Ford suggests Ottawa mayor favoured new lockdowns privately, then changed his mind
OTTAWA -- Ontario’s premier is calling out Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, suggesting he agreed with new lockdowns privately before making public comments to the contrary.
Doug Ford said on Monday that Watson told him he agreed with the province’s decision to move Ottawa to modified Stage 2 restrictions earlier this month.
“When I talked to the mayor in Ottawa, I told him and he agreed,” Doug Ford said on Monday. “When he gives me the green light and agrees and then goes out there days later and disagrees, you’re going to have to ask him why he’s doing that.”
A day after the province introduced new restrictions earlier this month, forcing the closure of indoor dining and gyms, Watson told CTV News that he hadn’t seen evidence to suggest restaurants were a problem.
"I've never seen any evidence that there are any super-spreader events taking place in bars, restaurants, or gyms,” Watson said.
“I’m not here to undermine the province," he added. "I’m here to stand up for Ottawa and Ottawa businesses.”
Ford, asked about those comments on Monday, said he understood that Watson is under pressure from local businesses.
“But just ask any municipal politician: when I talk to you: when you give me an answer, don’t change your mind the next day or two days later. It’s very simple.”
Watson was unavailable for an interview Monday, according to his press secretary. But in an emailed statement, said he and the premier are "on the same page" when it comes to the restrictions.
"Mayor Watson and Premier Ford are on the same page in relation to the October 10 Provincial Order, of which the Mayor was informed on October 9 by the Premier," the statement said. "Although Mayor Watson did not advocate for the closure of restaurants and gyms in Ottawa, he understands the Province's decision, given the number of cases was increasing dramatically at the time."
The statement added there appears to be confusion about the mayor's statements regarding the data. After Ottawa city council passed a motion Oct. 14 asking the province for more data to support the new restrictions in Ottawa, the mayor wrote a letter to Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott on Oct. 19 conveying the request.
"Where there appears to be some confusion is that Ottawa City Council approved a resolution on Oct.14 directing Mayor Watson to write to the Premier requesting that the Province share the data that was used to inform their decision," the statement said.
"Many small businesses are currently fighting to remain open, and the people of Ottawa deserve to know the reasons behind the restrictions being imposed at a local level."
Ford’s comments come amid growing political pressure from other Ontario mayors trying to avoid local mayors and their come amid growing political pressure from local mayors about avoiding further lockdowns in their cities.
Over the weekend, mayors from Halton Region sent a letter to the province, pleading with officials not to move their area to modified Stage 2 restrictions seen in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York Region, despite rising case numbers.
Meanwhile, new figures from an Ontario biostatistician show Ottawa is the only region under Stage 2 restrictions seeing decreasing rates of infection and transmission.
Ford said his government's move to impose restrictions on Ottawa helped reduce those numbers, despite the fact that similar trends are not being seen in Toronto or Peel, which also returned to Stage 2 the same day Ottawa did.
"If we didn't act quickly, they wouldn't be in that position and they are and I congratulate them, they're doing a great job," the premier said.