Cooperation Watson Style

Exactly what kind of egotistical trip is Mayor Jim Watson on?

Whatever the ride, he’s treating city council like his very own fiefdom, rejecting the wishes of thousands of taxpayers who just recently re-elected a number of experienced city councillors to represent them.

Seriously, I’ve been covering city council since the days of the Ottawa Herald, and I’ve never seen such an egregious abuse of power as Watson has exhibited at the city this week. And dare I repeat yet again, it’s Watson calling on his councillors for cooperation.

The story in a nutshell? After every election, new city committees are picked – along with new committee chairs. Councillors are asked to choose what committees they’d like to be on, rating their wants numerically. Theoretically, committee membership is handed out based on a councillors’ desire to be on the various committees. Granted, it’s not always possible, but that’s the theory behind the process.

Councillors – most of whom aren’t considered Watson allies – who ranked certain committees as their number one choice weren’t rewarded, while some – Watson’s ‘yes sir’ group – who had little interest on being on those same committees found themselves getting a spot; those the mayor has the least use for find themselves on relatively insignificant committees they have no interest in.

Does this make sense? Of course not. The only person who benefits from this process is Watson himself, who is adverse to opposition – and simply used his power to ensure anyone who questions him get shut out. And he’s handed out enough goodies to almost guarantee the votes will go his way. That’s not democracy.

With his buddies in key positions at council, Watson surely expects things to run more smoothly. Hope his high-handed tactics are worth it.

And surprisingly, one of the heroes in taking Watson on with this strategy is River Coun. Riley Brockington, who up until now has not been willing to rock the proverbial council boat. But Brockington told a media scrum Wednesday that he was told that asking questions at committee was frowned upon. In fact, Brockington says he was told that if he had questions, he should ask the behind closed doors. And yes, Brockington is drawing a correlation between refusing to ask questions privately to not getting his desired spot on the city’s planning committee, even though there are open spaces.

Now Brockington isn’t willing to say who has told him to keep his mouth shout. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out does it?

But showing a lot of class, Brockington says he’s a team player and will serve where he’s placed. What he won’t do is acquiesce to speaking about important city issues behind closed doors. Before he does that, he’ll resign. Good on him.

What else does this mess mean for the city? Well, the urban councillors have all been left off of the city’s finance committee, while the city’s rural councillors are on it. The committee is considered akin to a cabinet. Asked if it was just a coincidence that his supporters were rewarded, while many of his detractors are watching the action from the outside, Watson did his usual two-step with a lot of bafflegab. You have to give it to him, no one can not answer a question quite like our good mayor.

Shawn Menard, the new councillor for Capital ward, is the most vocal about what he thinks about the mayor’s tactics. Menard rightly pointed out there are different rules for the mayor’s allies. No doubt there.

When Watson shuts out certain councillors, he’s also shutting out their constituents.
None of this bodes well for the next four years.

Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished.

For Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, it was a good day as he unveiled his proposed picks for committee chairs and members. His choices have to be confirmed at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The all-important finance and economic development committee – essentially the council cabinet – is chock full of city councillors willing to do his bidding. And if you take a closer look at the makeup of that committee, no sign of those pesky, left-leaving downtown councillors who try to get in Watson’s way. In case you missed the dripping sarcasm – that means the downtown wards aren’t represented on the most important committee.

A couple of shockers. The biggest surprise of all is the placement of Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds as the new chair of community and protective services and a seat on the city’s finance and economic committee.

Is there a chance Watson thinks Sudds is so brilliant she can take on this huge committee? Well, let’s not forget that Watson campaigned against her in this most recent election, pushing for his buddy David Gourlay to take the ward. Surely, with all these goodies in one basket, Watson will be able to rely on Sudds’ loyalty for the next four years. If she fails, Watson will swoop in and save her, if she thrives, he’ll have her vote. This is in no way a diss at Sudds, but the portfolio is a huge one. With all due respect to her, good luck.

Sudds replaces Deans as chair, who gets the second most shocking appointment.
Deans is the new police services board chair – and the first woman in Ottawa to hold that role.

This is fabulous news. As the councillor for Gloucester-Southgate, her ward has seen more than its fair share of violence. She knows all too well about the problems of increasing guns and gangs in our neighbourhoods. She’s a brilliant choice – but given her uneasy relationship with the mayor – one that’s pretty much impossible to understand.

Deans takes over from outgoing chair West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, whose exit was expected given news that his good friend and former police chief Vern White would like his old job back.

