Ottawa

Simmering spat between mayor, councillor boils over

A long-simmering quarrel between Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson boiled over Tuesday, with the first-term councillor accusing the veteran mayor of carrying out a "childish" vendetta against him.

Coun. Shawn Menard accuses Jim Watson of 'toxic behaviour'

Coun. Shawn Menard represents Capital ward. He ousted former councillor David Chernushenko in last fall's municipal election. (CBC)

A long-simmering quarrel between Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson boiled over Tuesday, with the first-term councillor accusing the mayor of carrying out a "childish" vendetta against him.

The roots of the feud can be traced back to last fall's municipal election campaign when Menard, a former student leader and community association president, butted heads with Watson, a veteran politician with a reputation for expecting council colleagues to toe the line.

It frothed up again Monday morning when Menard, joining a Twitter discussion about vandalism to federal election signs, opined the signs shouldn't be allowed on public property.

Hours later, Watson implied that Menard was only interested in protecting his own political interests, tweeting later: "I like to call out hypocrisy."

The next morning, Menard fired back at the mayor, accusing him of "toxic behaviour."

In a statement issued later Tuesday morning, Menard noted the Twitter exchange with the mayor was "not an isolated occurrence," adding: "The culture at City Hall needs to change. We have witnessed allegations of sexual harassment, admissions of inappropriate gestures during elections, intimidating behavior towards resident's and very personal insinuations, often on social media.

Coun. Shawn Menard is calling on the mayor and city councillors to create a "culture change" at city hall by focusing on policy instead of interpersonal strife. 1:08

"There is a dysfunctional structure at City Hall, and whenever it is challenged—by Councillors, the media or the public—those who have created and who benefit from this structure will seek to shutdown dissent or critiques," Menard wrote. "This structure needs to be challenged and I believe it's something worth fighting for. I will not stop highlighting existing inequitable power structures at City Hall."

Watson ready to 'work collaboratively'

In response, Watson's office issued its own statement: "Mayor Watson recognizes that all members of Council have the right to express their opinion and looks forward to working collaboratively with each of them to move the city forward."

Menard is vice-chair of the city's environmental protection, water and waste management committee, and a member of the transportation committee.

Mayor Jim Watson said disagreements are "part of the messy business of democracy," whether they happen during a council meeting or on Twitter. 1:18

He had listed a spot on the planning committee as his top choice, but didn't get one.

In another perceived slight, Menard's Twitter announcement on June 24 that the Flora Footbridge would soon open was overshadowed when the city held its own news conference the very next day, also announcing the pedestrian bridge's early opening.

Menard wasn't invited to that photo op, which featured Watson and Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna flanked by a dozen men in hard hats.

Where's Shawn? The councillor for Capital ward, where the Flora Footbridge is located, was nowhere to be seen in this June 25 photo op. (jimwatsonottawa.ca)

City council meets Wednesday.

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