Let the LRT blame game begin

We've got an overview of day 1 and day 2 of the LRT inquiry

Geoff Sharpe
15 Jun

Good morning!

Robert sent me some more vacation photos. Let’s just say they make me want to pack up my belongings, fly to Europe and become a farmer.

But fear not, I don’t know the first thing about farming and there are too many important stories this week, like the LRT inquiry. 

Speaking of, we’re breaking down the first two days of the inquiry. Plus we're celebrating Italian Week in Ottawa by sharing old reviews of Italian food and restaurants from our archive, most of which you likely haven't read. 

Let’s get at it. 

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Wednesday: 27🌡️19 | 🌧️⛅

Thursday: 26🌡️16 | 🌧️

Friday: 23 🌡️7 | 🌧️⛅

Let the LRT blame game begin

The LRT inquiry commission has begun and we’re here to break it all down. We can’t promise you’ll be happy reading it, but at least you’ll be informed. 

Background: The inquiry promises to look at a broad range of factors that lead to all the LRT problems, including decisions and actions by individuals and organizations.  

In preparation for the inquiry, documents were submitted by the City of Ottawa, Rideau Transit Group and Alstom. CBC reported a number of key takeaways and accusations by each organization:

  • Alstom was blamed for the poor train design, though RTG claimed they didn’t want to use the company to build the trains during the bid process.
  • Alstom was required to build a custom train to address the City of Ottawa’s platform size and individual transportation capacity per hour requirements.
  • The City of Ottawa blames RTG for the LRT delay, while RTG blames the sinkhole and “faulty municipal watermain infrastructure”.
  • Alstom says the LRT was brought into service too soon, even after all parties were notified about their concerns. 

Here’s a breakdown of the key information from each day so far. 

Day 1: June 13

Who testified Monday: Former rail implementation office director John Jensen and Riccardo Cosentino from RTG.

Key takeaway: According to CBC’s analysis and quotes from the inquiry, Jensen confirmed that the demand for an accelerated launch schedule was coming from Mayor and council.

  • Go deeper: CBC reporter Kate Porter has a long Twitter thread that goes into much more detail about the first day. 

Day 2: June 14

Who testified: Former city treasurer Marian Simulik and Rob Pattison from Infrastructure Ontario. 

Key takeaways: The city did not account for inflation and other big costs, including construction, that increased the budget by $400 million and $177 million respectively, according to CTV’s reporting on the inquiry.  

  • Asked whether there were discussions as to whether the budget might not be enough, Simulik said “I don’t remember any discussion of it being insufficient.”

Problems flagged: According to CBC reporter Kate Porter, commission lawyer Grisdale asked if Infrastructure Ontario’s Rob Pattison had raised the fact that procurement of the trains might be impacted by the strict budget of $2.1 billion. Pattison said it was likely he raised it with former rail director Jensen.

Here’s a breakdown of upcoming witnesses:

  • Day 3: John Traianopoulos from Infrastructure Ontario and former deputy city manager Nancy Shepers 
  • Day 4: Yves  Yves Declercq from Alstom Transport Canada Inc and Manuel Rivaya OLRT Constructors
  • Day 5:  Antonio Estrada from Rideau Transport Group and Rupert Holloway from OLRT Constructors

Background: For a deeper understanding of how we got to this situation, read the Narwhal’s deep-dive into how the LRT project went off the rails.

Ottawa by the numbers

18: The number of days the LRT inquiry will hear from witnesses.

Confusion, silence over bomb hoax

Confusion and silence are two ways to describe the recent bomb scare on Parliament Hill over the weekend. Now, news outlets are reporting that the bomb threat may have been a hoax targeted towards a Sikh rally.

What happened: According to CTV, organizers of the remembrance rally for the massacre of Sikhs in India in 1984, Manveer Singh and Parminder Singh, were detained and questioned by police about the bomb threat that forced the evacuation of Parliament and the surround area. 

  • Their cars were also searched for explosives and they were forced to remove their turbans. 

Both were later released with an apology.

Silence: CTV reported that police so far have refused to comment and did not answer questions about the incident or the arrests. 

