The challenge ahead for Ottawa’s new Mayor

Walter Robinson penned a good piece in the Citizen yesterday on the challenges that will face the new Mayor over the coming years. He rightly notes that keeping the next City budget increase to 2.5% will be a daunting challenge in light of the inevitable slew of “asks” by the new (and old) Councillors who will be eager to solidify themselves as champions for their Wards.

And he also rightly points out the following:

The other ongoing challenge for Mayor Watson will be council management. Yes, he is personable; yes, he is a consummate consensus builder; and yes, he has been the mayor before. Nonetheless, the Ottawa of 2010 bears little resemblance to the old City of Ottawa back in 2000.

Council management back then was simpler, with more predictable vote splits given the left-right divide on most issues. Today’s council can, depending on the issue, fracture across multiple fault lines including left-right distinctions, urban vs. suburban vs. exurban, partisan affiliations, east against west, language, homeowners pitted against tenants and community vs. community, both within and across ward boundaries.

Schisms are not just of the left/right spectrum any more. This can be seen at all levels of governments. For example, the ReformCons corner the market on much of the rural vote by playing to fears and issues that are predominately only issues in the minds of rural folks – the gun registry for example. While the Grits and NDP flip the coin around for their urban core base of support by playing on the fear that unregistered guns will make their ways into street gangs.

And it does not stop at urban and rural.  Faith-based versus fact-based. Those who have the opportunity of a higher education versus those are more “common-sensical” (not my term). Tim Hortons versus Starbucks (incidentally, we are almost certainly the only nation on Earth that draws a political line in the sand through the middle of a coffee shop!). Environmental prudence versus growth at almost any cost. Budget prudence versus spendspendspend.

And the City itself has its own “one side of the fence or the other” issues.  Pro LRT and against. Urban fringe development versus those who wish to can development altogether. Those for Landsdowne Live and those who are not. The list goes on.

All of these are divisions that play major or minor roles in the dynamics of decision-making by our various levels of government.

And our new City Council will be no different. Sure, there will be a honeymoon period where everyone is collegial and cooperative… but I suspect less so by, say, next summer perhaps?

I wish our new Mayor luck! He has quite a task ahead of him!

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