You’ve got to hand it to Clive Doucet. Few are more outspoken on transit issues in this city than the Capital Ward councillor. His ideas — such as running east-west light rail down Carling Avenue rather than the Ottawa River Parkway — aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
It’s been a week of yet more false dawns in respect to ending this purgatorial transit strike.
Among high-profile voices, Doucet alone seems to acknowledge the concerns of those who really matter: Transit users.
Firstly, Doucet addressed fears the city is actually saving money by not operating the transit
network, calling for a period of free transit when services resume. “The city has an obligation to all of its citizens to rectify the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible,” he said. “Part of that solution is ensuring any unintended savings are returned to riders in the form of a no-charge transit.” Doucet’s solution might sound like pouring money down the drain, however, it would be a sound strategic move. Riders, particularly those with access to alternative methods of transportation, need to be tempted back onto the network. There can be no better motivation than a few free rides.
Doucet was also the first councillor to break ranks and discuss the strike in the media when, on Dec. 16, he called for a federal mediator to intervene. He publicly weighed into the debate again Jan. 13, criticizing the mayor and slamming the bargaining team as “out of touch.”
Breaking ranks during a strike is taboo, and he later apologized for his remarks. I’m not convinced he should have to. It’s obvious, now the strike has lasted 41 days, that something is going badly wrong with the negotiations. Regardless of political convention, something needs to be said and, more importantly, done.
Since entering politics, Doucet has always championed transit issues. However, he can’t have made many friends on city council during the last 12 months. He started 2008 by slamming Ottawa transit in a presentation comparing it to the system in Vancouver. His words were careful and cutting. “The first thing that strikes you when you get to Vancouver is that
Ottawa really, in comparison, does not have a transit system,” he said. “We have a bus company that delivers an east-west commuter service.”
Many of Doucet’s ideas, including Light Rail Now, his plan for the rapid building of an O-Train extension, make uncomfortable reading for many at city hall. Yet politics has never been about making friends.
In Clive Doucet, Ottawa has an elected champion of transit issues.