Doug Ford Must Act To Reform Troubled Ottawa City Hall

The people who starred in the provincial LRT inquiry into the Confederation Line brought you the Trillium Line procurement that saw an SNC-Lavalin subsidiary win the contract despite failing the technical specifications for the line, not once, but twice.

Civic auditor general Nathalie Gougeon said initially she would probe the parts of the LRT project outside the mandate of the provincial inquiry. That would be the Trillium procurement that screams for an audit. How do you fail the tech specs twice and win the contract?

Former city manager Steve Kanellakos said at the time that the SNC company was the only bidder that met the city’s affordability standard. Well that standard was wrong and given the appalling history of procurements and big projects at Ottawa City Hall, the procurement appears to be playing to form. The city group overlooking the procurement said the SNC firm was not qualified to build the Trillium Line. But it got the contract anyway.

The line is now likely to be three years late. Technical problems perhaps? The affordability standard a tad unrealistic? Is the SNC bid still the most affordable after three years of missing deadlines and extra work?

Why no audit?

That’s because the people behind the former administration that gave us the LRT mess still hold great power inside the mayor’s office, at the current top levels of city staff and on city council. The former chairman of the transit commission now sits as a member of the audit committee. Kanata South Councillor Allan Hubley was up to his neck in Confederation Line shenanigans. Remember “on-time and on-budget”?

Accordingly, these people do not want this procurement investigated. And as time went on, we saw the procurement slip down the auditor general’s work plan until recently it disappeared which was to be masked at the recent audit committee meeting by a no-harm, no-foul audit a small piece of the Jock River development which your agent was told privately is a much bigger issue than the short discussion about it at city hall.


Between the softball audit of the Ottawa Police Service’s actions at the Freedom Convoy and the non-audit of the suspect Trillium Line procurement, the auditor general office’s reputation has been dashed. The AG’s office looks like it is just another arm of civic government, subject to the same political forces that govern city council, the mayor and staff which the office is supposed to be above.

Failure To Audit Rail Procurement Stinks: MULVIHILL

So why no audit of the procurement? Because many of the same people who knew and abetted the misdeeds outlined in the LRT inquiry are still employed at city hall. The last thing those people want to see is another probe of the fiasco that is light rail. They escaped with their jobs last time. They don’t want to lose their positions and salaries now.

Do we know if misdeeds occurred on procurement? No. That’s why we need an audit. But the procurement is woefully suspect and nothing screams audit at city hall as much as this affair. And yet this civic auditor general will never investigate this incident.

The consequences of this are terrible. The incompetent and ethically challenged Ottawa municipal government is not capable of reforming itself. The rot is all through city hall. It must be changed from the outside or abysmal municipal governance will continue unabated. The club that runs city hall with your money treats public policy as its private toy. Consultation is either not conducted or ignored. Outside critics and experts are patronized by public servants and politicians who are in no position to patronize. One city hall veteran told your agent that it will take a generation to rid of the unfortunate culture of city hall that was created by the long term of former mayor Jim Watson.

What we have here is dictated government on Laurier Avenue except for one day every four years.

City hall is not working at the behest of Ottawa residents. It is working in the best interests of itself and powerful forces outside city hall that run many vital governance files.

If city hall will not reform itself, someone from outside municipal government must restore good governance and representation on Laurier Avenue.

The municipal government is a creature of the province and it exists at the pleasure of Queen’s Park. Nepean and Gloucester discovered that in the 2001 amalgamation.

It is the responsibility of the provincial government to see that proper conduct of municipal public policy occurs. At present, it is not.

Thus Premier Doug Ford must do one or all of three things:

  1. Appoint a commissioner and a board to run city hall until the next municipal election and, at the same time, clean up the ethical and administrative mess there;
  2. Send in a team of tough provincial auditors to explore the inner workings of a troubled city government including the operation of the city’s auditor general’s office;
  3. Call an inquiry into the procurement and building of the Trillium Line as it did for the Confederation Line.

If Ford does not do these things, the competence of his Progressive Conservative government is in question.

We need an open, caring, competent and inclusive government that was envisaged by the Tory-appointed Ottawa Transition Board before and during amalgamation.

We’re not getting that or anything remotely resembling that.

Now is the time to act, premier.

Someone must reform city hall, premier, and that task falls to you. Do the right thing.

Ken Gray

 —

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7 Responses

  1. Bob Gauvreau says:

    Ken
    A very large Woof, Woof of Agreement ……………..
    Maybe the Bulldog could put a “bite” on our local MLAs to raise it with the Premier. (small challenge, all MLAs are in Opposition).

    Keep up the Good Work…. your experience and the members of your Kennel are our only public voice and doing a “Hell of an Excellent Job”.

    Respectfully,
    Bob Gauvreau

  2. Ken Gray says:

    Bob:

    Very kind words. Thank you.

    cheers

    kgray

  3. Robert Roberts says:

    Try sending to the Globe to be printed as an op-ed. Whether it’s printed or not, it will get more visibility around Queen’s Park.

  4. Bruce says:

    Why would Ford bother to get involved in Ottawa petty politics? Not many votes here and mostly his opposition players. Yes Toronto and Trudeau do have some skin in the LRT fiasco but look at who Trudeau’s friends are in the game.

  5. Ken Gray says:

    Bruce:

    Ford called the LRT inquiry.

    cheers

    kgray

  6. Bruce says:

    But the parameters for the LRT inquisition were not broad enough nor did it have any repercussions or attached responsibility. Will Ford revisit? Would be nice.

  7. The Voter says:

    Maybe we need to have a look at the whole concept of a City-appointed auditor auditing the decisions of the people who appointed her (and potentially re-appoint her), pay her salary and approve her workplan. I don’t think I would want the province taking over those functions but it should move to some outside body, perhaps an arms-length citizens panel.

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