This is the 14th in a series of opinion columns on Ontario’s 2022 municipal elections, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
Whatever the outcome, Ariel Troster and her team have become the focus for a new kind of engagement in city politics.
The CJN covered the Horizon Ottawa crew’s ambitions in our profile of lead organizer Sam Hersh at the beginning of this series. Now we’re linking back up with their main Jewish candidate for her perspective on the eve of the election.
“People were looking to Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal and now, surprisingly, they are looking at Ottawa,” she says. “We used to be a bunch of ‘summit hoppers’, protesting at the G20, against the IMF, against George W. Bush—and now we’ve finally been able to bring that energy into the local level.”
Troster’s journey to becoming the candidate for Ottawa’s Ward 14 (Somerset), located in the very centre of the capital city, has been a long one.
From a start at the Council of Canadians, to five years working at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to appearances on CBC News Network during the convoy protest earlier this year, she’s spent decades building up her progressive bona fides.
But what her website doesn’t mention is the Jewish aspect to her organizing.
“I’m proud to be a part of Rainbow Haven with many of my Jewish friends,” she says. “We welcome and resettle LGBTQ+ refugees from the Middle East and Africa to Canada under the co-direction of Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, who also heads up the local Reconstructionist synagogue. I believe the fundamental root of Jewish social justice involves building a better city.
“That involves helping people book vaccine appointments, organizing to help people on the affordable housing waitlist, finding them mental health supports, finding where the city services are failing and bringing things from outside organizing to inside city hall.”
The fact that Troster is deeply plugged into the local community and seems to know it inside and out is evident as she talks about her experience.
“When the convoy came to Ottawa, there was tremendous harassment,” she says. “Often when I canvass, the conversation turns into a form of trauma therapy. There were long-term psychological effects to being abandoned by the city. But even before the convoy, there was and continues to be a lot of poverty in the area, which is really upsetting to see up-close.
“I met a family consisting of one single mom with three kids in a one bedroom apartment, two of whom are disabled, and she can’t make ends meet with 60 hours a week of data entry so she has to panhandle.
“I’ve been to the encampments set up in the parks. I met a woman who was tasered by the police because she was unable to get the medication she needed. I’ve met the seniors who have to take a bus to get a blood test because the imaging and blood clinics in the downtown have closed due to high rents.”
Troster also doesn’t hide the fact that the campaign requires a lot of physical stamina and mental toughness. Not a day goes by on social media when she and her campaign team clash with supporters of centrist mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe.
But she doesn’t want to focus on the daily social media grind. “We’re not interested in focusing on some imagined divide between the city core and the suburbs,” she says. “Downtown people are not elites, and affordability conversations should include people who are struggling, not just those who want to keep property taxes low.”
Though it has been hard, Troster says there’s been many pleasant surprises along the way. “Every door I open is a surprise. I know this ward but I’m still seeing things I’ve never seen before.The gay couples who have been together for 40 years, the people who’ve been renting for decades, the 44th floor penthouses, and the dogs—oh, so many dogs!”
“There’s just so much incredible solidarity and community building,” she says of the district that will decide whether to elect her on Monday. “When you talk to strangers, you realize they aren’t strangers anymore.”
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected]l.com for your response to Doorstep Postings.