Gower: Fixing transit in Ottawa – It starts with governance

By Glen Gower, Ottawa Citizen, February 13, 2020

Wednesday’s unanimous vote at Ottawa Council on the review of light-rail transit procurement showed our ability to work together in a constructive way. I hope it marks a shift for council away from the more divisive approach we’ve seen until now on this file.

Just last month, the city’s Transit Commission met for another marathon meeting to receive an operational update on the Confederation Line. Commissioners took turns grilling OC Transpo and the Rideau Transit Group’s senior leadership on the nuts and bolts of transit vehicles and the procurement process put in place by previous councils. The next morning, nobody arrived at work a minute earlier.

(...)To steer a ship this big, councillors and commissioners need a clear vision of Ottawa’s transit needs; a vision that goes beyond ward boundaries and political agendas. Without that big picture, communicating goals and intentions starts looking like a telephone game. This clarity is of immense significance in the context of a large Public Private Partnership (P3).

In this P3 environment, the community’s wishes are expressed first in council directives to staff, which then trickle down to RTM, the private company that is responsible for maintenance and operation of the trains. Council is focused primarily on the public interest; RTM is focused on meeting shareholder goals. Clarity in how we communicate our goals and intentions is the only way that we can align these two interests.


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