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Ottawa Votes Blog: Weekend war of words

It's been a wild and woolly weekend on the campaign trail. It began with Larry O'Brien's vision for growth and community planning on Saturday morning.

Precisely 23 minutes later, Jim Watson's camp sent out a news release headlined: "O'Brien to Scrap Years of Work and Compromise Urban Boundary for Sprawl Plan." It read, in part:

Larry O'Brien is pushing a misguided plan for sprawl that shows a fundamental lack of understanding of both the planning process and the Official Plan according to Jim Watson, candidate for mayor. "This talk of carving a new huge satellite town out of rural and agricultural land means scrapping the planning work our city has done over many decades...Mr. O'Brien's plans would cost the city a billion dollars before a single house was built and would squeeze smaller builders out of the market. Mr. O'Brien has a long track record of making rash decisions without considering their costs and consequences. His decision on the original LRT project cost the city $100m, now he wants to waste all the public participation and millions just spent on renewing our Official Plan."

O'Brien's people responded this morning, accusing Watson of misleading voters about the mayor's vision:

"What Jim Watson is saying is that the Plan is good enough for him, and that he wouldn't change any part of it. Because of his fixation on social engineering and intensification, he is telling residents in the core of Ottawa that they should get ready for an influx of high-rise buildings in their neighborhoods, and that residents outside the core should accept being treated like second class citizens...Jim Watson's view of Ottawa is clearly still anchored in the way things were before the turn of the century, and doesn't embrace the reality of the Ottawa we live in today," said Mayor O'Brien. "In order to realize our full potential as a world-class city, Ottawa needs vision and a sense of the possible, not timid leadership or fear of tackling the real challenges we face," said Mayor O'Brien.

A couple hours later, Watson was standing on the beach at Petrie Island, releasing his platform on sustainability.

Again, O'Brien's camp responded:

"The City does not need bureaucratic green police adding to the cost of construction," said O'Brien. "Just like the Green Energy Act at the province, this would lead to higher building costs for Ottawa, on top of Mr. Watson's promised double-digit tax increase and his planned hydro rate hikes...The plan he released today represents social engineering at its worst," continued O'Brien. "He is proposing a series of small cosmetic changes rather than using the Official Plan for what it was intended to be - a blueprint for a holistic approach to community planning."

O'Brien also questions Watson's claim that as a minister within the McGuinty cabinet, he "fought" for that $600-million provincial contribution to Ottawa's LRT project. 

Watson was a passive player in the process who showed nothing but disdain for the proposed underground tunnel and the idea of a rail-based system until recently. "While it's good that Mr. Watson is now publicly supporting the plan, just months ago he was criticizing it at every turn," said O'Brien. "He has been a Johnny-come-lately to this project, and I think residents are right in questioning whether or not he will actually see it through."

It's not over yet, folks.