Another big surprise. While facing serious legal issues, Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney has actually received a promotion. Not only does he keep his chair of the Ottawa Public Library, he now has a seat on the all-important finance committee. Surely Watson has bought Tierney’s loyalty for the next four years. Nice work if you can get it.

Watson has played this game for a long time, gaining councillors’ loyalty by rewarding them and freezing out his dissidents. It’s how he plays the game.

And let’s remember, Watson is the one who called for a council of cooperation. That apparently doesn’t start at the top.

Butt Kicking Not Required

“You go down (to city hall) and you kick Jim Watson’s ass.”

Those were the words from a Barrhaven woman offering her vote to me as I campaigned in the 2014 election. Her vote of confidence was clearly based on some of my columns in the Sun and she thought I had what was needed to stand tall and firm in front of the mayor.

I felt like a fraud. I’d seen too much at city hall to think success on Lisgar St. could come from trying to kick Watson’s butt. I recall as well a column written by former Citizen columnist David Reevely suggesting in a piece that I was one of a handful of candidates in the race who could make life a little more difficult for the mayor. To be frank, I have Reevely envy, the guy is brilliant, and to think he thought I might have what it takes to remain strong in the face of the kind of pressure that Mayor Jim Watson’s office inflicts on its opponents, well – again – the word fraudster came to mind.

It’s pretty easy to criticize from the outside of council. And save for the mayor refusing to take your calls, there aren’t many ramifications for pointing out his flaws in a Sun column or on my blog. And frankly, the mayor has lots of flaws – so there’s plenty of material.

But for a city councillor, especially a newbie, butting heads with the mayor – either publicly or behind closed doors – comes with its own set of risks. While city council theoretically has final approval for all spending, Watson has managed to get a majority of councillors to toe the line and push forward his agenda. And if you butt heads with the mayor, as a city councillor – you risk not getting projects of importance in your own ward pushed through. It’s a tricky situation and politicians can easily find themselves on the outside looking in.

Watson has already called on his new council for an era of cooperation. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately what Watson really means is not to mess with his agenda – and then all will be right with the world. Perhaps there are problems at city hall because Watson himself doesn’t cooperate with his council.

All of that being said, there are a number of new councillors – seven of them in fact – most of them anxious to prove to their constituents they have a backbone and won’t bend to Watson’s pressure or his office’s threats.

The good news is that Watson doesn’t hold all the cards. And better yet, you don’t need to kick his butt to prove your point.

There are plenty of city politicians who prove that – Diane Deans, Rick Chiarelli, Catherine McKenney, Scott Moffatt – to name a few. Yes, city councillors can stand up for their residents, for what they believe is right for their constituency.

So to the new councillors, remember how you got to city hall – with the support of your taxpaying residents who’ve put their trust in you. It’s quite an honour.

Do them proud.

What was Tim Tierney Thinking?

So just what was Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney thinking when he decided to phone his soon-to-be opponent Michael Schurter?
Impossible to know, incredibly difficult to understand. Painful, in fact.
It just doesn’t make sense. None at all. But in the end, Tierney will carry the cost of whatever he did or didn’t do.
Tierney was on his way to an easy and overwhelming election victory when he apparently phoned Schurter who was actually in an Ottawa elections office registering.

Schurter was not known in the ward, didn’t live there and admitted to liking Tierney and the work he was doing in the ward. Oh, and he didn’t have a platform
There was just no way he was a threat to Tierney in any way.

As an aside, even being under investigation, Tierney breezed to an easy and overwhelming victory. So again, why make the call?Just so ridiculous and inappropriate.
There’s no place that the call would have been considered acceptable.
Now of course Tierney has bee charged under the Municipal Elections Act, and while it’s not a criminal offence, he has had to hire a lawyer, faces a stiff fine if found guilty – and could be ousted out of his seat.
His life, regardless of the outcome, will never be the same.
And that’s so sad.

While nothing has been proven, it’s been suggested Tierney offered to make a donation to the Ottawa Food Bank if Schurter didn’t
Again, why?

