Ottawa Sun: 'WATSON CLUB': Council's urban-suburban split on chair for transportation board

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By Tom Spears

There’s a split on Ottawa council over who will take over the job as chair of the transportation committee as it prepares to draw up the long-term master plan for all transportation in this city.

The chair’s job is about to become vacant as Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais moves over to run as a provincial Liberal.

On Tuesday, a committee voted to replace him with Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun.

Tim Tierney, who is backed by Mayor Jim Watson.

Backers of Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper say they’ll fight that choice. They say the eight-member committee will continue to have seven members from suburban Ottawa and therefore won’t represent residents fully.

(Watson argues that Tierney represents an area inside the Greenbelt, “which is important.”)

Coun. Catherine McKenney called it “another example of the urban core being shut out of leadership positions.”

Catherine McKenney✔@cmckenney

Another example of the urban core being shut out of leadership positions at #ottcity with @leiper passed over for Transportation Chair. #WatsonClub

The choice of Tierney came from the finance and economic development committee, which is also heavily suburban.

“Within the Greenbelt people are sorely under-represented in this city because of the decisions made by this mayor” and by the committee, said Capital Coun. Shawn Menard.

He said Leiper, who has been the vice-chair of transportation, “knows those issues inside and out.” Tierney has not served on the transportation committee.

“The Watson club is back again,” he said. “It’s not about representation of the regions of Ottawa. It’s not about the people of Ottawa. It’s about the Watson Club getting their decisions through.”

Shawn Menard@ShawnMenard1

I dare Jim Watson to run next election. He would lose. I just wonder when some Councillor’s realize he is a sinking ship and their jobs are also at risk. #WatsonClub

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11:14 AM - Feb 4, 2020

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McKenney promised to oppose Tierney’s selection when the full council votes on it because “we have such a democratic deficit at city hall … It really is a shame. People deserve better in this city. I will be bringing a motion to nominate Coun. Leiper at council.

“We’re dealing with a transportation master plan in this term of council. That is a huge deal. It is going to change the way we move around this city.”

McKenney said Leiper, who is an avid cyclist, “understands healthy transportation options.”

Watson said Tierney is a good choice who has distinguished himself by chairing the library board as it plans the new main library at LeBreton.

“It’s our second-biggest infrastructure file and there’s a lot of infrastructure that goes with the transportation committee,” he said.

He said Tierney has also supported multi-use paths in his ward, as well as the makeovers of Main Street, Churchill Avenue and others, known as “complete streets.”

Tierney is going to be busy chairing the library board and other committee work, and Watson suggested that he “may wish to give up” some of those when he takes over transportation.

The library job will be especially demanding, he said.

“It’s going to require a lot of skill to stickhandle. The toughest part of the library file is to get it built.”

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