• By: Dan Donovan

Jim Watson has done a superb job —Tierney, Fleury and Qaqish should be tossed for new blood

Photo credit: @jimwatsonottawa (Facebook)

For the past four years, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has done an exceptional job. He has delivered on his commitment to hold taxes to an annual 2 per cent increase, overseen the successful construction of the multi-billion-dollar O-train project which is the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history that has been delivered on budget and with an excellent safety record. While there were some minor workplace incidents over the course of the project, no one was seriously injured or killed during the construction phase. Credit for the project goes to multiple stakeholders including the Ottawa and District Labour Council and the builders, but the buck for the project always stopped with Watson.

Watson’s competent and thoughtful response to the recent tornado touchdown that literally shut down the city was truly impressive. His ability to manage the coordinated effort of first responders, the hydro utility and social services along with the business community while keeping citizens updated and informed that our public servants and services were on top of things, and helping those in need, was a proud moment for the entire city.

Watson played a significant role in delivering the new jewel in the crown of local arts, the Ottawa Art Gallery. This venue is already a popular tourism destination in addition to being a big hit with local residents. Watson has proved adept at managing an often cantankerous council and efficiently managing the city administration. He has navigated some difficult societal issues, especially the opioid crisis with great care. He is a good listener, always in tune with local issues and knows Ottawa well. There are certainly many problems in the capital including the lingering issues raised by the continuing opioid crisis, the wrong-headed idea by Ottawa Council to allow a new Salvation Army facility in Vanier — an idea which will kill Vanier as a family friendly neighbourhood — and ongoing challenges related to social housing. There are serious and legitimate concerns about police conduct and oversight in the capital.

Watson’s main challenger, Clive Doucet is a good man with great integrity and should be thanked for getting into the race to advance the debate on some very important issues. He has run an admirable campaign and his idea to use existing rail lines for municipal public transit to move passengers from the West End and Kanata to the city should be seriously considered by the next Council. Concerns he raised about the way residents of Heron Gate were treated to make way for private sector developers to build expensive condos should be of concern to all, and a matter for review by the new Council. However, by any reasonable standard Jim Watson has been a great Mayor and he deserves to be rewarded with another term to lead our city.

On Monday October 22, a record number of candidates will be standing for Ottawa city council and local residents will get to decide who their city council will be for the next four years. There are numerous capable and qualified candidates running across the many wards. Ottawa Life Magazine believes there are some key councillors who have served the city well and should be returned to office including Jan Harder and David Cherneshenko. For a complete list of the wards and candidates wards running for election across the region click here. 

In Ottawa Bay ward Incumbent Mark Taylor did not run again, keeping his two-term only promise which is admirable. However, we think it would be a mistake for residents to vote for Don Dransfield who has worked with his spouse, Ottawa West MP Anita Vandenbeld, in what appears to be a manipulative attempt to gain an advantage in the election. Vandenbeld sent robocalls to thousands of ward residents endorsing her husband. It has yet to be determined if Vandenbeld violated ethics rules and the Federal Ethics Investigator is looking into the matter. Issues remain about what list she used and where she got the list. More importantly, Vandenbeld herself has been spectacularly unspectacular as a federal MP from Ottawa West. After three years, her presence in Ottawa as a federal MP has been virtually non-existent. However, when she finally does emerge with a profile issue, it’s to support the election of her husband in her own riding putting both of them on the taxpayer’s teat. Their judgement is poor and their actions are self-serving and they should both be shown the door.

In Kanata North, incumbent Marianne Wilkinson is not running and two key candidates have emerged. David Gourlay is a respected businessman with government and not for profit experience. His main opponent is Jenna Sudds a well known businesswoman from the tech sector in Kanata. Both would bring a strong business perspective to council. 

We think that Beacon Hill-Cyrville incumbent Tim Tierney should not be returned to office. The OPP Anti-Rackets branch is investigating Tierney for municipal election issues related to an alleged attempt by him to discourage other candidates from running against him. Tierney has also been a disaster on the Ottawa Police Services Board where he has been an apologist for police misconduct and, as one of three city council board members, appears to be way out of his depth. Michael Shurter should get a chance to show residents what he has to offer.

In Rideau-Vanier Mathieu Fleury is seeking a third term. He has mismanaged the Vanier Salvation Army issue and has been absent on many key issues in Lowertown to the chagrin of many local residents but conveniently has garnered support letters from both the Federal MP and Provincial MPP, from Vanier — both Liberals who have also done next to nothing to address the out-of-control, walking dead, opioid crisis in Vanier and other critical issues. Fleury is a career politician type who is not serving residents of Lowertown and Vanier well. One of the other candidates in the race would do a better job for Rideau Vanier

In Cumberland incumbent Stephen Blais is running again, despite a promise not to, which is problematic.

In Gloucester-South Nepean incumbent Michael Qaqish is seeking a second term. He faced an outcry earlier this winter when it was learned that he, along with Tim Tierney and Alan Hubley, spent $1,700 of taxpayers’ money on NHL Winter Classic tickets. When the news became public the reaction caused Qaqish, Tierney and Hubley to pay back the money. Qaqish has been very ineffective as the councilor Gloucester South in dealing with two key issues: commute times/morning gridlock and a lack of social services. As a member of the Board of Health for the City of Ottawa Health Unit, Qaqish also supported the safe injection sites for downtown : “Being a member of the Board of Health, I followed closely the outdoor pop-up sites that were set up in city parks. Many residents, myself included, did not believe this was a good place for them in our community, so we supported housing them in the sexual health clinic downtown”. This statement alone clearly shows why Qaqish should not be re-elected. As a member of the city-wide Board of Health committee he is to make decisions based on the best interests of the city. He is in favour of the clinics as long as they are not in his backyard. He also supports moving shelters from the ByWard Market to Vanier, which has enraged Vanier residents. In short, he has kicked the can down the road and shown incompetence and horrible leadership on this issue.

Carol Anne Meehan, on the other hand, has a very compelling priority list that includes dealing with the transit issue, addressing the opioid crisis head on and is willing to question the current strategy related to that issue. She is talking a lot about improving social infrastructure in the ward. The former CTV anchor would be a great choice for Gloucester South Nepean and would bring some fire and pep to a complacent council.