TIMELINE: Jim Watson’s 30-year career in elected politics

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1980-83 : Jim Watson moves to Ottawa to attend Carleton University, majoring in Mass Communications. During his time at the school, he wins election as president of the Rideau River Residence Association. After school, Watson eventually enters the public service, rising to the position of director of communications for the Speaker of the House of Commons.


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1991 : Watson is first elected to Ottawa City Council as councillor for Capital Ward. He moves from city council to the now defunct regional council for the area in 1994.

1997 : Watson successfully seeks the city’s highest office, winning in a landslide to become Ottawa’s youngest-ever mayor at 36.

2000 : Watson’s tenure at the helm of the city proves short. He resigns in 2000 to become president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

2003 : Watson couldn’t stay away from politics for long. In 2003, running as an Ontario Liberal, he successfully unseats a Tory incumbent to become MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean. With the Ontario Liberals winning the year’s general election, new Premier Dalton McGuinty names Watson minister of consumer and business services. Watson is later shuffled to the health promotion portfolio in 2005.


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2007 : Watson comfortably wins re-election to his legislature seat and after the vote is named minister of municipal affairs and housing. During his time in the role, the province resumed responsibility for Ontario Works social assistance services, paramedic services, public health, transit, drug benefit programs, the Ontario Disability Support Program, court services and property tax assessment.

2010 : Watson resigns from cabinet and his seat in the legislature to return to city hall, decisively unseating embattled incumbent Larry O’Brien in the 2010 municipal election to again become Ottawa’s mayor — the first time since amalgamation. This term as mayor is dominated by plans for Ottawa’s new east-west LRT line. During this term, Watson and council approve the multi-billion dollar Confederation Line, with promises of the line running by 2018, a deadline the project would miss.


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2014 : Watson comfortably wins re-election as the city looks ahead to its new LRT line. In his landslide win, Watson takes every ward in the city. The next four years on council are, unsurprisingly, largely dominated by LRT construction and the related mishaps, including the infamous 2016 Rideau Street sinkhole. Watson also led the city as it played host to an array of Canada 150 celebrations, such as the elaborate La Machine show and the 2017 NHL 100 Classic.

2018 : Despite the LRT project missing deadlines, Watson again coasts to victory, garnering just over 71 per cent of the vote. The many — and ongoing — issues with the city’s belated LRT become a major headache for the mayor during the following term on council, with rivals raising concerns about how the project was awarded and maintenance of the line. Opponents on council become increasingly vocal in criticizing the mayor’s governing style, arguing it means many major decisions are made behind closed doors by Watson and his allies.

2019 : In an August 17 op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen, Watson announced that he was gay. He is the first openly gay mayor in Ottawa’s history.

March 2021 : Watson officially becomes Ottawa’s longest serving mayor, surpassing J.E. Stanley Lewis’ previous record.

Fall 2021 : Watson’s O-train headaches come to a head after a train derailment on the Confederation Line leave the city without LRT for more than a month.

December 2021 : Watson announces he will not seek re-election in next fall’s election.



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