Surprise! LRT Stage 2 Just Jumped an Additional $1.2 Billion!
Regardless of political-correctness, or promises about being environmentally friendly, or long-term cost savings, nothing can cover up the new $4.6 billion dollar price tag for Stage 2 of the LRT. Ottawa doesn’t even have a firm completion date for Stage 1. Yet, on February 22nd, the City published its Light Rail Transit Stage 2 Report where it announced that the price tag has ballooned from $3.4 billion to $4.6 billion for the 44 kilometres of new rail and 24 new transit stations. Furthermore, the winning bidder entrusted with delivering this multi-billion dollar project to the taxpayers, is none other than SNC Lavalin.
Set aside, for a moment, the fact that the City of Ottawa chose a company currently embroiled in a scandal reaching the Prime Minister’s office; instead, focus on the next stage of Ottawa’s already costly multi-billion dollar LRT project.
Initially, the City budgeted $3.4 billion for Stage 2 of the LRT. Now a whopping $1.2 billion is being added to it, due to increased construction material and skilled trade costs, a percentage well above even the cost of inflation.
This means the City will have to finance the additional $1.2 billion without support from the Provincial and Federal governments, meaning Ottawa taxpayers will be on the hook for the extra $1.2 billion dollars.
As if taxpayers aren’t already facing a looming City tax hike, a further shock is that the Mayor and staff appear to expect taxpayers to pay for stage two, when we haven’t seen stage 1 in operation.
Wait, it gets better! Councillors only have ten days to review, question, debate and finally vote on this huge project on March 6th, which also happens to be the same day Councillors vote on the 2019 budget.
And why the rush, what is the mayor trying to hide? Hasn’t City Council learned from past experiences the risks of rushing into expensive contracts without doing their due diligence?
Taxpayers in Rideau-Goulbourn, for instance, can expect to pay more in higher taxes and fees in the 2019 budget while receiving nothing new in return. Councillors apparently need to be reminded of the sub-standard infrastructure and crumbling roads in Ottawa's four rural wards, while the City continues to spend lavishly on urban Ottawa’s transit priorities. Councillors need to put the interests of their residents before the interests of the Mayor.
Mayor Watson has tied his political credibility to the LRT system for Ottawa, so that many Councillors may not have enough backbone to vote against what seems to be a “runaway train”.
Personally, as a resident of Rideau-Goulbourn, I believe it is time for our rural Councillors to show leadership and vote against awarding the Stage 2 LRT contract until transit riders have experienced Stage 1 for themselves, and Council has been given adequate time to properly review the next phase of Ottawa's transit system.
The worst outcome for taxpayers is that Councillors rush to vote, spending billions of dollars that we don’t have on a train system that isn’t yet operational.
David Brown lives in Richmond, ON and is a former City Council Candidate for Rideau-Goulbourn Ward