Egli Threatens Legal Action For Doing My Job

As a journalist, albeit one that doesn’t get paid, I chase down stories simply because I love doing it. I love local politics and I love getting scoops and I love getting the truth away from the spin.

Earlier today, I got a tip about Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli. Now I’ve been in this business a long time and tips aren’t always truth. I know that. And so, as any good journalist would, I got in touch with some of the people that I thought might be able to help me confirm or deny the story. That’s just how the game works. No one I contacted was aware of the story, so I went to Egli himself.

He absolutely denied it. I then refined the question. He promised to get back to me right away. It took more than two hours for him to get back to me.
But when he did, it packed a wallop! Here’s what he wrote to me and, interesting to note, it wasn’t sent from his City of Ottawa email.

Sue


I was utterly shocked to hear of the defamatory allegation of criminal activity that you have repeated with respect to me.

There is absolutely no truth to this allegation.

I am asking you to confirm to me forthwith that you have either not repeated these defamatory comments to anyone or, if you have repeated it to anyone, I want you to advise me of the name and contact information of each person (including co-workers, friends and family members- as each of them could have repeated or might repeat) the defamatory statement , as well as provide me with proof that you have contacted each person to let them know that the defamatory allegation that you shared with him or her was totally unfounded and that it was wrong of you to do what you did  and to advise them that if they have shared that defamatory comment with anyone, they should be contacting that person to advise that the defamatory comment is unfounded.

I will stop at nothing to take any and all measures to either repair what would likely be considerable damage to my reputation, and/or to obtain damages, to the full extent that any damages can be awarded in law.

I am asking you to provide me with the information I have requested before 8 PM today.

Egli of course used to be practice law, hence the word forthwith! 

Really not sure why Egli thinks chasing a story is wrong. And absolutely dumbfounded why he thinks I can be sued for damages by asking questions. That being said, sort of wish I’d completed my Journalism and the Law course!

Again, for the record, I found no truth to the tip I’d been given, though it won’t stop me from pursuing it further. And again, for the record, I advised the councillor to go for it. I will not be offering up any information to him about who I talked to. Nor will I be bullied by fear of legal action. Sort of shocked Egli would try to threaten a journalist. But there you have it.

Deans Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, a long-serving city councillor and leader on council, is suffering from ovarian cancer.

Deans will be taking a leave of absence from city council as she begins treatment for the cancer on Tuesday. The councillor made the sudden announcement in an email to her colleagues and the media Monday afternoon. “After a summer of not feeling well and a myriad of medical tests, I received the devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer,” Deans wrote.

As she wrote, she will be away from council for an undetermined length of time as she battles with all of her energy on this “insidious disease.” While her time away isn’t determined, she does refer to returning to council next year. Deans, a left-leaning Liberal, has been as a strong opponent to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on council. And while he appointed her to serve as the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, she doesn’t sit on the key and powerful finance and economic development committee, essentially the cabinet of council.

Her absence from council will be missed. One of a few city councillors who isn’t afraid of taking on Watson, the long-serving council provides a strong voice for women, minorities and the disadvantaged around the council table.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney spoke to Deans just before the news release went out.”It was absolutely unexpected. Knowing Diane for a long time, I consider her a friend and colleague. This is devastating news. You never expect to hear that someone has serious health issues. But she’s got a lot of friends and lot of support and we’ll do whatever we can,” McKenney said.

First elected to council in 1994, Deans has also ventured into party politics. She sought the Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa South, but lost to David McGuinty, and she’s also mused several times about running for mayor.She also attempted to secure the provincial nomination in Ottawa Centre back in 2007, she lost to Yasir Naqvi.

Councillor Darouze Bullied Osgoode Resident

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze broke the city’s Code of Conduct using bullying and intimidation in an attempt to silence one of his constituents, according to a recently released report by the city’s integrity commissioner.

The punishment for having broken the city’s Code of Conduct includes everything from being reprimanded, losing your salary for up to 90 days or giving a written or verbal apology.

