Report blames failings, failed leadership and ‘deliberate malfeasance’ for LRT problems

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A scathing report on Ottawa’s struggling LRT says councilors were deliberately misled by the city’s top official during construction and questions whether the city is capable of handling major infrastructure projects.

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Judge William Hourigan’s report found ‘persistent failures in leadership, partnership and communications’ during system construction and maintenance that resulted in Ottawa residents ‘not getting the transportation system reliable commonality that they deserved ».

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While Hourigan said it was “unconscionable” that the builder, Rideau Transit Group, knowingly gave the city inaccurate information about when the system would be completed, he particularly blamed Steve Kanellakos, the city’s top official. the city, for misleading the council about the poor quality of the train. performance during its test period.

In an Aug. 23, 2019, memo to council, Kanellakos wrote that he was « pleased to advise the mayor and members of council that the objectives of the trial and the requirements of the project agreement have been met. « . But he didn’t tell them the testing standards had been relaxed to give the trains a passing grade.

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« There is no doubt that Kanellakos knew the memo was misleading, » the report said. « Kanellakos himself conceded during his testimony that in some respects the memo was ‘inconsistent with reality’. This is shocking conduct, which constitutes willful wrongdoing, on the part of the highest official employed by the City.

He also blames Kanellakos for deleting a memo to counsel from OC Transpo CEO John Manconi that « if sent, would have informed counsel of the disastrous start to the lawsuit. »

Kanellakos abruptly resigned as city manager on Monday, two days before the report was released.

« This conduct has irreparably compromised Council’s ability to provide legal oversight and raises serious concerns about the City of Ottawa’s ability to carry out important infrastructure projects, » Hourigan wrote.

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Hourigan also points to the use of a private WhatsApp channel by Kanellakos, former mayor Jim Watson, former OC Transpo general manager John Manconi and other senior city officials to share inside information about the project. of TLR.

“The WhatsApp group was an endgame around good governance,” Hourigan writes.

Political pressure, he wrote, caused the city to compromise with the builder by agreeing to « defer work, waive requirements, and delay addressing known issues with the OLRT1. »

“The Commission does not blame the City for trying to work in collaboration with RTG. However, it is clear that the decision to compromise was based on political pressure and not on the best interests of the people of Ottawa.

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The report also faults the city for not following best practices in launching such a complex system by ignoring advice to have a « soft start » for the Confederation Line and instead insisting on full service from the start. first day.

Ottawa commuters know all too well the outages, delays and glitches that followed.

“The City’s insistence on full service from public launch and beyond was misguided and unrealistic,” Hourigan writes.

The report also finds fault with RTG. While some of the issues that plagued construction were beyond its control, such as the massive sinkhole on Rideau Street in 2016 and the province’s onerous requirements for Canadian content in its construction, « it was impermissible for RTG and OLRT-C to knowingly provide inaccurate information to the City about when the OLRT1 system would be ready to operate, causing the City to communicate unachievable dates to the public.

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“RTG and its contractors provided insufficient maintenance resources. Consequently, there were ongoing issues with the system that caused service delays and general system unreliability. The City contributed to this problem by filing hundreds of work orders in the first few weeks of operation, many of which were classified as urgent, to address minor issues that would have largely been resolved with maintenance. regular.

The report also faults the city for choosing « unproven technology for trains that have pushed the limits of this an LRT system could do,” says RTG failed to coordinate the work of its subcontractorscontractors and failed to ensure that the various systems involved were properly integrated.

The report lists 103 recommendations for resolving issues with the LRT and for avoiding problems during similar large infrastructure projects.

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In a damning conclusion, Hourigan singles out the city for « deliberate malfeasance ».

“While human error is understandable and expected, deliberate malfeasance is unacceptable in a public project. When participants deliberately mislead the public about the status of a public company, they violate a fundamental obligation that underlies any public company,” he writes.

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