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Parents and politicians frustrated with the school bus shortage in Ottawa

A meeting with Ottawa Student Transportation Authority officials got heated last week after an outspoken city councillor was booted from a public Zoom meeting.

Good morning!

I hope you all had a nice weekend. I spent most of it relaxing and catching up on rest. It is also unfortunately time to start tearing apart the garden. Fall is in the air!

  • Parents and politicians are starting to get frustrated with the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority after hundreds of yellow school bus routes were cancelled, leaving thousands of kids without transportation to and from school.

  • Para Transpo users are also unhappy after their buses are being used for a pilot project in Blackburn Hamlet. Para users have long complained of bus shortages and difficulty booking service.

— Charlie Senack [email protected]

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Weather Report

Monday: 20 🌡️ 12 | 🌦️

Tuesday: 19 🌡️ 9 | 🌦️

Wednesday: 20 🌡️ 10 | ☀️


Carling development: A controversial proposed residential development on Carling is going back to the city’s planning committee for a second time after two key agencies said they weren’t given proper notice of the previous Aug. 16 meeting. There are concerns that if approved, the 16- and 27-storey residential buildings would cast shadow on the nearby Experimental Farm, which would severely impact research. [Kitchissippi Times]


City councillor booted from public meeting as yellow bus shortage heats up

The issue: Many parents across Ottawa are upset after yellow school bus service isn’t available for their kids. Just before the school year began, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), cancelled 300 bus routes servicing the city’s two English boards.

The reason: It is not the first year school bus routes have been cancelled, leading parents to find alternative plans. OSTA is struggling to find drivers. This year’s staffing shortages are leaving about 7,600 students without a seat on a yellow bus.

Last week, OSTA urged parents and students to treat bus drivers with respect.

  • “They are not the cause of the driver shortage and are doing their best to learn new routes and students at this time of year. Recent verbal abuse and aggression by parents have caused three drivers to quit,” they wrote on Twitter.

Heated meeting: During an OSTA meeting last week, Coun. Clarke Kelly was booted from the Zoom call after organisers said he became verbally aggressive. Kelly questioned OSTA's general manager Vicky Kyriaco about the lack of options on the table.

  • "I hope you're out of a job soon," Kelly said before his connection dropped.

In an interview with CBC, Kelly said he stood by his comments.

  • "I would say that it definitely was a heat-of-the-moment thing. I don't necessarily think I regret — I don't regret saying that," he said.

Political response: Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari shared a video on Twitter of the incident and said she’s also sent it to Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office. She also shared concerns over an elected official being removed from the meeting.

Third party review: After the video made its rounds on social media, the Ontario government announced a third-party would review the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority and its finances. Ghamari said an additional $1.8 million was given to OSTA to help resolve the situation, with no solution in sight.

“They're going to take a look at how OSTA plans, how it manages its finances and we're going to work with OSTA and probably give them some suggestions to see how to make sure that this does not happen again next year," she told CTV. 


🌪️ 5: Arlington Woods residents gather to mark this anniversary of when tornadoes touched down in Ottawa. [CTV]

🏃‍♂️ $208,000: The amount of money raised at annual Terry Fox Run events in the city. [CTV]

🏠 $17,000: The estimate amount of money that will saved by developers on the construction of each residential rental unit after the removal of GST. [Ottawa Business Journal]


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Para Transpo riders frustrated over on-demand pilot project

What happened: Users of Para Transpo say they were disappointed to learn their buses would be used for a pilot project in Blackburn Hamlet to try out on-demand bus service.

The new system which will begin this fall, will use Para Transpo buses that aren’t regularly used on the weekends. Commuters can call a bus at will through an app on their smartphone, much like you would with Uber.

The issue: The fact buses were being diverted away from customers with disabilities was a surprise to regular users who have long complained about issues with capacity. Para users don’t have the option for on-demand service, and must book their ride at least a day in advance, with service only running from 7 am to 5 pm.

  • “The current fleet is old and in poor condition, sometimes causing cancellations and delays when they break down,” said Ottawa Transit Riders co-founder Glynes Elliot in an interview with CBC. 