The story centres around the use of social media, and several postings made on Facebook by a female Osgoode resident, who is also the wife of an Ottawa Police officer. The woman raised a number of concerns, everything from traffic, speeding and the lack of policing in the ward.

Darouze responded to the woman, and brought in the fact her husband worked for the police. As the exchange between Darouze and the female continued, the Osgoode councillor went so far as to bring the matter to the attention of then Ottawa Police Chief Chuck Bordeleau. A letter was placed in the police officer’s file, though he himself never engaged in the Facebook debate and hadn’t even read them.

Unhappy with the treatment by Darouze, the female resident and her police officer husband asked for an official investigation.

The report by city Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau doesn’t pull any punches with his findings.

An investigator hired by Marleau had this to say about the dispute:

I find that (Darouze’s) reaction to the Facebook posts of the female Complainant was unjustified and excessive. I find that in sending his September 21, 2018 email to the Chief of Police and identifying both Complainants and revealing that the male Complainant was an OPS officer he did so for the primary reason of silencing the female Complainant and causing the male Complainant grief in his workplace. 
The Councillor’s exaggerated claims of fear and harm, his contradictory explanations, and his aggressive response to legitimate public debate on the question of police deployment in rural Ottawa weakens his credibility in this case. Considering all of the circumstances and the Councillor’s own evidence, this office finds that his explanation is not credible
On a balance of probabilities, I find that the major motivation of the Councillor was to bully and intimidate the Complainants and each of them in the hope that female Complainant might cease her critical Facebook commentary of him.

The report is expected to be dealt with at Wednesday’s city council meeting. Marleau is recommending Darouze issue a “sincere written apology” to both of the complainants; to write to the the Interim Chief of Police to make him aware of the report and request that his letter to the Chief of Police last year be removed from the personnel file of the complainant; and to reprimand Darouze in accordance with the Code of Conduct.

Light Rail Off and Running

And it’s a go.

Yes that’s right, Ottawans finally got to ride the much, much, much anticipated and much delayed light rail system.

Hallelujah.

Have to admit, I was a little taken aback at the party-like atmosphere the city put on to celebrate the opening, including some members of the media who seemed more like cheerleaders than outside observers.

And I may never get over  the image of the giddy-with-delight Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley at the prospect of the opening – or Mayor Jim Watson comparing his excitement to that of Christmas Day. (And I thought I didn’t have much going on in my life!)

Not to mention, the light rail system is absolutely unlikely to help Hubley’s constituents or do anything for the incredible gridlock in much of the city – not just during rush hour, but through much of the work week depending on where you’re travelling.

And am I wrong to think the non-working escalators in the system might have gotten a little more attention, save for the cheerleaders?
Former Mayor Bob Chiarelli, the brains behind bringing light rail to the nation’s capital, understands the system’s limitations as it now exists. He also understands the public’s frustration with the ever-growing traffic issues in the system, especially in Kanata and Barrhaven.

However, as the man who first brought light rail to Ottawa, Saturday was a good and rewarding day. 

“Of course, there’s satisfaction that we have a good modern system up and running,” Chiarelli told On the the City, From the Burbs.

“I thought it was a good launch and the people thought it was a good launch. Yes, it’s been a long and winding road. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge,” he said.

Chiarelli had proposed a north-south line that would have cost substantially less and brought suburban traffic into the mix. But when Larry O’Brien won the election and defeated Chiarelli, O’Brien cancelled that plan and instead decided the first link in Ottawa’s light rail plan would go east-west and include an underground tunnel.

“I think the fact that we’ve taken an extra 10 years has created some challenges for the future. We may have missed a round of funding (from the upper levels of government).” I’ve heard and seen some issues that have been raised, the fact that at this stage and time, we don’t have Kanata and Barrhaven connected, to the system, and so there are some unanswered questions. Will people get out of their cars to take a bus to the train and have to transfer and maybe transfer twice? And all of this is compounded by the unbelievable growth in the city, there’s a tremendous amount of congestion,” Chiarelli said. 

