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Five things: Mayor Watson delivers his final state of the city speech

“I hope that, in the coming years, we can find a return to balance and a more objective appreciation of how great this city is when compared to others.”

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Jim Watson’s state of the city speech on Wednesday was his last as mayor and he used the occasion to mostly reflect on his work leading the City of Ottawa over three consecutive terms.

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Watson, who was elected in 2010 and isn’t running in the October 2022 municipal election, reminisced about big projects and big events under his watch — including, of course, the fan-favourite La Machine performances in 2017.

But, along his walk down memory lane, the mayor veered into some project updates, along with a few observations that might suggest he’s trying cement his legacy at city hall.

People need to remember the good things about Ottawa, mayor says

Faced with a struggling LRT system and an acrimonious city council, Watson called on people to remember how great Ottawa is.

“I hope that, in the coming years, we can find a return to balance and a more objective appreciation of how great this city is when compared to others,” Watson said.

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Watson said, “We can’t ignore the hardships and challenges we’ve been through,” before highlighting the city’s investments in affordable housing and crediting the work of residents to pull each other through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I agree that we should all take a critical thinking approach to the legislative reports and proposals that are before us, and there’s a lot of work for us to do,” Watson said, “but we also have a duty to recognize the good things that make Ottawa one of the best cities in the world to live in.”

Bridge work done in fall, Ādisōke breaks ground in April

Watson said the Chief William Commanda Bridge, which is being converted into an interprovincial multi-use crossing, is on track to open this fall.

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Not far away from the bridge, the future Ādisōke library and archives will have a groundbreaking scheduled in April, he said.

According to Watson, the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation is pursuing an “urban addition” in the City of Ottawa and is working on locating a development site. The project “would create economic and cultural sharing opportunities in our city for members of Pikwàkanagàn,” Watson said.

The Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn is also a member of the Algonquins of Ontario, which is working with Taggart to build a satellite community in east Ottawa.

Old-fashioned Ex will celebrate Aberdeen Pavilion’s second life

An old-fashioned fair this summer will celebrate 30 years since council voted to save the Aberdeen Pavilion, Watson said.

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Watson has often cited his efforts to save the historic building as one of the things he’s been most proud of in elected office. He was a councillor with the old city of Ottawa when council approved a restoration plan on July 2, 1992.

On Wednesday, the mayor said he had asked city staff to work with the Central Canada Exhibition Association to put on the fair.

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“I know it will bring back some good memories for many residents who enjoyed the Ex and probably create some new ones for those who weren’t around at the time,” Watson said.

Ryan Reynolds gets a street name; Dr. Etches gets a key

Actor Ryan Reynolds, who spent some of his childhood in Vanier, will have a street named after him in Cumberland ward, recognizing his philanthropy to local charities. Council endorsed a motion brought by Watson to allow the street name.

Ryan Reynolds Way will be located in a Caivan Communities subdivision called Cassette near Mer Bleue Road and Brian Coburn Boulevard.

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The city could hold a long-awaited key to the city ceremony in 2022.

Watson said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, and Ottawa Public Health would receive the key to the city this year, recognizing their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keys announced by Watson in 2020 will also be awarded to golfer Brooke Henderson, former governor-general Michaëlle Jean, broadcaster James Duthie and the Ottawa Citizen. The city has been unable to hold a ceremony because of the pandemic.

Early parting words for present and future council members

Watson says he hopes municipal politicians will have an eye for the bottom line after he leaves city hall.

“I certainly encourage all those who will be running in this election and then our future council to take a similar fiscally responsible approach going forward,” Watson said.

He celebrated his unbroken streak of budgets that have satisfied property-tax promises he made at election time.

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Watson also suggested politicians shouldn’t be so dour when talking about Ottawa.

“I think there’s a lot that we can be proud as a city and a community, and I believe that it’s also our role as elected officials to talk up our city as opposed to talking it down,” Watson said.

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twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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