If Tierney wasn’t opposed, there’s no doubt he would have the hit the streets of his ward during the campaign anyway. He loves the job – and he and his wife Jenny are a real team in the ward.
There are lots of briefings for newly-elected councillors. And more than eight years ago, when Tierney had a meeting with the city’s clerks department, he wanted to bring his wife – but it was suggested to him that was totally out of the ordinary. Tierney made it clear he
and his wife were a team – and she was embarking on this journey right along side of him. That’s lovely.
(And as I always do when I write about people I have a connection with, many moons ago, I partied during many summer days and nights with Jenny’s parents Sue and Rick at a trailer park on Little Rideau Lake. And believe somewhere in the mess of loose photos, there’s one with a very young Jenny sitting on my lap on one of those summer days.)

And I can’t help but wonder, given Tierney’s close relationship with former mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea, if he thinks back to the time when former mayor Larry O’Brien was faced with a very similar situation as Tierney is in now. Tierney was working on Kilrea’s campaign for mayor. Kilrea eventually withdrew from the race and threw his support to incumbent Bob Chiarelli. But after O’Brien was charged, the Ontario Provincial Police got Tierney’s computer, reading through thousands of his emails.

Wonder if he now has more sympathy for O’Brien than he did a the time? On the City, From the Burbs reached out to O’Brien for his thoughts on what Tierney is facing. The former mayor declined to comment.

There’s the high road we hear about. Not sure if Tierney knows where that road is, judging by his treatment of late of people around him who expected better. He’s shut out people who believed in him and that will hurt him down the line.

None of this makes any sense. And now, Tierney – once living the good life with a close-knit family and a constituency happy with his representation – is going to appear in provincial court.


He’s stepped down from the Ottawa Police Services Board, and isn’t making himself available to talk about the ramifications on the new Central Library now that the Lebreton redevelopment is crumbling down.

Tierney has said he’ll continue to work hard in his ward, clearly not planning on stepping aside.

It’s hard to believe he’ll be given a committee chair – that would be foolish on the part of Mayor Jim Watson – with Tierney’s political future now up in the air.

And again, you have to ask, why?

Ottawa Police Chief Vern White?

So guess who wants to be the next police chief in Ottawa?
Times up.
It’s former police chief Senator Vern White!
What a fascinating idea!

And as a confession of sorts, On the City, from the Burbs spent a fair amount of time checking this rumour out, and talking to several off-the-record sources who confirmed the story. But as well, of course, I left a message for White at his Senate office – with not much hope I’d ever hear back.

White returned the call, confirming it’s a job he realized he still wants.
“I know now I left the job too early,” White admitted. “There are things I still want to get done there.”
“So yes, if it’s an open competition for the job, I’ll by applying,” White said.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau’s term – which was already extended – ends in May.
An open competition isn’t mandatory, but given White’s popularity in the city – his reputation as a take charge cop – there’s a good chance politicians will want to allow him the opportunity to compete for the job.

White has already talked to both Mayor Jim Watson and the present police board chair councillor Eli El-Chantiry – so both are aware of his desire to get his old job back.

He said his interest to go after the job has nothing to do with his decision not to run for mayor.
“No, not at all, I couldn’t have beaten Jim if I tried,” he said.

And of course, White’s desire to fight to get his job back certainly means – as was expected in any case – most certainly means El-Chantiry won’t be seeking the job again.
The two are close friends – and their tight relationship was criticized during White’s last reincarnation as chief.

White has lots of ideas of how he’d like to change the present climate at the Ottawa Police Force – including a return to community policing – which is sure to win support with many city councillors unhappy with the present state of the Ottawa Police.

In 2017, police shifted many officers from specialized community units to patrol units. In the eyes of many, it hasn’t been a success.
Both politicians and community members have been calling for a more visible police presence in their communities.
Added to that issue is an ever-growing concern over increased crime and a guns and gangs problem, that isn’t going away.
Both are issues for White, who isn’t at all satisfied the present strategy is working.

It’s really no surprise White wants back in. When he left the job and headed for the Senate, not everyone was convinced it was a good fit for the man who seemed to juggle a dozen tasks at the same time without breaking a sweat.
But he said the idea of getting his old job back has nothing to do with leaving the Senate, pointing out he’d always made it clear it wasn’t a long-term job for him.

Watson Losing Grip on Council?

With seven new city councillors around the table in December, it’s going be a much different council on Lisgar Avenue than we’ve come to expect.
And fingers crossed, here’s hoping it will be a more independent council than we’ve witnessed over the past couple of terms.
There’s certainly good reason to believe that will be the case.

