Statement by Jim Watson on the launch of the 2018 municipal election campaign

Four years ago, I was honoured to be re-elected as Mayor of our beautiful city, with a strong mandate from the residents of Ottawa. Today, I registered to run for re-election, and on October 22, I hope you will support me once again so we can keep working together to maintain our city on a path to progress.

Over the two terms that I have had the privilege of serving the residents of Ottawa, we have seen our city transform, flourish and grow right before our eyes.

My re-election campaign will focus on the work we’ve done together so far, while outlining what we can continue to accomplish together.

Ottawa has become a different city

Ottawa’s cityscape today is significantly different from what it was in 2010. During my time as Mayor, I have worked hard to complete and start numerous city building projects that were debated for years, and in some cases decades.

After 30 years of inaction, Lansdowne Park has been revitalized and has become a popular destination for both residents and visitors. It is now the premiere location for major events and has been host to the CFL Grey Cup, the NHL Heritage Classic, The Brier, and hundreds of festivals and special events.

With the success of our Ottawa 2017 celebrations, our city went from Ottawa the old to Ottawa the bold by offering residents and visitors a year of unforgettable experiences and events. In addition to contributing $225 million in new economic activity, Ottawa 2017 has heightened our city’s image on the international stage and the pride of our residents. Our 2017 celebrations have left a legacy of impressive events that will help us grow our tourism industry in the future. Just think of La Machine, Picnic on the Bridge and Ottawa Welcomes the World – a number of firsts that we aim to bring back for residents and visitors to enjoy.

In 2017, we officially opened our new Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards, Ottawa’s incubation hub for local creators and entrepreneurs. Just last week, we opened the new Ottawa Art Gallery, a beacon of culture and arts in Ottawa’s Arts, Fashion and Theatre district. This is in addition to the new cultural centres, recreational facilities and skating rinks we have already opened in Kanata, Cumberland, Barrhaven and Gloucester.

Our environment continues to be an important part of our plan, as we implement the Ottawa River Action Plan; Energy Evolution catalyst projects; aim to plant one million trees across our city, and continue to advance our renewable energy strategy and the retrofitting of our streetlights and municipal buildings.

We have also put in place the most comprehensive accountability measures of any municipality in Ontario. With our online expense reports, gift and lobbyist registries and Integrity Commissioner, City Hall has never been more open and transparent.

When I was re-elected in 2014, I was given the mandate to continue the progress we made from 2010 to 2014. Working with residents, community associations, councillors and staff, we have not only maintained our momentum; we exceeded what we had set out to do. 

Transit and transportation

After years of false starts, lawsuits and cancellations, we will now witness the opening of Stage 1 of our new Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in November. The Confederation Line runs from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair and boasts 13 stations over 12.5 km, four of which are underground. Downtown traffic gridlock will be virtually eliminated as commuters using public transit will travel through the 2.5 km underground tunnel.

Construction for Stage 2 of LRT will start in early 2019. Stage 2 will bring light rail farther west to Algonquin College, Bayshore Shopping Centre and Moodie Drive, farther east to Place d’Orléans and Trim Road, and farther south to Bowesville, with a link to the Ottawa International Airport – all delivered sooner than originally planned.

Light Rail Transit is Ottawa’s biggest infrastructure project since the Rideau Canal was built – one that will change the way people get around our city for generations to come.

If re-elected, I will continue to work to extend light rail farther west to Kanata, and then over the Prince of Wales Bridge to Gatineau, while offering better, more efficient transit service to Barrhaven.

My priority will continue to be creating shorter and safer commutes, no matter how you travel. By the end of this term, we will have invested a record $80 million in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, more than any Council in the history of Ottawa. We have seen that our investments in active transportation are worth it – millions of crossings have been recorded since the opening of the Adàwe Crossing over the Rideau River. We will continue this commitment as we look forward to the opening of the Rideau Canal crossing at Clegg Street and Fifth Avenue next year.

Roads

In the 2018 Budget, we increased our investments in critical infrastructure like roads and sidewalks by $12 million per year, which will see $100 million more invested over the next eight years. Our investments in road resurfacing alone increased by more than $5 million, or 17 percent.

These investments are essential to maintaining our roads, especially in rural Ottawa. This year, the City will repair or resurface 70 kilometres of roads in the rural areas of Ottawa.

Taxes

In the last election, I ran on a commitment to keep tax increases at an affordable rate of no more than 2%. We have kept this commitment and I am proud to say that, with a lot of forward thinking and hard work, every year during my time as Mayor, we have met our tax cap and provided greater stability and predictability for our residents and local businesses.

If elected, I will continue to bring fiscal responsibility and discipline to City Hall, while also continuing to build a prosperous city that is safe, inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

But property taxes are only one piece of a family’s budget. We’ve also managed to limit transit fare increases to ensure public transit remains an affordable option.

With one of the lowest per-capita debt ratios of any major city in Canada, our fiscal record is solid.  Our excellent credit rating has not changed since I took office. Moody’s Investor Service reconfirmed our Aaa credit rating, stating that we have “generated a string of strong fiscal outcomes over the past several years, which reflects fiscal discipline and a commitment to long-range financial planning.” 

Community investments

In my last campaign, I committed to help our most vulnerable population by increasing funding for affordable housing and homelessness by $16 million. Working collaboratively with community partners and both levels of government has allowed us to build over 360 new affordable housing units, and we remain on track with our goal to eliminate chronic homelessness with the implementation of our Housing & Homelessness Plan.

We’ve provided more affordable transit options for our low-income residents with the creation of the new Equi-Pass, a monthly transit pass, and Equi-Fare, a single-ride fare. This offers a deep 50% discount and represents the largest one-time increase in financial support for transit customers in the city's history. By offering these low-income transit options, we are helping those who would otherwise not be able to afford to get around the city, either to maintain or find meaningful employment, or access healthcare.

Public Safety

Our roads have also never been safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. We created Safer Roads Ottawa in 2010, and increased their budget by more than six times in 2014. We have also kept our promise of installing 20 red light cameras at high-risk intersections, we have reduced the speed limit to 30 km/h in school zones, and have implemented effective traffic calming measures in urban, suburban and rural neighbourhoods.

We continue to be one of the safest cities in Canada thanks to the hiring of 75 police officers and 38 paramedics in this term of Council.

We must continue the hard work already underway

Our city has undergone unprecedented transformation with significant projects like Light Rail Transit, the Ottawa River Action Plan, and major landmark redevelopments like Lansdowne Park, the Ottawa Art Gallery and Arts Court redevelopment, and the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.

The future holds a number of major city building projects – ideas that need a leader with a track record of getting things done. Transformative projects like Zibi, LeBreton Flats, and the new Ottawa Central Library. Over the next few years, our city will see more development at the former Rockcliffe Air Base, which will be the single largest development within the Greenbelt since amalgamation.

Ottawa deserves strong and stable leadership for the challenges that remain ahead.

I would like to continue the work we’ve started together, and that’s why I’m asking for residents’ support on October 22. We need to remain ambitious, but continue on the path of stability and certainty for the next four years.

Over the next six months, I look forward to engaging residents across our city to talk about their priorities for the next four years and beyond. I will work hard to earn residents’ vote and lay out a vision worthy of your support. I will present a full election platform that will be released over the course of the campaign, and I look forward to receiving your feedback.

Jim