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OC Transpo looks to offer free transit amidst major deficit

OC Transpo is looking for ways to keep riders happy while balancing their books after a summer of turbulent transit service in Ottawa.

Good morning!

I’d like to first start off by thanking the many of you who followed me on Twitter and wrote in with words of encouragement. What an amazing community Ottawa Lookout has been! I’ve even been approached by neighbours who are regular readers.

  • It’s been a tough few years for transit riders in Ottawa. OC Transpo is looking to see if they can afford to offer free transit — at least in some capacity — to say sorry. Meanwhile they are struggling to not run major deficits.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finally coming through on his 2015 election promise to eliminate GST on new rental builds. His Thursday announcement was attended by the entire Liberal party caucus who is looking to show a United front amidst record-low approval ratings.

— Charlie Senack [email protected]

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

Weather Report

Friday: 23 🌡️ 8 |🌤️

Saturday: 23 🌡️ 10 | 🌤️

Sunday: 22 🌡️ 11 | 🌤️

Monday: 18 🌡️ 11 | 🌦️


OC Transpo says offer on free transit for a month would cost $15 million

What happened: OC Transpo says if they were to offer free transit for a month, it would cost about $15 million. The steep price tag was given to Ottawa’s transit Committee during a meeting on Thursday. Renée Amilcar, general manager for OC Transpo, said all options were analysed by staff, and appeared to be against the idea.

  • “I want to be able to stabilize our finances to be able to improve the reliability of our service," Amilcar said according to CTV. 

Why: After the fo`ur-year-old light rail transit system was shut down for nearly a month this summer because of an axle-bearing issue, some city councillors called for riders to be compensated. The system has faced rounds of breakdowns since first being launched in September 2019, and ridership has suffered as a result.

  • Other cities in the country have seen much bigger rebounds in ridership since the start of the pandemic. In Vancouver, ridership is at 48 percent over 2021 volumes, according to TransitLink, while in Toronto it’s returned to 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to CBC.

Running deficit: OC Transpo has forecasted a $40.8 million deficit this year because of the decreased ridership. Because of this, fare revenues are expected to be $123.3 million under budget this year.

Free transit: Coun. Shawn Menard asked city staff to review “high-volume routes on congested major arteries" where riders may get to board the bus for free. These corridors could include: Bank Street, Hazeldean Road, St. Joseph Boulevard, Montreal Road and Carling Avenue.

  • “I hope that we can come back with something that allows for some compensation for riders, and this would be a much less expensive way of doing that while still piloting something that could be successful in our city," he said during the transit committee meeting.

OC Transpo by the numbers:

  • In July of this year, 3.9 million trips were taken by customers on OC Transpo buses and trains. This was lower than the 4.7 million forecasted for that month.

  • On Sept 7, just as the school season was getting underway, there were 101,630 trips on the Confederation Line. That’s the highest ridership reported on a weekday since last November, according to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.

  • Also in July, statistics show about 29 percent of bus trips were cancelled because of a lack of drivers. To help this, 260 have been hired this year alone.


🏠 $2,063: The average price of a one bedroom apartment in Ottawa. [CTV]

👗 $150: The price Ottawa will now charge for clothing donation boxes for a permit. [CTV]

📰 131: Glengarry Times shuts down after publishing for this many years. [Ottawa Business Journal]


Federal government follows through on 2015 affordable housing promise

What happened: On Thursday they announced the immediate elimination of GST on the construction of new rental apartments, according to CBC. It was a promise made by the Liberal’s during their election bid in 2015.

What they said: The news was welcomed by the NDP who have long called for the move, but criticised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal-led government for taking so long.

  • "These are actions that should have been taken months ago," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement. "If they had removed the GST from new affordable rental buildings when we first called for it six months ago, we could have had an entire construction season to get more homes built."

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre slammed the government's new deal with London, On, which will bring 2,000 new homes to that city.

  • "[Trudeau] said his announcement of $74 million would bring 2,000 homes in London," he said. "They were already planning to build 6,000 so its actually less homes than the city was going to build."

Yes, but: That statement was then criticised by London mayor Josh Morgan who said Poilievre got his facts wrong.

  • “Our current plan in London is to build 9,432 homes by 2027," Morgan said in a statement. "We anticipate this new funding will increase that figure to 11,619. As a result, we project the Housing Accelerator Fund will support the construction of an additional net new 2,187 units.”

The announcement was attended by the entire Liberal caucus as they aim to show a united front after a turbulent few months for the party.


