Doug Thompson vows to stick up for rural residents.

The former city councillor for Osgoode Ward, and former mayor and councillor of the Municipality of Osgoode, Doug Thompson, has thrown his hat into the ring once again. Thompson spent over 30 years in the municipal office and says he stepped away in 2014 when he felt the city was on a “pretty solid footing.”

It quickly becomes apparent that since his retirement in 2014, Thompson may have stepped away from city hall, but city hall has never left him, and he never retired from the community.

On the contrary, the once deputy mayor of Ottawa is an active member of the community he resides in and is deeply concerned about the issues that rural residents in Ottawa face. During his time away from municipal politics, Thompson became president of the Greely Community Association. He is also on the board of the Dundas Manor long-term care facility and the Greely Fair Board; Thompson also is involved with the Greely Legion and Greely Museum.

His main campaign concerns include ensuring equitable service accessibility for rural residents, and of particular concern is the availability of ambulance service in Osgoode. While it is a city-wide problem, he points out that ambulance shortages deeply affect rural areas. 

Thompson explained, “in the former township of Osgoode (now Osgoode Ward), we had two paramedic stations, one in Metcalfe and one in Osgoode, with an ambulance at each.” In the last five to six years, he says that the service vanished, and ambulances, once available to rural residents, are being prioritized in suburban and urban parts of Ottawa.

The latest ambulance horror story involves a resident of Greely who fell and broke her hip. The severely injured woman waited six hours for a paramedic service to arrive. When it did, it came from Cornwall, which supplements Ottawa’s service during shortages.

Thompson admonished Council for not raising the ambulance shortage as a severe problem. “When I look back on council minutes and councillors newsletters, it’s really not been raised as an issue,” Thompson is astounded.

Even more upsetting is that, according to Thompson, the city has known about the issue for a long time. When he was the councillor for Osgood back in 2005, a resident, Alice Martin, succumbed to a heart attack after waiting for an ambulance for an extended period. Thompson called for a coroner’s inquest, which made several recommendations, ultimately concluding that the death was preventable.

Thompson believes these recommendations need to be followed, and as a councillor, he will work with evidence and facts to deliver solid results. “I will get involved with it and do something.”

After talking to the head of the Ottawa paramedic service recently, he sees a solution to the ambulance crisis in Osgoode. Thompson says it’s a matter of politicians “taking stalk” and making a plan to fix the issue. He pointed to the Peel region in southern Ontario, where a system overhaul of the EMT service increased efficiency.

Thompson also worries about the lack of community policing in Osgoode. He says, "in 2021, the crime rate in beautiful Osgoode Ward rose 14 per cent.” Before this uptick, there was a community police officer and local office, but the police service relocated that office to Orleans.

Thompson sees a correlation between the move and the uptick in crime and says when there was an officer in the community whom citizens could drop in on and talk to about local concerns, everyone benefited. He says that community policing needs to return to Osgoode, and a daily police presence, even in a rural community, can go a long way.

Thompson’s run for Osgoode has an interesting twist. In 2014, he supported the incumbent George Darouze, who ran to fill a vacant seat. Now, he will face off against Darouze and three other candidates, but Thompson remains amicable about the situation. “I called George just a few minutes after I registered. I think he figured I was going to register, but I figured it was the polite thing to do.”

He told Darouze that it was nothing personal, but he saw the city going in a different direction. Thompson says he disagreed with the “relocating” of community police under the police budget, which Darouze supported, and his opponents flip on support for the city’s stormwater tax that made headlines back in 2016. Thompson summarized their relationship in short: “Yes, I did support him, but I don’t think the direction he’s taken (over the last eight years) in rural areas is a good one.”

On the larger municipal file, Thompson sees other issues that need to be resolved, starting with the LRT system, which he says is a “disaster.” Thompson admits that he doesn’t know how the system will be fixed, especially with the existing infrastructure, but he says that with a “new set of eyes and a new mayor,” Council will have to find a solution to the LRT woes.

Thompson also worries about the capital debt and says while he understands how the system works, he believes that the increase in city-wide debt and the cost of servicing it will lead to a reduction in funds the city can use for other services.

He is also concerned about the current homeless crisis, calling it “deplorable.” Before amalgamation in 2000, Thompson rode along with the Ottawa Police service in the ByWard Market and downtown Ottawa to better understand the city Osgoode township was joining. He admits that in previous terms on Council, not enough was done to build affordable housing, and now the issue is critical city-wide.

As for the mayoral race, Thompson says if elected, he knows all the frontrunners. He says that with his background — working with previous mayors of Osgoode township pre-amalgamation and three mayors in Ottawa afterward — he is confident he can work with whoever gets the city’s top jobs. Still, he says, “my primary care will always be Osgoode Ward residents first.”

Doug Thompson brings 30 years of experience, a gentlemanly demeanour, a willingness to fix the issues, and a bi-partisan outlook to municipal politics. Like his colleague Bob Chiarelli, Thompson may be of an older generation, but his experience and current support among the residents in his Ward suggests that the City of Ottawa, or at least the Ward of Osgoode, is looking for new solutions wrapped in old-time courtesy and experience.

Thompson summed up the mood of most citizens as “people by in large are disgusted. All we hear about is the infighting and inability to get things done.” When asked how he would garner the support of voters new to the Osgoode area or who were too young to vote for him in previous elections, Thompson says he believes he’s still got what it takes: “There was not one person who said Doug, your age? Are you sure you want this?”

With a campaign team full of youth and energy, and daily calls from volunteers of all ages, Team Thompson has support and momentum. His final remark exudes the class that is Doug Thompson: “I would say to all the residents who don’t know me personally, take a look at my commitment, my passion, my dedication to the community and the residents, and then make your decision.”

Regardless of the outcome in Osgoode, the race will be interesting and civil since Doug Thompson is the running.