ELECTION 2018

Watson promises to hire 75 new police officers, 56 paramedics

Jim Watson is promising to spend millions to hire 75 new police officers and 56 paramedics over the next term of council if he's re-elected for a third time. And he would encourage 15 of those new officers be dedicated to enforcing traffic safety.

If re-elected mayor, Watson would encourage police to dedicate 15 new officers to traffic enforcement

Mayoral incumbent Jim Watson shares a joke with supporter Emile Therien, the past president of the Canada Safety Council. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

Jim Watson is promising to spend millions to hire 75 new police officers and 56 paramedics over the next term of council if he's re-elected for a third time, he announced Sunday.

"I think there's concern about safety in communities, particularly in those areas that have had gun violence," Watson told reporters. "One of the reasons we have to hire more police officers is obviously we want to have greater presence, but also greater strength in the guns and gangs unit as well."

Earlier this year, council voted to spend an extra $660,000 to hire more officers this fall, money it hopes to recoup from a federal program to combat gun violence.

More traffic safety enforcement

And while neither the mayor nor council have the authority to direct the Ottawa force on how to spend its budget, Watson said he will encourage police to dedicate 15 of the new officers to enforcing traffic safety.

Councillors consistently report that the No. 1 issue they hear about from constituents is how cars are speeding or otherwise driving unsafely through neighbourhoods.

"I say this sort of jokingly, but I've discovered every ward has the busiest street in the city — worst street ever," said Watson of the feedback he's been getting at the doors while campaigning.

He also promised additional other traffic safety measures, including:

  • piloting photo radar in school zones
  • doubling fines in high-risk school zones
  • adding 20 new red light cameras 
  • increasing councillors' annual budget for community traffic calming measures — like flexi-sticks or speed boards — by $10,000 to $50,000 per year

Some of these promises are not new, or simply extensions of past practices. For example, in August, the transportation committee gave staff direction to start gathering data on where to roll out photo radar in school zones in 2019.

As well, council added 20 red light cameras last year, and the police force has added 25 new officers in each of the last three years.

Cost not yet known

The hiring of additional police officers and paramedics over four years will cost well over $10 million. Watson didn't say Sunday where the money would come from, but repeated that he would lay out the costing of his platform — including his target for property taxe rate increases — in the next couple of weeks.