For starters, Mayor Jim Watson had made it clear he favoured certain candidates over others, but his efforts didn’t sway the voters.
In his own neighbourhood of Bay ward, he publicly endorsed Liberal Don Dransfield. Theresa Kavanagh walked away with the ward. Kavanagh has run for the New Democrats and is married to former Bay councillor Alex Cullen, a nemesis of Watson’s for years.

Watson is also buddies with David Gourlay, who lost to Jenna Sudds in Kanata. And in College ward, former Watson staffer Ryan Kennery moved into the ward to take on another councillor on Watson’s hit list – Rick Chiarelli. It wasn’t to be for Kennery, who I absolutely believe could make a strong city councillor one day – just not on Watson’s heavy-handed suggestion.
And in Innes ward, Watson criticized Laura Dudas for accepting an endorsement from councillor Riley Brockington. (Frankly, it is pretty hard to understand why anyone would want Brockington’s endorsement – but that’s another story!) The fact is plenty of councillors endorse candidates, Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder supported Carol Anne Meehan against incumbent Michael Qaqish (happy to say she was victorious!) and Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney supported Donna Leith-Gudbrason in a race Dudas won. Didn’t hear Watson criticizing them – and it’s safe to say he wan’t pulling for the right-wing Meehan. I was!

Watson also got into a nasty twitter war against Capital ward challenger Shawn Menard. Menard won the race, beating out incumbent David Chernushenko.
So if there was ever any doubt, Watson appears to have absolutely no influence in the ward races, despite his efforts otherwise.

He even went so far as to tweet out against councillors who disagree with him – urging voters to stay clear of those councillors
“When I see candidates who are always angry and wanting to “fight” on every issue I say look for a more positive and collaborative person – one who will work well with neighbours and colleagues. That’s how our level of government works best and obtains positive results!” he wrote.


Added to all, the councillors considered to be on the political left have increased. That’s not a bad thing, except for Watson. A balanced council is a better council – and we can hope for more meaningful debate. Joining Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum and (often) Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury are newly-elected Capital Coun. Shawn Menard and councillor-elect Theresa Kavanagh. While defeated councillor David Chernushenko’s politics were said to be left leaning, he couldn’t be relied upon. Frequently joining that group are Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans – and sometimes College Coun. Rick Chiarelli, depending on the issue.

Watson has more than once criticized councillors for asking too many questions at council, telling them to ask questions at committee. Here’s a newsflash Mayor Watson – you don’t get to dictate that. In fact, you shouldn’t be dictating anything.

The residents of Ottawa have spoken. And all signs point to a stronger city council – one which isn’t going to simply let Watson tell them what’s good for them. Instead, they’ll do what’s right for us.


Watson Will Win, the Public Won’t

Making an endorsement for the mayor of Ottawa isn’t easy and is no way is satisfying.
This will be brief and not just because the polls have been open for hours.
I simply can’t endorse Mayor Jim Watson, who has shown his utter disdain for anyone who opposes him. What elected official is so thin-skinned that he blocks people who oppose him?
This isn’t a case of residents being rude.
Watson feels he shouldn’t have his sacred twitter account clogged with too many messages from residents who oppose him.
Poor baby.
You represent all of us. That’s your job. So get over it.
We all have a right to be heard – and if it takes you a few extra seconds to scroll throughout tweets, whatever.
Watson’s controls council with an iron fist, discouraging debate in favour of his ceremonial goodies package.
He loves bringing on late items to council that his duly-elected members are unaware of – and insisting there’s some sort of urgency in a vote.
And he dares to scold councillors who ask too many questions. Seriously?
He has an agenda, and is so controlling, he resents the opposition.
Despite all of that, there’s little doubt Watson will win tonight and there will be a huge victory party and plenty of accolades in his honour.
My only hope at this point is that his handpicked choices for council are rejected. That would be some comfort.
Let’s face it, his only real challenger was Clive Doucet, who appears so desperate to make his mark – he promised to bring back weekly garbage pickup in the summer months.
Guess that’s what the thirst for power does to a person.

Short and Sweet

Short and Sweet

Over the years, Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley and I have had our differences.
Most notably, I’ve often disagreed with some of his spending habits, billing taxpayers for items that in my mind he has no business charging the taxpayers for. He picked up a lunch tab for a group of volunteers that included former prime minister Stephen Harper. As I understand it, Harper was more upset than I was to have his name appear on a city of Ottawa expense claim. I could go on, but in this case, perhaps no reason to. With Hubley, a capital C Conservative, I’ve been incredibly disappointed with his spending habits.
So I was looking forward to seeing what his opponents had to offer.

