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Ottawa Valley elections features some colourful candidates

For several communities in the Ottawa Valley, this year's municipal elections may be far from dull as several outspoken candidates want to be mayor in their respective municipalities.

What a difference a day makes in the life of municipal election watchers in the Ottawa Valley.

When the 4 p.m. deadline passed last Friday, Aug. 19 for individuals to submit their nomination forms into their respective municipal government clerk’s offices for this year’s Oct. 22 municipal elections, it appeared most of the Valley was in for a quiet election season based on who filed their papers over the previous months.

Once all names were submitted, any notion of a snoozer election was put to rest with Renfrew, North Algona Wilberforce and Bonnechere Valley leading the way not only on the number of potential candidates but who some of the candidates are.

Leading the way is Deborah Farr, the former one-term mayor of North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) from 2014 until 2018, and perhaps the most controversial figure in recent history not only in the township but all of the Ottawa Valley. She is once again hoping to wield the gavel in the small community. Her unpredictable behaviour made every council meeting an event jammed with visitors, including reporters from Ottawa who travelled to see if the stories of this council were true or exaggerated. 

Her erratic tenure as mayor was filled with drama as she once threatened to call 9-1-1, claiming she felt unsafe during an open council meeting with more than 20 residents in the gallery and her four fellow councillors present.

There is a laundry list of bizarre incidents, including when Farr suddenly stopped a council meeting to text her lawyer; filing false claims against some of her fellow councillors which in the end cost the township somewhere in the area of more than $100,000 for several legal issues; spending more than 90 minutes openly arguing with the township's public works manager insistent that her estimate of gravel drawn from a local pit was accurate because she referred to it as "tonnes" and the manager's estimate used "tons" to measure.  He resigned the same evening citing her constant interference in the operation of the township.

Mayor Jennifer Murphy of Bonnechere Valley appeared as a delegation at a NAW council meeting to ask for an apology after she took issue with Farr saying Murphy “shouted” at her across the chambers at a county council meeting in Pembroke. Farr refused to apologize leading her council to pass a motion demanding she resign. 

Current Mayor James Brose, who was a councillor during Farr’s tenure and challenged and beat Farr in the 2018 election, will once again be going head-to-head with her as the only other name standing for Mayor.

Renfrew will have five individuals vying for the mayor's seat including early filers Kathryn Windle and Mike Coulas who are now joined by current councillor and former mayor, Sandi Heins (1998-2010), her fellow current councillor Tom Sidney and the ever-controversial Callum Scott.

Heins will likely be the voice of the older and traditional residents with Sidney, recently retired as a suicide prevention councillor with the Robbie Dean Mental Health Crisis Centre, viewed as an advocate for a more progressive approach to governing.

Rounding out the five is Callum Scott, who some describe as a fringe candidate who can be unpredictable. Scott has let his name stand for either mayor or reeve in numerous municipal elections dating back decades, and has yet to achieve victory. Much of his platform has remained unchanged with a call for the removal of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and a return to a town police force and the re-opening of the local beach that has been closed for decades due to high levels of bacteria in the Bonnechere River.

During an open public debate in 2010, Scott unrolled a roll of toilet paper while addressing the audience stating he had so many complaints about that council's oversight of town operations he required an entire roll to write down all his issues.

Sidney joined The Sam Laprade Show on Aug. 22 that Renfrew is on the verge of an "explosion" in population in the next seven years, and now is the time to be strategic and forward thinking when it comes to the town's growth. 

"We need to work with residents and staff to help grow Renfrew," he said. 

Sidney has served on the Renfrew council since 2014, and has muddled the idea to run for mayor for quite some time. He said his last two terms on council have helped him learn how municipal politics works. 

"I have learned a lot and have grown over the past few years in my role as a councillor," he said. "It's time to put my leadership forward."

Continuing along Highway 60 and entering Bonnechere Valley, there's a four-way race for mayor with current and three-term mayor Jennifer Murphy going up against Zig Mintha, the former mayor and the man she beat in 2010. Rounding out the race is Jackie Agnew, a former Liberal candidate who was part of former Premier Kathleen Wynn’s team in the 2018 election. Ironically her main opponent and six-term member of provincial parliament (MPP) John Yakabuski, had Zig Mintha by his side as his campaign manager each and every time. Political newcomer Leanne Panke has also thrown her hat into the political ring for the first time.

Sheldon Keller, the current mayor of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan (BLR), decided not to run for the top job and will instead try to win back his old seat as one of four councillors who along with mayor, comprise the elected body of BLR. Keller assumed the role of mayor five-and-a-half years ago, taking over from Garry Gruntz who moved to the East Coast with a year-and-a-half left in his four-year term.

This current term of council, however, has been anything but uneventful. Two members of council were forced to resign their seats earlier this year for Code of Conduct violations and over a two-year period more than $300,000 was spent on legal and other costs associated with investigations. Two new residents were appointed to sit as councillors following the resignation of Councillor Trevor Liedtke and the removal of Councillor Andrea Budarick by a Superior Court order.

Whitewater Region will feature Donna Burns, a very outspoken government critic and the current president and spokesperson for the Renfrew County Landowner’s Association. She has been a strong opponent of Official Plans and has authored a paper titled Official Plans. A Blueprint to Shut Down Rural Ontario. Her opponent is Neil Nicholson, a current member of council.

Pembroke Deputy-Mayor Ron Gervais, who has garnered the most votes running as a councillor in the last three consecutive elections and thereby was appointed deputy-mayor, has been acclaimed as the incoming mayor when the new council is sworn in sometime after the October election. Gervais was the only name submitted to the clerk’s office and he will be taking over from current two-term Mayor Mike LeMay.

The town of Petawawa will have a new mayor for the first time in 22 years.

Bob Sweet, who fended off all challengers dating back to his inaugural victory in 2000, has decided to call it a day. One of the highlights of his career was being the first and only county councillor to serve five terms as Warden of the County of Renfrew.

Although not the mayor, Reeve Debbie Robinson will not be running for office in Laurentian Valley and similar to Sweet, she is completing her third consecutive term as the current Warden of Renfrew County.

Below is a complete unverified list of candidates running for Mayor in the Ottawa Valley. Incumbent mayors are the first name listed under their respective townships.


  • Walter Stack
  • Mike Defalco
  • Lisa McGee


  • Michael Donohue
  • Jack Kelly


  • David Bennett


  • Tom Peckett
  • Mark Mackenzie
  • Oliver Jacob

Greater Madawaska 

  • Lucie Perrier
  • Debora Giffin
  • Jim Hemlin
  • Rob Weir


  • Gary Serviss
  • Jody Anne McDonald

Laurentian Valley

  • Steve Bennett (acclaimed)

Deep River

  • Suzanne D’Eon (acclaimed)

Laurentian Hills

  • Anne Giardini (acclaimed)

Madawaska Valley

  • Mark Willmer
  • Hanna Domagala
  • Shelley Maika


  • Janice Tiedje
  • David Mayville


  • Debbi Grills
  • Robert Reid

Listen to the full interview with Tom Sidney below:



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