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In wake of Ottawa vote, fiscal caution on light-rail plan likely

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Ottawa voters turned out an incumbent mayor in the Oct. 25 civic election and replaced him by giving an overwhelming victory to a former mayor.
Ontario election
Ontario election

OTTAWA

Ottawa voters turned out an incumbent mayor in the Oct. 25 civic election and replaced him by giving an overwhelming victory to a former mayor. Jim Watson, mayor from 1997 to 2000, is back, receiving 48 per cent of the vote, twice as many as Larry O’Brien.

Retiring Councillor Clive Doucet finished with 14 per cent.

The result was not unexpected. It closely matched the results of three polls taken during the last week of the campaign.

Watson resigned as provincial municipal affairs minister in January to run for the mayor’s job. He had first been elected to Queen’s Park in 2003.

The vote was closely watched because of two large projects that dominated the city agenda during O’Brien’s tenure.

The biggest is a 12-kilometre east-west light-rail project that would cross the downtown core. It is to cost $2.1 billion with construction beginning in 2013 and ending in 2019. It is just the first part of a larger, grander plan to extend light-rail service in future projects.

Both Watson and O’Brien supported the plan, but Watson cautioned that it must come in on or very close to budget. Any sign of cost overruns, he warned, would signal the need the find ways to cut the project back.

The other big construction project is the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park, which would have the city enter into a partnership with a consortium of local developers to rebuild the football stadium, upgrade a couple of other buildings, and construct apartment buildings and a shopping area.

The financial deal will be complex, but it is likely to cost $250 million to $300 million in public and private money.The final site plan has not been approved.

Both projects have survived a number of bumps and bruises so far, but were passed handily by the old council. The new council, however, will have 10 new faces on it but based upon campaign platforms, it is unlikely that either project will be stopped.

by Korky Koroluk

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