concerns about where those homes are going to be built,” he said. “I also heard about intensification and the pros and cons about some of those issues.”
An early job the new council will be the budget – with the eternal challenge of balancing investments and ensuring savings. In 2021, Ottawa ended up with a $52 million surplus. This year it faces a predicted $12.2-million shortfall.
Sutcliffe said he hopes Ottawa residents will support his decisions and not have to worry about what the mayor is doing.
“I want them to feel like they can go about living their lives without worrying about municipal politics too much,” he said. “We just want to get things done on their behalf and deliver better services, better value for money, and make sure taxes aren’t going up too much.”