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Watson plans stronger ties to gay community

New Ottawa mayor kicks off term

At last night’s inauguration of Ottawa’s newest mayor and city councillors, which was marked by standing ovations, community performances and Tim Hortons fare, mayor Jim Watson pledged to foster a good relationship with Ottawa’s gay and lesbian community.

In a comment after the ceremony, Watson said that he planned to build on a good relationship between city hall and the gay, lesbian, bi and trans community, the foundation for which he says was laid during former mayor Bob Chiarelli’s reign.

“I think under Mayor Chiarelli, there was some pretty good liaison between the GLBT community and city hall,” says Watson.

“I am certainly proud to be associated with the [gay] community and to march in the [Pride] parade. In fact, I think I’m still the only mayor that’s marched the full parade, so I look forward to working with them and seeing what we can do in the future to strengthen ties between city hall and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered communities,” says Watson, who has marched in the Pride parade seven or eight times over the past 12 years.
 
Earlier, during his first official mayoral address to a crowd of about 500 at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans, Watson proclaimed himself a “lucky man” to be at the helm of the nation’s capital, and said that he planned to “rebuild bridges” and return city hall to “a sense of order, confidence and decorum.” He said his government’s reign would be marked by transparency, as evidenced first by the appointment of an independent integrity commissioner within the first 60 days of his term.

City hall “needs to show that it understands again just how hard people work for their money,” he says.

He was firm about the subject of the first city budget he will oversee, saying that “there will be much to clean up in this first budget” and that “there is going to be a marked change with this budget.”

He pledged to work with council to deliver on his campaign promise of keeping property tax increases to no more than 2.5 percent per year, something he acknowledged would not be easy.

He also promised to leave Ottawa a greener city and to create a transit commission, and he said that at the end of this council’s term, the city would have better, more reliable public transit.

Watson also emphasized the positive effects of volunteerism in the community, noting that he would begin each council meeting by awarding a City Builder Award to a group or individual.

The mayor was presented with the chain of office by city solicitor Rick O’Connor after being sworn in by Justice of the Peace Claudette Cain, prompting the crowd to erupt into its first standing ovation of the night. It didn’t stop there.

After the group swearing-in of all the councillors by Cain, each was called to sign their oath of office, and hoots and hollers followed after each name was called. Beacon-Hill-Cyrville Ward councillor Tim Tierney arguably got the rowdiest response of all (one of his vocal supporters hollered, frat-like, “Timmy! Do us proud!”). In his speech later, Watson joked that he wasn’t sure if the support was for Tim Tierney or Timbits, a reference to the fact that Tim Hortons catered the event, which had a significantly more frugal budget than in the past.

To kick off the event, a prayer was offered by Algonquin chief Kirby Whiteduck, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Constable Lyndon Slewidge.

The evening’s master of ceremonies was well-known entertainer Suzanne Pinel. Members of the arts community, including the Ottawa Children’s Choir, Les Chansonniers d’Ottawa, the Strings of St John’s and Reverend Ernie Cox, were on hand to entertain the crowd intermittently throughout the ceremony. The close of the official proceedings brought a particularly homey moment, when Cox performed “This Little Light of Mine,” which had the mayor, several councillors and some audience members singing and clapping along.