Today at City Council, colleagues supported my motion to ask the Auditor General (AG) to open an investigation into the ongoing issues plaguing the LRT. (You can read a copy of the motion here.)
The Auditor General, Nathalie Gougeon, is ideal for this task:
- She is an independent officer. Under the Municipal Act, she “reports to council and is responsible for assisting the council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds”. (More info about the AG’s role can be found at ottawa.ca.)
- She can carry out investigations on “all programs, activities and functions of all City departments and agencies, and of the offices of the Mayor and Members of Council”.
- She can decide on the scope of the investigation, and expand the scope if she wants to.
- She has the authority to summon witnesses and obtain documents.
- Under the Municipal Act, she has more powers than a judge in a judicial inquiry to get access to confidential documents, including documents that are protected by solicitor-client privilege.
- She can examine witnesses under oath. Since it’s in private, not a courtroom, this can often result in witnesses sharing more information freely and openly than in a public format.
- Her investigation would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that’s significantly less than the tens of millions of dollars that a judicial inquiry could cost. (In both cases, the cost is paid for by the municipality, but in the case of the judicial inquiry there is no cap or ceiling on the cost.)
- Her findings and recommendations are reported publicly.
- Her decision will be delivered in the span of months, rather than years — meaning we can act on her findings faster.
- Her investigations and findings could lead to additional reviews through the integrity commissioner, the court system, or even a future more-focused judicial inquiry.
Another colleague, Councillor McKenney, had a motion calling for a judicial inquiry. To me, the Auditor General is a more pragmatic and sensible solution that will provide a similar outcome at a fraction of the cost – and sooner, rather than later.
It’s one of the steps that we’re taking at City Council to ensure to get the trains back in service, ensure a safe and reliable system for transit riders, and start to restore confidence in the trains.
You can watch some of my comments at Council today, after several hours of discussion: