We now know why Ottawa City Manager Steve Kannelakos abruptly resigned on the eve of the release of the Province’s findings on the trouble-plagued Ottawa LRT system. The report found there was a “deliberate effort by Steve Kanellakos, the City Manager, to mislead Council on the decision to lower the testing criteria and on the testing results.” Instead Kannelakos started sharing information with Mayor Jim Watson only. Contined the report, “the conduct of senior City staff and the Mayor irreparably compromised the statutory oversight function of Council.”
In releasing the report, which was ordered by Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney earlier this year, Commissioner Mr. Justice William Hourigan said both the City of Ottawa and the private consortium, Rideau Transit Group (RTG), lost sight of the public interest during the project. “It was unconscionable that RTG and its main sub-contractor knowingly gave the City inaccurate information about when they would finish building the LRT.” He also found that City Council was not told that the testing criteria for the LRT was lowered to allow it to pass its final testing phase. “This conduct irreparably compromised the legal oversight ability of Council and raises serious concerns about whether the City of Ottawa can properly complete significant infrastructure projects.”
The Commissioner found there were many reasons for the initial failure of the project:
- The City chose unproven technology for the trains that strained the limits of what an LRT system could do.
- RTG did not coordinate the work of its sub-contractors and failed to ensure the integration of the various systems and components.
- An adversarial relationship developed between the City and RTG.
- The City rushed the LRT system into service before it was ready.
- RTG and its subcontractors did not provide adequate maintenance.
Hourigan said he believed Kannaelakos and other senior Ottawa staff were not truthful in their testimony before him, writing,
“Is there any reason to believe that their conduct regarding the trial running testing results was an aberration or that transparency has improved within the City? Unfortunately, based on the City’s conduct during this Inquiry, there is not. By way of example, throughout the hearings, the City published, at taxpayers’ expense, a summary of the proceedings that was a blatant attempt to spin the testimony in a way that was favourable to the City. This appears to be unprecedented in Canadian judicial history and is part of a troubling pattern of controlling and shaping information flow to Council and the public.
“In the end, the problems with the OLRT1 were a consequence of myriad factors, including the reliance on new vehicles and new relationships, a lack of integration, decisions to rush the system into service, an inadequate investment in maintenance, and several other factors, some of which were beyond the control of the parties. The result was a flawed LRT that failed to meet the needs of the people of Ottawa.”
None of the key figures involved in the debacle are currently with the city. Former Mayor Jim Watson is reportedly on a cross-Canada rail trip.