With his pledge of keeping a tax increase at two per cent being threatened, Mayor Jim Watson is going nasty. And many of his councillors are fighting back as an ugly war of words is being waged through the media, social and otherwise.
The first volley was made by College Coun. Rick Chiarelli when the budget was tabled last month – and he immediately labelled it as fake. Chiarelli rightly pointed out that while staff and Watson like to claim spending is up in many areas of the budget this year, in fact, many of the estimates for spending are lower than what was spent last year.
If you were cynical in nature, you might think the numbers were designed to meet the 2% goal and not necessarily what staff really believe will be spent. But that’s an entirely different column!
The drama intensified over the past few days as councillors sat through a variety of committee meetings going over the details of the budget. And some of them have decided they’re not going to go along with Watson’s promise of the 2% tax increase. In fact, eight city councillors – including Chiarelli – are now standing together on a motion calling for a one-time 0.5% infrastructure levy, which as the group is selling, would be about $1 a month.
Much of the talk during discussions on the budget has focused on the bad state of the city’s roads. The one-time levy would be used to address some of those concerns. None of this of course sits well with the mayor. He’s gone on Twitter pointing out some of the eight made pledges similar to his own on keeping taxes down. Pretty sure they’ve changed their minds at this point!
But Watson has saved his harshest criticism for Chiarelli, lashing out at the College ward councillor, saying he isn’t taken seriously around the council table and hasn’t shown any leadership during the budget process over the years.
Yowser! And yikes! And surely not very becoming for the mayor of the nation’s capital. Part of the problem is Watson lets people get under his skin, he frets about winning instead of worrying about doing the right thing for the city. The high road isn’t one Watson frequently takes in these circumstances. (As an aside, you know that after reading this column, and he will, Watson will continue telling people no one is reading this blog as he says about other blogs in the city)
You can be sure Watson has fully implemented a plan to ensure the Group of Eight go down to an ugly defeat. For sure he isn’t alone with his character bashing. Many are getting into the game. Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley gave an interview this week, generally trashing his colleagues’ motives. (He did say he hated to talk like that, but frankly, he seemed just fine with it.) He also blamed Deans for a bad audit on the city’s daycare, saying she should have known about the problems.
Alerted to Hubley’s comments, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans herself fought back on Twitter.
“More of the same from the Mayor’s cronies – if you can’t win the argument on the issue at hand, you attack personally. Hubley would be better off spending his time addressing our crumbling infrastructure,” she wrote. Along with Deans and Chiarelli, the Group of Eight also includes Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Nussbaum. Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson. Rideau Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury and Capital Coun. David Chernushenko.
So what does all of this silliness mean for the taxpayer? At this point in time, doesn’t look like anything good, that’s for sure. City council meets on Wednesday to discuss the budget. For the sake of our money and for the good of the city, here’s hoping the kids get their act together.