City council approves stage 2 of LRT

UPDATE:

City Council voted to approve stage 2 of LRT on Wednesday by a vote of 19-3.

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A heated debate in the halls of City Council Wednesday, over a vote to award $4.6 billion worth of contracts to build Stage 2 of LRT.

Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney introduced a motion to defer the vote on Stage 2 to March 27, arguing there hasn’t been enough time to inform the public.

But she was warned any delay in the vote could put the project at risk.

“The entire project, as described in the report will be in jeopardy,” said Geoffrey Gilbert, an outside lawyer representing the City of Ottawa on this file, who was present for the council meeting. “This could cost the city well in excess of tens of millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Gilbert said the timing of the project and the bidding process would be irreparably altered.

Director of O-Train Planning at the City of Ottawa, Chris Swail, also said provincial and federal funding could be jeopardized.

“We need a project in its entirety to move forward with both transfer payment agreements from both levels of government,” he said. “Until council approves these contractors to deliver those Stage 2 elements, we will not be able to move forward with those transfer payment agreements.”

That was, perhaps, the most serious argument against the motion. City Treasurer Marian Simulik went so far as to say without the provincial and federal funds, Stage 2 would be “dead.”

The tone about the consequences for a two-week deferral did not sit well with some councillors.

Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard said it “feels like we’ve got a gun to our heads on this stuff.”

Menard’s voice raised as he outlined what had changed in the 12 days since Council learned that the projected cost of Stage 2 would be $1.2 billion more.

“What’s changed? Entire stations move, a 28-month O-Train shutdown period, a much higher estimated cost, SNC Lavalin is the preferred bidder for Trillium Line, an unknown start time for Stage 1, problems with winter operability; these are major decisions for a municipality this size and we’re all deciding in here that 12 days is long enough to make this type of decision? It’s not.”

Gloucester Southgate Coun. Diane Deans repeated Menard’s “gun to our head” simile in her statements, saying there are a lot of unanswered questions about Stage 2.

“I don’t think the public has confidence; I certainly, as a member of council, don’t have confidence in moving forward,” she said.

Ultimately, however, the motion would be defeated 16-6.

Couns. McKenney, Leiper, Deans, Menard, Meehan, and Chiarelli would be the only ones voting in favour of deferral.