Simmering spat between mayor, councillor boils over
Coun. Shawn Menard accuses Jim Watson of 'toxic behaviour'
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.
We really should be banning election signs on public property. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://t.co/nMHzfWfXZt">https://t.co/nMHzfWfXZt</a>—@ShawnMenard1
Hours later, Watson implied that Menard was only interested in protecting his own political interests, tweeting later: "I like to call out hypocrisy."
I love how incumbents - once safely settled in office - now want to disadvantage challengers by not allowing signs on Public property!—@JimWatsonOttawa
I like to call out hypocrisy—@JimWatsonOttawa
The next morning, Menard fired back at the mayor, accusing him of "toxic behaviour."
This has come along with being barred from sitting on committees, childish things like cutting me out of pictures, pre-announcing events in my ward to try to “one-up” others. It is toxic behaviour and needs to end. Won’t stop me from fighting for better policy decisions.—@ShawnMenard1
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.
"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.
He had listed a spot on the planning committee as his top choice, but didn't get one.
Are you ready <a href="https://twitter.com/CapitalWard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CapitalWard</a> ? Flora Footbridge is just about finished. It is expected to open this weekend (tentative date and time is Friday June 28th at 5pm). It connects <a href="https://twitter.com/ottawaeast?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ottawaeast</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/OldOttSouth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OldOttSouth</a> with the <a href="https://twitter.com/GlebeCA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GlebeCA</a> . <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FloraFootbridge?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FloraFootbridge</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ottawa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ottawa</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VisionZero?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VisionZero</a> <a href="https://t.co/DILsPbO59h">pic.twitter.com/DILsPbO59h</a>—@ShawnMenard1
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.
City council meets Wednesday.