Raised in Bancroft, Brandon Bay running for mayor of Ottawa

·10 min read

Brandon Bay was raised in Bancroft, but he is now reaching for the top job in municipal politics in Ottawa. Bay talks to The Bancroft Times about growing up in Bancroft and his run to be mayor of Canada’s capital. His parents, Lee and Gary, also comment on how they feel about their son vying to be Ottawa’s mayor.

Brandon Bay moved with his family to Bancroft when he was almost one year old, according to his mom Lee. Lee, her now ex-husband Gary and Brandon had been living in Toronto, where Lee grew up, but decided that Bancroft was a better place to raise a family. They also had family ties to the area. Gary’s family had settled in Paudash and had a cottage across Paudash Lake from where Lee’s family had their seasonal cottage, which was how they met.

Gary says that Brandon was in Bancroft all of his childhood and he has many fond memories of that time;

“Building the house in Paudash, the guitars around the campfire, swimming at the lake, tobogganing on the driveway, four-wheeling thru the woods, snowmobiling, family trips to Darien Lake, Myrtle Beach and the like, and just the joys of raising a family in the country,” he says.

Brandon recalls that his childhood was full of standard rural childhood things, like ATVs and snowmobiles, catching sunfish in the rowboat, performing school plays, trick or treating in a snowsuit or just getting lost in the woods.

“I remember my first live concert, seeing The Arrogant Worms performing at The Village Playhouse. The Santa Claus Parade in the 1990s is perhaps a surprising standout, but I can still see that like it was yesterday. Of course, the countless hockey games at the arena, curling across the street from it and playing soccer at the fields in L’Amable. And many of my fondest memories are the nine incredible summers I spent at Camp Can Aqua. Bancroft was an amazing place to grow up,” he says.

Lee says that Brandon was into canoeing growing up, which he still is, paddling around the waterways in Ottawa and back here in Bancroft. She recalls that he also used to lead camping trips for younger campers into Algonquin Park.

Brandon attended preschool at Cardiff Elementary School and then went to the now defunct Paudash Public School through grade four. He then transferred to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School, and then North Hastings High School.

“As for extracurriculars, there was always something going on. When I was young, I organized a trash pickup along Hwy 28, I played house league hockey and soccer, and in high school I coached both sports. I was briefly on the ski team and I was on student council in grade 12,” he says.

After his grandmother moved into Greenbrae Cottage retirement home, Brandon says he started to volunteer there helping with their recreation program.

“That grew into a full program where I coordinated other volunteers and we went in groups of four to five to play games and swap stories with the residents,” he says.

Lee says that Brandon always had a deep relationship with seniors over the years.

“It was all about making sure that people have the best experience, whether they’re a senior or whether they’re his generation, he just really likes being community minded,” she says.

Gary says that Brandon was pretty much a leader since kindergarten, with the political side showing up with his high school and university leadership roles. While he saw him as a leader or being in a leadership environment, he said he didn’t really single him out for politics growing up however.

“A natural at motivation and social networking, he was even on the cover of the University of Ottawa recruitment guide,” he says.

Lee recalls that Brandon told her when he was nine years old that he was going to be Prime Minister of Canada someday. She says he has always followed politics and is quite knowledgeable about politics in Canada. Brandon confirms this and says he remembers going with his mom when she voted in the 1999 Ontario election, being fascinated by the process, and seeing how even in a small town like Bancroft, they could make a difference in the country.

“My student council term in high school led to a long career in student governance at the University of Ottawa, where I joined and ultimately presided over the Computer Science Student Association, and held board seats on several other administrative and academic bodies. My first university co-op job was with the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (now called Global Affairs), and I have since served on community associations in Ottawa. From early on, though, I have felt that the best politicians are ones that have lived a non-political life before going on to represent others. The lived experience helps keep them humble and in touch with what ordinary citizens want and need from their government. So, I wanted to have that experience before I would consider running,” he says.

Brandon has called Ottawa home since 2006, when he moved there to attend the University of Ottawa. He has lived in five neighbourhoods in five different wards. Lee says that Brandon wants to make Ottawa a place for the whole world to love.

“I truly believe that even if this mayoral campaign doesn’t work, he’s still going to be involved somehow in making sure that people are happy living there,” she says.

