Mayor Jim Watson unofficially kicked off the 2018 municipal election campaign on Thursday with the announcement that he will seek re-election.
“It’s a big decision, because it’s a four-year commitment of your life and you want to make sure your family is supportive and your past volunteers are supportive,” Watson said.
The announcement will galvanize volunteers, but it may also ward off potential opponents, he suggested.
“There would probably be a fair number of people that would probably run if I wasn’t running,” he said. “There’s no question — I don’t want to take anything for granted — it’s tough to defeat incumbents.”
Watson was first elected to the Ottawa city council in 1991, and following a second term as councillor, became mayor in 1997 with 82 per cent of the vote.
He resigned in 2000, and eventually successfully pursued provincial politics, before returning as mayor in 2010 and again in 2014. In the last election he secured 76 per cent of the vote.
Since then he’s brought some long sought-after projects to fruition, including the Bayview Innovation Centre, a new central library and, most ambitious, the expansion of Ottawa’s light rail system.
If all goes according to plan, voters will be taking their first rides on the new LRT mere months before election day, Oct, 22, 2018.
“That’s been my strength: taking these projects that have been stuck in the mud and moving them forward and getting them done,” he said.
Watson said his election platform will involve more than Stage 2 LRT and low taxes, but he plans to run on an existing record of practicality, not idealism.
“Things are looking up and the unemployment rate is falling, but I think our job is not to bribe people with their own money and offer them bells and whistles,” he said. “People who come in with a shopping list of things they’d like to do usually have no idea how they will pay for them.”
Watson said that recent mayoral scandals in other Canadian cities and even the Trump win in the United States will encourage people to pick stability.
He said he doesn’t fear voter discontent over urban issues like moving the central library branch west or voicing disapproval over safe injection sites.
“I don’t buy the argument that just because one issue like the library galvanized a hundred or so people, means that people are angry with you. I’m not going to get 100 per cent of the vote, no one ever does, but I’m comfortable with the decisions we’ve made,” he said.