“I’m struck by the bumper to bumper traffic on Stranderd (in Barrhaven), congestion in Kanata,” he continued.”There are still challenges ahead of us. But for (Saturday) it was all well done, and you could tell people were excited about it.”

A Tale of Two City Councillors

Two Ottawa city councillors had life-changing events occur in their lives this week.

One will be celebrating, the other will be forced to re-exam his future.

For Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, who saw charges of corruption against him withdrawn, it’s a week worth celebrating.

Seems little doubt Tierney got off easy. He will have to give up two months salary. Small price to pay. And he can now stop plotting for ways to get his wife Jenny Tierney into his municipal seat under a scenario where he feared he would lose his job.

A quick recap: On the last day of registration for the 2018 election, Michael Schurter, a real estate agent who had nothing but good things to say about Tierney, registered to run against Tierney with just minutes to spare before the deadline.

I phoned Tierney to get his reaction. He was freaking out, apparently with his extended family on hand – getting ready to pop the champagne to celebrate what he had hoped was going to be an acclamation.

Then, according to OPP documents, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy. 
(Remember what happened to former mayor Larry O’Brien when he was accused of offering mayoral hopeful Terry Kilrea an incentive to drop out of the race?)

Schurter contacted the police, and the OPP anti-rackets division charged Tierney with “corrupt practices,” or bribery. I should mention I had a visit from the OPP myself, who wanted to discuss in further detail my phone conversation with Tierney. 

It was an ugly time, with the super-paranoid Tierney flipping out over what his huge mistake in phoning Schurter could cost him.

But now that’s all over for Tierney and his family. Perhaps that bottle of champagne was actually popped!

What is still so puzzling is why Tierney was so desperate to be acclaimed. It would have been an easy romp to a re-election victory – and while he gets to keep his job – clearly his reputation has been tarnished!

The week hasn’t been as kind to College Coun. Rick Chiarelli.

Chiarelli is a longtime city councillor with a wicked sense of humour he often uses against Mayor Jim Watson. The media loves a good quote, and Chiarelli delivers. When Watson unveiled a budget with questionable numbers, Chiarelli called it a Christmas Miracle. The media ate it up, Watson fumed. Chiarelli also had the audacity (and yes, that’s sarcasm) to beat Watson’s former employee Ryan Kennery in the last election.

According to a story by the CBC, Chiarelli has been accused of asking inappropriate questions during a job interview to a woman seeking employment at city hall. The woman has since filed a complaint with Ottawa’s integrity commissioner, suggesting she was asked inappropriate questions of a sexual nature during a job interview.

The same CBC story also said the corporation had spoken with several others  who’ve worked in Chiarelli’s office, and a number of those said they’d heard the councillor make inappropriate comments in the workplace. 

It’s a sad, ugly story wherever the truth lies.

Not surprisingly, Chiarelli isn’t talking to the media and is now apparently on sick leave.

The Week That Was (Sept. 1-7)

SORRY, NOT SORRY: Okay, so the phenomenal win on Saturday evening by Canada’s own Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open championship may not exactly be municipal news, but impossible not to mention.

The Mississauga champion beat tennis great Serena Williams to become the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Slam singles title. And of course, being a Canadian, she apologized to the public on hand, saying she was sorry for beating their favourite! Nice touch. As someone who recently visited Greece, our reputation for apologizing is well-deserved. I would find people pushing and shoving me in the throng of crowds and found myself apologizing.

All of Canada is so proud.

TRAIN TROUBLE: In less than a week, the city’s light rail system will go live. And is there anyone out there that doesn’t fear trouble on the tracks? 
The past week makes everyone’s concerns more valid. Just a few short days after the city took over the $2.1-billion LRT system and with the official opening slated for Sept. 14, more than half of the Confederation Line was shut down for hours this past week.

On Wednesday, the light rail system wasn’t running between Tunney’s Pasture and Hurdman stations for several hours.
Three trains were stopped in the downtown tunnel. Two of the trains finally went to Tunney’s Pasture, and the third was taken to the east end. As a result, several radio units needed to be reset.

Is any of this comforting to potential LRT users?

Will transit head John Manconi eventually be physically pushing the trains with a bunch of the city’s bureaucracy behind him? Can you imagine? Maybe you can.

TRASH TALK: So the city of Ottawa has decided it won’t extend the collection contract of a major garbage company that has failed to consistently abide by pickup schedules for communities in the west suburbs.

Waste Management has been receiving heat because it hasn’t always collected residential garbage in a timely fashion. The company has the city collection contract in Kanata, Stittsville and the surrounding communities in west Ottawa.

City council was told Waste Management would no longer be collecting residential trash in the west zone starting next June.
A memo from solid waste services director Marilyn Journeaux, a fellow/former hockey mom, says council will be asked to approve a contract with Miller Waste Systems for the west zone garbage collection.

HOW HIGH CAN YOU GO?: A larger transit tax increase could be the new norm for municipal budgets this council term, unless the upper governments pump more money into city hall’s public transit program. This according to a news story by the Sun’s Jon Willing.

A proposed 6.4% increase to the transit levy in 2020 wasn’t being considered as the long-range financial plan for transit called for the specific tax to rise by the same rate as transit fares.

The Ontario PCs  shut down a plan by the former provincial Liberals to double gas-tax transfers to municipalities. 
Can’t blame Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for this – no way he would have known.
“The federal and provincial governments have the most ability to generate revenue through taxation and fees that we don’t have,” Watson said this week, according to Willing.

IDEALIST CLIVE DOUCET RUNNING AGAIN: According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen, former city councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet is set to announce he’s running for MP for the Green Party in Cape Breton, where he has a home and where his heart is. Doucet said he’s always seen himself as a municipal politician. But honestly, I’m excited at the prospect of him being part of a group of like-minded individuals. And seriously, if he were running for the Green Party in my riding, he’d have my vote. Few politicians are as sincere as he is. Just recently chatted with him on CFRA on the Rob Snow show, and it made me realize that while I seldom agreed with him, I do miss his idealism. It’s perfect for the country and the Green Party.

Heading Back to School, Waiting for my CPP!

There’s a bit huge pit in the bottom of my stomach.

On Tuesday morning, after a 37-year hiatus, I’m headed back to Carleton University to embark on my Masters of Journalism. Yes, that’s 37 years, no typo there.

What the heck was I thinking? I have loved being a journalist. There’s really no job like it. Over the years, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to either meet or get to know. And while I always wanted to be a journalist, I sort of fell into my career.

When the Ottawa Sunday Herald started up, with former CFRA broadcaster Lowell Green behind the ambitious endeavour, I sent in my resume – and one weekend evening – got a call from Green. I didn’t get the job, but honestly, just hearing him telling me I was in the running – and that he thought I had a sense of humour, that was everything.

I did eventually start freelancing there. I caught the Herald’s interest when they gave me a freelance assignment to get people’s reactions to an Ann Lander’s column that suggested women preferred cuddling over sex – and I had to talk to people about her column. 

When the Ottawa Sun bought the Herald, I was given a chance at a real career in journalism. It wasn’t easy. In the early days, when I got the spelling of one of my subjects wrong in a story, my boss made it clear my job was on the line. “This isn’t the Herald,” said editor John Paton. (I’m now double checking the spelling of his name!)

All to say, I’ve had some lucky breaks when it comes to being a life-long journalist. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Well, not every minute, but many of them.

But on Tuesday, I’m waking up to attend my first day as a graduate student at the age of 60. Don’t ask why. In truth, I’m barely sure! The first day is a full day of orientation, and even the term full-day strikes fear in may heart. I’ve become so used to doing nothing, I just can’t imagine concentrating for that long.

I know that since taking the voluntary retirement from Postmedia, I’ve spent far too much time sitting in my basement playing Candy Crush and watching some incredibly bad television. (Yes, I’ve seen Dr. Pimple Popper. Don’t ask.)

