2. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, every so often messages meant for the attention of powerful municipal chief @JimWatsonOttawa get sent to me, the lowly British journalist @JimWaterson.
Think of it as a low-rent version of the man in the US who keeps getting tweets meant for upmarket department store John Lewis, or the Canadian man who received abuse meant for then Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.
3. Sometimes I forward complaints to Jim Watson, in the hope he’ll somehow save me from angry Ottawans.
Sadly, he’s never actually responded to any of the issues raised. It’s almost like he’s got better things to do, such as running a major world capital.
But in the name of campaigning journalism on behalf of fat-fingered Canadian internet users everywhere, I decided to give him a call in order to sort out his constituents’ complaints.
Luckily, Watson agreed to take the time to have a chat with someone who knows absolutely nothing about Ottawa or Canada.
4. So, Mayor Watson, what’s going on with…
5. 1. This man who got really angry at me about a bus stop.
Why did you take away this poor man’s bus stop, Mayor Watson? Why do you want to deprive him of public transport?
“Was that Winston? With the chef’s hat? At one point he was tweeting me so often I had to block him because it was taking up so much space on my Twitter feed. I know exactly where he lives and I think it was a temporary decision to move the bus stop. Just a few weeks ago the bus stop was reinstalled. He’s very persistent.”
Well, that seems fair enough.
6. 2. Some man called “Denis Coderre” who tweeted at me about a flag, according to Google Translate.
Why does this man really want you to talk about a flag, Mayor Watson? What are you hiding? (My French is rusty but I think there’s also something in there about Nutella and banana being an acceptable snack, which is disgusting.)
“When one of our sports team wins then we fly the flag at City Hall. It could have been about that. In Canada we’ve got an old corny tradition of doing cheesy bets between mayors – our football team lost to the Edmonton Eskimos so I had to wear the Edmonton jersey and fly the flag.”
Watson patiently explained that Coderre is the mayor of Montreal and this tweet refers to Ottawa’s continued underperformance in sport.
“We’d lost a bet to Montreal. Sometimes we have a good stretch but we barely made it to the playoffs last year. He’s a fan of the bets.”
OK, weird bets about flags and ice hockey. That’s more Canadian than a man coated in maple syrup cutting down a tree before fighting a bear.
7. 3. This man who seems to raise a serious campaigning issue about banning corporate donations in local government.
Well, Mayor Watson, why *won’t* you ban corporate donations? Allowing businesses to buy influence seems like a scandal, especially if they’re property developers and waste management firms.
“There was a proposal to ban corporate donations, which are allowed at a provincial level. But I’m different, I didn’t vote to support the ban. We have very strict election financing rules and a company is limited to C$750 (£360), which is not a lot. You know, there is more transparency when you have the corporate name – otherwise corporate presidents just give money as a personal cheque.”
Hmm, this one needs further investigation.
8. 4. This total catastrophe with terrible snow covering Ottawa, prompting someone to start DM’ing me pictures in the middle of the night UK time.
Weather chaos. Snowploughs lacking. People unable to leave their homes. WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THIS SCANDAL, MAYOR WATSON? WILL YOU RESIGN?
“We had quite a bad storm between Christmas and New Year, and we were several million dollars over budget in our snow removal budget. I think I received 150 emails from people about getting our street done first. But there’s 6,000 miles of road in Ottawa and everyone wants their road done first.
“With the advent of Twitter everyone has access to politicians very quickly and magnifies the problem and creates the sense there are no ploughs at all.”
Well that seems fair enough. Annoyingly.
9. Anyway, many thanks, Jim Watson. I now know more about Ottawan politics than I ever thought possible.
“I do my own tweeting, unlike a lot of politicians, and that usually gets me in trouble when I get into arguments,” Watson said. “I think it keeps you better grounded and informed but if someone is tweeting you 40 or 50 times people should understand the law of diminishing returns.”
Watson then told an anecdote about having a similar name to a regional legislator and accidentally getting a lot of misdirected emails. One day Watson jokingly told his namesake he had been getting a lot of emails containing links to porn, only for the fellow politician to go quiet.
“His face went red, so…” Watson trailed off, laughing.
10. We’ve reached an agreement to keep sending each other misdirected tweets and he’s suggested I head to Ottawa for Canada’s 150th anniversary next year.
And if the tweets don’t stop, then I’ll just blame Canada.