Mayor says portion of transit savings should reduce taxes
Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien says the city should spend a portion of its savings from the transit strike to reduce taxes for Ottawa residents.
"It's way too early to predict how much it will be," O'Brien told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.
Without buses on the road, the city is saving about $3 million per week.
O'Brien says the money is currently being used on mitigation, increased taxi service, and social services to help the city's most vulnerable residents get around town.
"After we've done that, whatever money is left, I believe very strongly has to go back to the citizens of Ottawa," O'Brien said.
Although the city maintains it believes its final offer to the union is a fair deal that has public support, the transit union's executive insists its membership will vote 'no' when it votes on the offer on Thursday.
Voting is scheduled to take place between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Results are expected late Thursday evening.
If the strike does continue, the city will consider opening up the Transitway to traffic, implementing more free parking and reviewing parking rates.
However, if the union's membership votes to approve the contract, a transit strike that has crippled the nation's capital for 29 days could come to an end.
In the meantime, the Canada Industrial Relations Board continues to ask residents who think the transit strike is compromising their health and safety to submit their experiences in writing by 5 p.m. Friday. The move is possibly the first step in making OC Transpo an essential service.
Many of Ottawa's senior citizens say they've been hit particularly hard by the transit strike.
"We just can't get out, the bus strike has crippled us and we're prisoners in our own apartments," said 74-year-old bus rider Joan Prince.
"It's very frightening. What if a fire takes? What if you need an ambulance, you need an ambulance. It's what if, and it really scares you," added 76-year-old bus rider Dolores Brazeau.
Even if the strike is settled soon, all buses will stay parked for five to six days while mechanics service the vehicles.
The main sticking point of the dispute remains control over bus driver scheduling. OC Transpo wants more control over the shifting of drivers. The union wants to keep the current system that rewards seniority.
About 2,300 OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers and mechanics walked off the job Dec. 10 after working without a contract since April.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee