Speech at Key to the City to Paul Dewar

Speech at Key to the City to Paul Dewar

Catherine McKenney, Councillor, Somerset Ward

November 1st, 2018

 

I first met Paul in January 2004….I actually met Ed Broadbent and Paul Dewar on the same day in a coffee shop on Bank Street. 

 

They were running against each other for the Ottawa Centre NDP nomination I had been brought in to help manage them through that process to choose a candidate to run in the upcoming federal election.  I remember thinking, “Wow, I am sitting here in a local shop with Ed Broadbent and Marion Dewar’s son!….Paul”  

 

And my job, in a nutshell, was to ensure that Paul lost that nomination.  And he did. But he did with a type of style and grace that I had never witnessed before or since in politics.

 

530 votes were cast in that nomination election that night….we never learned the final outcome….except that Ed was going to be our candidate here in Ottawa Centre and Paul won every heart in the place

  

And as the cycle of politics (and life) would have it….a year and a half later Paul would step into the role… and he confirmed everything we learned about him when we first met him…he was special….and I remember thinking “this is the type of guy who everyone should have as a brother….because what a better world this would be if we all grew up with Paul Dewar”

I had the privilege and good fortune to work for Paul when he was our Member of Parliament…..but more fortunate though, I became his friend.  

So I’ve been thinking my friend about what it means to give you the key to the City.  It is a very cool honour.  And no one is more deserving.  

 

But it seems to me that when you give someone the key to your place you should probably tidy it up and make it as safe and comfortable as possible.

So let’s think about what a safe and comfortable City would look like….what kind of City we are striving to become….and what kind of City you - Paul - would want to have a key to:

 

First, we would constantly challenge ourselves to address our affordable housing crisis…..we would work to ensure that no one is living on our streets or languishing in our emergency shelters or substandard rooming houses.  

 

Instead, we will do everything in our power to house and support our most vulnerable….  

Including the over 800 youth who use shelters every year…

Queer kids who make up a disproportionate number of our homeless population….

The First Nations, Metis and Inuit who are either in shelters or precariously housed….

And the close to 200 families living in motels.

So before you use that key we’ll pledge to you that we will do the work necessary to take care of all of these residents.

Next, we’ll make sure that our youth are well cared for.  For starters, we will continue to give kids in higher risk neighbourhoods real opportunity for education and employment through programs like Youth Futures and Operation Come Home.  

But we’ll begin even earlier than that by providing affordable recreation programming across all of our neighbourhoods. Because, why spend our money on guns and gang strategies later on when we can keep kids active and mentally and physically healthy today?  

So hold onto that key for just a bit longer until we’ve met this challenge.

And last, we’ll make sure that everyone, regardless of their status is able to access our City services without fear of being detained or deported.  We’ll all move over a bit and provide sanctuary to those who were not as privileged or fortunate as we were to be born here.  This wouldn’t even cost us anything.  We would simply not do the federal government’s job for them and instead we would make Ottawa a sanctuary for people fleeing persecution elsewhere….just as your mom did.

So Paul….this is our pledge to you.  Before you use that key we will take care of our most vulnerable, our residents who are street involved and those who have fallen into homelessness;  we will ensure that our city is a sanctuary in these times of hatred and fear; and, we will take care of our kids ….. because as you have taught us….they are our future and the kids who need our help the most….have the most to offer back.  

Catherine McKenney