Ottawa Citizen

Chiarelli attacks Munter’s light- rail alternativ­e

NOVEMBER 13 Challenger counters that mayor ‘ misused’ city staff to make his campaign point

- BY JAKE RUPERT

Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli launched his fiercest attack yet on rival Alex Munter’s light- rail plan yesterday, and this time he has enlisted the help of city staff to do it.

Mr. Chiarelli said he asked the municipali­ty’s light- rail project leader, Réjean Chartrand, to put a time and cost on Mr. Munter’s plan. The mayor said the answers were that “ Alex Munter’s irresponsi­ble plan will cost taxpayers at least $ 318 million more in costs” and penalties and cause a 41⁄ 2- year delay.

“ There is no logic in Alex Munter’s plan because every dollar that he claims in savings will be used for lawsuits, new environmen­tal assessment­s and inflationa­ry constructi­on cost increases,” Mr. Chiarelli said.

Mr. Munter countered by calling on Mr. Chiarelli to make the contract public and prove the numbers, and accusing Mr. Chiarelli of improperly using city staff in his election campaign.

“ It’s grossly inappropri­ate for Bob Chiarelli to once again use city staff and city resources for his campaign purposes,” Mr. Munter said. “ This has happened before, and it’s a misuse of public dollars.”

The mayor could not be reached last night to respond to Mr. Munter’s accusation­s.

Council has approved an $ 880- million University of Ottawa- to- Barrhaven electric light- rail line, with Mr. Chiarelli as its chief booster. However, this month, federal Treasury Board President John Baird delayed a $ 200- million federal contributi­on until it comes to another vote at Ottawa’s new council after the election.

Mr. Munter has said he would try to trim the downtown and Barrhaven legs of the line and use the money saved to get started on an east- west line. He also said he favours a diesel- powered system. ( The O- Train is diesel- powered.)

In a statement, Mr. Chiarelli said city staff said that would trigger cancellati­on of the contract, new studies, a new bidding process and skyrocketi­ng costs, and “ would risk legal exposure of up to $ 100 million” in lawsuits by the companies involved.

Mr. Munter said he can’t comment on the interpreta­tion of the existing contract because, despite a council motion to do so, the city has never made the contract public.

“ What we do know is we have a billion- dollar plan that empties the piggy bank and delays east- west for 10 years, because there will be no money left,” he said. “ I’d like to reduce the scale of the project and use the savings to go east- west.”

Mr. Munter appointed outgoing Goulbourn Councillor Janet Stavinga, lawyer David Hill, lobbyist John Banigan and senior public servant Robert Little to examine the issue.

Mr. Chiarelli praised the public service of the group, but said he thinks three of the team members are in “ a conflict of interest,” and their appointmen­t “ shows a gross lack of judgment” on Mr. Munter’s part.

Ms. Stavinga sat on the selection panel that chose the winning bid to build the line and has signed a confidenti­ality agreement. Mr. Banigan is a registered lobbyist for Bombardier, which lost the bid, and Mr. Hill is a fundraiser for Mr. Munter.

Mr. Munter demanded Mr. Chiarelli retract his statement, which he deemed a personal attack on those involved.

Mr. Chiarelli called his opponent’s charges prepostero­us. He said he was only attacking Mr. Munter’s credibilit­y for not recognizin­g the conflicts.

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