OTAG drills holes in new LRT tunnel


Public consultation missing from Mayor Watson’s surprise LRT tunnel announcement City’s cash flow position seriously challenged by debt charges


Ottawa, July 12 — Debate around last week’s surprise LRT tunnel announcement by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, which called for a significant change inthe tunnel’s route through the centre of the City, has been just as fleeting as the announcement itself.
“This is the third major Light Rail announcement since the election last Fall. While the proposed route changes will have a dramatic affect on the overall plan, there has been surprisingly little discussion about what the proposed changes might mean”, says Kevin MacDonald President of the Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group (OTAG).


MacDonald believes public consultation on a project this size is a necessary component of good decision making. “Watson’s announcement came out of the blue and without any discussion or public consultation about the ramifications,” MacDonald points out.


“For instance, do we know how long Queen Street will be dug up? Have the merchants been consulted or even contacted? And, what about the previous plan and all the hard work, debate and money that was spent on the Albert Street tunnel plan? If a shallow tunnel under Queen Street is the better option, why did the City not determine this earlier?
Major changes like these require meaningful public consultation to take place before any decisions can be made, MacDonald explains. “Responsible and accountable fiscal management can only be achieved if the City is transparent in everything it does, including decision making.”


Mike Maguire, OTAG’s Finance Critic isn’t sold on the Mayor’s new found savings. “The identified savings will have no affect on the City’s annual debt charges which will climb to more than $200 Million annually as a result of the Light Rail project—1/6 of all property tax revenue”, Maguire says.“The City’s cash flow position will be severely challenged as a result of the LRT project no matter the route. The viability of the project is still in doubt.”
The Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group (OTAG) is a non-profit organization advocating for responsible fiscal management at City Hall on behalf of all Ottawa taxpayers.