Advisors consider LRT report, accountability and way forward

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Ottawa has a new city council, but the lessons, disappointments and bad blood of the LRT saga from last term have carried over into this one with the release of a 664-page public inquiry report.

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It’s also an opportunity to move forward differently, current advisers say, and build a transit system that better serves residents.

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“It’s part of the healing. As damning as the report was, we needed it to recognize what happened to the people of Ottawa,” said River Ward Council. Riley Brockington. « Part of – and I’m not exaggerating – but going through trauma is that you have to recognize and admit what happened here. »

Brockington, a member of the former council’s transit commission, said his desire for accountability extends to those whose conduct was criticized in the report – including city manager Steve Kanellakos, the boss transit worker John Manconi and former mayor Jim Watson, all of whom have since left town. Hall.

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« You don’t get a free pass from me, and hopefully advice, if you’ve left the organization. You seriously contributed to the scandal and all the ramifications that occurred. The board needs to make a decision, at least I’m going to push for it, on how you can hold someone accountable who has already left the organization.

But the stain of the LRT debacle isn’t just borne by those who walked through the doors of City Hall, or so some say.

« Where’s Allan Hubley? » Brockington tweeted Thursday. He wants to see the current adviser and former chairman of the transit committee comment on the report, which pointed out that Hubley had access to information about the LRT system, via a WhatsApp group with senior bureaucrats and the mayor, that the commission said the advice should have been given but was not given.

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Capital County Shawn Menard went further, arguing Thursday that Hubley should step down. Kanata South’s fourth-term councilor did not grant this newspaper’s requests for an interview or comment, saying he wanted to read the entire report before doing so and could not say how much. long it would take.

Brockington also tweeted after the report was released that he still had a tip colleague “(the) chewing” for supporting a public inquiry into the TLR (he declined to say who), and admitted on Thursday that he thinks “there is still some hard feelings” on the file which has so much split the last board.

« I won’t let that cloud my judgement. However, people must be held accountable.

Stittsville County Glen Gower, one of those councilors who voted against a city-initiated legal inquiry into the LRT system, said he supported an investigation into the system but then wanted it be done by the city auditor general for multiple reasons, from cost to speed.

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« I don’t think any of us at any time supported transparency or accountability or the need to look at the circumstances and figure out what went wrong and what could be improved. »

Gower said Thursday’s report left councilors to reckon with the « very serious » conclusion that the trust they should have had in city staff had been repeatedly shattered. Reflecting on the consequences of this, Gower said that if advisers had had a fuller picture of what happened during the trial of the system, for example, different decisions could have been made about its launch.

He thinks the public should see a statement « and hopefully an apology » from Kanellakos and former mayor Jim Watson, whose conduct the commission says also played a part in the system’s problems, while that Gower, like other board colleagues interviewed, says he is prepared to act on the report’s recommendations.

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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has asked city staff to prepare a plan to do just that for the « key recommendations », and staff will come back to the committee and council with a response to the inquiry report. Already, however, some advisers have their own ideas about what changes should happen.

A board governance review for the new term was tabled on Wednesday and will be discussed at the board next week. Menard said he will introduce an item that seeks to take away some of the staff’s delegated authority over the LRT file from the board, « so that we know more in the public light, it’s not just the staff signing project agreement changes or (testing) changes, which need to come back to the board now for stage two.

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Rideau-Vanier County Stéphanie Plante is also thinking about accountability but says she wants it to be “restorative” for public transit users. Maybe it looks like a free service for a while, or something else – she’s still thinking about it.

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“But I think the best way to tell people that we are very serious about what we have discovered and what we know and the recommendations is that we just give people who depend on public transport a means of use it that is restorative. for them. »

The importance of communication between stakeholders – and what can happen when it breaks down – is a lesson that emerged from the investigative report that Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo says he will continue with him as the council oversees the second phase of the LRT system.

When it comes to Ottawa residents, Lo said, whether it’s good or bad news, « the public needs to know, no matter what. »

Brockington says he thinks the report will ultimately make meaningful improvements to the way things are done at City Hall, and that the council as a whole is committed to seeing that through.

“I feel like just talking with colleagues there is a very strong appetite to not only take the report seriously, but very strong commitment – ​​we owe it to the taxpayers of Ottawa, to the passengers (of OC Transpo)…to implement the recommendations of this report and provide that much-needed stability, not only at City Hall, but also in public transit.

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