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Number of candidates eye political change in the city’s core

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By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun.

The downtown ward of Somerset could be an election battleground, judging by the candidates trying to wrestle the seat from incumbent councillor Diane Holmes.

Two of the candidates who registered Thursday — the first day to file municipal election papers ahead of the Oct. 27 vote — cited the ongoing LRT construction as one of the ward’s major issues entering into a new four-year term.

Thomas McVeigh, 42, is a restaurant manager and the president of the Centretown Citizens Community Association. He said he supported Holmes and was considering running in 2010 but decided it was too early. McVeigh now believes it’s time for a change.

Overseeing the construction of LRT through Centretown and handling the development proposal for the Chaudiere Islands are the main issues for Somerset, McVeigh said.

“The Chaudiere development on the horizon is going to be a massive city-changing project,” McVeigh said.

He also cited intensification, new towers and the “constant struggle” to maintain sidewalks.

Denis Schryburt, 48, is a federal public servant and has lived in the ward for most of his adult life.

“I think the biggest concern will be light rail, for sure,” Schryburt said, adding that he wants to make sure the Confederation Line is delivered on time and stays on budget.

Schryburt said the ward is hungry for “fresh ideas and new leadership,” which is why he’s entering the race.

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time and felt this is the time to do it,” Schryburt said.

Also filing papers Thursday to run in the Somerset ward was Lili Weemen, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

Holmes, 75, couldn’t be reached, although she has indicated she will seek re-election.

Taking Somerset ward means beating the popular incumbent who has steamrolled all who have challenged her in past elections.

Holmes won in 2010 with 66% of the vote when there were three other candidates. She captured 63% of the vote in 2006 and 61% in 2003.

The development of Ottawa’s downtown has always been an issue at City Hall and it’s at the core of several hot-button topics in Somerset ward.

The ward will have four LRT stations — including Bayview station, on the border of Kitchissippi ward — which will have focused development. Mobility issues, along with new construction, are big issues for residents and businesses of this central ward.

Outer neighbourhoods also feeling the pressure of new development. Little Italy is becoming home to some of Ottawa’s tallest condo towers.

eMail:  jon.willing@sunmedia.ca
Twitter: @JonathanWilling

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