Hussein Mahmoud’s campaign office in Alta Vista ward is quietly tucked away in a strip mall along Bank Street. Inconspicuously located next to a martial arts school, with no official signage except the red “Vote Hussein Mahmoud” signs that cover every square inch of the windows, its doors are open and ready to welcome visitors.
Mahmoud, a University of Ottawa graduate with a Bachelor of Political Science, has lived in the ward his entire life. If elected, he would be one of the youngest councillors at City Hall at 27 years old. Dressed in a crisp shirt and jeans, Mahmoud has an easy smile, and a quiet but animated voice. He has a cat, is afraid of roller coasters, and would be honoured to stand up for the community that raised him. He said that one of the main reasons he is running is because Ottawa “needs proper representation of its diversity.”
“My main focus is to represent the ward, the whole ward, not just certain pockets,” he explained. “The role of a city councillor is to be the first point of contact for all the people. They can reach out to him and express their concerns and he should…be the voice of the residents at City Hall.”
Mahmoud is currently running against 8 other candidates, but he already has one sure vote. Jamal Cabdulle is the owner of Al Tajuba Supermarket on Walkley Road. Originally from Somalia, he and his family have lived in the neighbourhood for 18 years. “He is good to the area and he is good to the community,” Cabdulle said of Mahmoud. “He knows our problems and helps whenever we need help.” He said the current councillor, Peter Hume, or by extension the city council, did not properly represent the needs of his family and community because “they are never there” knocking on doors and talking to residents.
As a first-generation Canadian with a Lebanese background, Mahmoud is able to talk to many different people in the ward. Over the years, he said he has witnessed Alta Vista grow and incorporate a large multicultural population. Mahmoud is well aware that the only way the diversity of Alta Vista ward can be fully represented is by encouraging everyone to vote. Unfortunately, many members of this community aren’t eligible to vote as they aren’t yet Canadian citizens. Mahmoud believes that, in order to communicate effectively with everyone in the area, residents and “unofficial” community leaders such as facilitators of Somali and Afghani community groups need to be consulted regularly.
“Ottawa is a world-class city…and people want to live here,” Mahmoud said. Newcomers to the country see Canada as a peaceful nation with good education, health care and room for growth. The increasing number of immigrants in the city supports this conclusion. According to the City of Ottawa website, 185,000 city residents (or roughly 18 per cent of the metropolitan population) were born outside of Canada. There are now 70,500 recent immigrants living in the city, the fourth highest concentration in Canada.