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LRT running at even lower capacity after trouble with tracks discovered

Only one track was available for the LRT, creating a commuter nightmare. Plus, are the feds responsible for housing?

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Good morning!

So, there was a weird story on MSN Travel this week, spotted by journalist Tracey Lindeman. Headlined, “Headed to Ottawa? Here’s what you shouldn’t miss!” it seems innocent enough. The writer suggests pretty obvious places to go like the ByWard Market or the Canal. The trouble is, it’s not written by a person, it’s written by AI.

You can see where things go really off the rails at No. 3 where the suggestion is to visit, I kid you not, the Ottawa Food Bank:

  • “People who come to us have jobs and families to support, as well as expenses to pay. Life is already difficult enough. Consider going into it on an empty stomach,” the story said.

Calling it grim is an understatement. But this is the future big media companies want. A bunch of content pushed out by machines at essentially no cost to fill their web pages. Quality doesn’t matter to them, respecting their readers doesn’t matter to them, all they care about is pumping out as much slurry as they can.

We try to do things differently here. Quality over quantity. Insight over clickbait. And providing you with context and knowledge to understand how the city works. You can rest assured AI will never make its way into the Lookout.

So you support what we’re doing and want to see more actual journalism and less AI, consider becoming a member today. Think of it as a way to hold off the oncoming AI hordes.

A couple last things. As a flesh-and-blood person, I do occasionally make some errors. In the intro to yesterday’s Insider I referred to “wild turnips” as an invasive weed problem in the city. I of course meant wild parsnip, as the lengthy interview on the parsnips showed. Sorry about that.

The second error was a bit more serious: in a story about a death at Royal Military College, I referred to “an officer and a cadet” which should have been “an officer cadet.” The Lookout regrets the error.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

Consider forwarding this to your friends so they can discover the Lookout. New to the Lookout? Sign-up for free.

Weather Report

Friday: 23 🌡️ 13 | ⛈️

Saturday: 24 🌡️ 15 | 🌦

Sunday: 27 🌡️ 15 | 🌤

Monday: 25 🌡️ 13 | 🌤


LRT rails fixed improperly, causing commuting nightmare

What happened: Unable to run full-length trains since the most recent shutdown, yesterday OC Transpo had to slow trains down further because part of the rails had not been correctly fixed before trains restarted, the city said in a memo. This meant that between uOttawa and Hurdman stations, only one of the two tracks was available. Frequency of trains slowed to every 15 minutes.

  • The city discovered that at one corner Rideau Transit Group, the private consortium that actually runs the trains, had not moved the restraining rails enough, and trains were still making contact with them.

To compensate for the reduced train service, twice as many express buses from downtown to the Blair and Tunney’s pasture were being run.

Back to speed: The track was fixed late Thursday, and the city said in a memo that the system would be back running on both tracks today. (Just in case keep an eye on the @OC_Transpo twitter account in the event some new problem crops up.)

It made for nightmare commute home for many riders yesterday:

The Lookout’s view: Again with this? The city shutdown the LRT for nearly a month so that they could find out what was wrong, make fixes, and then test the fixes before opening things back up. And still they missed something. The system is a disgrace. What else is there to say?


📈 $138,260: The average household income you need in Ottawa to buy a home in July, up from $134,650 in June. [CTV]

🍫 $53 million: Cannabis company Canopy Growth is selling its Smiths Falls factory back to Hershey Canada for this much. [The Canadian Press]

📺 9%: Ross Video, the Ottawa company that builds giant screens, laid off this much of its workforce. About 140 people in Ottawa and Iriquois, Ont. lost their jobs. [CBC]


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Every level of government has a role in fixing the housing crisis

What happened: The housing crisis is reshaping cities across Canada. The challenge is getting governments to address it with the level of urgency that’s needed. But is the richest and most important level of government in Canada actually treating it with the level of concern that’s needed? What role should the federal government play to fix the crisis?

Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said housing is not a federal responsibility and not something he said “that we have direct carriage of,” according to CBC. Instead, he said it was primarily the problem of provinces and cities to fix.

Changing tune? But perhaps the feds are starting to see the light. New Housing Minister Sean Fraser said this week that the government should have never stopped building affordable housing, CTV reported.

  • “For the better part of the last half century, federal governments of different partisan stripes, by the way, Liberal and Conservatives, have stepped away from forwarding affordable housing in this country.… That should never have happened, but it did.”

Housing strategy: A national housing strategy was launched in 2017 with a 10-year plan of spending $80 billion to cut homelessness in half in the country and build 160,000 homes. But most of the units approved for construction by the program have yet to be built, and the government doesn’t know how many homeless people there are in the country, so it can’t measure the success of its own promise, The Canadian Press reported.

  • A major problem with the plan is construction costs are much higher and so are interest rates than when it launched, leaving many social housing projects unable to go forward.

Looking back: The federal government has historically played a large role in housing. As outlined by the Tyee, there were 205,000 public housing units built between 1964 and 1978 (14,643 per year). Compare that to the promise by the Liberals to build 16,300 units in the next five years (3,260 per year).

