Mayor apologizes for cutting off coun. Deans microphone during LRT debate
OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson is apologizing for cutting off Coun. Diane Deans microphone during the heated debate on how to investigate the issues with Ottawa's light rail transit system.
In a statement on Twitter, Watson apologized for silencing her microphone during Wednesday's council meeting.
"I apologized to the councillor and I made it known it was my call (to cut the mic), it was my mistake and I take responsibility," said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA.
Council voted 14 to 9 to ask Ottawa's auditor general to examine the LRT contract and system, instead of supporting Coun. Catherine McKenney's motion to call a judicial inquiry into the contract.
After McKenney introduced their motion recommending a judicial inquiry examine the LRT system, including the involvement of elected officials, Coun. Glen Gower moved the replacement motion to ask the city's own AG to investigate.
Deans and some councillors argued the motion was not a replacement motion to McKenney's motion to call for a judicial inquiry. Deans attempted to ask the city clerk to ask to clarify whether Gower's motion was a "reasonable replacement" to McKenney's motion, but Watson said he had ruled it was a replacement motion.
"Why do we have a clerk?" asked McKenney.
"The question was asked to the city clerk prior to the mayor intervening," said Deans. "I have every right as a member of this council to ask the city clerk to pronounce on this issue. Is it a reasonable substitution or …"
Then Deans microphone was cut off.
"Did you cut Diane Deans off?" asked Coun. Carol Anne Meehan.
"Cutting women off, I love it," said McKenney.
Watson tweeted Thursday morning, "Earlier today, I wrote to Councillor Deans to apologize for her microphone being cut off while in the midst of an important debate yesterday. It was the wrong call on my part and I take full responsibility."
Appearing on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts, Watson was asked if he muted Deans' microphone or asked someone to mute Deans during the meeting.
"Yes, and I apologized to Coun. Deans this morning and sent out a tweet to that effect," said Watson.
"I was trying to bring some semblance of order, but it was the wrong call on my part and I take responsibility and I apologized to the councillor."
Roberts asked the mayor if he tried to silence the opposition to the motion to replace McKenney's motion.
"No because we were in the midst of a vote and the vote was whether to sustain my ruling, which it was and then we went on to have a long debate actually," said Watson.
"This is not stifling debate. I think it was five hours of debate and everyone who wanted to speak could speak."
When asked what he would have done differently during the meeting, Watson said, "Not cut off the microphone for starters."
"But I think we had a very emotional and fulsome debate because, as I said earlier, this was a very challenging issue particularly first and foremost for our customers," said Watson.
"What I said yesterday as I come out of this council meeting with three priorities; get the trains running safely, get the trains running safely and get the trains running safely."
On Thursday afternoon, Deans thanked Watson for the apology, but asked that he allow council to debate McKenney's motion for a public inquiry at the next council meeting.
"However you need to take steps to correct the damage you have done. This would mean allowing Catherine McKenney's motion to be debated and voted on at the next meeting of Council. We need to restore public trust," said Deans.
In an email to the Mayor, shared on social media, Deans said the apology would be best addressed to the public.
"If you are serious about your apology, I would request that you allow Councillor McKenney's motion for a judicial inquiry to be debated and voted on at the next council meeting," wrote Deans.
"I do not see an audit by the city's Auditor General and a judicial inquiry as mutually exclusive and therefore Council should have the opportunity to vote on this issue. This would go a long week to restore public trust and confidence in LRT and in our democratic process."
On Twitter, Coun. Shawn Menard said Watson's apology to Deans was "too little too late."
"This individual continues to cut people off, bully and intimidate at every turn. He is at the heart of the division, choosing to throw those under the bus who disagree on policy while protecting councillors guilty of developer influence in their offices," said Menard.