Ripping up LRT contract would damage City's reputation: Harder
An LRT train rushes by the platform at Rideau Station. (Ted Raymond / CTV News Ottawa)
OTTAWA -- Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder says the City needs to be mindful of its contractual obligations, and the risks to breaking them.
Following the problems on the Confederation Line Wednesday and Thursday, the issue of getting the City of Ottawa out of its 30-year contract with Rideau Transit Maintenance was raised again by some councillors and transit commissioners, including the chair of the commission, Coun. Allan Hubley.
Capital Coun. Shawn Menard has submitted a request to see what it would cost the City to walk away from the contract.
Walking away will damage City's reputation
While Harder said in a YouTube video on her personal channel Friday that this week has been "a disaster" for the light rail line, she feels those who are suggesting the City tear up the contract "have lost their minds."
"Or, they have so little experience on this sort of thing that it sounds like an easy thing to do," she said.
Harder notes that, in 2006, when the Larry O'Brien-led city council cancelled an agreement with Siemens to build the light rail line envisioned by former mayor Bob Chiarelli, it cost the city millions of dollars.
"It also cost us our reputation," Harder said. "I absolutely object to making that decision again because that decision got us, really, nothing."
The City settled with Siemens in 2009, at a cost of $36.7 million. The City also spent $2.5 million in legal fees dealing with the lawsuit.
$55 million had already been spent on the project before it was cancelled.
Harder says, instead of tearing up the contract, the City should, instead, consider reworking it and paying RTM again.
"I think that we have to reanalyze that contract because I don't think that it gives us an advantage to not pay them," she said. "How would a company be able to legitimately staff a situation, such as we have here, appropriately, with no money to do so?"
Harder accused RTG of lying to the City about issues such as maintenance and upgrades, but insisted she wanted the consortium to have the full capacity of staff to fix the problems.
"I want to get them to full capacity of staff, that the money will pay for the staff, and then I want to address each one of these problems that we're having, because we don't have a choice," she said.
Harder says there aren't "magic buses" that can replace the LRT.
"There's no warehouse in Germany or California that’s got 400 buses that we can say, 'Hey, we'll take those off your hands.' That is the reality of the situation."
Harder says she believes paying RTG puts the City in a stronger position to get better service.
"I think about the chances of us being at risk for not paying them in an argument that they're not performing," she said. "I think our chances are much better if we are paying them, as agreed to in the contract, and they're not performing. I think that is the gamechanger. I think that is what we have to look at."
Give RTM a deadline: Leiper
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper suggest Council give Rideau Transit Group a deadline to solve its problems before the City walks away.
"I would like set a deadline and begin working toward getting the ground laid toward that deadline for when we make the final decision to say, 'we are going to get ourselves out of this contract,'" Leiper said. "The number that I've floated has been six months. Six months from now, I want to be in a position where we can file papers—whatever that mechanism is—to get ourselves out of this contract if it's not working by then."
RTG told the Transit Commission earlier this month it could take up to a full year to fix some of the issues on the LRT.