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Auditor general to release reports on Ottawa's response to the 'Freedom Convoy': Five stories to watch this week

Hundreds of trucks remain parked on Wellington Street and surrounding streets in downtown Ottawa on day 10 of the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration in downtown Ottawa. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa) Hundreds of trucks remain parked on Wellington Street and surrounding streets in downtown Ottawa on day 10 of the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration in downtown Ottawa. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)
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The auditor general will release reports this week on the city of Ottawa and Ottawa police response to the 'Freedom Convoy', transit riders may learn more about why the O-Train was partially out of service for six days last month, and all eyes on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at five stories to watch in Ottawa this week.

A look at Ottawa's response to the 'Freedom Convoy'

Ottawa's auditor general will release three long-awaited reports this week on the city of Ottawa and Ottawa Police Service response to the 'Freedom Convoy' last winter.

Last March, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a motion for Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon to review the police response to the convoy protest that occupied downtown Ottawa streets for more than three weeks. Former City Manager Steve Kanellakos then asked the auditor general to conduct an independent evaluation of the city's response to the protest.

Gougeon and her office held two virtual public consultations last summer for residents to provide insights on how they were impacted during the demonstration and how city services and programs could have been improved.

The reports will be released on Wednesday, and a special meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board will be held on Thursday to discuss the reports. 

The Auditor General's Office says the audit of the city's response to the 'Freedom Convoy' will examine the city's actions "leading up to, during, and post the convoy protest", with a focus on the period from when organizers announced the 'Freedom Convoy' was coming to Ottawa until the mayor lifted the state of emergency.

The audits of the Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Police Services Board response to the convoy will examine the OPS collaboration with city staff prior to and during the convoy protest as well as their communication with the Ottawa Police Services Board, and the board's oversight role leading up to and during the convoy protest.

The auditor general's three audits are separate from the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is looking into the federal government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act during the protests.  The commission was initially given a deadline of Feb. 6 to submit its final report, but was granted an extension.

2023 city of Ottawa budget

Ottawa residents can have their say this week on the city of Ottawa's 2023 draft budget, while transit riders may learn more about the specifics in the transit budget and the $47 million in proposed efficiencies.

City Staff tabled the 2023 city of Ottawa budget last Wednesday, which includes a proposed 2.5 per cent property tax hike this year and a freeze in transit fares.

Few details were announced about the $706 million Transit Services budget for 2023, which will be based on 70 per cent pre-pandemic ridership instead of 85 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership that the 2022 budget was drafted on.

Transit riders and advocates have speculated the draft budget will result in cuts to routes, but Transit Services general manager Renee Amilcar said more details would be announced during Thursday's Transit Commission meeting.

Some details are known, such as 117 buses that are beyond their lifespan or are too expensive to maintain will be retired, and there will be adjustments to capital spending. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe insists that the savings presented in the budget should not affect service.

Public consultations on the 2023 city of Ottawa budget will begin on Monday, with councillors holding sessions in their wards between Feb. 6 and 20. More information can be found on the city of Ottawa's website.

Ottawa City Hall (File photo)

Premiers chat health care with the prime minister

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invited the premiers to Ottawa on Tuesday to discuss healthcare funding.

Trudeau told reporters last month that the meeting with provincial and territorial government leaders is a chance to discuss an agreement to invest more funding into healthcare across Canada.

"It will be an opportunity to share with them our plans to support the healthcare systems across the country, hear their priorities for investment, and start working together concretely to ensure that we're transparent about how this money is being invested," Trudeau said.

The premiers have called on the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to 35 per cent from 20 per cent.

Why did a section of the O-Train shutdown for six days?

One month after a section of the O-Train was out of service for six days following a freezing rain storm, transit riders may find out this week why it took so long to resume service.

The Transit Commission meeting on Thursday includes a staff presentation on "Line 1 Service Disruption, January 4-10, 2023."

A section of the O-Train line, between St. Laurent and uOttawa stations, was out of service for six days following a freezing rain storm and damage to the overhead wiring system.

OC Transpo general manager Renee Amilcar said a root cause investigation into why trains stalled during the storm was underway and a report will presented to the Transit Commission.

Rideau Transit Maintenance CEO Maria Guerra told reporters that one major issue that kept service offline for so long was ice buildup on the line.

“We know what happened. The ice buildup was so extreme that we had to take several steps to remove it and because of that, it took much longer than it normally would have,” Guerra said.

A train stalled in between Hurdman and Tremblay Stations on the Confederation Line, Jan. 7, 2023. (Jeremie Charron/CTV News Ottawa)

Will the Rideau Canal Skateway open?

All eyes will be on the Rideau Canal Skateway to see if and when the world's largest skateway will open for the public.

It will either be the latest opening in the history of the Rideau Canal Skateway or the first time it does not open for the winter.

Crews resumed operations in an attempt to open the Rideau Canal Skateway for its 53rd season last week, but it was unclear when the canal may open for skating.

"While the Skateway will not be open for the first weekend of February, our teams are working relentlessly to safely open a section of the Skateway, flooding the ice surface every evening," the NCC said last Wednesday.

The latest opening date for the skateway was Feb. 2, 2002.

The Rideau Canal Skateway on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)

EVENTS IN OTTAWA THIS WEEK

Tuesday

Ottawa Finance and Corporate Services Committee meeting – 9:30 a.m.

Ottawa Carleton District School Board meeting – 7 p.m.

Wednesday

Ottawa City Council – 10 a.m.

Thursday

Ottawa Transit Commission meeting – 9:30 a.m.

Ottawa Police Services Board meeting – 2 p.m.

Gatineau Olympiques vs. Ottawa 67's – 7 p.m. at TD Place

Friday

Niagara Ice Dogs vs. Ottawa 67's – 7 p.m. at TD Place

Saturday

Edmonton Oilers at Ottawa Senators – 12:30 p.m. at Canadian Tire Centre

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