LRT public inquiry is on

It’s been quite a trying time for Ottawa’s LRT. I’ve been asking the provincial government to help fix our LRT for a long time. After over almost two years of urging action, it’s finally beginning to listen.

On December 1, 2019, we held an LRT town hall in the basement of the Centretown United Church with transit users and workers. What we heard that day shocked us. Doors that jammed. Train wheels that cracked. Stations that smelled of sewer gas. None of this made sense.

So we called on the province to act. We insisted it find out why this train doesn’t work and why it is so challenging to investigate the secretive public-private partnership (P3) behind our LRT. At that time, the province refused. The government said this was the city’s problem.

Undeterred, some councillors worked hard for answers but were met with excuses, obstruction and delays. Councillor Catherine McKenney, a member of the city’s Transit Commission, could only review the LRT’s monthly maintenance contract in the City Solicitor’s Office and was banned from taking photos or written notes.

Calling this Kafkaesque is an insult to a great novelist. There was no subtlety here, no man-beetle metamorphosis with the insect flipped on its back. This was a mess that only abated with reduced ridership during COVID-19 as many of us worked from home.

But then a sixth LRT derailment happened on September 19. A train entering Tremblay station travelled across a rail bridge with 12 passengers as a wheel remained off the track. That sent shockwaves through our city. Our office was flooded with calls and emails from commuters who were left stranded.

In the two months since, as Joanne Chianello from CBC Ottawa continued her focus on finding the truth, more concerns came to light. All of this traced back to our secretive P3 LRT deal.

After previously insisting that this was our city’s problem, Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s transportation minister, announced a public inquiry on November 17 after I spent two days asking her about it in Question Period. The dam finally broke.

There you have it, dear readers. The LRT public inquiry is on because some of us demanded more from politics. Some of us believe that fighting back and speaking out can make a difference.

Let’s keep the pressure on, let’s get the answers and the LRT we deserve.

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