Several months before very publicly turning down an invite to a July 4 party hosted by the American Embassy in Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson readily accepted a freebie trip to Washington in January, paid for in part by that same embassy.
In turning down the invite to the popular July celebration, Watson suggested the United States was acting as a bully to a smaller country and suggested it would be hypocritical to show up and accept their hospitality while in the middle of a nasty trade dispute.
Watson even went so far as to urge others to think twice about attending the event.
Now there’s no doubt the relationship between the two countries was much worse in June than it was in January, but certainly relations were already strained. The January trip in Washington. D.C, was arranged by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, in partnership with the Strong Cities Network. Watson was one of seven mayors and other representatives from Canadian cities for a workshop with American and international mayors on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).
So how does Watson explain taking a freebie trip to Washington but very publicly making political hay by rejecting a party invite? Well, he doesn’t.
As previously noted on this blog, Watson never responds to On the City, From the Burbs.
In fact, his office doesn’t even have the courtesy of acknowledging the interview request. This from a man, who when I suggested politicians and reporters could never be friends, insisted he considered me a friend. Guess he failed to point out he considered me a friend as long as I worked for a daily newspaper.
The mayor is clearly on a bit of a power trip. He’s turning his back on transparency and his head is swelled in the belief he can do what he wants without any real detractors.
What’s also concerning about the freebie trip is that the City of Ottawa rules surrounding the need to declare the trip are so vague, it’s hard to imagine a circumstance when you have to declare a trip. Watson didn’t declare any expenses from the trip on the city’s website.
Here’s just a bit about what the city’s policy on freebie trips say:
“Generally speaking, Members should not accept offerings that would, to a reasonable member of the public, appear to be in gratitude for influence, to induce influence, or otherwise to go beyond the necessary and appropriate public functions involved and offerings from individuals associated with an active lobbying file are not permitted.”
Party or freebie trip? Watson made his choice.