Michael Collins joins the CityCaucus.com crew with his first post from our Ottawa bureau
Ottawa has now hit 45 days in its transit strike with absolutely no end in sight. This is much to the frustration and disbelief of the tens of thousands of citizens who rely upon the transit system to shuttle them to work, medical appointments, etc., on a daily basis.
The strike of OC Transpo drivers that commenced in mid-December - which centres around control of drivers scheduling as opposed to wages - and was predicted by many to come to likely end by the outset of 2009 post-Christmas holidays has now dragged on with little to no evident progress in sight. In fact, as of the end of this week third week of January, there was "breaking news" that even informal talks between the union and city have broken down.
It is likely fair to state that most of Ottawa's fair citizens are rather "stunned" - to employ a diplomatic descriptor here - that municipal government officials have let this drag on to this point in time. Now, if perhaps there was not 2 feet of snow on the ground and below normal temperatures that have plagued the capital for most of January, the extended promenades to work, and thumbing rides to get places would actually be tolerable, perhaps even occasionally enjoyable.
People's frustration level is on rise with increasing reports that the impact of the strike is now hitting home with many businesses although admittedly hard to fully quantify in terms of the veritable monetary loss.
Parking downtown is near impossible to find unless you are in place by 8AM and the city's zeal for dispensing parking tickets is unabated; the principal east-west highway (the Queensway) in/out of the city is essentially gridlock every rush hour even though many have shifted working hours to commence work prior to the break of dawn and leave for home when lunch is still digesting....all simply to avoid entering parking lots on the principal arteries. Difficult to fathom that this is occurring in Canada's fourth largest city where the word "comfortable" is an often-used term to describe living conditions here.
Frustration is also coupled with confusion. While there is a tangible animosity brewing against the union leadership and the drivers, overall lack of faith in Mayor Larry O'Brien and city council is hardly giving them a free pass on this one.
Arguments from both sides have been laid out endlessly in local newspapers, radio stations and debated back and forth in editorials. Although the city has trotted out the results of public opinion surveys indicating that most of those surveyed feel that the City of Ottawa's offer is reasonable, there seem to be few who feel that municipal officials have handled this well.
To make matters worse, earlier this week, citizens were provided with the comfort of knowing that even when a successful resolution is reached, it would likely be upwards of two months before the transit system is fully restored given the need and pace of bus maintenance that will be required.
The long, cold winter of discontent in Ottawa appears destined to continue for some time to come.