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The Globe and Mail

Provincial fur flies fast and thick in battleground Ottawa

Ottawa mayor-elect Jim Watson is greeted by supporters at his victory party on Oct. 25, 2010.

DAVE CHAN/dave chan The Globe and Mail

The nation's capital, usually a hotbed of federal political intrigue, is becoming a the battleground in the Oct. 6 provincial election.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty launches his third bid to become Ontario premier Wednesday and Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative Leader, will end the first official day of his campaign in Ottawa with a rally at a downtown restaurant.

But there has already been a lot of activity in the federal capital with the guest appearance of a senior Harper cabinet minister at an MPP's launch Tuesday night and the vigilance of the Ottawa Mayor, a former Liberal MPP.

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" Saw my first Randall Denley signs – all illegally placed in boulevards on Carling Ave. I'm sure he will remove them," Mayor Jim Watson said on Twitter Tuesday night.

Mr. Denley is the star Progressive Conservative candidate running against Bob Chiarelli, a former Ottawa mayor and McGuinty cabinet minister. Mr. Denley is on leave from his job as a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, where he wrote for years – and with a strong pen – about municipal and provincial issues.

In last year's municipal election Mr. Denley was particularly hard on Mr. Watson. But in the end, Mr. Watson crushed his opponents.

The journalist is running in the provincial riding Mr. Watson – who was previously a McGuinty cabinet minister – vacated to run for mayor. And the man running Mr. Denley's bid for office is the former campaign manager and chief of staff to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who represents the riding federally.

But Mr. Watson says none of that had anything to do with his tweet. Rather, he explained to The Globe Wednesday morning there simply cannot be "signs in medians and middle boulevards as they can be a visual distraction and safety issue for drivers."

The Denley team took down the illegal signs on Tuesday night. "Power of the tweet," Mr. Watson proclaimed.

The Mayor, who knows the riding well, added that it "will be a tough fight" provincially. "There's lots of bad blood also between Denley and Chiarelli," he added.

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Mr. Denley, meanwhile, was not only tough on Mr. Watson in his columns. He also had harsh words for Tim Hudak, for whom he hopes to work on Oct. 6. Not one to miss an opportunity, Mr. Chiarelli is happily pointing out the journalist's criticism of the PC Leader in his election materials.

That's not all. Mr. Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister, appeared at the campaign kick-off for Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative incumbent in Nepean-Carleton. He said she would soon be an important cabinet minister – and he also argued that Ontario is "over-governed, over-regulated and over-taxed."

And let's not forget that the Liberal Leader is from the nation's capital. Dalton McGuinty represents Ottawa South for the province – the same riding his brother David holds federally for the Liberals.

So keep an eye on Ottawa over the next month.

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