He’s being challenged by candidates Steve Anderson and Mike Brown.
Anderson dissed fiscal conservatism, calling on increased spending. And Brown, while certainly a little more impressive, didn’t offer up any reason to vote against Hubley.
This one was simple, re-elect Hubley.

The same argument can be made in West Carleton-March, where incumbent Eli El-Chantiry rules that roost. He needs to get off of the Ottawa Police Services Board, he’s doing himself more harm than good. He’s not effective and is seen as being too soft on the organization.
He’s being challenged by James Parsons and Judi Varga-Toth – both of whom lost me in the first few minutes of the debate.
If you’re going to take on an incumbent, you have to prove you’re better than the person sitting in the chair.
Varga-Toth said she would only be favouring issues that benefit West Carleton-March. So much for being a city councillor.
And Parsons favours weekly garbage pick-up. Hope he’s okay when the city starts scouting for a new landfiill his ward.
So it’s El-Chantiry for the win, but that’s not a resounding endorsement.

Bay Ward Wide Open

With the made and rarely kept promise by outgoing councillor Mark Taylor to only serve two terms, there will be a new councillor in Bay ward tonight.
The five vying for your vote are Erica Dath, Don Dransfield, Theresa Kavanagh, Marc Lugert and Trevor Robinson, a returning candidate.
Let’s be frank – since the polls are already open – the candidate with the most experience in this ward is Kavanagh. She’s a school board trustee. She knows the area, she knows politics and she has new ideas that deserve an audience.

Again, not wanting to dismiss any of the candidates, the race is widely seen as a contest between Kavanagh and Don Dransfield.
Interestingly enough, both have spouses who’ve either been in or are involved in politics themselves. Kavanagh is married to Alex Cullen, who held the ward before Taylor. (Please don’t hold that against her!) Dransfield, who is Mayor Jim Watson’s choice, is married to Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld.

The MP for Ottawa West–Nepean sent a robocall to her constituents asking them to vote for her husband in the upcoming municipal election and many believe it could be a violation of the code of conduct for federal politicians.
Vandenbeld’s robocall opens with her asking the listener to vote for her husband Don Dransfield, who’s running for city council.

“As your federal MP,” Vandenbeld says in the call, “I’m looking for a municipal counterpart to who’s going to fight as hard for the people of the community as I do.”

That message appeared to rub some people on social media the wrong way. Seriously, whether or not it breaks any rules, it’s clearly so inappropriate. And it shows the lengths Dransfield is willing to go to win.

In the Rogers debate, Kavanagh was impressive. She was reasoned, knowledgeable and relatable. And she showed a lot of heart when Dransfield absolutely lost his way during the debate and couldn’t recover. Not sure what happened there. But it was Kavanagh who kindly stepped in to make the moment somewhat less awkward – finishing his thought and giving him credit. Very classy.
Kudos to Dath for an impressive showing, but this debate belonged to Kavanagh – and is the right and reasonable candidate to give your support to.

Time to Oust Cloutier

In Alta Vista, let’s be clear.
Incumbent Jean Cloutier does not deserve re-election.
He hasn’t been effective either at the ward level – and is almost invisible at council.
Small wonder that so many strong candidates are working hard to oust him from his seat.
But that’s the problem isn’t it?

There are six candidates running, five of whom want Cloutier’s job.

And four of them are worthy of your consideration.
I’m dismissing Mike McHarg, whose opening address dealt with obesity and soda pop. Sure that’s an admirable cause, but it’s not a burning issue locally and surely won’t entice voters to his team.

That still leaves Clinton Cowan, Kevin Kit, Raylene Lang-Dion and John Redins.

You’ve heard of the Little effect? People were desperately unhappy with Shawn Little’s performance and many contenders jumped into the election, so many people that Little – the man no one wanted won.
And that is my fear in Alta Vista. Certainly there aren’t as many people taking Cloutier on, but those in the race are strong.
I have a lot of time for John Redins, he’s worked in the trenches for years. He’s not as slick as the other three, but he knows the ward. Good on him.

As an aside, it was a bit rich to see Cloutier challenging his fellow candidates to be more transparent with campaign donations. Really? A little late to take the high road.
Enough said there.

Ultimately, one candidate emerged as the clear winner – Raylene Lang-Dion – a strong voice during the debate with a detailed platform to back her talk up.

Certainly Cowan was also impressive.

But a choice has to be made, and mine is Dion.