Councillors Disappoint On Release Of Sinkhole Report



There was a time at Ottawa City Hall when Bob Chiarelli ran the place that you could count on the mayor’s office to fight for public information when city staff deemed that it should be kept under wraps.

And you could rely on the mayor’s office because Chiarelli and his senior staff members Brian Guest and Brendan McGuinty felt strongly that government should be open, caring and inclusive. If public servants were improperly withholding information that should be public, you could be assured that the mayor and his staff would be all over them like a bad smell. That information would become public. You would notice some blood on the released document and subsequent DNA testing of the blood would reveal it was a public servant’s.

How times change.

City clerk and solicitor Rick O’Connor has a report under wraps now that explains the causes of the Rideau Street sinkhole. O’Connor refuses to release the document. He is using a load of lawyerese bafflegab as an excuse saying that the report of obvious public importance can’t be released because it is a part of city’s case in about (yes he used the word ‘about’) 35 civil cases surrounding the collapse of Rideau Street.

What he doesn’t mention is that cases will certainly be heard by a judge who in law cannot be influenced by opinions or documents in the public forum. So O’Connor’s argument is void. The city just doesn’t want to release the report for reasons that I can only imagine have something to do with embarrassment and trying to make the shocking sinkhole issue go away. And after 35 civil cases (or fewer or more) go by, it’s quite likely that both O’Connor and myself will be dead. The information will become public about the same time at which the money spent on land acquisitions for the light-rail project is released. Odd that the LRT project is underway without the land being secured.

So yesterday your agent talked to Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury and Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper about the issue.

Leiper said he will discover if he is bound by commitments not to release the information. Ominously, he also said that if he had anything to say, it would be in his newsletter and that your agent should keep an eye on that. Whether Leiper realizes or not, he is using the same technique that president-elect Donald Trump employed with great success. That is, shutting out the media, going around it using his own media and putting his own spin on it.

I endorsed Leiper in Kitchissippi ward in the last election with great hope so your agent is disappointed on two levels that Leiper is not releasing the sinkhole report or its major contents through the press … or maybe not all. First I expect more of him on a professional level and second, that a councillor of good conscience should release this information because it is of significant public importance in a mishap that could have caused numerous deaths had the city not been as lucky as it was with the timing and outcome of the sinkhole.

That said if I reported that it were sunny, Leiper would say I got it wrong, that it was partly cloudy and then explain the journalism of it to a person who has been in the craft for four decades. Funny how I survived for 40 years in journalism getting things wrong so often. Leiper says he is uneasy about talking with me because of my reporting on the Scott Street bus issue. I offered to run a correction if the story was inaccurate and that Leiper could write his opinion to The Bulldog and I would publish it. Leiper didn’t take advantage of either offer.

The Fleury interview was a tad odd. The councillor, who has read the sinkhole report, asked why your agent wasn’t covering the payday loan issue. After a heated discussion, he said he would contact me if he was going to release the information in the report. In other words, don’t call me, I’ll call you. He also suggested that I should file an access to information request. That would take at least 30 days for an answer in which city would not release the information and The Bulldog would have to appeal that decision to the Ontario government. The city could hold up that process for years which is an improvement over the previous scenario which would see me dead by the time that information became public. That said, neither option is reassuring.

Public officials should not get off so easy.

Withholding the sinkhole information is a cover-up … plain and simple. And if councillors are unprepared to release this information which has been paid for and is of importance to the public, they are part of the cover-up.

People who vote in Ottawa read The Bulldog. Accordingly, voters in this community should remember this in the municipal election year of 2018.

They will be reminded of this in the upcoming months.

Perhaps it is time for Mayor Jim Watson to order the release of the sinkhole report.



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12 thoughts on “Councillors Disappoint On Release Of Sinkhole Report

  1. It has been decades so my memory might be wrong (or the rules may have changed) but back in my day – one thing that the rules allowed was that a municipality may close a meeting to the public if the subject matter being discussed was about litigation or potential litigation.

    It was not a must-be-closed. It was a may-be-closed when it came to matters regarding litigation. Once council decided it was a closed meeting then that pretty well meant off with your head if you talk publicly.

    There were only a couple of things where the council must close a meeting and they had to do with public safety and some types of freedom-of-information requests.

    You can bet your buns there is definitely going to be lots and lots of litigation on this gopher hole. Therefore they might discuss it behind closed doors if they wish to but, they don’t have to. Maybe they can be persuaded to open up?


  2. Until Ottawa wakes up and elects true representatives, people who actually care about the citizenry, folks will continue to be disappointed by the performance of council, the mayor and some of the staff.

    One of the criteria which should be considered when casting your next municipal vote should be the actual employment history of the candidate and why the candidate is running.

    Remember you are placing your future and a $3-billion operation in the hands of those you elect so I encourage a thoughtful vote.

    1. Part of the problem there, Bruce, is that you have only the candidate’s word on why he or she is running. Many of them are already masters of politalk by the time they become candidates and know what to say and how to say it.
      There have also been some with a solid background who have been the looniest councillors or mayors in town. Others with backgrounds in other areas who you would not expect much from have proven themselves as competent politicians.
      The other question is who they are beholden to and I’m not just talking of campaign donations. Who’s putting them forward and who encouraged them to run?

  3. Here’s some of the stuff the city and Rideau Transit Group will be arguing about.

    From the Dec. 4, 2012 report to council:

    under the heading – A Winning Proposal

    – Full risk transfer to the Proponent for tunnel and below surface station geotechnical risks.

    under the heading – Risk Transfer

    – … RTG bears the construction risk, including risks associated with … methodology …
    – In addition RTG bears the ultimate risk with respect to geotechnical conditions for the tunnelling work.
    – RTG bears all geotechnical risks related to the tunnel and underground station construction.
    – RTG bears the risk with respect to any latent defects of existing works and infrastructure on the ORLT Lands.

    I am not repeating myself; the four points under Risk Transfer are four separate lines and at this point in the report “geotechnical risks” has been mentioned multiple times.

    under the heading – Legal Implications:
    – This report … does not describe all the terms and conditions of such legal agreements. Moreover, the legal agreements described in this report, in many cases, include complex concepts that cannot be completely described in a summary manner. In the event of any inconsistency … the relevant legal agreement are intended to prevail.

    That’s just the gobble-gook in the report; therefore, you can try to imagine the legal ramifications that are going to follow in the wake of the sinkhole.

      1. You have to wonder why RTG would take on such a one-sided deal. Were they handsomely rewarded for absorbing all those risks? Maybe we’ve already paid for the sinkhole as part of the contract payments related to risk responsibility. Risk is always a gamble but no sane person would take on that level of risk without commensurate compensation.

        1. Chiarelli’s plan was $700 million without a tunnel from uOttawa to Barrhaven.

          Confederation line is $2.1 billion without the add-ons from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road.

          Tunnel line seems a bit high? Maybe that’s where the risk absorption comes in?




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