It's Italian Week

Little Italy’s big party kicks off today and runs for ten days offering something for young and old alike:

Where to find gelato - Pietro's Corner

A woman known simply as “Pietro’s mom” makes the gelato Pietro’s Corner’s fresh pasta shop located at 106 Preston St. While the pasta represents some of the better fresh takeaway options in Ottawa, the gelato at Pietro’s Corner is also worthy of your dollar, although the selection is modest.

A larger selection of gelato is available at their Gelateria del Corso location at 344 Preston St. I first had the lemon sorbetto the day it was delivered to Pizza All’Antica in Manotick last fall and it was something for all lemonheads. Supremely mouth-puckering. And their mango sorbetto is intense — it may as well just be frozen mango puree. So good.

Like these recommendations? Get the rest of the gelato recommendations by becoming a Lookout member today. You also help fund our journalism. 

What's next for the Senators

The situation: Let’s just say it wasn’t the best year for the Sens. The team finished 26th overall, even after general manager Pierre Dorion said at the beginning of the season that “the rebuild is done”, according to CBC.

  • Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk have developed well, with Tkachuk hitting the 30 goal mark. 

What’s next? Getting to the playoffs is obviously goal number one for next year, but analysts have identified a number of other priorities to make that happen.

  • The Athletic’s Ian Mendes: Lock in Artem Zub to a new contract before unrestricted free agency. 
  • Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch: Potential new signings could include Claude Giroux from the Panthers and Kevin Fiala from the Wild. 

Draft pick: Garrioch says the team is shopping around their No. 7 overall pick to trade for players that would help with making the playoffs. 

  • Goalie rumours: Jeff Marek revealed on Hockey Night in Canada that goalies Matt Murray, Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson may all be on the team next year. 

What do you think? Do the Senators have a shot to make the playoffs next year?

House of the week

With the summer here, it’s time to start spending some quality time in the backyard. With many people working from home, you’ll be able to take advantage of this massive patio.

Some good news

Here’s three pieces of good news about Ukraine for you enjoy today:

  1. Ottawa welcomed Adrian Hokcha Djiele, Alina Khoksha Dzhiel and their two children, months after fleeing Ukraine. They’re the first African family to be settled in Ottawa. [CBC]
  2. Inna Yermolenko, Boris Khodorkovsky and their children were welcomed with open arms by residents to a local retirement home, where the family will reside. [CBC]
  3. A volunteer group is providing bikes to Ukrainians fleeing the war. Many refugees don’t have driver licences, so it’s a useful way for them to get around town. [CBC]

Stories you might've missed

Air cadets captain facing charges: Adrian Schmid, a captain in the reserves, is facing nine charges including sexual assault with a weapon and sexual interference. The alleged offences happened to two children at his home. He met one of the victims through the reserves. [CBC]

They’re running: Councillor Catherine McKenney officially launched her campaign for mayor yesterday evening to a packed crowd. Her plan includes a focus on the environment, housing and transit. [CTV]

Heritage program extended: A plan to help maintain city heritage buildings has been extended another two years. The Heritage Community Improvement Plan offers grants worth “75 per cent of the incremental tax resulting from the project, over a 10-year period” up to $500,000. Interest has grown in the program, especially recently. 

Good Covid news: Yes that’s right! The number of people in Ottawa hospitals for an active Covid case is dropping. It’s currently at the lowest number since fall 2021.

Community highlights

  • The city's storm debris collection will end on June 24.
  • Is the clutter in your home making you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Declutter4Good can help.  Reach out to them today to book a free consultation.*
  • The city is looking for people to work on the upcoming municipal election. [CTV]
  • Congrats to Ottawa Business Journal senior writer David Sali on winning “best scoop” for their story on Shopify. [OBJ]
  • Haitian singer Wyclef Jean will perform at the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival on Sunday, September 4. [CTV]
  • Local author Michael Webster is launching his new book about birds and travel June 21st, 6.30pm at Perfect Books.
  • Want to be a firefighter in your free time? Ottawa Fire Services is now accepting volunteer applications until July 4. 

Thanks for reading. We have a small favour to ask...

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Daily COVID stats

All infection and vaccination data via Ottawa Public Health. You can find the status of the wastewater tracking here. And you can find vaccination stats here.

  • Active Cases: 416
  • Deaths: 760 (total)
  • Ottawans In Hospital: 7
  • Ottawans In ICU: 1
  • Acute Beds Occupied: 96% 
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