Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fireworks at the joint Transit and Transportation Committee meeting

I briefly mentioned some of the goings-on at the most recent Transit and Transportation Committees joint meeting on Nov. 19, but because of the interesting developments that happened, I figure I'll explore a little more what happened during the meeting. It is given more weight in light of the full City Council meeting this Wednesday (Nov. 26) where council will debate the city's Transportation Master Plan.

The most surprising development came when, as the 14-hour long meeting was nearing its end, River Ward Councillor Maria McRae voted against the implementation scenario of the public transit plan, splitting the vote into a 5-5 deadlock, where a tying vote is treated as non-supportive. This was interesting because McRae was the chair of the Transportation Committee, who ushered in the implemenation scenario. It certainly caught many councillors, and Mayor Larry O'Brien, off guard. O'Brien, as quoted in the Ottawa Metro:
“It certainly took all of us by surprise that she made that shift,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien. “She’s the chairman of the transportation committee. She had been part of the program that brought this through ... I don’t know why she did what she did, but she’s got some explaining to do.”
That non-supporting vote from the Transportation Committee doesn't mean that the implementation is completely out, it simply means that Council will debate the scenario without the recommendation of the Committee. Kitchissippi Councillor Christine Leadman saw the lack of support in a positive light, as she suggested that the Light Rail Now! plan she and Capital Councillor Clive Doucet jointly proposed--after being rejected by the majority of the Committee--has a second chance when the discussion is opened in Council, according to the above-mentioned Metro article.

In the meeting, Doucet and Leadman had the support of Rideau-Vanier Councillor Georges Bédard, who felt the alternative deserved more scrutiny and proposed the Committee defer their decision until they had taken a closer look at Light Rail Now! proposition, according to the Ottawa Citizen. Although Bédard's motion failed, his no vote on the implementation combined with those of Doucet, Leadman, McRae, and Rideau-Rockcliffe Councillor Jacques Legendre to tie the vote.

According to another article in the Citizen, Transit Committee Chair and Bay Councillor Alex Cullen is confident the transit plan is supported despite the setback. Both he and O'Brien are confident the transit plan will be approved by a strong majority when it is debated in Council on Wednesday.

So it all comes down to the City Council meeting on Nov. 26, at 10:00 a.m., in Andrew S. Haydon Hall of City Hall. We will post information about the meeting as soon as possible, and you can tune in to Talk Ottawa on Rogers 22 (in Ottawa) at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday where Councillor Cullen, Co-ordinator of the Downtown Coalition Hume Rogers, and yours truly will discuss the results of the Council meeting and the Transportation Master Plan.

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