  • Many incentive programs to build rental apartments also existed, helping create another 382,000 units from 1975 to 1984.

How it changed: The government of Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney shifted the focus of government programs from funding mixed-income projects to focusing entirely on low-income people. The austerity that followed in the 90s, when balancing the budget was the focus of the federal government, meant deep cuts to social programs.

Opposition: The proposed plan by the opposition Conservatives would require cities to give out housing permits and build more housing by transit. A Tory government would also sell federal buildings. The details on how much housing could actually be built is sparse. According to a review by Storeys, one big part is that the party would withhold federal infrastructure funds if housing isn’t built.

  • The Liberals also promised to do this during the last election according to the Globe and Mail, but the results have been mixed, to put it lightly.

A way forward? Provincial Liberal leadership candidate Yasr Naqvi proposed a major shift in housing policy in the province if he were to become premier, TVO reported. He would get rid of development charges — fees builders pay to cities to build sewers and other infrastructure — and instead provide the money to cities directly to build the services they need.

Downloading: Development charges became central to municipal financing about 40 years ago, it made funding more opaque — charging a developer who would then build that into the cost of a home is less direct than just taxing someone, according to TVO. This is part of a broader trend over the same period of governments downloading responsibilities to lower levels of government.

  • One of the major effects of this was to make purpose-built rentals more expensive for developers, which is why so few go up. But it’s not just rentals, it’s estimated that about $100,000 of every new home is development charges

The Lookout’s view: Passing the buck on housing isn’t just bad politics, it also won’t get us out of the housing crisis. With home prices still pushing upward despite big leaps in mortgage costs, things won’t be improving any time soon. Policy proposals like Naqvi’s, to take back on a funding responsibility, could be the only way out of this crisis. More governments should be inspired to upload responsibilities.


🛏️ Ottawa homeless shelters are seeing record numbers of asylum seekers requesting assistance. The CEO of the Ottawa Mission said there were three to four times more newcomers than is typical who need shelter. [CBC]

🏗️ The city’s planning committee approved a plan for two towers along Carling Avenue. The towers were opposed because the shadows they cast on the Experimental Farm could harm the agriculture experiments. [CBC]

🪴 The City of Pembroke ordered a charity to remove six planters from a community vegetable garden beside a parking lot. Councillors were worried the garden would encourage loitering. [CBC]

🚨 Police charged a high-risk sex offender with breaching the conditions of his release from prison, and said he may have committed other unreported breaches. [Ottawa Citizen]


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Your weekend guide


🎨 Carling and Woodroffe Art Crawl, Sunday 10 am: Local artists from the Woodpark community are showing off their work in an art crawl more than a kilometre long. At Woodroffe and Flower Avenues. Free admission.


🐇 White Rabbit x City At Night x Downtown Bank Block Party, Saturday 7 pm: A block party celebrating the best underground house music. The party starts outside, then moves indoors at 10 pm. At City at Night, 222 Slater St. Tickets start at $17.


🤼‍♂️ FIGHTING BACK 12 - Wrestling With Cancer, Friday 7:30 pm: An annual wrestling fundraiser in memory of Phrank Mornin. One-hundred percent of the night’s profits go to the Canadian Cancer Society. At the Preston Event Centre, 523 Saint Anthony St. Tickets $44.


🫒 Masterclass by Aurelius Fine Oils, Sunday 2:30 pm: For anyone looking to elevate their olive oil experience. Learn the history and uses of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in this in-depth seminar. At Chef's Paradise, 1314 Bank St. Tickets $40.


☕️ High Tea on the Veranda, Friday 12 pm: Experience delicious eats and specialty teas at the veranda at the Laurier House National Historic Site. At Laurier House, 335 Laurier Ave. E. Tickets $49 per person (two-person minimum).


🇬🇷 Ottawa Greek Fest, Friday to Sunday: With live music, authentic dance and performances, and plenty to eat and drink. At the Hellenic Event Centre, 1315 Prince of Wales Dr. Free admission.

  • The Sens new owner Michael Andlauer is expected to officially take control of the team early next month. [Ottawa Citizen]

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  • Frosty has been missing for a year, have you seen him? [Reddit]

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What happened this week in food

Every week our team at Capital Eats scours Ottawa for the best places to eat, drinks to try and events to attend. Here’s a breakdown of all the biggest stories.

🥡 (Insiders) Plenty of Chinese takeout is pretty good, but this restaurant in Vanier is great.

🍷 (Insiders) Looking for Champagne, but not interested in paying the price? Give this Spanish Cava a try, great value and quality.

🧁 Turning baking from home from a passion to a business has always driven this baker, now she’s living her dream. (Plus her recipe for spiced apple cookies is to die for!)

🥮 You need to try the city’s only Brazilian bakery for all kinds of regional treats you won’t find anywhere else.


Congrats to Gwynn, the only person who knew this week’s Ottawa Guesser was on Albion Road, just north of the racetrack. Great work!

Do you think you can get this week’s Ottawa Wordle? Play now.

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