New council members, elected one week ago, are spending a lot of time around Ottawa City Hall as they prepare to take over on Nov. 15.
They'll be sworn in earlier than councils of the past, after a change in legislation shortened the transition period. That leaves Ottawa's new mayor and 11 new councillors little time to hire staff, take part in training sessions, and get to know one another.
"It's a short turnaround," said mayor-elect Mark Sutcliffe at a media photo opportunity with Jim Watson on Monday morning in the mayor's office. "I was joking about how the president of the United States gets two and a half months, and we get two and half weeks."
Watson has been holding transition meetings with his successor to discuss how the mayor's office is structured and to lay out the big issues facing the city.
"He will be 'His Worship' and I will be 'His Wash-up', in the past tense," Watson quipped. "I really look forward to this period of renewal at the City of Ottawa. I look forward to Mark's leadership."
Sutcliffe said he has been talking one-on-one with the two dozen members of the new city council. He has also been working to assemble his own team of top staff "to hit the ground running" when he assumes Watson's office.
Orientation days for councillors
Just down the hall in the heritage wing of city hall, city staff are holding a half-dozen training sessions for the 11 new city councillors.
Monday's was focused on their office budgets, what expenses are allowed, how to hire and manage employees, and where to find IT support. Other orientiation sessions cover municipal laws and committee procedure, planning and transportation policy, and media relations.
Laine Johnson, councillor-elect for College ward, said she is well-versed in municipal integrity laws and governance, but will experience a learning curve when it comes to leading an office and managing staff.
Doing so "by the book" is especially important in her ward, Johnson said. She replaces Rick Chiarelli, who was found to have behaved inappropriately toward job applicants and office assistants.
"I know I need to get that right," said Johnson.
In addition to learning what's involved in the job, the councillors-elect are getting to know one another and will attend a social gathering with all members of council.
Stéphanie Plante, councillor-elect for Rideau-Vanier ward, said she had brunch this past weekend with two new councillors to get to know them, and found they shared priorities including housing, transit and climate change.
Another incoming councillor, Sean Devine in Knoxdale Merivale ward, said it helps that 11 new councillors and the mayor are all new this term.
"I can already see friendships happening, relationships building. So I think in that way we're already off on a good start," said Devine.
The outgoing city council still has a few final pieces of business ahead, including a final council meeting on Nov. 9.