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OC Transpo war: What is it good for?

In the First World War, British and French generals famously lived the high life behind the front line, while regular soldiers died by the thousands in the trenches.

In the First World War, British and French generals famously lived the high life behind the front line, while regular soldiers died by the thousands in the trenches.

The bloody, pointless fight would no doubt have ended sooner if the army chiefs were forced to put their own lives on the line every day.

I’m not making direct comparisons between the First World War and our OC Transpo strike. But neither Mayor Larry O'Brien or ATU head André Cornellier rely on transit to get around.

I’m sure the whole miserable affair would have been put to bed weeks ago if they did.

The First World War cost an estimated 40 million lives. As damn inconvenient as the transit strike is, the level of destruction it has wrought clearly is nowhere near the same scale. But lessons can always be learned from history. In this case, I’m very quickly being reminded how utterly futile conflict can be. On the western front, Allied territorial gains amounted to the French annexation of the Saarland, and the incorporation of a few German cantons into Belgium. “Was it all really worth it?” history has asked ever since.

I feel local historians will ask much the same question about the transit strike. Financially, it’s a complete no-brainer. If the city gets its way with the contentious scheduling issue, it claims it will save $3.4 million a year. That’s approximately 0.15 per cent of a total operating budget for 2009 of $2.2 billion. Although it currently seems like the city and mayor have forgotten this mandate, their duty is to serve the citizens of Ottawa.

Any way you look at it, the damage wrought on Ottawa by the strike is worth considerably more than $3.4 million. Economic analysts believe Ottawa’s economy has shrunk six per cent during the strike — a total cost of $280 million. Then there’s the human cost. Each day, new stories emerge of seniors neglecting their well-being by walking long distances to buy groceries, or mental-health patients whose recovery has been set back by the isolation the strike has brought them.

When this is eventually over, some will surely look back and also ask whether it was all really worth it.

Living for so long on $50 a week is difficult on the strikers; losing the respect of a significant number of Ottawa’s population is another high price to pay.

After the First World War, leaders of many of the scarred protagonists, including the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, were soon replaced. At the end of the transit strike, perhaps Larry O’Brien and André Cornellier face a similar fate.

 
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