Feature Image Illustration: Kat Thornley

By Sam Hersh

In December 2021, after a long game of “will he or won’t he,” Jim Watson finally made the long-awaited announcement on his future as Mayor of Ottawa: he would not seek re-election in the fall of 2022.

Many people in Ottawa cannot remember a time when Watson wasn’t mayor. Ever-present at community events, Watson was (and is) a skilled and experienced retail politician, who made his presence known throughout the community. 

With his towering, pervasive presence exiting the municipal political landscape, Ottawa could become a very different place. So many of us are banking on it. Residents across the City of Ottawa feel that under his leadership, our city lagged behind on several important issues — including the housing crisis, the climate crisis, our public transit system, and police misconduct, to name a few.

It is under Watson that we saw one of the largest mass evictions in Canadian history at Heron Gate; under Watson that we saw our public transit system become the ridicule of the nation; under Watson that the well-being of so many residents in our city decline year after year.

Even with his tight grip on city council, these failures are not attributable to Mayor Watson alone — but he consistently has not done what is in his power to see different outcomes. When calls come to invest more in climate action, he refuses and invests more in expanding roads instead. When residents call for re-allocating police spending, he insists on giving them more money and diminishes the voices calling for justice — even after repeated examples of police misconduct (e.g. the deaths of Abdirahman Abdi, Anthony Aust, and Greg Ritchie at the hand of police) and a wealth of research demonstrating the efficacy of such a policy shift.

There have been several instances when council, under Watson’s lead, voted against what seemed to be the clear majority opinion of Ottawans: the Chateau Laurier addition, the Porsche dealership tax break, and the urban boundary expansion, to name just a few.

Ilustration: Kat Thornley

If any councillor dares oppose Mayor Watson on these issues, they are shut out and not given access to core city committees, or the ability to meaningfully advocate for their ward or their issues.

Under Mayor Watson, we have been living in a city that has been reluctant to dream big or to take the courageous steps that other cities across the world have already taken. We have been stymied by a vision (or a lack thereof) that sees all of us simply as “taxpayers” and not as the multidimensional members of larger communities that we are. 

It is this kind of narrow vision that leads people to brand our city as “boring”, the one that “fun forgot.” It doesn’t have to be this way. When we strive for greater social justice and material improvements, we can have a city that is not only focused on core values of greater equity and inclusion, but that has fun too.

Watson’s exit creates an opening for change and an opportunity for many across Ottawa who want to build a better, more imaginative city and see a bold step forward towards tackling inequalities in our neighbourhoods and communities.

In fact, that is exactly why we founded Horizon Ottawa in May of 2020. We came together because we wanted to fight for a city free of developer influence and to give residents a vehicle to push for change in a meaningful and powerful way. 

For our part, we are working to build the largest grassroots electoral movement this city has ever seen, something we hope will pay off in 2022. Help us elect a council that will finally build the city we all deserve.

4 Replies to “Watson’s departure is an opportunity to build a better city”

  1. I really wish pinkos would stop referencing our Justice system, as examples of “injustice”. The police officer involved in the death of Abdirahman was indicted, put on trial, and found not-guilty. This was not the result the “protester” class of idiots wanted, but it’s the result that happened. The Crown could have elected to appeal the verdict – and perhaps they did (I haven’t looked into that, and have no intention of doing so), but it is beyond irresponsible for politicians and the activist crowd to ignore the court findings, and instead pursue a fruitless campaign to smear everyone who doesn’t subscribe to the mantra that there is an undeniable white-supremacist ethos that is at the core of every decision, and in the hearts of all those who aspire to public service, including police. These references – ridiculous as they are – remind me of when the O-NDP leader gave a presser after the Ghomeshi verdict was released, and how, despite the not-guilty findings of the court (based on proven fraudulent testimony of the alleged victims) – the leader still managed to condemn Ghomeshi and professed that the courts got it wrong. And I say that as someone who does not in any way endorse Ghomeshi, as I believe him to have been an untalented and undeserving, pretentious and obnoxious example of why Canada desperately needs to privatize the cbc. I also strongly and even emphatically believe in police-reform, and an increase in harm-reduction as a first-line of defense, and a complete overhaul of the criminal Justice system, along with the incarceration industry, in the hopes that the US might take notice.