😷 Ottawa Public Health says COVID-19 levels in Ottawa are ‘stable.’ While good news, the health unit says respiratory virus season should resemble last year’s. [CBC]

👮‍♂️ Sex abuse allegations are being investigated at Ottawa daycare. The facility looks after kids aged 18 months to five years, and said they first became aware of the allegations Monday. [CTV]

💡 Hydro Ottawa workers rallied outside city hall as the strike continues. Talks between the union and power facility started again this week after stalling since late August. [Ottawa Citizen]

🏍️ A biker was hit with stunt-driving ticket after going 168 km/h on Hunt Club Road. His licence was suspended for 30 days. [Ottawa Citizen]

👮‍♂️ Ottawa Police are investigating after body found along Rideau Canal. Human remains were also found the same day near Hog’s Back park. [CTV]



🎤Laugh Lounge Pro Comedy Nights, Friday: The Lounge was founded a year ago by a local comedian and his passionate team with the mission to provide more opportunities to local and national comedians. At 61 York St. Tickets are $23.60.

🐆Steel Panther Live In Ottawa, Saturday 8 pm: Taking place at the Bronson Centre. Tickets begin at $66.56.


🦸‍♂️ Sunday Superhero in Ottawa, Friday: Ready to rock? Jam with Sundown Superhero on our upcoming tours! Dominion Tower at 7:00 p.m. Free. 

🎵 Jamie Fine, Friday: Jamie Fine’s music might be the only thing that’s as lively as her personality. A proud open book, the Ottawa-born singer, songwriter, and artist is smart, talented, hilarious. At the Bronson Centre. Prices vary. 

🎸 Deathcore in Ottawa, Saturday: Deathcore night featuring Deadwood, Becoming the bully, Deathnote silence and TBA. Door at 6:30 pm and show starts at 7:30 pm. At Mavericks, 221 Rideau Street,. Prices vary. 

🎸 Beatles vs. Stones, Saturday: An epic night of two cover bands, as Capital Beatles and Goat’s Head Soup play back to back for a night of great music. At Bar Robo, 170 Queen St. Tickets start at $28.

🎻 OperOttawa’s Suor Angelica, Sunday: An updated interpretation of the classic Puccini opera, Angelica faces the guilt of her unwanted pregnancy amidst the religious beliefs and scorn of her classmates, school staff and her wealthy aunt. At First Baptist Church, 140 Laurier Ave. Tickets start at $28.


🪑 C*4 presents WALKING THE EDGE, Friday: A new season of professional wrestling in the city kicks off this week, with appearances by “Walking Weapon” Josh Alexander, “Speedball” Mike Bailey, and Titus Alexander. Tickets $33 in advance, $40 at the door.


🍂 Harvest - A Feast of Fall, Saturday: A foodie fundraiser for YouTurn Youth Support Services. At All Saint Event Space, 330 Laurier Ave. Tickets $102.

🌶️ Heating Up the Capital, Saturday: Check out hot sauce from small batch makers from across the country. With a cash bar, food trucks and spicy food eating challenges. At the EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr. Tickets start at $19.


🥖 Westboro Farmers Market, Saturday: Find the best fresh produce, baked goods, pantry staples, crafts, hot meals and more from 50+ friendly producers in the Ottawa region. At Byron Linear Park. Free. 


🍃 Working On Wellness Festival, Friday: Returning for its second year, the festival is all about fostering wellness across all aspects of our health over a lifetime. Regional partners, national organizations, and special guests will share important messages and statements of purpose on this important issue that affects every one of us. At Marion Dewar Plaza, 110 Laurier Ave. Free. 

🌆 Capital City Tour, Saturday: This tour is the perfect mix of the city’s main landmarks, its surprisingly seedy history, and some of the hottest spots locals love. Meets at the National War Memorial. Free (reservations needed).


What happened this week in food

Pork with yellow peas soup. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

🍜 Asian noodle soups with a twist. This small Chinese restaurant hidden in an industrial park offers a variety of noodle soup options.

🍹 (Insiders) Want to enjoy savoury world class spirits made on the other side of the Ottawa River? Here are two great liqueurs to try.

  • Want to learn about some interesting and unknown local history? The Ottawa River shoreline was built using garbage. [Kitchissippi Times]

  • A strange sign in a local Somerset park is causing quite the buzz on social media. [CTV]

  • Three people are facing charges after a protest was held outside the Embassy of Senegal last month. [CTV]

  • Freedom convoy defence team shows side of ‘love’ during second week of trial. [CityNews]

  • Experience nature in all its fall splendour at Canadensis Garden. Free family fun, including garden-themed activities and a new art installation by Gayle Hermick.*

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Contact our partnership team for more info.

*Sponsored content


The Ottawa skyline as seen from an apartment in Hintonburg. Photo submitted by Ellen Bond.

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