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Watson and O'Brien's war of words

If the gloves weren't off already, they certainly are now. Jim Watson and Larry O'Brien went toe-to-toe in a classic political punch-up today, and it's hard to say who won the bout. It began when Watson released this open letter to Larry O'Brien. 

Pretty damning stuff, if you believe that introducing party politics to City Hall is a bad thing. Then O'Brien swung back, with one of the feistiest media scrums of his mayoralty. O'Brien didn't deny authoring the e-mails, but said he doesn't recall the "context" of the exchange. O'Brien freely admitted he thought political parties at the municipal level were "valid" at one time, but says he's since changed his opinion on the matter. Then he said this:
"I do know during a lunch hour that I had with him, and it was probably around the same time, he clearly stated to me, clearly stated to me that he wanted to come back to city council because at the...provincial government you didn't have a pension, and he wasn't a rich man...And he wanted to come back because he enjoyed and liked the pensions that you see at the City of Ottawa. I would never think to bring something like that up during a campaign..."
Um, you just did Mr. Mayor. Oh sorry, you're not finished.
"I think the former McGuinty cabinet minister who said yes to everything that has gone wrong with the City of Ottawa for years and years and years, it's a little rich for him to bring something up...I like the guy, I like the guy very much, but for Jim Watson, a former McGuinty cabinet minister to start throwing these things around just shows you just exactly how panicked he is now that his history of HST, healthcare problems, all those scandals going on in Toronto, he must be starting to think that Ottawa might start getting as smart as Toronto. I never thought I'd say that, but Toronto, my goodness Toronto is getting it, and they don't want another McGuinty henchman running a city...the McGuinty lieutenant that was sent to take over that area is 24 points behind."
So there you have it, a nod to Rob Ford's success in Ontario's other city, and a sign of things to come here in Ottawa. O'Brien will take every opportunity from now until October 25 to link Watson to the McGuinty government's most unpopular policies. He wants voters to make that association too. So how will Watson handle it? So far, he's been unapologetic about his tenure at Queen's Park. He may have to come up with a new tactic.
For the record, Watson denies making the pension comment. And isn't it a bit strange that O'Brien forgets an e-mail exchange, but recalls a comment from the same period?

Meanwhile, O'Brien's camp delivered another blow today with this:
Jim Watson Gets Answer on Ottawa's Sewage Treatment Progress Under O'Brien's Watch

OTTAWA- Today, Ontario's Environment Commissioner Gord Miller tabled his Annual Report, Redefining Conservation, which among other items addressed the issue of sewage overflows into Ontario's rivers and lakes. Miller gave high praise to the City of Ottawa, calling it "... an Ontario leader in controlling overflows into its water."

"Overflows of raw sewage into our region's waterways are simply unacceptable, which is why I took this on as a top priority upon being elected in 2006," said Mayor Larry O'Brien. "With over $250M in combined funding for our Ottawa River Action Plan, we have already made significant progress, and I won't let up until the problem is completely eradicated."

While at Queen's Park, former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Watson called for Commissioner Miller to give Ottawa a dressing down for what he thought was mis-management of the sewage issue by the current Mayor and Council. Today, we learn that while Watson was making noise at the province, the City of Ottawa was getting results. In fact, Mayor O'Brien and Council were busy fixing a legacy problem that was around when Watson was Mayor of Ottawa.

Miller's report states that:

"The Environment Commissioner of Ontario was invited by the MPP for Ottawa Nepean-Carleton to review Ottawa's sewage problems in summer 2009. Even by this time, many improvements had been made to reduce overflows into the river."

The Ottawa River Action Plan not only addresses the problem of combined sewar overflows, but also broader issues affecting the city's waterways, making Ottawa's water cleaner, and its beaches safer.


Incidentally, both Watson and O'Brien will be on hand at Gord Hunter's roast tonight.

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