City council voted Wednesday to cap property taxes for the next year at two per cent, a day after the motion was first tabled by Mayor Jim Watson.


If passed, the two-per-cent tax hike cap would be the lowest since Mayor Jim Watson took office. ((CBC))

He brought the motion forward to the city's finance committee Tuesday, forgoing the usual two weeks' notice and denying the public a chance to speak on the issue.

Watson said it's the responsible thing to do because the inflation rate is down.

Coun. Steve Desroches said the two-per-cent target being set now gives library and police boards more time to plan.

But Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the police board, warned that an arbitrator awarded Ottawa police a salary increase of three per cent, and said the resulting $1.8-million difference has to be found somewhere.

City Hall watchers are interpreting Mayor Watson's motion as an early re-election bid.

While limiting the annual increase to the lowest rate since Watson took office may seem like a political no-brainer, there are some who would like to talk it over first.

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau has warned even Watson's original 2.5 per cent tax promise would become untenable by 2014 because of the mounting costs of policing a growing city.

Yesterday Watson dismissed those concerns.

"There's no question that they'd like to see more money come into their budgets, but I think they also understand that when inflation is running below two per cent, we can't continue to have increases above two per cent."

Kevin O'Donnell is deputy leader of Ontario's Green Party and the creator of Ottwatch, an app for anyone interested in governance issues at City Hall.

He said his problem with the move is not about the number, it's about the way the motion was rushed through committee, straight to council.

"Right now the city has a process going on how to do better consultation with its residents," O'Donnell said. "And I can tell you one way to not do that very well is to walk on motions that have significant impact to all the programs in the city."