I had noticed while reviewing the activity of this blog that yesterday my post about the 2014 Ottawa elections was viewed. In that post I gave predictions on 9 councillor races in that year’s municipal elections. I wrote that 8 of the nine wards I looked at were in a strong position to change. I was wrong in all predictions as the incumbent won all the 8 seats I thought would see a turn over. But it didn’t stop me from thinking about what might happen in 2018.
Mayor Jim Watson announced that he was seeking another term as Mayor in the 2018 Ottawa Municipal elections. It was the first shot fired, meant to warn off challengers? When he made the announcement he wrote:
“Our city is in the midst of its most significant transformation in a generation, and with the support of the people of Ottawa, I hope to continue to play a small part in our beautiful city’s bright future.”
It makes sense that he run again, the LRT is his baby, by the time a potential next term ends in 2022 Phase 1 will be up and running, Phase 2 of the LRT will be close to completion and he will likely have passed Phase 3 at council. It just makes sense that in order to have the LRT as his legacy he try for a third consecutive term (and 4th term overall) as Mayor to guide it through construction and implementation. Whether he can remove the idea that his tax increase limitations are creating more debt and deficit for the City is yet to be seen as there is a contingent of voters that don’t believe that Ottawa can afford to carry an increased debt.
His re-election is not a slam dunk even with one of the highest approval ratings of all big city Mayors in Canada, his approval sits in the high 70’s percentage. There have been less optimistic and less publicized polls show that he faces some real challenges including increased water fees, sewer rates (all because he limits property taxes to 2% or less), better snow removal budgeting and to loosen the handcuffs of Councillors at budget time.
When he announced his intention to run on March 9th, it may have made a few intentions of other potential candidates sag.
So, who could be in and who could be out of the Mayor’s race with this announcement?
Possible candidates to jump in include, Paul Dewar former Ottawa Centre MP. We have a Father-Son as Prime Minister so why not a Mother-Son Mayor of Ottawa? The only thing holding him back is whether he anticipates that the shine is off the Trudeau Liberals and he can win his seat back. You have to remember, he did not lose any votes in 2015, the Liberals gains were from ‘new’ voters, which was the margin of victory for Catherine McKenna. Voters disenchanted with broken Liberal promises will help Dewar in 2019 and he very likely could win the seat back as he will be able to out canvass Catherine McKenna for 2019 as she did against him for the win in 2015.
Diane Deans, who will have 23 years on City council, has Mayoral aspirations, you can sense it. But the timing has never been great. With Watson in for another run is the timing still off? She has been building on having a different view of Ottawa than Watson envisions in her debates in Council, 2018 could be the year that she is also all in.
Likely NOT seeking to run against Jim Watson are Councillors Mark Taylor and Tim Tierney; both are loyal to the Mayor. Taylor may not be around in 2018 if he seeks to run in the 2018 Provincial election in Ottawa West Nepean replacing Bob Chiarelli as the Liberal Candidate. This seems the most likely plan for Taylor as he plans to keep his promise to be a two term Councillor. Tierney also made the two term pledge, but suggested in 2014 that the voters should determine if a councillor is elected for more than two terms, however I do not see him running against his friend.
Senior councillors, Rick Chiarelli (18 years), Marianne Wilkinson (40+ years with Kanata and Ottawa) and Jan Harder (21 Years with Nepean and Ottawa) may be challenged by supporters to make the jump to run for mayor. Even though the Mayor has declared he’s “in”, I do not expect to see anyone else put their name forward until early 2018.
I do not doubt Watson’s sincerity about running again, but he really had no choice BUT to say he was seeking re-election. He was being asked ( I think unfairly as he is only half way through his term), to say he would not run might have labelled him a lame duck Mayor and then noting would be accomplished and council might seem like a Mayoral debate every time they sat. But then again, something better could come along before he has to file his papers.- just sayin’.
Something else to watch leading up to the 2018 election is if Council will adopt ranked ballots for the vote. A City staff report on the changes that are now allowed due to a change in Provincial legislation suggests that moving to a ranked ballot would cost $3.5M more and would have challenges with ‘respect to awareness, technology and election administration.’ Time is also a concern to implement changes for 2018, but staff does not discount making changes in future elections.
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