“Communication is sparse to say the least.”
Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Diane Deans on the feedback the public and council is getting on the light-rail project.
This is what happens when you have a city council that sits on its hands at public meetings.
Some councillors owe their extra positions (such as standing committee chairs) or other such perks to Mayor Jim Watson.
And we all know how Watson thinks that congeniality is much more important at city council or committee than a healthy debate to iron out the issues. Or some councillors are unprepared to do the detail work and ask the right questions of city staff to prevent huge snafus. Why Kanata South Councillor Allan Hubley after the announcement of Phase 2 was running around saying light-rail was on its way to the giant suburb.
The councillor should buy a map. Phase 2 is nowhere near Kanata, nor Barrhaven for that matter. For $6 billion this line should provide a chauffeur service for each resident of Kanata who wants to take the line. Hubley, and no doubt a number of his colleagues, don’t understand the cost overrun on this project, prefer not to talk about it or can’t be bothered to discuss it.
There was a time on council when the likes of Bob Chiarelli, Alex Cullen and Gord Hunter would have raked staff over the coals in council so that many of the problems the LRT project is experiencing now could have been caught.
But Watson doesn’t like debate or controversy and doesn’t understand budgeting and administration very much. The mayor will do everything he can to avoid taking responsibility for mistakes. He is all politics and PR. Responsibility? That’s for schmucks. All that tends to catch up to the mayor midway in whatever position he has held so he runs away.
Yes all the safety problems on the LRT are right on queue on WDT (Watson Daylight Time). No detailed debate on light rail and now even spin-master Watson can’t cover up a gas leak that requires the evacuation of four downtown blocks, a fallen giant crane, three sinkholes, one flood and one fire in the tunnel (which the public was not told of). These for the most part are things taxpayers can see before their very eyes … what is going on in the hole that the public doesn’t know about? Worse, with all these difficulties, will light rail work at all at roll-out time? And worst of all, when will people start getting killed and injured in this endeavour? No deaths in all these mishaps? Lucky. Bulldog readers voted in a poll to halt the project for a safety audit. That’s how bad this has got.
The original completion plan was May 7, 2018 but now staff has pulled back to the position of it will be ready when it is ready. Who lets them get away with this stuff? How do you feel about that Councillor Hubley or are you still trying to figure out where Moodie Drive is? (hint: it’s where the western Phase 2 line ends nowhere near Kanata)
Now Watson will reap what he has sown. The mayor through a bunch of overruns from the on-time and on-budget line in a so-called extras package (is a fare system an extra?) has kept the price at $2.1 billion for Phase 1. But will that be enough? How would Watson know? He will pay $6 billion for a line that doesn’t do as much as the cancelled project at $2.8 billion, is tunnelled through a park and most certainly won’t be finished in 2014 when the cancelled plan was to be finished. And that line went to Kanata and Barrhaven (note to Hubley: Kanata is in your ward).
This project is out-of-control and has been out-of-control for a long time. The cover-up of the problems on this line is just about as big as the Rideau Street sinkhole. Why when gas was spewing through downtown (a tad hard to cover-up), the city neglected to say in its updated releases on the mishap that the gas main was broken by a project related to light rail. Question: isn’t that something taxpayers should know about? Apparently not.
Deans is right. Taxpayers and council deserve much more information on the progress of the largest initiative in Ottawa municipal history. They also need a tough, pro-active council that asks the right questions so taxpayers aren’t saddled with $3.2 billion of unnecessary costs. The project is falling apart on deadline and price. In short, it’s a disaster.
So what will Watson do to solve this enormous mess? It’s just about time for his disappearing act.
Finally it took the public … three sinkholes, one flood, one fire, one crane collapse, one gas-line-break evacuation and a city staff that refuses to put a completion deadline on the project … to start getting worried about what is going on down there.
Guess what, Your Worship? The public now knows this plan has gone off the rails in cost and time and functionality. Taxpayers will be looking for someone to blame.
Best to get out of Dodge, Your Worship.
And city staff and Your Worship … makes sure Deans gets her information. It might be too late to avoid this gigantic blunder but maybe with some information, Deans can mitigate a bit of the damage.
Watson certainly can’t.
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