Watson still ‘optimistic’ about Ottawa’s future under change at Queen’s Park

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Not long after news outlets declared Thursday night that Doug Ford‘s Progressive Conservatives would form a majority government after the election, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he remains “optimistic about the future” and will focus on finding areas of common ground with the new governing party at Queen’s Park.

In a statement released by his office Thursday evening, Watson congratulated the incoming premier on his successful campaign and expressed his hope that the PC government would continue to maintain a “strong partnership” with the City of Ottawa.

“I truly believe that when the municipal, provincial and federal governments work together, much can be achieved,” Watson said.  “I trust that local MPPs will continue to act as strong advocates for their communities, regardless of what side of the legislature they are sitting on.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said Watson was unavailable for an interview Friday.

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READ MORE: Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives win majority government

A former Liberal MPP himself, Watson enjoyed a positive relationship with the provincial Liberal party and lost some key allies in Thursday night’s election. Yasir Naqvi and Bob Chiarelli — high-profile Liberal incumbents in Ottawa Centre and Ottawa West-Nepean, respectively — were both sent packing in an election that stripped their party to a mere seven seats, down from 55.

Naqvi, who represented Ottawa Centre from 2007 to 2018, was most recently Ontario’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice. (He was defeated by NDP candidate Joel Harden.) Chiarelli, a longtime MPP, succeeded Watson in Ottawa West-Nepean in 2010, after Watson resigned to pursue a mayoral run. Chiarelli was most recently Minister of Infrastructure and a champion of building light rail transit in Ottawa. (He lost his seat to PC candidate Jeremy Roberts, in a tight three-way race.)

The three Liberal incumbents for Ottawa-Vanier, Ottawa South and Orléans managed to hold onto their seats. Half the Ottawa-area ridings went to the Progressive Conservatives.

In his statement, Watson tipped his hat to the local MPPs who weren’t re-elected Thursday night, thanking them “for their steadfast commitment to the residents of Ottawa.”

READ MORE: Ottawa voters turf Naqvi, Chiarelli in Ontario election

Watson also thanked outgoing premier Kathleen Wynne and her government — calling her a “good partner on a number of significant city building initiatives.”

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“Many… would have not been possible without their support and co-operation,” he said.

Watson sent questionnaire about Ottawa priorities to provincial parties, local candidates 

During the campaign, Watson tried to get a sense of whether co-operation with Queen’s Park would continue on some key local files following the election.

Watson traditionally sends a questionnaire to local candidates running in provincial and federal elections — as well as the party leaders — about their positions on “important” Ottawa issues, projects and priorities.

The mayor’s survey this time included questions about the provincial parties’ and candidates’ commitments to financing the second phase of Ottawa’s LRT construction, increasing the city’s share of the gas tax, honouring the new National Housing Strategy, funding more more patient care for long-term care residents, and maintaining the current uploading agreement for provincial-mandated social service costs.

READ MORE: Wynne Liberals kick in extra $50M for Ottawa LRT extension to Riverside South

On transit, the Wynne government’s parting gift to the City of Ottawa before the writ dropped was a promise to fund the Trillium Line’s proposed extension to Riverside South. The extension is estimated to cost $80 million. The Liberals promised to give the city $50 million for the extra 3.4 kilometres of track, with developers chipping in $30 million they’d recoup through special development charges.

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Ford said he remains committed to completing Stage 2 of Ottawa’s LRT — but he did not respond directly to a specific question from Watson about honouring the Liberals’ $50 million promise for the Riverside South extension.

“The PC Party has committed to province-wide funding for transit, which includes completing stage 2 of Ottawa’s Light Rapid Transit project,” Ford’s response said. “We will cut the red tape and end the delays to ensure that transit projects get completed on time and on budget and see this project through to completion.”

READ MORE: Doug Ford’s transit plan includes $5B for Toronto subways, all-day GO service to Niagara

On the other issues, Ford said that a PC government would continue to share gas tax revenue with the Ontario municipalities and build 30,000 additional long-term care beds over the next decade.

Ford did not provide answers that addressed Watson’s questions about the uploading program, the National Housing Strategy, and if the PC party would consult with municipalities “on the need to establish a traditional infrastructure program for roads, bridges, highways, pedestrian and cycling facilities.”

Thursday night’s election results propelled the Ontario New Democrats, under leader Andrea Horwath, to official Opposition status. Incoming Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden will be the only NDP face in the Ottawa area.


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