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Mayor: It's not on councillors to encourage women to get into politics

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thinks it creates a conflict of interest when city councillors start saying they want to see more women working at city hall. 
2018-01 Jim Watson MV
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks to the media at an announcement regarding the Lebreton Flats development, January 2018. (Photo/ Mike Vlasveld)

Ottawa's mayor thinks it should be up to community groups to encourage more women to run for municipal office, not members of city council.

"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," Mayor Jim Watson told 1310 NEWS' The Rick Gibbons Show Thursday afternoon. "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."

With only four City of Ottawa wards currently represented by women at City Hall, Gloucester-Southgate Ward Councillor Diane Deans recently proposed the creation of a women's bureau.

Soon-to-be retired Kanata North Ward Councillor Marianne Wilkinson has backed Deans' idea, and has been vocal in encouraging more women to run for office this fall.  She even talked about her hope of a woman being able to take her seat at the council table.

But Watson believes the subject puts politicians in an awkward bind, as the city regulates its elections.

"At the end of the day, when I go into the polling station, I want to vote for the most competent person." He said, "If that happens to be a women, she'll get my vote. If that happens to be a man, he'll get my vote."

Watson did say however, that he hopes to encourage more gender equality at city hall by calling for a 50-50 split of men and women on all advisory committees if he is re-elected for another term.

"I think that at least gives people a chance to get some city hall experience," explains the mayor. "Maybe the next time, after they've served on an advisory committee or one of our boards and agencies, they will use that as a stepping stone to go and run for council."

The idea of a women's bureau at City Hall will come before city council on March 28.

Listen to Mayor Jim Watson's full conversation with Rick Gibbons on the topic:

Mike Vlasveld

About the Author: Mike Vlasveld

Mike Vlasveld, Digital Editor, CityNews Ottawa & the Valley
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