Ottawa disabilities advocate Ryan Lythall, who writes a regular column for Ottawa Life Magazine, has blamed bad management, lack of communication and "severe" shortages of vehicles and drivers for the Para Transpo issues.

  • “Last week, a Para Transpo driver told me that some drivers had up to TWO hours of downtime between calls. When the drivers asked the dispatcher if they could pick up another rider, the dispatch said no. Meanwhile, a Para Transpo user(s) was probably waiting for a Para Transpo vehicle to appear,” Lythall wrote.

Always waiting: Sally Thomas, another regular para Transpo user, called it a “slap in the face” according to the Ottawa Citizen. 

“Last week, I waited 80 minutes for a ride to work. Fortunately, that job is volunteering, but I’m still expected to be there at a specific time. I think the average wait time is probably around 45 minutes. If you were 45 minutes late for your job even once a week, you wouldn’t have the job for very long,” she said.


Check out the new open positions in Ottawa

  1. Receptionist/clerk at City of Ottawa

  2. Procedural clerk at House of Commons

  3. Field services technician at Ledcor

  4. Customer service representative at Bank of Montreal

  5. Assistant store manager at Knix

Local jobs are selected by the Lookout team and are not paid ads, unless specifically noted.


🍫 The town of Smith Falls is excited for the return of Hershey’s. The chocolate factory first closed 15 years ago and was replaced by Canopy Growth Corp. Now with the company returning to its former facility, the town is preparing for a big economic boom. [CTV]

😷 Ottawa Public Health is preparing for a ‘triple demic’ as viruses start to make their rounds through the capital. COVID-19 outbreaks are on the rise as are infections. Meanwhile the province is starting to roll out a new vaccine program with an update shot. [Ottawa Citizen]

🔥 One man is dead and two others were injured in a Saturday morning fire in Brockville. The house is no longer liveable, but firefighters used a “quick and aggressive” attack. [Ottawa Citizen]

✈️ An Ottawa man is facing theft and other charges after stealing a small plane from the Rockcliffe airport. The plane later crashed and struck two parked planes. No injuries were reported. [CTV]


What to do this week


🖼️ Art Lending of Ottawa Art Show, Saturday: Art for sale or rent by 73 local artists with art for sale in oils, acrylics, watercolours, mixed media, encaustics, ink, pastels, photo-based art, printmaking and mosaics. At the RA Centre 2451 Riverside Dr. Free. 


🎤 Lina Allemano Tour, Friday: Adventurous chamber-jazz quartet based in Toronto and Berlin plays trumpeter Lina Allemano’s original music. At theFourth Stage, 1 Elgin St. Tickets are $15. 

🎵 The Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Sunday: A lively show featuring the induction into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame of Jack McRae, Rick Rogers, Dan Loyer and Andy Schick. At the Meridian Theatres, 101 Centrepointe Dr, Ottawa. Tickets are $50. 


🍁 Fall Market, Sunday: Embrace the vibrant colours and crisp air of fall at our beloved local market, a seasonal celebration that unites the community! At the Shenkman Art Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd. Free.


🍱 A Taste of Manotick, Saturday: Local businesses will line Manotick Main Street to showcase what the village to offer, including plenty of local vendors. There will be tasting, samples, draws, and demonstrations. At 5556 Manotick Main Street. Free.

🐈 Ottawa Cat Show, Saturday: Come and see stunning purebred cats like the Maine Coon, Siberian, Cornish Rex, and Bengal as well as the beautiful household pets. At the Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Ave. Tickets $5-$10.

  • Hundreds of short-term housing rentals were removed from Airbnb by the city across Ottawa. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • 🌍 Geopolitics in <5 minutes? Get International Intrigue, the free global briefing crafted by former diplomats.*

  • Truckers raised $30,000 at the third annual CHEO Construction Drive-by as dozens of big trucks and heavy machinery made their way around the hospital campus. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • One person was killed in a two-vehicle collision in Ottawa’s east end on Friday. [CityNews]

  • The Feast of Fall fundraiser brought in 300 attendees as local chefs, butchers, and farmers teamed up to offer a great culinary evening. [Ottawa Business Journal]

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Ellen Bond/Ottawa Lookout Reader

The colours are changing. Signs of fall are in the air. Photo by Ellen Bond.

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