Ottawa

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson 'not convinced' city needs photo radar

Mayor Jim Watson says he's "not convinced" of the public demand for photo radar and worries the technology could become a "cash grab" for the city.

Contentious photo radar debate put off until May 4

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson now says he supports the use of photo radar, like this one in Saskatoon, but only in school zones. (Adrian Cheung/CBC)

Mayor Jim Watson said he's "not convinced" of the public demand for photo radar and worries the technology could become a "cash grab" for the city.

Watson made the comments to reporters after Wednesday's council meeting, where a motion by River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington to ask the province for permission to use photo radar was punted ahead to the May 4 transportation committee agenda.

"When I speak and attend events in my ward ... what I hear time and time again is the need to slow traffic down," said Brockington. "If we believe there's a speeding issue, we need to consider all options."

While underlining the fact he did not want to use photo radar widely, Brockington suggested city officials would consult with the public to set parameters about where and how to use the technology once the province gives Ottawa the green light. 

But councillors never got a chance to vote on Brockington's motion after they supported Coun. Keith Egli's plan to move the discussion to the transportation committee, which Egli chairs.

Time for research, public input

Egli said waiting to tackle the issue at committee will allow staff to gather research on photo radar and present information on how it can be used.

Stalling the vote will also allow for public delegations to make their cases for or against the idea. Public delegations cannot address full council.

"I think it makes more sense to go to committee because when you leapfrog over committee to council, it shuts out the public," said Watson. "And this is a very major policy decision that we are asking the province to give us power for."

'This is a very major policy decision that we are asking the province to give us power for.' - Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, who said she's heard from many of her ward's residents on the issue, said she's interested in learning more about how the city might use photo radar, but wants to hear from the broader public first.

"I just don't think you go and ask the province for something you don't want," said Deans, adding that making such a request would "create an expectation."

With files from Stéphane Leclerc

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