Ottawa municipal election 2018: Jim Watson scores mayoral hat trick

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Watson scored a mayoral hat trick in Ottawa on Monday night, securing a third consecutive term as mayor of Canada's national capital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Jim Watson scored a mayoral hat trick in Ottawa on Monday night, comfortably securing a third consecutive term as leader of Canada’s national capital.

According to unofficial elections results published online by the City of Ottawa, Watson has been sent back to the mayor’s seat at city hall with just over 71 per cent of voters’ support in the 2018 municipal election.

The former city councillor, Liberal MPP and provincial cabinet minister celebrated his fourth mayoral win at the RA recreation centre on Riverside Street south of downtown Ottawa.

Watson and the 23 city councillors elected on Monday night will serve a four-year term at city hall, beginning Dec. 1 and ending Nov. 14, 2022.

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The outgoing council’s last day is Nov. 30.

Watson beat out 11 other challengers on the ballot, although most had little name recognition across the city and posed little threat to the popular politician.

In second place was Clive Doucet, a former councillor who served at city hall prior to and after amalgamation. This was Doucet’s second bid at the mayoralty, a campaign he told media in July that he launched because he wanted to ensure there was good debate in the mayoral race.

Doucet ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2010, coming in third with 14.9 per cent of the vote.

He scored just over 22 per cent of the vote on Monday night, according to the city’s unofficial results.

In 2010, Watson walked away with 48.7 per cent of the votes cast in that election. Support for the career politician jumped to 76.2 per cent in the 2014 municipal election.

Watson campaign promises

On the campaign trail, Watson leaned heavily on his track record, highlighting a number of projects — many of them developments — that he kicked off or saw through to completion over his last two terms as mayor.

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In an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen earlier this month, Watson cited the new Ottawa Art Gallery, the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards and the revitalization of Lansdowne Park and the Arts Court as major projects on which he delivered during his tenure.

The mayor, though, said he’s “most proud” of the city’s plan for light rail transit. The first stage of the multi-billion-dollar project, the Confederation line, is creeping toward the finish line, its delivery date having been twice delayed — most recently in September — by the consortium building the train.

Over the last month or so, Watson rolled out his plans to build on the last eight years with a number of campaign promises for transit, taxes, development, jobs and tourism.

On LRT, the mayor repeated his commitment to moving forward with stage two while also “laying the groundwork” to extend light rail service west and south of downtown to Kanata-Stittsville and Barrhaven as part of stage three. An environmental assessment has been completed for the former, and the city will study the latter.

The city is also awaiting news of a revised delivery and launch date for the 13-stop Confederation train.

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In other transit-related promises, Watson pledged to let seniors ride public transit for free on Sundays as well as Wednesdays.

Ending his cap on property taxes over the last four years, Watson pledged to usher in annual tax hikes of up to three per cent. He proposed funnelling the revenues into improvements on Ottawa’s infrastructure, like resurfacing roads and repairing potholes.

“I have heard from residents, and I believe they are prepared to contribute more in order to have better roads and infrastructure,” Watson said in a campaign announcement on Oct. 14. “There are also many unknown costs related to the upcoming legalization of marijuana and a pending budget from a new provincial government.

“We need the fiscal breathing room to react and adapt the city’s budget accordingly.”

On community and road safety, Watson’s campaign promises included:

  • Hiring 75 new police officers over four years
  • Hiring 56 new paramedics over four years
  • Increasing funding for traffic-calming measures in every ward to $50,000 annually (up from $40,000)
  • Doubling fines in certain high-risk school zones
  • Funding 40 more crossing guards over four years

On economic (re)development, Watson vowed to boost funding for Invest Ottawa to support further job creation, particularly in the tech sector, and deliver on a recently announced film studio and “creative hub” on the former Greenbelt Research Farm.

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For tourism, Watson pledged to:

  • Keep attracting major events and sporting championships to Ottawa
  • Help reduce security costs for festivals and other special events
  • Create an “attractions passport” for exchange students and children graduating from Grade 6
  • Cut patio fees by 50 per cent

On housing and homelessness, Watson proposed no changes to the amount of municipal funds dedicated to homelessness prevention and social and supportive housing services ($108 million per year), but he said he would introduce an inclusionary zoning policy that would ensure new developments in Ottawa, including a certain number of affordable housing units.

He also promised to free up more city land for new affordable housing and to develop at least three areas along LRT corridors with “affordable mixed-use neighbourhoods.”

Among his final campaign promises announced last week, Watson pledged to create a position on city council for a “women’s liaison,” someone who would be appointed to advocate for women’s issues. City council voted unanimously in March to look into creating such a position as well as a women’s bureau at city hall; Watson was initially skeptical of the latter.

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The re-elected mayor also said he would aim to appoint women to 50 per cent of positions on agency boards and advisory committees between 2018 and 2022.

Female representation on city council is set to increase this coming term. Seven women were elected or re-elected to Ottawa city council on Monday night, up from four on the outgoing council.

While a majority of voters opted for continuity by sending Watson back to the mayor’s chair, his return won’t be without some controversy.

As he begins his third consecutive term, Watson is facing a charter challenge launched against him last week by three Ottawa activists who allege the mayor is violating their right to freedom of expression by blocking them on Twitter.

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