LILLEY: A study of Ottawa’s LRT system comes despite Watson’s objections

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson met behind closed doors with members of the PC government Thursday morning, arguing that there should be no public inquiry into the city’s troubled LRT system.

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The brief meeting with members of the local PC caucus and Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy took place moments before a breakfast meeting hosted by the Ottawa Board of Trade.

“We are well past that point,” an official said.

The province announced late Wednesday that a public inquiry, which could have implications for public transport projects across the province, would be convened in the coming days.

Watson complained that he was dazzled by the news and that the county did not notify him in advance.

“I do not think it is an unreasonable request for that kind of common courtesy,” Watson told the media at breakfast.

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Ordinary courtesy is something Watson has not extended to the Ford government, so I’m not sure why he would expect that in return. Several times during the pandemic, Watson has become biased or created controversy where no one was needed just for his own political gain.

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It got so bad that Prime Minister Doug Ford, according to a top-level source, called Watson out on his political games before giving him the silent treatment for several months. If Watson had not played such games, he might have found a warmer reception in Queen’s Park.

Not that the province is launching a public inquiry into the LRT system because of this kind of biased saliva, there are really good reasons for an inquiry.

“There have been a number of incidents, including the trains, that have not worked for nearly 54 days, so we need to get answers,” Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney said Thursday morning in Queen’s Park.

She rejected the idea that her department is only suddenly interested in LRT, noting that funds were withheld due to security concerns in July 2020.

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“As a funding partner, I believe taxpayers in Ontario deserve these answers before proceeding with additional funding for Phase Two,” Mulroney said.

For those looking for the political angle on this, it is best to check out the liberal side. The province’s interest in conducting an investigation was raised by two incidents – the Ottawa Council’s refusal to call their own investigation and the release of an email from former Ottawa Mayor and Provincial Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli.

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An email to Chiarelli from LRT consultant Brian Guest raised eyebrows and lots of questions in Queen’s Park.

“You do not know who you are wasting with this support for the trial? Someone who has always been your loyal friend and servant,” Guest wrote.

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With the release of that email, Chiarelli made Watson’s life a political hell. Despite the fact that both men have been mayor of Ottawa and each has served in the McGuinty cabinet in Queen’s Park, no love has been lost between them.

Chiarelli is considering running for mayor, as is Watson. The last time both applied for that job in 2000, local liberals Watson let it be known that they supported Chiarelli. This time, Chiarelli has stabbed Watson in the front and raised serious questions about the mayor’s legacy project with the release of the email.

The Ford Tories were essentially pushed to convene an inquiry due to liberal internecine struggles.

As for Guest, the consultant worried about being scammed, Mulroney said the province will “look at the involvement of many players.”

The sleepy subject with LRT construction has just become much more interesting.

blilley@postmedia.com

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