Mayor Watson will not stand for re-election in 2022


“I can’t wait to watch the sideways,” Watson said after recently scoring 30 years in politics

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Mayor Jim Watson has known for three years that he will be leaving Ottawa City Hall in 2022.

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Watson said he kept it a secret until Friday for fear of being seen as a “lame” mayor during the term.

Now, with his decision out in the open, Watson feels some relief.

“I enjoyed almost every hour of every day coming here,” Watson said in an interview in his office after announcing he would not be running for the October municipal vote.

“There is no doubt that the last year has been a lot more difficult with COVID, with LRT, with the impact of COVID on the economy and the tourism industry, so it has been an exhilarating, but exhausting two years. Watson said.

The current tenure has been the most acrimonious on the board during Watson’s administration. Political divisions have never been so strong, to the point that “toxic” has become a common word to describe the state of town hall.

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The new backbone of Ottawa’s transit system, the Confederation Line LRT ended up causing more headaches than anyone imagined after its launch in September 2019. Watson and city staff were caught off guard by the decision of the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario to open a public inquiry into the city of Ottawa. TLR program.

But LRT’s woes do not keep Watson away from municipal government.

Watson said he knew during the last campaign in 2018 that if he won, it would be his last term as mayor. This victory saw Watson become the longest-serving mayor in Ottawa history.

He says knowing it would be his last term didn’t influence his approach to running the city.

“I guess I was a little more concerned with making sure these promises were kept and reflected in the budget for the past three years,” Watson said, three days after fulfilling another fiscal pledge to cap annual increases at 3% during the four-year term.

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Budget 2022 was the last big political decision that Watson said had to be made before announcing he would not run again next year.

Three decades after his first election (as councilor), Mayor Jim Watson is well acquainted with the powers of municipal office.
Three decades after his first election (as councilor), Mayor Jim Watson is well acquainted with the powers of municipal office. Postmedia

Watson won the 2010 election on a wave of support and optimism. He has vowed to bring stability to Town Hall after a dramatic few years with Larry O’Brien in charge.

During the first two terms as mayor, Watson often reflected on O’Brien’s difficult years and contrasted them with the collegiality of city council at the time. It was so comfortable, in fact, that Watson’s council was often referred to as “bobbleheads” or “goodwill gang” with few political divisions.

Things changed after the 2018 election.

Councilors who had challenged Watson in the past were more willing to confront him in public, and there were new progressive voices around the horseshoe of the council. Suddenly there did not seem to be any common ground between a perceived “Watson club” of loyal advisers and a group of opponents.

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Watson observed that being a politician in this age of social media has been difficult due to the “corrosive” comments made on condition of anonymity.

“I think it affects a lot more politicians than they say,” Watson said. “I know in my case homophobic slurs, attacks on our personality, our family or things like that.”

He said it was too early to know if public life was part of his future.

“It’s hard to go out and run for mayor,” Watson joked, “but my term as an elected official I consider it ends in November.”

Age was a factor in her decision not to run again. Launching a new challenge would be easier at age 60, a milestone he reached in July, rather than at age 65, he said.

If no job is right for him after politics, Watson said he would be happy to be part of community causes, such as serving on charity boards or volunteering.

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“I would be bored to death if I didn’t do something,” he said.

There is already a competition for the town hall inside the town hall.

Councilors Diane Deans and Catherine McKenney have announced they will run for mayor. Mathieu Fleury launched the idea.

With the interest in replacing him around the board table, Watson will have his hands full in 2022 to keep the board on track while slowly releasing its grip on power.

Watson said there was talent on the council when it came to the prospects of the next mayor, but he said the transition from ward councilor to mayor – as he did in Ottawa before the merger – didn’t is not easy.

“All of a sudden all the big issues are hitting your desk and you have to deal with them first,” Watson said.

“I became a better mayor during the second go-around while I was running a crown corporation, I was minister of three departments and I came back with a broader view of the city than just a neighborhood”, did he declare.

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“Whoever comes up with his name, God bless him, for these are long hours and you have to make difficult calls, but most of them are very pleasant. You can honor people and recognize the good in people.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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