Ottawa city council may have decided not to pursue a judicial inquiry into its problem-plagued light-rail transit system on Wednesday, but the Ontario government has signalled a judge-led investigation is still in the cards as to what, if anything, has gone amiss in the project’s procurement.
A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney confirmed to Global News Wednesday night that the province is considering launching a judicial inquiry or some other investigation, as the ministry is “increasingly concerned with the city’s ability to carry out future phases of work.”
“Given the size and scope of Stage 2, we need to have full confidence that the city will be able to successfully deliver. As a result, we are looking at options that will increase the province’s oversight of the project, in an effort to protect taxpayers and transit riders,” spokesperson Jordanna Colwill said in an emailed statement.
“This may include a judicial inquiry, a review by Ontario’s Auditor General and further measures that may require provincial legislation. All options are on the table.”
The Ontario government provided $600 million in funding to Stage 1 of Ottawa’s LRT construction and $1.2 billion for Stage 2.
The province recently issued a letter to the city threatening to hold back $60 million in funding if certain conditions related to the safe restoration of rail service following the Sept. 19 derailment were not met.
Ottawa’s LRT system is set to resume with partial service on Friday morning.
Ottawa city council considered a motion from Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney on Wednesday calling for a judicial inquiry, but the proposal was voted down 13-10, with a majority of councillors and the mayor arguing an already planned auditor general probe was sufficient.
Responding to early reports that the Ontario government was considering its own judicial inquiry, Mayor Jim Watson told reporters that he had not heard from any provincial officials about plans to launch such a probe.
He cited Premier Doug Ford’s publicly stated confidence in the city’s capacity to remedy outstanding issues with the LRT during his recent visit to Kanata as proof of the province’s confidence.
If a judicial inquiry is called, he said the province, not the city, would have to pay the costs.
Memorandum of understanding for Hamilton’s LRT signed at City Hall
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