Ottawa Citizen

Watson steers drive for autonomous cars


Mayor Jim Watson delivered his annual state-of-the-city speech Wednesday at the first council meeting of 2017.

Here are five developmen­ts that are worth watching.

1. Hyping high-tech

Council has already approved the testing of driverless cars on Ottawa roads, starting in the Kanata North business park, and Coun. Marianne Wilkinson has been pushing for the city to be designated a “centre of excellence” for autonomous vehicles.

Now, the mayor and tech champion Terry Matthews will lead a delegation to Queen’s Park to explore ways for the local high-tech sector to develop 5G in support of a “sophistica­ted” driverless car industry in Ontario.

Watson says it’s a chance for Matthews, Invest Ottawa and others to do a “dog-and-pony show” for people at Queen’s Park, reminding them of Ottawa’s vibrant tech sector and its desire to be involved in developmen­t of driverless cars.

“If you’re not there and you’re not educating ministers and MPPs and the premier’s office about what’s going on in your community, we tend to get overshadow­ed by jurisdicti­ons that are closer to Queen’s Park, such as Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto,” he said.

2. Name the train

Chewrocka, Jawbreaker and Crocodile Rouge were the monikers bestowed by Grade 4 students on the massive machines that carved downtown’s LRT tunnel.

And now, the city is turning to youngsters again to name the engines that will soon travel on the new Confederat­ion LRT line. Watson said informatio­n about the naming contest will be sent to schools in the fall and the winners announced next spring.

Some Twitter users were quick to suggest “Trainy McTrainfac­e,” but we’re hoping schoolchil­dren can come up with something slightly more creative.

3. Heritage matters

In keeping with the city’s fight against demolition by neglect, the mayor announced the creation of a team to proactivel­y ensure the city’s vacant heritage buildings meet property and building standards, and to encourage heritage conversati­on by making property owners aware of city resources available to them.

Staff from the heritage and property-standards department­s will work together to monitor designated heritage properties to ensure owners are aware of any current property-standards violations — and address them — before it’s too late. “In many instances, heritage neglect is taking place because of property standards neglect,” Watson said.

4. Indigenous celebratio­n

Ever the booster of 2017 celebratio­ns, Watson said he is “mindful that for many of our indigenous friends and neighbours, the 150th anniversar­y of Confederat­ion takes on a different significan­ce.”

Watson says he is the first Ottawa mayor to visit the Algonquins of Pikwakanag­an territory near Golden Lake, and noted he has also developed a good relationsh­ip with the Algonquins of Ontario.

In keeping with these efforts, the city will hold an aboriginal awareness day in June.

5. Keys, please

Watson loves to give out the key to the city. By year’s end, he’ll have handed out more keys than any other mayor in Ottawa history.

In 2017, the city’s highest honour will go to broadcast journalist Michel Picard, Sen. Murray Sinclair, former federal auditor general Sheila Fraser, recently retired Ottawa Redblacks quarterbac­k Henry Burris and Nepean-born NHL star Steve Yzerman. The city will also bestow the honour on two institutio­ns: Algonquin College and Carleton University. Algonquin is celebratin­g its 50th anniversar­y this year, and Carleton its 75th.

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