Ottawa

Province should intervene with LRT, Harden urges

The provincial government should help fix Ottawa's ongoing issues with its new light rail system, according to the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ottawa Centre MPP held public meeting to hear from commuters

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden listens to a speaker during a meeting on Nov. 30, 2019, about LRT concerns. Harden says the province should intervene in the city's problem-plagued light rail line, since it helped underwrite the contract with Rideau Transit Group. (Yasmine Mehdi/Radio-Canada)

The provincial government should help fix Ottawa's ongoing issues with its new light rail system, according to the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

"We put $1 billion into this," Joel Harden told Radio-Canada Saturday, noting a provincial body called Infrastructure Ontario helped the City of Ottawa to underwrite the contract with Rideau Transit Group (RTG), the builder of the Confederation light rail line.

"The fingerprints of the province are on this project. It is also accountable." 

The NDP MPP held a public meeting Saturday afternoon to hear from commuters about their concerns with LRT.

The new light rail trains, designed to revolutionize the capital region's transit system, have instead been an ongoing headache for commuters and politicians alike. 

'Extremely frustrating'

OC Transpo is now keeping 20 buses on standby for when the LRT breaks down. The city has also withheld payments from the maintenance branch of RTG.

"It is rotten, public transport in Ottawa," said LRT commuter Philippe Parisot, who attended the public forum, in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

"Is it frustrating? Yes, extremely frustrating," added Daniel Tucker-Simmons, another transit user.

Harden said Premier Doug Ford needs to find out what the underlying problems are.  

Harden said Premier Doug Ford needs to find out what the underlying problems are with LRT. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Help has been promised

Just over two weeks ago, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, the province's minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, offered her department's support to get the trains back on track.

Still, there's been no formal announcement from the Progressive Conservative government.

Former city councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet also attended Saturday's meeting, held in the basement of Centretown United Church on Bank Street.

He wondered why Mayor Jim Watson hasn't shouldered more of the blame for the flawed transit system. 

"If we go around the world, it would be very difficult to find a worse example than Ottawa," Doucet said. 

Harden said the whole process needs greater transparency, especially from RTG, so that people can know precisely what the problems with LRT are. 

"It shouldn't end up in secrecy."

With files from Yasmine Mehdi

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