But I still have a desire to learn. I know how to get to the bottom of a story, but am anxious to learn more about the theoretical side of the business – where it’s headed, where it’s been, a discussion of ethics,

And as I tweeted recently, in one week, I was accepted into the masters program and was approved for my Canadian Pension Plan (CPP).
I need them both!
In truth, I”m terrified. I know I can get to the bottom of a story, but just not at all convinced I’m up to the challenge of completing my Masters of Journalism.

Hope my CPP comes in soon!

The Week That Was (August 24-31)

TAXIS: A crazy debate erupted on Thursday at the city’s community and protective services. In a discussion, not on the city’s publicized agenda, councillors began debating the future of the city’s taxi industry. Who knew! Seems downtown councillor Shawn Menard thought it would be a good idea to have a 15-page report on proposed changes to the industry introduced  to committee. Well, there was nothing untoward with what Menard did, but it wasn’t either an effective or smart move. Perhaps it was his newness to the system that prompted the move, but his timing was all off. Having the report introduced to committee prompted a sudden debate of the issues, without the public even being aware the debate would be taking place. And while there are several issues that should be addressed with regard to the taxi industry and Uber, in the end, the debate was shut down.

In fact, as councillors began to debate some of the issues raised in Menard’s report, he accused some of his fellow councillors of making motions on the fly for political motives. Doh! Just what did he think would happen?

Eventually, the debate – thankfully – was shut down. And please, next time, don’t exclude the public.

There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter this week about bike lanes – and making our streets safer. And I repeat, I was on Wellington Street this week, and was caught off guard when I realized the car lane I was driving in appeared to have a bike lane right in the middle of it. I believe most drivers are like me, at least I hope so. We all want our streets safer for cyclists. But putting some paint on roads here and there without advising us what they mean is meaningless, a waste of money – and not at all furthering your cause. (I was later told on Twitter the middle of the lane for cyclists was meant to guard against dooring.) But I was so nervous about what to do or not to do, I got off Wellington as soon as I could.) So please council, don’t treat drivers as the enemy. Most of us know we need to work together and want to, so please, include us in your planning.

I LOVE Rabbi Bulka: Be sure to check out my blog on how Rabbi Reuven Bulka is going to have a park named in his honour, a Kindness Park. If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll see I’m not alone in my adoration of this very inspirational religious and civic leader.

CITY PRIDE: On Sunday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson took part in his first Pride Parade as an openly gay man. Have to admit, his coming out story left me both in tears of sadness and sheer joy at the prospect of his happiness. I’m so sad he denied himself the chance for love for so long, but incredibly happy he has finally opened himself up to the opportunity. As I said to former councillor Mark Taylor when I ran into him in Barrhaven, it’s my hope Watson’s actually has already found love. As a longtime journalist, I simply never felt a discussion of his sexuality was any of my business or of concern to the public. However, during a campaign speech during a previous mayoral election, one of my Sun colleagues told me she was at a public event where Watson said he wanted to be Ottawa’s next gay mayor. Given that information, I contacted Watson to discuss what I thought at the time was his official coming out. Turns out my colleague had misheard Watson, who was delivering an old joke he often uses. Watson jokes that he doesn’t want to be Ottawa’s next nightmare, but the city’s next day mayor!

Now you know.


SPONSORSHIP SIZZLES: Have to wonder how many times over the years this headline could have announced countless city hall stories. City staff, when trying to balance budgets, often puts in unrealistic budget numbers for potential sponsorship deals it claims it can realize. Most recently, according the Postmedia’s Jon Willing, the city is forking over $500,00 to create free wireless internet access at City of Ottawa facilities “fizzle.”

CHATEAU GLORY: Though Heritage Ottawa hasn’t reached its fundraising goal of $150k to fight changes to the historic Chateau Laurier, the group is going ahead with its legal battle to fight the city’s approval of the hideous and unsightly addition to the beautiful Chateau Laurier. Stay tuned.

