By Jacob Hoytema
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a recent interview that the creation of City of Ottawa women’s bureau aimed at encouraging more women to run for municipal office was a “conflict of interest” for members of city council, and that such work was best left to advocacy groups.
The comment, which generated controversy, came during a March 8 interview with 1310 News host Rick Gibbons, and after a proposal aired recently by Coun. Diane Deans that the city should create a women’s bureau.
“I think there are obviously a lot of groups out there who will help women fund raise, help them get organized, but I don’t think it should be the corporation of the City of Ottawa doing that,” Watson said. “We don’t need politicians telling other politicians, or the public, who to vote for. I think they have to make those decisions on their own.”
He added: “It has to come from the grassroots, and I think we’ll see a lot more — I hope we’ll see a lot more female candidates,” the mayor added.
Gibbons had pointed out to Watson that of Ottawa’s 23 city councillors, only four are women.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who is one of those four, responded negatively to Watson’s comments on Twitter.
“Advocating for more women on Council and a more diverse Council does not conflict with any of my interests,” she said in the tweet.
Thomas McVeigh, who ran against McKenney in the 2014 Municipal Election, voiced his support for her position.
“Hell, I ran against you, and still think that advocating for women on Council isn’t a conflict of interest for you. It’s for a greater social good,” he wrote in response to McKenney’s tweet.
Later in his interview with Gibbons, Watson made a counter-proposal that half of all municipal advisory committee members should be women, which he said could be a “stepping stone” to running for a councillor position.
The next municipal election will be held on Oct. 22, 2018.