The chair of Ottawa's new transit commission says she hopes to smooth labour relations with OC Transpo drivers to avoid another transit strike.

Coun. Diane Deans was named chair of the city's new transit commission on Wednesday.

"We've had our challenges, so we needed to signal a new direction, a new era of co-operation and I think I can bring that to the table," Deans told CTV Ottawa.

The city's current contract with bus drivers is set to expire in March 2011. However, early negotiations between the two sides have been called off.

Mayor Jim Watson hopes his new transit commission, which will be made up of eight councillors and four public citizens, will help improve the city's relationship with bus drivers.

"I do want to do my best not to negotiate through the media. I think that's what got us in trouble the last time. I am optimistic we are going to reach a settlement," said Watson.

Another issue on the table is Ottawa's $2.1-billion transit plan. Deans was a fierce opponent of the downtown tunnel, and voted against it. Now, as chair of the transit committee, she will be responsible for implementing the light rail plan.

"I understand this is a growing city, we need to get on with light rapid transit in the City of Ottawa," she said. "We need to serve all of our citizens with quality public transit. And you will see me work towards that goal."

Watson also named two deputy mayors on Wednesday. Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who represents West Carleton-March, and Coun. Steve Desroches, who represents Gloucester South-Nepean, will fill the positions.

Watson made the deputy mayor position a permanent one, as part of his government reforms. Previously, councillors rotated through the position.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua