Sutcliffe Must Resign Over Failed LRT Fix: GRAY

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This is very simple. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe must resign.

Sutcliffe promised he would fix light rail during his successful election campaign. Now two years into his term, Ottawans are back at ground zero. No fix is readily available nor does a solution appear to be in the foreseeable future.

The mayor said the Alstom redesign of the wheel hubs would solve the problem of premature wear which has and potentially continues to derail the trains. The safety of Ottawa residents might well be in jeopardy. This can’t continue.

We are now two years into the much-touted solution to these light-rail woes. Ottawans have been hearing about potential solutions and lies since the days of “on-time and on-budget” in 2019. How long should Ottawans be expected to deal with this LRT fiasco? How much guff are they prepared to put up with for the weighty cost of $6.4 billion?


Ottawans are extremely unhappy with the non-existent light-rail fix and myriad other municipally bungled episodes. Our woefully distracted and uncaring council (witness naming snow plows and adopting Shawarma Town) is lost and doesn’t realize the depth of LRT dissatisfaction. Were this St. Petersburg in the early part of the 1900s, the peasants would have overthrown the Romanovs a couple of years early.

The city, first with ex-mayor Jim Watson and now Sutcliffe, has butchered public transit in this community. OC Transpo is bleeding money and offering questionable service with no solution in sight. People have remarked how similar the administration of Sutcliffe is to Watson’s. Too bad he’s following the same path when it comes to light-rail efficiency.

Sutcliffe did not personally cause this light-rail fiasco. Watson played the biggest role. But Sutcliffe promised to clean up the mess. That fix is now back to ground zero. Shame on city hall, Rideau Transit Group and Alstom. They have let the people of Ottawa down.

In the political world of the federal government, the minister takes the blame for problems and resigns. So too should the mayor of Ottawa in the failure to fix light rail. He should be joined by the senior managers of OC Transpo, the chairman of the transit commission and the chairman of the light-rail subcommittee. They can’t do the job. They’ve had much time to prove that.

And despite the fact that the Confederation LIne is a fiasco, Ottawa continues to build more fiasco of the same ilk. Stop it until a solution to the Confederation Line is found … sometime … maybe never.

Even more frightening than the tale of woe of the current LRT is the future of transit in general. Ottawa has dawdled for so long on LRT that what was once a great idea in 1982 (the year Calgary adopted light rail) might have passed its time. That’s 42 years. In much less than 42 years early in the 20th century, warfare went from dropping bombs by hand out of spindly canvas-and-wood planes to the first jet plane and the atomic bomb. Ottawa has only created the light-rail bomb.

Society might have entered the post-mass-transit epoch. With work-at-home, pandemic transportation changes and the hollowing out of downtowns, maybe all Ottawa will need is a down-sized but efficient bus system. Federal public servants working from home in Moose Jaw don’t need OC Transpo. High-tech experts don’t need to commute much in Kanata, if at all, and some can do their work from Naples, Florida, not Ottawa. Memo to Transpo … light-rail does not need to be extended to Naples. Furthermore if it did, Transpo would never get it there.

After $6.4 billion and more time than it took to build the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the municipal government has proven beyond a doubt that it cannot handle light rail or itself given the myriad of woes here beyond LRT. The City of Ottawa is incapable and incompetent as well as unable and unwilling to fix itself.

It is time for the premier of Ontario to lead because the city can’t lead. Doug Ford must appoint a commissioner to run Ottawa’s municipal government to fix an unethical culture of failure.

There are precedents for this from the past with the province’s replacement of the Ottawa Hospital board and Queen’s Park’s creation of the Ottawa transition board that molded the new city from a municipal mess.

Ontarians pay Ford to lead. About $6.4 billion has been wasted on LRT with no solution to the mess in sight.

For the love of God, lead Doug Ford, lead.

This fiasco must end.

Bulldog editor Ken Gray has been a journalist at five major Canadian newspapers over a career that has spanned four decades. He founded The Bulldog 14 years ago.

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3 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    Ken After reading the report and the lack of solid conclusions I am still of the opinion that the track design and the radius of the curves is the main culprit in the failing bearings and axles. I am not an engineer but neither is/was Watson nor Sutcliffe and yet they seem to be in charge of a project they have a distinct lack of competence in. Alstrom and RTG will never admit to design flaws and so we are at an impasse.. Ottawa does not have PEng’s who are transportation specialists and more particularly LRT experienced let alone Rail experts so the city has no ability to challenge or even evaluate the issue. The city has traditionally subbed out anything and everything to “consulting companies” but in this case??

  2. Imagine we could have had Bob Chiarelli as Mayor….! The City would have been in a better position today!

  3. The Voter says:

    Bob,

    Choosing either of the other two top candidates, Bob Chiarelli or Catherine McKenny, would have guaranteed us one definite thing. Unlike Sutcliffe, neither of them is in any way connected or beholden to Jim Watson.

    A huge sign, which many people missed, was Sutcliffe saying he had no intention of revisiting past mayoral or council decisions. I have always wondered if that promise was part of the price extracted from him for the support of the Good Old Boys Club. It would be pretty difficult to correct or even question anything about the LRT or Lansdowne or the other fiascos the City faces without looking at the past decisions that got us here.

    Through his Club, Watson also got to block two of his archenemies from getting his old job. Both Catherine and Bob were often on the other side of issues from him and had the support of other members of council as well as large segments of the community. Knocking them out of the political arena was a big victory for him personally that he was able to accomplish while barely getting his hands dirty.

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