Many local issues are being discussed in this election, but Ottawa’s vibrant arts and culture scene doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. That’s a shame, because Ottawa is a heavy hitter in supporting a strong cultural sector. However, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the city’s arts scene, and it will take many years to rebound.
The Ottawa Cultural Alliance and Apartment613 are just two of many organizations devoted to fostering Ottawa’s arts and cultural scene. We jointly developed a candidate questionnaire and are publishing all the response we receive prior to Election Day on September 20. David Stibbe, Green Party candidate for Ottawa-West Nepean, was one of those who took the opportunity to respond. Check out the other candidate responses here.
What are your roots in the riding where you are running for office, and how have you been involved in the community?
I have lived in my riding for just over 17 years and my wife and I have raised both our daughters here. My riding involvement includes starting an award-winning tourism business in the riding, Ottawa City Rafting, that employs 15 to 20 local youth each year and also offers summer programming for children and youth through a variety of camps in partnership with Dovercourt. I also was part of the volunteer team that brought the Britannia Winter Trail to our community and continue to volunteer. I am also the founder and admin of the Friends of Mud Lake Facebook group, which helps connect people to this conservation area but also acts as the eyes and ears of issues surrounding this area. I am also working with Wesley Clover to help build a mountain bike trail system that can host youth races and work with camp providers to engage youth in this sport. Last but not least, I am a teacher. Though I do not work in our riding, I became a candidate because it was my students who asked me to prove what I preach. I teach Environmental Science, Geography, Civics, and Outdoor Ed. I always tell my students that to make real change, you need to become part of the process. They challenged me to become part of the process, so I did.
Why should our readers vote for you?
Your readers should vote for me because I actually want to represent the constituents in the riding, not the politics of the party. I believe federal politicians far too often are invisible at the community level and instead spend far too much time working on big-picture issues that are driven onto the agenda by the leaders of that party. I am not averse to working with municipal and provincial counterparts to make changes that help people at the riding level. There is money out there for projects, but sometimes it is so difficult to know where to look, who to speak with, and how to complete paperwork that important initiatives never get off the ground. I want to be a facilitator for change. I am a stubborn individual with a good nose for finding solutions and I know I could make a difference to peoples’ lives.
Cultural resources such as festivals, museums, and galleries play a critical role in the mental health of Ottawans. In fact, seven in 10 residents think cultural venues are important to mental health and well-being. They are places where our most vulnerable citizens can make social connections and be stimulated. Culture is arguably more important than ever as our economy and communities recover from the pandemic. What role do you see culture playing in the city’s reopening and recovery?
Culture is extremely important and the opportunity for all residents to find the cultural opportunities that are relevant to their community is very important. I also find that cultural opportunities have gravitated to the city centre and we need to bring some of these opportunities back to the regions outside of the city centre. The loss of the folk festival, which was at one time a great small festival at Britannia Beach, was very disappointing locally. For our riding, I would love to see a night market that would reflect some of our diverse cultures. Night markets were an amazing aspect of my travels and feel this is something we could create here in Ottawa West-Nepean. Similarly, I have many residents who are passionate cricket players. We have a lot of green space in Ottawa West-Nepean—we should have a cricket festival. I have a few other ideas as well, one of which I am actively pursuing as a fundraiser for our Britannia Winter Trail.
What specific investments will you support to assist and grow Ottawa’s cultural sector?
Investment for culture at this level needs to include municipal, provincial, and federal resources. I would be happy as an elected representative to advocate for federal dollars for this sector. Culture and tourism go hand in hand. Unfortunately our current government has focused on the big culture events, leaving out all the small events that actually help build local communities.