City Covers Up Cause Of Rideau Sinkhole




The bold face type is taken from the report by city clerk and solicitor Rick O’Connor sent to Mayor Jim Watson and city council on Thursday. The regular type is The Bulldog’s analysis of the document concerning the Rideau Street sinkhole.

This update includes confirmation that the City’s external experts have concluded that the sinkhole was not caused by a failure of the City’s infrastructure, and provides information with respect to how the parties responded to address the issues resulting from the incident, as well as identifying actions taken under the City Manager’s delegated authority.

Naturally one would expect to see this information in a democracy which espouses transparent government. The citizens of Ottawa would like to know how this very dangerous sinkhole occurred in the downtown of this municipality. One could make a good argument that the public has a right to know seeing that many lives were put at risk and the City of Ottawa has this information which the taxpayers of this community paid for. The residents of Ottawa should reasonably expect to see the research on this dangerous sinkhole because it is in the public interest.

I can confirm that steps have been taken to ensure that the Confederation Line Light Rail Project (the “Project”) remains on track for revenue service in 2018.

What are those steps? Is not the public paying for this project? Should not it be reasonable to expect to be given those steps?

As you are aware, Rideau Street reopened to pedestrian and bus traffic on December 15th, 2016, marking a significant step in the completion of work associated with the event that occurred on June 8th, 2016.

That’s reassuring to know that great progress has been made since Rideau Street caved in putting lives at risk. Of course there is that hiccup that the street caved in. But apparently progress has been substantial since the mishap. That’s good news. Of course, what is the alternative?

As described later in this memorandum, the report from the technical experts, known as the ‘Root Cause Analysis report’, cannot be made public at this time, but Members of Council may make arrangements with me directly for viewing. 

We need a really good reason as to why only councillors can see this document. Public safety has been put at risk and great inconvenience and cost has occurred. Cost is a concern to taxpayers. Transparent government dictates that this document should be public. The document is probably not being released because it could cause embarrassment for the city and its politicians.

Ultimately, the rapid speed of this rehabilitative work allowed local properties and businesses to reopen shortly after the event, thereby mitigating any external claims by those affected by the sinkhole.

By whose standard was the speed of the rehabilitation measured that it was so successful? The city’s? The public will just have to take the city’s word for it. And in doing that, who benefits from the public not seeing the Root Cause Analysis report? Why the city. Because the public has no way to gauge the speed of the rehabilitation except that the city says so. That’s not good enough.

… the preliminary response from the Project insurer.

Will the public see this important document or will it be covered up as well?

With respect to insurance claims resulting from this event, I can confirm that there are approximately 31 claims for compensation made by businesses and property owners affected by the sinkhole.

To date, does the city not know how many claims for compensation have been made? That’s not very hard to discover. “Approximately” isn’t good enough. It’s sloppy. Taxpayers should expect more from their government.

… the deductible amount under the Project insurance is $500,000 for an event such as the sinkhole.

Who is on the hook for the deductible? The taxpayers?

As is the standard course for such matters, the City will not be commenting on this matter until all of these claims are resolved so as to not prejudice the City’s position in relation to either its insurance claim or any potential future litigation that may arise from the sinkhole event.  As noted earlier, in this regard, it is recommended that the City’s Root Cause Analysis report, prepared by the external experts, will remain confidential until that time.

What is the “standard course for such matters”? What matters are we discussing? The standard course for dealing with sinkholes? Has the city had so many sinkholes now that it has developed a “standard course” for dealing with sinkholes? Or is it something else? The Root Cause Analysis report will be presented at any court case as evidence. It contains facts that the public should know right now. Not delayed into some unknown time as were the land purchase costs for the light-rail project. The public is expected to be kept in the dark about the cause of the sinkhole until about 31 civil cases are completed? Ten years? Twenty years? This is an issue of public safety and in that the public has a right to know. The city is using the weak reason that facts might prejudice its cases to keep this embarrassing Root Cause Analysis out of the public realm. Facts that will be presented in court won’t prejudice these cases. This is unforgivable and an affront to good government. It’s a cover-up.

Despite the challenges posed by the June 2016 sinkhole event, the combined efforts of the City and RTG mean that the Project remains on track for revenue service in 2018.

