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Jim Watson includes nearly $1 million in promises in re-election campaign plank

During a rally at the Innovation Centre, Jim Watson made promises that practically amounted to $1 million. He delivered the economic plank of his platform for re-election at Bayview Yards on Sunday.

The proposals include making museum passes available to exchange students and graduating grade 6 students, invest about six-figures to boost Ottawa, doling out more funding to the city’s film office, and slicing fees that restaurants typically pay for sidewalk patios.

When asked how he plans to pay for these expenses, the mayoral incumbent suggested that a property tax plan will be revealed in the coming weeks, and it will provide at least some of the answers. “I’m not the candidate that’s promising to freeze taxes or cut taxes,” Watson told reporters after announcing to supporters his first promises of the campaign.

“We have costs that go up, whether its gasoline or labour costs or materials, and we have an obligation to pay for them. We will be bringing forward the tax rate and the tax plan to make sure that it’s predictable and affordable for the city.”

After promising 2.5 percent and two percent annual tax increases respectively, Watson was able to win the 2010 and 2014 municipal elections.

Watson was also asked if he had plans for city budget cuts in his re-election bid, and he said, “Over the course of the campaign, you will see different ideas on how we’re going to make the city more efficient.”

His economic development platform also touches on the idea of using professional civilian security instead of "paid-duty" police officers, who end up picking up extra shifts on their days off to provide protection for events or road closures. But by using civilians, and not cops, it could reduce the cost for anyone who requires security, including the city, which usually needs policing to restrict traffic around construction site.

The idea was endorsed in May 2016 by the current city council. The former Liberal government in the province passed a law that allowed security professionals to carry out the work. However, the regulation has not yet been adopted.

The Ottawa Police Association says they are cool with the idea of replacing paid-duty assignments with civilian security guards. The association endorsed the Progressive Conservatives at the provincial election campaign.

“I think it’s going to be incumbent on me and other mayors to go and put our best case forward (to the provincial PC government),” Watson said.

Watson’s economic development plan will also give restaurant owners with patios on city property a break. In his plan, the fees for patio encroachments would be cut in half, which would leave the city short with about $280,000 in annual revenue.

He also wants to give more money to Ottawa (about $500,000) for the city to invest, attract, and retain talent for local businesses as well as grow the agency’s trade and investment team. The agency receives an annual amount of $4.3 million from city hall, but he also plans to boost the city’s contribution to the Ottawa Film Office by about $60,000.