In a series of short profiles, Capital Current introduces some of the people working hard to improve life in Ottawa.

Who is he?

Stuart MacKay, 42, is a historian and community activist. Born and raised in Ottawa, he has also lived in Toronto and Sydney, Australia. He has lived in Centretown for a decade. MacKay has a BA from York University, an MA from Carleton University and a PhD in history from Carleton. His research focused on the emergence of the Republican Party during the Civil War era, which he is turning into a book. MacKay has taught U.S. history at Carleton, which he described as “a great experience.”

What is he known for in Ottawa?

MacKay is on the board of directors of the Centretown Community Association (CCA). He is one of the co-founders of Ottawa Transit Riders, and ran unsuccessfully for the Somerset Ward seat on. council in 2022. 

On the CCA board, he has helped with the organization of activities such as the CCA Earth Day and Fall Festival, with outreach during events such as Capital Pride; developing a new CCA website and helping establish the Elgin Street Farmer’s Market. MacKay says he has helped grow the organization to almost 300 members, and continues to help implement new programs, such as yoga in Jack Purcell Park and historical walks. 

Ottawa Transit Riders is a non-partisan membership-based advocacy group that works to make Ottawa’s transit system more affordable, reliable, accessible and safe. He’s been involved in several activities, including the Transit Challenge, which asks city councillors and staff to use transit and a ParaAwareness session for councillors.

MacKay’s run for city council in 2022 was inspired by what he called the “lack of leadership around the council table” and the downward direction he felt Ottawa was taking. He said his major motivators were the lack of affordable housing, unreliable public transport, and the sad state of the downtown core and local businesses. 

“Because of my experience as a transit advocate and community activist, I felt that I could bring new leadership to the council table. Despite the fact that I lost, I was proud that we ran a positive, issues-oriented campaign, and I will continue to be involved in making our Centretown community a great place to live, work, and play,” MacKay told Capital Current.

Fun fact

MacKay was once a serious rugby player and played for roughly 20 years including a stint with a high-level club while living in Sydney, Australia.