'Nothing at all': Ottawa mayor waiting for word on public inquiry into LRT

Partial service has resumed on Ottawa's light rail system after nearly two months. (CTV News Ottawa)

Two weeks after the Ontario government called a public inquiry into Ottawa's beleaguered LRT system, Mayor Jim Watson and the city's auditor general are waiting to see the terms of reference for the investigation.

"Nothing at all. I haven't received anything in writing, no phone calls so we anxiously await what the parameters are," said Watson in an interview with Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced on Nov. 17 that Ontario is launching a public inquiry "to get to the bottom" of the issues facing the LRT system.

Mulroney said the Ontario government plans to launch the public inquiry "as soon as possible", with the scope of the inquiry and its terms of reference released in the coming weeks.

Watson says Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon is waiting to see the terms of reference to determine how to proceed with an audit of the LRT system. Council voted this fall to ask Gougeon to investigate the LRT project.

"She wants to make sure she's not duplicating efforts because, as you know, council asked the auditor general to go and review aspects that caused the system to fail us. So I hope the province would communicate with us directly," said Watson.

"It would be nice to get a letter from the minister explaining what the parameters are, when it's starting and what the ground rules are."

The auditor general's work plan for 2022-2023 includes an audit of the Stage 1 LRT procurement and implementation.

"Once the OAG has completed sufficient planning to further define the scope of the audit, we will return to Council to provide an update and a preliminary budget," said Gougeon, in a report from Friday's Audit Committee meeting.

The auditor general tells council that she is waiting to see the scope of the Ontario government's public inquiry to determine whether to expand her own investigation.

"Once we better understand the scope of the province’s public inquiry, additional audit/investigation work on Stage 1 LRT may be initiated," said Gougeon. "The scope of the province’s public inquiry will be considered in the planning stages of the OAG LRT audit to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure prudent spending of taxpayer dollars."

Gougeon told council last month that the audit would focus on two main areas. The first is activities relating to the award, construction and "go live" of Stage 1 of LRT to ensure they were undertaken with the appropriate transparency, due diligence and oversight. The second audit will look at the effectiveness of the operation and maintenance.

Ottawa's LRT system resumed running on Nov. 12 after a 54-day shutdown following the derailment on Sept. 19. It was the second derailment on the two-year system in six weeks.