Ottawa LRT judicial inquiry could have repercussions in Toronto

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The possibility of a judicial inquiry into Ottawa’s light rail system could have implications for transit projects in Toronto and elsewhere.

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The province suggests it could do what Ottawa city council has refused to do, launch an investigation into the problem with light rail transit.

The possibility of a judicial inquiry gained traction after an email from so-called LRT super consultant Brian Guest was leaked to the media by former Ottawa Mayor and former Provincial Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli.

“You know who you fuck with this support for the forensic investigation, don’t you? Someone who has always been your staunch friend and servant, ”Guest wrote to Chiarelli on October 16.

The comment, which seems to suggest an investigation would upset Guest, raised a lot of eyebrows in Ottawa and Queen’s Park. What does Guest mean that an investigation into how a project was built and how the money was spent would screw it up?

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Neither Guest nor his company responded to a request for comment.

But earlier in the week, Guest told CBC that an investigation “is bound to be disruptive and will take time to prepare – which no one would appreciate.” He said he would participate in any investigation, but didn’t think it would be “helpful”.

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Guest was one of the first consultants on Ottawa’s LRT system before moving on in 2013 to consult on Toronto’s troubled Eglinton Crosstown LRT project. Over the years, Guest and his Boxfish company have also been consulted on GO train projects for Metrolinx, the Hamilton LRT, as well as the Hurontario LRT system in Peel Region.

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The company and Guest appear to be inextricably linked with all of the major projects undertaken by Metrolinx, the provincial crown corporation responsible for transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The company was awarded a contract to help Metrolinx build the Ontario metro line expansion project in Toronto.

Guest comments have left some at Queen’s Park wondering if there is any reason to be concerned about her work on other projects – some of which, like the Ottawa LRT, have seen delays and problems.

Ottawa’s council on Wednesday voted 13-10 against opening a judicial inquiry, leading the provincial transportation ministry to issue a statement causing waves in the capital.

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“With the recent rejection by Ottawa City Council of a judicial inquiry into the issues plaguing Phase 1 LRT, we are increasingly concerned about the City’s ability to complete future phases of the work. Said a spokesperson for Minister Caroline Mulroney.

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This is a big departure from comments Premier Doug Ford made on Oct. 26 when asked about LRT issues during a stop in Kanata.

“I have every confidence in the mayor that he will fix it,” Ford said at the time.

A week later, the province’s bureaucrats sent a notice to city bureaucrats that they were withholding $ 60 million in funding until questions were answered. Now the province plans to launch the investigation that city councilors voted against.

A senior source from Ford’s team said on Wednesday that the government viewed a judicial inquiry as “one of many levers” that could be used to hold the city to account.

Guest comments to Chiarelli in the email have sparked interest from the Prime Minister’s Office, and Wednesday’s vote not to hold an investigation gives the impression the council is trying to brush the issue under the rug , which the Ford team said could not happen.

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