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Via Hires More Experts To Probe Signal Glitches

- April 23rd, 2014

Via Rail comes to town on Friday to answer questions about the malfunctioning signals in Barrhaven. A couple more engineering firms have been added to Via’s roster of experts looking into the root cause of the glitches. Here’s what the train agency sent out tonight:

Past Battles Fuel Skepticism On The Isles

- April 23rd, 2014

One of the concepts from Windmill Development Group’s proposal for the Domtar lands.

I really haven’t heard a discouraging word about Windmill Development Group’s billion-dollar proposal for the Domtar lands. Have you?

As much as I loathe the term “cautiously optimistic,” it’s probably the best way to describe the view of many who want to see this development go through.

There’s optimism because, hey, it’ll be a great little riverside community that will draw people from outside the neighbourhood.

There’s caution because, well, no one can believe that an undertaking this size will get an easy ride from two municipal governments, the feds and community groups.

It’s the same kind of skepticism we’ve seen with the LRT project after a cancelled north-south route and the Lansdowne Park redevelopment after years of design tweaks and court challenges. But here we are, and there’s construction happening.

“I’m going to what I can to help facilitate the process so we can see shovels in the ground and see that beautiful part of our city properly developed,” Mayor Jim Watson said today.

So, we wait and see.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Citizen Transit Commissioner Quits

- April 23rd, 2014

One of the citizen members of the city’s transit commission has quit.

There are 12 members of the commission and four are citizens. The rest are councillors.

Crew, a lawyer who works at University of Ottawa legal clinic, has been an active member of the commission. In the past year he worked on a project exploring the feasibility of installing cameras on buses.

As you see, he gave no reason in his letter why he’s quitting.

Since there are no reserve commissioners, city clerk Rick O’Connor is recommending the commission complete the term with the existing members rather than replacing Crew.

Having citizen members on the commission was a test-run for council this term. It will be up for reconsideration during a regular governance review this fall.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

More Heat On Rising Police Costs

- April 21st, 2014

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario will try tackling the escalating cost of police services.

Ottawa police recently stopped overnight hours for its desk at headquarters on Elgin St.

AMO announced earlier this month it’s striking a task force on “police modernization” to inform a provincial study by a future of policing advisory committee.

The committee’s work seems to involve a wide examination of police services in Ontario, but AMO’s interest, no doubt, is keeping costs down.

This will resonate in Ottawa where police board chairman Eli El-Chantiry and Mayor Jim Watson have called for changes to the province’s arbitration system.

Salaries are the biggest cost driver, but there are issues beyond arbitrated contracts fuelling increased police costs.

There have been some interesting developments recently in Ottawa with the police force finding ways to save money.

Crime reporter Danielle Bell wrote about the future of community police centres and managers debating if the offices are still worth the resources.

Starting last Tuesday the police force cut back on the hours of its front desk at Elgin St. headquarters. Instead of being available 24/7, the desk now opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. each day.

There has also been some discussion about how police deploy resources to manage traffic as part of the force’s ongoing service review.

We might learn more about big changes in the police force as the year goes on. The service review is expected to bring efficiencies starting in 2015. The force needs to find $1 million in savings annually between 2015 and 2017 to meet its financial forecasts. Still, the police budget is projected to increase by $10 million in 2015, taking into account a 2.5% tax hike.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Via Rail Answers The Bell

- April 17th, 2014

Mayor Jim Watson asked Via Rail officials to come to Ottawa and answer questions from councillors and reporters about the malfunctioning rail signals in Barrhaven. It appears Via has agreed to come next week.

Dear colleagues,

As you know, the City of Ottawa has been in discussions with VIA Rail about the ongoing rail signal issues in Barrhaven.

In recent weeks, VIA Rail has taken a number of measures to improve safety in the area.

Yesterday, VIA announced that it will undertake a high level of activity including maintenance, repairs and testing over the next two weeks at the following crossings in the Barrhaven area: Woodroffe Avenue, the Southwest Transitway where it crosses Woodroffe, Fallowfield Road, Greenbank Road, Jockvale Road and Strandherd Road.

We support the interim steps VIA has taken to ensure the safety of our residents at railway crossings in the City of Ottawa. However, our top priority remains ensuring that VIA Rail fixes its rail signals, as soon as possible.

I have expressed the view that our City Council, but more importantly our residents, deserve a complete update about the work that has been undertaken by VIA Rail to come up with a permanent solution to these issues.

Last week, I formally requested that VIA Rail representatives hold a public technical briefing for Councillors and media at Ottawa City Hall as soon as possible. I offered City of Ottawa space and resources to VIA Rail for such a session.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Steve Del Bosco, interim President and CEO of VIA Rail, informed my office that VIA Rail officials are planning to hold such a public technical briefing/panel next week in Ottawa. Once the final details are provided to us, I will ask that City staff keep you informed about the time and location of the briefing.

Our residents need to regain confidence in these crossings, and I believe that next week’s technical briefing/panel will help us begin to move in that direction. Once again, I wish to extend to VIA Rail any assistance they require to hold this public technical briefing in Ottawa.

It is my intention to continue to work with our residents, members of Council, Via Rail and other elected officials to restore public confidence in the affected railway crossings.


Jim Watson

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at