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Jim Watson includes nearly $1 million in promises in re-election campaign plank

Jim Watson made nearly $1 million in promises on Sunday during a rally at the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards, where he delivered the economic development plank of his re-election platform.

The proposals include giving a six-figure boost to Invest Ottawa, slicing fees that restaurants pay for sidewalk patios, doling out more money to the city’s film office and making museum passes available to graduating Grade 6 students and exchange students.

How would the mayoral incumbent pay for them?

A property tax plan to be revealed in the coming weeks will provide at least part of the answer, Watson suggested.

“I’m not the candidate that’s promising to freeze taxes or cut taxes,” Watson told reporters after announcing to supporters his first promises of the campaign.

“We have costs that go up, whether it’s gasoline or labour costs or materials, and we have an obligation to pay for them. We will be bringing forward the tax rate and the tax plan to make sure that it’s predictable and affordable for the city.”

Watson won the 2010 and 2014 municipal elections on promises of 2.5 per cent and two per cent annual tax increases, respectively.

Asked if he was planning city budget cuts in his re-election bid, Watson said, “Over the course of the campaign, you will see different ideas on how we’re going to make the city more efficient.”

Also in Watson’s economic development platform is support for the idea of using professional civilian security rather than “paid-duty” police officers, who pick up extra shifts on their scheduled days off to provide security for road closures or events. Using civilians, rather than cops, could save anyone who requires security big money, and that includes the city, which often needs police to restrict traffic around construction sites.

The current city council endorsed the idea in May 2016. The former provincial Liberal government passed a law to allow security professionals do the work, but the necessary regulations haven’t been adopted yet.

The Ottawa Police Association, which endorsed the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election campaign, has been cool to the idea of replacing paid-duty assignments with civilian security guards.

“I think it’s going to be incumbent on me and other mayors to go and put our best case forward (to the provincial PC government),” Watson said.

Restaurant owners with patios on city property would receive a break under Watson’s economic development plan. He would cut fees in half for patio encroachments, leaving the city short about $315,000 in annual revenue.

Watson also wants to give $500,000 more to Invest Ottawa to attract and retain talent for local businesses and to grow the agency’s investment and trade team. The agency already receives $4.3 million annually from city hall. He would also boost the city’s contribution to the Ottawa Film Office by $60,000.

Another $25,000 in property tax money would help buy the museum passes for students, with matching funds from municipal accommodation tax revenue, according to Watson’s plan.

However, one proposal that Watson is still sussing out is adding paved shoulders to rural roads for cyclists. Watson figures it would cost $95,000 per kilometre for the extra paving, a cost that could be negotiated into road-building contracts or handled through separate construction work.

There are 12 candidates for mayor. The municipal election is Oct. 22.

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