Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting a steal on light-rail land

The possibility of getting land owned by the federal government needed for building the city's light-rail transit plan for a symbolic $1 fee came up a while back, slipped below the radar, and is making headlines again now that politicians are commenting on it.

First off, Diane Deans had asked the federal transport minister, Chuck Strahl, where his government stood on the issue. Deans interpreted Strahl's rather vague e-mail with an air of victory, saying (as quoted by 580 CFRA) "if you don't ask, you don't get." But the comments were pretty non-committal; here's the section where he actually addresses Deans' request, as presented on Ken Gray's Citizen blog The Bulldog:

In your correspondence, you inquire about transferring federal lands along the Ottawa Light Rail Transit phase-one corridor-including rights-of-way and a station at Tunney's Pasture-at a cost of $1.00. Where possible, and as the law permits, the Government of Canada will explore opportunities to facilitate the City of Ottawa's request; however, some limitations may exist where the immediate disposal of federal real properties must be made at fair-market value.
A day after the e-mail was released, Strahl clarified his comments by couching them with a lot of ifs and buts. Ken Gray is calling it a 'flip-flop', although it seems like Strahl never really made any promises in the original e-mail, anyway. So now Strahl is saying there's nothing written in stone, and that the one-dollar deal wasn't something the government has agreed to (although he stopped short of saying it's something the government would never agree to). From the Citizen:

"Let me be clear. At no time did we indicate that a straight transfer of land for one dollar was an option that the government of Canada would agree to," Strahl wrote Thursday to Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Diane Deans.