    That all to say, the writer of the above nonsense complains that he is maligned for being a moron when he “presents” at council, and – irrespective of the fact that he’s granted time as a delegate at pretty much every council and committee meeting where he and his “organization” want to present – there’s apparently been an erosion of democracy under Mayor Jim?

    These people need to get a grip. No one takes you seriously – not because your objectives aren’t noble, or the world that they believe they can create isn’t an aspiration shared by most common and decent people – it’s because they’re morons who start bitching every time they don’t get their way. In plain parlance, the reason these wackos aren’t taken seriously, is because they themselves aren’t.

  2. Thanks for the extensive comment, Ben. Without getting into it too much, we believe there’s loads of factual evidence showing that Montsion bears some responsibility for Abdirahman’s death, that Ghomeshi abused many women, and that Watson has concentrated power in the mayor’s office in unprecedented and undemocratic ways. You don’t have to be an “unserious wacko” to believe these things. Most of these claims are backed up with links in our article and certainly available to any open-minded person with even a casual acquaintance with google. (Also, it seems a little naive and fallacious to think that just because the courts convict or acquit someone, they did or didn’t do what they were accused of.)

  3. Hi there,

    Just to respond to your comment insinuating the fallaciousness, (as predicated by a naïveté, and coupled with an unfamiliarity of internet search engines), and a lack of an “open mind” in respect of your publication’s opinions regarding count-cases that had been tried, and concluded, but you disagree with the verdicts. This is another example of the militant left’s disingenuous pursuit of democracy, when in reality, the Left is just as authoritarian and intolerant as any fascist convoy protester in Windsor or Ottawa. You disagree with the verdict of a trial, so you dismiss the due-process that is a hallmark of a healthy democracy,, and you have the audacity to accuse Mayor Jim of eroding said democracy by keeping too tight a grip on Council, despite the fact that he has to face the electorate in order to keep his job (even though he’s not running again)?

    This is why you and this author aren’t being taken seriously by the people you’re trying to convince. Those of us whom you need to build your “movements” aren’t swayed by emotive-argument as a substitute for facts. Ghomeshi and the cop are not guilty of the crimes they were accused of; you dispute this by diminishing the rule of law, due-process, and their rights under Canada’s criminal code. Mayor Watson is not a dictator – insinuating that he is whilst you have every opportunity to speak at as many council meetings as possible, not only negates your assertion, it makes you look foolish in the process.

    Want to affect change, and bring people-in so as to create an actual movement? Stop sounding like idiots every time someone makes the mistake of giving you the time-of-day.

  4. Hey friend, we’re happy to admit that intelligent and open-minded people can look at the same facts and sources as us and come to different conclusions – though I doubt you have. You’re the one calling leftists and people who disagree with Ghomeshi verdict “idiots,” “unserious wackos” and equating us with fascists. Yet courts are frequently wrong, as courts themselves frequently find through appeals and verdicts getting overturned – and surely you’re not naive enough to believe they always fix their mistakes?

    Democratically-elected executives frequently corrupt democracy – look at recent history in Turkey, Hungary, and the Phillipines, nevermind our neighbours to the south – or, I dunno, the classic fascists of the 30s, who were all elected and legally invited into power, than reshaped the laws to concentrate ever-more power in their hands. Not to say Watson is a fascist, just drawing on examples you’d surely accept. Liberal that Watson is, it’s easy for a thoughtful person to look at the unprecedented power he’s concentrated in the mayor’s office, his marginalization of councillors who represent downtown residents, etc. as undemocratic and want to see a change. You seem to be saying system loyalty is the only marker of reasonableness and democracy – which is pretty silly and toxic, looking at 20th century history, I’m sure you’ll agree – while we think dissent is reasonable and democratic.

    We’ve also pretty consistently critiqued authoritarian socialist and communist regimes – in particular the Chinese regime, while supporting democracy and free expression in Hong Kong, to say nothing of Uyghurs and the Tibetan people. Sounds like you’ve come here to ignorantly rant about imaginary leftists in your head, rather than ones here in front of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *