Dr. Mark Kristmanson, National Capital Commission CEO, John Baird, minister of foreign affairs, and Russell Mills, NCC board chair, arrive at a press conference at the Lester B. Pearson building in Ottawa, Ont. on Feb. 3, 2014. Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency
No one knows how this spat between the city and National Capital Commission will play out but it’s the first time during the western LRT work that there is some serious doubt about the future of extending rail past Tunney’s Pasture.
Even Mayor Jim Watson said the entire second phase — which formed the cornerstone of his re-election campaign — is in jeopardy if the western LRT can’t cut across federal land the way the city wants it to.
That would effectively stymie two western lines: One to Algonquin College and another to Bayshore Shopping Centre.
Watson pulled no punches in a scrum with reporters today. He (again) criticized the unelected makeup of the NCC board and slammed it for making a decision in secret. He wonders why the federal Conservatives don’t like the city’s transit plans and he suggests LRT should be a ballot question for Ottawa voters in the 2015 federal election.
The discussions between the city and the NCC will continue.
I had a chat tonight with Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the NCC. He has two meetings scheduled with the city next week, including a meeting with city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.
The analysis the NCC did on the city’s LRT info will likely be part of those discussions.
“We obviously have very different understandings about the data and western light rail,” Kristmanson said.
As for Watson’s allegations the NCC is operating in secret, Kristmanson said the board had to meet in-camera on LRT because it involved land issues and proprietary information.
“I’m reluctant to get into a process struggle over this,” Kristmanson said.
Kristmanson likes that Watson brought up the need for discussions with local stakeholders and board members. It sounds like it’s something Kristmanson been wanting to pursue even outside the western LRT issue.
But the relationship between the NCC and city is now called back into question after what seemed like some very good months of co-operation and softened rhetoric.
For example, the two sides worked well together on the bus shuttle route to Lansdowne Park. And Kristmanson, who has only been on the job since February, has seemed to impress folks at City Hall.
So, now we wait to see who will budge on western LRT. The NCC seems to have a lot of the leverage. As always.
Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.