Hot Mics and Open Letters

Jim Watson caught with a hot mic talking to fellow mayoral candidate Clive Doucet. Jim Watson is the front runner in the campaign and the idea of any political candidate being caught in a moment of candour usually grabs attention. The conversation is a revealing glimpse at the way politicians perceive media outlets – in this case, Ottawa talk-radio staple CFRA.  Is there anything particularly scandalous about this exchange? Not really, they didn’t even say anything mean about CFRA’s hosts – who often don’t agree with the two centre-left candidates. They even talked about avoiding the campaign degenerating into mudslinging.

Perhaps less noble, this week Jim Watson tried to corner incumbent mayor Larry O’Brien over municipal political parties by publishing an email exchange from 2009 in an open letter. Like the open mics, in any another election, this could have been a lot more scandalous (a former minister publishing his correspondence with another elected official). O’Brien, as mayor, emailed Watson, as Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, and admitted he supported political parties at the municipal level “But never in public.” Electoral reform is important, but it is hardly a ballot issue in Ottawa where O’Brien’s tax hikes and the fallout of the recent transit strike seem more significant to voters. The long and short of it, O’Brien is (not so secretely) in support of municipal political parties and Watson is not. In order for an official change to take place, the province would have to be involved.

There you go: two near-scandals in the Ottawa election that actually panned out to be tepid.

Mark Brownlee has more analysis at his Ottawa Election 2010 blog.

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