gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for December 14th, 2006

So now what?

December 14, 2006 @ 20:05 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General

Today, Ottawa City Council voted 13:11 to scrap both the original and modified light rail transit plans. Instead, Ottawa can look forward to claims by the consortium that was going to build the new O-Train of between $250 million and $300 million. And that’s on top of $65 million that was spent developing the plan. (For the record, I had absolutely no problems with the money spent on developing the plan when it was going to come to fruition.)


So, Ottawa remains the only city of the five largest cities in Canada that doesn’t have some form of rail transit. To meet the short-term transit demands, more buses are going to have to be pressed into service on roads that are already at, near or even over capacity. More buses means more road congestion which means more vehicles idling, resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions. More vehicles on the road means more wear-and-tear on the roads, so expect more cracks and potholes.

And you cannot convince me that this wasn’t very orchestrated quite some time in advance by our mayor and his cronies. This outcome is great because Larry can blame two other levels of government for the failure of the LRT plan, which he opposed in the first place, even though the whole situation was brought on when he asked his friend, John Baird, to usurp the prerogative of the then City Council and put every thing on hold under after he was elected mayor. When the plan was modified a couple of weeks ago, he did a 180 degree turn and supported the modified plan by breaking a tied vote. Subsequently, both the Province of Ontario and the federal government expressed concerns about the modified plan and indicated they wouldn’t be able to assess the modifications by a critical deadline in the contract. The Province of Ontario sent a letter today confirming that the funding would be provided if the original plan were approved and presumably the federal government would honour its committment similarly.

Instead, we’re looking at possibly more than a quarter of a billion dollars in claims. That combined with Larry’s pledge of 0% increases means that Ottawa’s probably going to be a fairly unpleasant place to live for the next few years. You can already see hints of things to come in the 2007 Budget Directions Report on the agenda of today’s Council meeting:

1. That Council approve the development of a Draft Operating Budget for 2007 for all tax-supported services (excluding Ottawa Police Services), that includes:

a. The cost of maintaining current programs at current service levels;
b. The cost of providing provincially mandated and cost-shared programs;
c. The costs associated with growth in population or infrastructure that is operated and maintained by the City;
d. The costs of enhanced services as directed by Council through reports and directions received throughout the year;
e. An increase equivalent to 1% of taxation for the contribution to capital used to fund the strategic initiatives category of capital;
f. An increase to user fees at either the percentage increase in the cost of providing the program or service, or as directed through Council-approved policy;
g. A reasonable estimate of assessment growth from new properties added to the tax base;
h. Deferring a 2007 increase to the corporate efficiency target to 2008; and
i. No increase in taxation.

2. That the difference between the expenditures and revenues added to the 2007 Draft Operating Budget identified in Recommendation 1, be eliminated through the use of the following strategies:

a. Deferral of service enhancements that have not yet been implemented;
b. Use provincial gas tax revenues to the extent possible to offset increases in the cost of transit;
c. Use debt where possible, instead of contributions to capital, to fund the capital program;
d. Incorporate and pursue the cost-sharing shortfall with the provincial government;
e. Identify and incorporate any other one-time sources of funding;
f. Increase user fees and charges by more than that identified in Direction 1f; and
g. Identify program reductions.

I’ve highlighted a couple of items that caught my eye and confirmed my fears about having Larry O’Brien as mayor. Basically, it seems like we can expect reductions in services and disproportionate increases to user fees. And, we’re going to take on (more) debt.

Thanks a lot, Larry.