Who says it’s on track? The city? Who benefits from saying it is on track? The city. This has nothing to do with the cause of the sinkhole … it is just propaganda (and not very good propaganda).

I trust that the above-noted information is satisfactory.

No it isn’t. It’s a cover-up. Taxpayers, residents and voters should be outraged at the arrogance and lack of transparency of the City of Ottawa. This city’s politicians and staff are much more frightened by embarrassment than they are proponents of open government. Voters should not forget this in the municipal election year of 2018. Ottawans need to take back their municipal government.



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10 thoughts on “City Covers Up Cause Of Rideau Sinkhole

  1. “The standard course for such matters”

    Let me define:

    Standard course – we keep our mouths shut.

    Such matters – everything.

  2. ” … remains on track for revenue service in 2018.”

    Let me define.

    When a lawyer carefully picks the words, you can be sure that there is much more to be said.
    This is a carefully worded statement.

    This is going to be a chicken or the egg thing. It will turn out to be a combo.

    Someone will argue that a small existing leak in city pipes, over time, eroded away the ground causing the pipe to leak even more? More time and more soil moved away; therefore, it is the city’s fault.

    Maybe the digging caused the problem? Someone will argue that had there been better practices at digging, then the road would have not collapsed?

    Maybe it was that darn groundhog.

    Maybe, of course, the all-encompassing act of God theory may apply.

    There will be lots of words over the next few years between lawyers and judges. There will be meetings and court and appeals. In the end it will get divided up between the parties.

  3. The document at issue will be the subject of legal discoveries, at such time as the approximately 31 law suits get filed. In other words, the city cannot keep the contents of the report secret for long, let alone forever, but certainly long enough for the mayor to dodge difficult questions going into the Christmas season.

  4. “I can confirm that steps have been taken to ensure that the Confederation Line Light Rail Project (the “Project”) remains on track for revenue service in 2018.”

    Because, of course, this is the ultimate priority – if the LRT isn’t done “on time and on budget” allowing for all those wonderful photo ops to be held in time for the 2018 elections, this will all have been for naught.

    I took note of the very carefully chosen phraseology in this whole document but particularly “on track for revenue service in 2018”. As long as one customer drops a fare in the box at some point in 2018, that will be satisfied – it doesn’t require the whole of Phase 1 to be operational or for the line to be meeting expenses with that revenue. If Tunney’s to Bayview is open on Dec. 28, 2018, giving the government workers a direct train connection from Tunney’s to the O-Train, that will be “revenue service in 2018”. It won’t get anybody home to South Keys for dinner any faster than the existing bus/train combination does but it will be new and, most importantly, shiny.

    It is “recommended” that the Root Cause Analysis report remain under wraps. Who’s recommending this and to whom? Does Council need to approve this ‘recommendation’? It’s very clever to release this type of information via memo since it keeps it off the floor of council for a period of time, likely with the hope that it’s ‘old news’ by the date of the next council meeting in January.

    1. Voter, they are no longer saying “on time, on budget”. They are saying “on budget” and separately, “on track for revenue service in 2018”. In other words, we should consider ourselves duly advised that LRT Phase I will not be “on time”.

  5. Ron,

    That was exactly my point – “on track for revenue service in 2018” is the beginning of the softening process leading to a reduction in expectations. It means that in late summer or early fall of 2017, the mayor will call a newspeak press conference where he will announce that trains will indeed operate in 2018 (on track) with paying passengers (revenue service). They just won’t be up and running everywhere and it will not be Watson’s fault but it’ll be due to things he couldn’t control or foresee such as the RTG sinkhole. He will then tell us that he and members of council, six of whom will be with him, are working diligently around the clock to ensure that the remainder of the project is delivered safely and that they are on track to extend the LRT to Kanata and Orleans as promised.
    We’ll then be told that we misinterpretted him when he was really saying there would be some LRT service and we thought he meant all of the Blair-to-Tunney’s route.

  6. This report was done by “outside experts”. Do we know who or how much it cost? Will this bill be included in the LRT budget or is it being absorbed in O’Connor’s legal department budget?


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