ALL ABOARD: City hall invited a select number of media to be part of the inaugural LRT ride with politicians and staff. When I inquired why – as someone who regularly writes about city hall wasn’t included – was told space was limited, so only major media were invited. Hate the answer, of course. But it might have been more acceptable if city staff, like Danielle McGee, the mayor’s assistant, wasn’t on the trip. Not sure at all what her media qualifications are. Seems more like a perk for a Watson loyalist. Of course, city hall finds it far easier to throw money at public informational campaigns than rely on free publicity.

I Love Rabbi Bulka

Confession time.

I’m crazy about Rabbi Reuven Bulka.

And Bulka, one of the city’s most lovely men and such an inspirational religious leader in Ottawa for people of all faiths – appears headed to have a park named in his honour.

The only surprise is why it hasn’t happened earlier!

At Thursday’s community and protective services meeting, members agreed without debate to rename Featherston Park Rabbi Bulka Kindness Park. It still needs city council approval.

Simply can’t think of a more appropriate name for a park honouring Rabbi Bulka.

The kindness reference is in honour of Bulka’s campaign to encourage people to do acts of kindness, to encourage kindness. He in fact is the man behind Kindness Week.

Being kind seems simple enough doesn’t it? But somehow there are days when that choice is a little more difficult than others. Spend any time on Twitter, and you won’t find a lot of kindness, that’s for sure. People are busy, they’re working hard and rushing from here to there. Rabbi Bulka, in his own big way, campaigned to remind us a little kindness goes a long way.

This isn’t the first time the city has honoured him. In 2010, he was awarded the Key to the City of Ottawa. Among his other many honours, he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2013.

I can’t profess to know him well, but I can certainly attest to the fact that anytime I’ve been lucky enough to hear him talk, I am moved to try to be better, to be a kinder person and to be aware there are some around me who need that singular act of kindness.

Several other citizens are also being honoured, pending council’s approval.

Notably, it’s also being proposed longtime school board trustee Kathy Ablett have the Seniors Room in the Hunt Club Riverside Park Community Centre named the Kathy Ablett Room. Ablett, who has since passed away, spent almost 30 years as a trustee on the Ottawa Catholic School Board. And there are plans in the works for Les Lye, a well-known local entertainer, to have a theatre at Meridian Centrepointe Theatre named after him.

Former Alderman Peter Harris Weighs in on Light Rail

The Following is a guest blog post by Former Alderman Peter Harris:

30 years. Three Ottawa-Carleton Region Councils. Three Mayors of the amalgamated City of Ottawa. An election issue in 1991, 2006 and 2010. From Master Plans featuring bus transitways & expressways , Light Rail reflects a new era for Ottawa’s future.

A lot has happened over three decades. In 1989 the Ottawa-Carleton Bus Transitway was the preoccupation of regional government. OC Transpo was rated as one the best bus systems in North America. So why the change or shall I say – challenge?  The Region had proposed a $950 million tunnel for buses under Albert Street. It was supported by the majority of Mayors from the different cities. However, the political faces changed; the head of OC Transpo moved on; new leaders were elected; and amalgamation created one giant Ottawa.

As the Alderman for the former Dalhousie Ward in Ottawa, rail made a big difference to my constituents. The CP rail corridor went through the heart of Little Italy. The Region’s Master Plan included the Preston Champagne Arterial – a 70’s style expressway connecting the Queensway to the Ottawa River Parkway. It would have meant the demolition of St Anthony’s Soccer Club and a mile of homes through to Lebreton Flats. Italians along Preston St were still ‘licking their wounds’ from expropriation in the ‘60’s near St Anthony’s Church for regional housing and the new High School of Commerce.

Thankfully, CP Rail sent representative Raymond O’Meara to appear before the RMOC Transportation Cttee to explain how Montreal had converted freight lines to commuter. I introduced Mr. O’Meara to the Executive of the Preston Street Business Association who loved the idea. It suited their plans for the future. This was no ordinary route – it included a tunnel under Dow’s Lake; passed by the Carleton Univ campus and headed south towards the airport. On the Quebec side, it went by the site of the future Casino Lac Leamy.

