Catherine Kitts takes Cumberland with more than 50% of byelection vote

Catherine Kitts takes Cumberland with more than 50% of byelection vote

Catherine Kitts will take a virtual seat on Ottawa’s city council next week as the new representative for the Cumberland ward.

After finishing a close second in 2018 in a packed race for Orléans during the last election, she jumped straight into first place Monday as votes were tabulated in the byelection for the neighbouring Cumberland, where she now lives.

According to unofficial results, Kitts received 54 per cent of the vote, more than double that of her nearest competitor, Yvette Ashiri. About 24 per cent of the 33,500 registered on the electoral roll for the Cumberland neighbourhood voted Monday.

“I feel great,” Kitts told CBC News after the results came in. “It was really the hard work of an amazing volunteer team that stood behind me the whole way, so we’re all pretty happy tonight for sure.”

Kitts faced nine other contenders in the race for the eastern ward, and is set to become the eighth woman on the 24-person council.

A communications specialist and former editor of the Orléans Star, Kitts campaigned with the support of her predecessor Stephen Blais, other local Liberals, as well as Coun. Matthew Luloff, to whom she lost two years ago.

The Cumberland seat has been vacant since March, when Blais, who occupied it for a decade, became MPP for Orléans.

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Council decided to delay calling a byelection during the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns this past spring, then the city clerk only recommended it was safe to hold the vote after the province and city eased restrictions early summer.

The pandemic made the byelection an unusual one.

The city held an extra day of advance voting and a special mail-in ballot. At voting locations, the city took precautions such as installing acrylic barriers and not reusing stationery or pens. The extra measures were expected to cost nearly $150,000 more than the usual $375,000 to run a byelection. 

Candidates, meanwhile, wore face masks to knock on doors and had to rely on social media more than in a typical campaign. There were no in-person debates. 

The city clerk is expected to make the voting results official Wednesday, and Kitts is expected to take the declaration of office that same day.

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