If you were to encapsulate what has happened to the administration of Mayor Jim Watson, last week might not be a bad place to look.
The $2.1-billion Phase 1 of Ottawa’s light-rail project was late. The largest undertaking in modern municipal history, not exactly a bargain when it comes to price, was late. For that kind of money, taxpayers should expect on-time.
But then on-time is asking a lot after all the blundering that has occurred on the line. Kicking off the project was discovering a very old cemetery under Queen Street. These sort of things are supposed to be researched beforehand. Obviously something went badly wrong. And stranger still was a city public-relations person calling reporters at home adamently saying that the cemetery had nothing to do with the LRT plan. The graveyard was found as workers were moving utilities for LRT construction. The PR type wanted corrections.
Years later, the city just said the graveyard situation was found as part LRT construction. Such is the way of obfuscation on this undertaking.
So the project was late. Yes late. No doubt the result of embarrassing problems on so-rich and so-high-profile a plan. Two major life-threatening sinkholes, an accompanying tunnel flood, a gas-line break that caused the evacuation of a large part of downtown and a giant crane collapsing. Fortunately, no one was hurt. A small miracle.
But last week was the capper. The LRT project was late. Get it? Late. There was no way to get around it. Except OC Transpo chief John Manconi tried. “I don’t call it late, I call it an adjustment of the date, for all the right reasons,” he said. There’s a term for that but you can’t use it in a family publication.
No … it was late. Like the earth is round though Manconi would probably say it was flat as he stood in front of a globe. There are such things as absolutes. Late is one of them. You can’t be kinda late.
Then the mayor denied he said the project was on-time and on-budget, except the proof was there from his previous utterances. He then talked down to reporters saying in effect what do you want, $1 million or LRT? This after staff discovered the light-rail contract was formulated in such a way that a $1-million late fee could not be collected from Rideau Transit Group despite being late.
It’s a bad idea to arrogantly patronize the media when you are so overwhelmingly wrong. It makes you look ridiculous.
The mayor and staff also didn’t put the revenue lost because of the lateness in the budget, even though they knew this long before the budget meetings at city hall. And all this on top of $3.2-billion in overspending on the first two phases of the project which never gets mentioned except here.
So an encapsulation of the Watson government? Yes. Lies, denials, cover-ups, blunders, incompetence, obfuscation and arrogance. This has been happening for years but it has been blanketed by Watson charm, changing the media agenda and simply not telling the public about problems or scrambling to cover them up. If some denizens spent as much time on doing a good job as they do ineptly trying to cover-up problems, perhaps the problems wouldn’t be interested in the first place.
Meanwhile, someone from the group of potential mayoral candidates for October’s election had best step forward to end this madness. Diane Deans, Rick Chiarelli, Paul Dewar and Vern White … it’s time to stand up and be counted for what’s best for this community. Ottawa desperately needs a change at city hall.
After the late rail declaration or non-declaration as you want it, Watson scheduled two feel-good events that day in an effort to change the media cycle.
Yet another attempt at putting a Happy-Town facade on a crumbling administration.
This is a mayor of words, not substance. He must go.
Skyrocketing debt, infrastructure falling apart, colossal operating deficits.
Get Watson out of his Laurier Avenue chair before he causes more damage to this community.
Watson in 2014: Nothing more important than a good transportation, he says. Well the project is late and not on-budget despite admonitions from His Worship.
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