The NCC in the meantime missed out on the era of transportation planning for the Capital of Canada. “We are not in the business of transportation’ said the NCC while busy planning bridges for cars. The Prince of Wales rail bridge crossing the Ottawa River was sold to the City of Ottawa whose Council was hot on LRT; while Gatineau’s opted for buses.  Interprovincial master planning at work!

In late 1989, following my defeat in a Dalhousie Ward byelection, I was showed the door a week later at RMOC while opposing the tunnel for buses. One prominent politician stated ‘that I should know better’. Well I did. I joined forces with Greg Ross and Michel Haddad – two private citizens who also voiced objections. We formed a new citizen’s group called Citizens for Alternative Transit – C.A.T. – one member per initial.

C.A.T. issued media releases, researched LRT in other cities; contacted rail suppliers; and in the spring of 1991, hosted an LRT seminar at the RMOC headquartersNearly 200 people heard presentations from AEG Bailey-Siemens, CP Rail and Bombardier on the merits of light rail, the possible modes of rail that can be used, and projects in other cities in Canada and abroad. The level of knowledge displayed by the audience was so impressive. From the beginning Ottawans have showed enthusiasm and support for light rail.

In late 1991, having been elected once again and on the RMOC Transportation Committee, there was more support around the Council table for light rail. LRT had emerged as an election issue in the race for RMOC Chairman between Darrell Kent, Peter Clark and Frank Reid. Kent proposed an elevated rail system through the downtown core. He lost the election but elevated LRT to a new level. Peter Clark won the election and was open to new ideas.

Councillors such as Nancy Mitchell worked with me to integrate LRT as part of the Master Transportation Plan. The Ottawa-Carleton Council of 1991-1994 would change the future of transportation planning forever. The Preston-Champagne Arterial would never materialize and rail would overcome the bus transitway. 

In 1997, Bob Chiarelli defeated Peter Clark as new Chair of Ottawa-Carleton Region. With the help of the Preston St BIA, Chiarelli supported the north-south CP Rail corridor for an LRT route. It didn’t hurt that Chiarelli grew up in Little Italy. In 2001 the O-Train was launched at the corner of Preston & Carling Ave.

David Jeanes & Tim Lane, members of Transport 2000, did tremendous volunteer work to promote LRT.  They kept the Transportation staff ‘on their toes’ and made presentations to community groups. In the east end, LRT was being promoted by Gloucester’s Royal Galipeau.

Light Rail influenced the outcome of yet another election in 2006 when Bob Chiarelli lost against Larry O’Brien in part due to Chiarelli’s proposal for an above-grade LRT system on Albert St. The merchants were very upset. Larry O’Brien campaigned against this as well as the north-south rail route. The new Ottawa City Council nixed the contract for north-south rail (big mistake) at a cost of millions of tax dollars. Planning then began for an East-West LRT route.

In the 2010 election, Jim Watson departed Queen’s Park and defeated Larry O’Brien for Mayor. Watson pledged to bring in LRT ‘on-time & on-budget’. In 2012 he cancels the agreed LRT station at the iconic location of Confederation Square in front of the NAC (so much for the speeches on world-class cities). Jeff Gillin of the Lord Elgin Hotel offered $2 million to the city. Watson refuses. The NAC and NCC lament the change but do nothing despite the major funding from the federal government. M.P.’s Muril Belanger and Paul Dewar raised objections.

The LRT station planned for the Rideau Centre is retained and to this day, the big question remains: How much money did the Rideau Centre contribute?

Today ongoing debates on the route of LRT going east and west continue. But LRT has finally arrived. It reminds us that politics is about managing change and this is a major one. LRT was not inspired by government staff or any one politician. It was the vision and challenges of private citizens and volunteers that facilitated community discussion.

The debates and implementation of LRT shows us how individual actions can make a difference despite big government; and should serve as a reminder to our elected officials on the importance of public participation.