After university, Brandon became a software developer, and now works at a company called Welbi, managing the software development team. Welbi is also a member of the Invest Ottawa accelerator program. They build software for retirement communities that enable staff to spend more time helping the residents versus on administrative tasks. As to what started him on this career path, Brandon credits his dad, who runs Byte to Byte, a store that has sold and serviced computers in Bancroft since 1988, who had him on a home computer by 1990.

“Especially in Bancroft, that was unheard of. I grew up fascinated by computers, and got my start as a developer in my teens, making websites for local businesses and modifications to my favourite video games. Brian Poste at the high school also deserves a mention, for helping to make programming seem so easy. Growing up, there just wasn’t another option for me. I knew what I wanted to do,” he says.

Brandon’s wife Rachel works from home as a graphic designer for a large software company, and they live in Riverview Park with their dog, Timber. They originally met when Brandon worked down in Boston for several years, from 2014 to 2018.

Brandon says he wants to run for Ottawa mayor to address issues that are important to him and his generation; housing affordability, the environment, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, employment opportunities and how COVID-19 has changed them and addressing failures in transit and policing over the past few years that he feels need to be addressed.

“My top priority is to make the next city hall, whoever they are, prioritize the right issues. If elected myself, I am hoping to speed up the projects in motion, and leverage technology in new and better ways. Ottawa’s new official plan sets a lot of good priorities but it is in absolutely nothing of a hurry. The timelines set out build a great Ottawa for the next generation, but they do very little for this one, which has felt at best neglected by government for our entire adult lives. I aim to accelerate the development of affordable housing and complete 15-minute communities [part of Ottawa’s new official plan, these are compact, well-connected places with a clustering of diverse land uses such as housing, shops, services, etc., communities that support active transportation and transit, reduce car dependency and enable residents to live car free or car light-see www.engage.ottawa.ca for more information] and investment into and promotion of local businesses. I would launch a centralized marketing platform where events and festivals are much more discoverable and the city benefits more immediately and directly from its tourism industry. I also want to put more money into smart sustainability issues. Ottawa Community Housing is leading the charge on whole community power and temperature control and we should be making this model the first choice when building all communities through a combination of incentives and taxes,” he says.

Brandon feels that his mayoral platform is built on the priorities of Ottawa’s citizens, and everyone that he has spoken to has been warm and receptive.

“I have heard repeatedly that no politician has ever tried to listen to them before and I have felt the same myself. I’m running the kind of campaign I always want from politicians; listening to the people, championing their needs and priorities and not attacking other candidates or groups of people. Some people warned me about the negativity of the Internet and the dark side of politics, but it has been a really positive experience so far. I met some members of the media the day I filed my paperwork and they were kind and seemed genuinely interested in talking to me. I have spoken to some voters who are rallying behind other candidates and even they have been happy to share their thoughts, talk about issues and wish me luck,” he says.

Gary thinks that although he might be a bit biased, he thinks Brandon would make a great mayor.

“Ottawa would benefit from his drive, enthusiasm, dedication, intelligence and compassion. He’s young, he’s ambitious, very intelligent. Just might be time to let the next generation dictate their own future!” he says.

Lee says Brandon still returns to Bancroft as frequently as his busy schedule allows, to see family and friends.

“Sometime this past spring, both he and his brother and their wives drove down to Bancroft to spend the weekend. They like to go to Egan Chutes [Provincial Park] and explore around there,” she says.

Brandon confirms this, although the pandemic has made it more challenging getting back over the last couple of years.

“I visit my dad as often as I get the chance and I’ve been trying to make up for lost time, as well as show my wife, who is from Boston, around my childhood home,” he says.

Bancroft hasn’t changed too much, in Brandon’s opinion, and he thinks fundamentally it has the same cottage country charm it has always had.

“Sure, the details are different; we have larger grocery stores in different locations, we have five traffic lights instead of two and some of the businesses I frequented have been replaced by others. [However], it’s bustling in the summer and quiet in the winter. The [Rockhound] Gemboree remains a big draw, local theatre continues to shine and our main street remains a great place to run a boutique business. If I ever find myself in the market for a cottage, or a quiet place to retire to, Bancroft would be the first place I would look,” he says.

Although Ottawa is his home now, Brandon says that Bancroft will always hold a special place in his heart.

“It’s a wonderful town full of wonderful people. If your readers want to learn more about my campaign from afar, they can do so at www.brandonbay.ca.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times

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