LRT inquiry: Commissioner shoots down requests to make paperwork secret

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In the course of the LRT fee’s investigation, commissioner Justice William Hourigan has thought of functions asking to make proof hush-hush.

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The choose overseeing the LRT inquiry isn’t permitting claims of confidentiality to get in the way in which of the fee studying as a lot as it could actually concerning the troubles of the Confederation Line.

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The inquiry listening to enters its final week on Monday with eight witnesses scheduled to testify over 4 days.

The week opens up with metropolis supervisor Steve Kanellakos giving proof within the morning, however the final phrase on Thursday will go to executives with the Rideau Transit Group.

In the course of the LRT fee’s investigation, commissioner Justice William Hourigan has thought of functions asking to make proof hush-hush.

The Metropolis of Ottawa was one in all of the events that attempted to carry again piles of paperwork from the inquiry, however Hourigan didn’t have a sympathetic ear for town’s name for secrecy.

“At its essence, the Metropolis’s software is a sequence of broad claims to suppress paperwork, wholly unsupported by any compelling factual or authorized foundation for doing so,” Hourigan wrote in his determination on June 10.

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The town argued that about 1,600 paperwork, or components of them, shouldn’t see the sunshine of day as a result of they contained delicate info associated to procurement, threat analyses, selections of the impartial certifier and findings of Transportation Analysis Associates, which is the Philadelphia-based agency employed to assessment the LRT system’s return to service after the second derailment final yr.

Commissioner Justice William Hourigan heads the Ottawa Light Rail Transit public inquiry.
Commissioner Justice William Hourigan heads the Ottawa Gentle Rail Transit public inquiry. Picture by ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia

A lot of the metropolis’s considerations have been concerning the launch of delicate business info.

The town additionally wished redactions to Stage 2 capital finances info and all time period sheets, that are enterprise agreements. On that, Hourigan was open to listening to additional arguments. (Underneath the fee’s mandate, Stage 2 isn’t a part of the investigation.)

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It wasn’t the one request from town to have proof shielded from the general public.

The town frightened about some WhatsApp group messages being launched publicly and argued that solicitor-client privilege and litigation privilege ought to maintain the messages secret.

The fee discovered concerning the WhatsApp chats involving metropolis officers after metropolis advisor STV produced the moment messages as a part of the proof disclosure course of.

This time, arbitrator Frank Marracco was tasked with making a call on town’s request.

In a call launched June 21, Marracco allowed town to wash cellphone numbers and private info from the chats, however the arbitrator didn’t purchase town’s declare on privilege. A lot of the messages’ content material was launched.

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The town wasn’t the one group hoping to maintain proof below wraps through the inquiry.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO), a provincial Crown company, utilized to have about 2,300 procurement and advice-to-government paperwork made confidential, which might have blocked their launch to inquiry contributors and the general public. The company proposed to solely let contributors’ legal professionals to view the fabric.

The commissioner shot down IO’s request with gusto, stating that such a confidentiality order would fly within the face of what the inquiry was requested to do.

“The Fee is remitted to get solutions for the individuals of Ontario concerning what occurred on the (Stage 1) Mission and the way we will stop the issues from taking place once more,” Hourigan wrote in his determination.

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“All contributors ought to be dedicated to acquiring these solutions, and it ought to be apparent to them that options won’t be found if 1000’s of related paperwork are suppressed.”

The Rideau Transit Group additionally made a declare for confidentiality associated to paperwork for an arbitration between its building arm, Ottawa Gentle Rail Transit Constructors, and practice maker Alstom. The businesses wished their delicate monetary info protected against launch.

Hourigan allowed the businesses to make “cheap redactions” to the paperwork.

In the course of the inquiry listening to, Hourigan has proven that he has no time for witnesses avoiding questions or speculating if proof may very well be confidential.

One notable second was when metropolis monetary advisor Remo Bucci of Deloitte mentioned he needed to be cautious about his proof due to “confidentiality”.

Hourigan interrupted the questioning.

“We’re right here for a public inquiry,” Hourigan mentioned. “We don’t cover behind confidentiality. We don’t reply questions on the premise that it is perhaps confidential. If there is a matter with one thing you’re saying, any individual will tell us, however proper now, you need to be happy to reply questions absolutely.”

Alternatively, there have been moments when Hourigan or legal professionals have stopped a witness from speaking if the proof would break client-solicitor privilege or get into ongoing authorized disputes.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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