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January 29, 2009

OC Transpo Strike: winners and losers ... but mostly losers

Required reading: Relief - and recimination, by the Ottawa Citizen's David Reevely. Some highlights:

The city botched it. Leave aside the merits of each side's argument and look at how they fought. The city misjudged the importance of work scheduling to the workers — was very possibly ignorant of the system's origins only 10 years ago. Just a few days in, Mayor Larry O'Brien made the fight with ATU 279 personal, calling out president AndrĂ© Cornellier and daring him to let the members vote on the city's last offer.

Practically every time he opened his mouth, O'Brien found a way to insult the strikers, particularly when he rather spectacularly said he hoped to "educate" them about the city's offer.


Like it or not, Cornellier comes out of this a winner. Sure, practically everyone in Ottawa hates him, but he doesn't work for us — he works for 2,300 ATU 279 members and he just led them to a victory, even if it was in a defensive action and it came at great cost. Cornellier acted like a jerk, especially at the beginning of the strike, but it's hard to see a point where any different choices on his part could have let to a compromise with with a management negotiating team that declared that the key bargaining issue was, in fact, non-negotiable.

ATU international vice-president Randy Graham, an Ottawa guy, is a winner, too: he gets the victory and to come off as The Reasonable One in the transit union's leadership.

Their members ... I guess for them it's a wash... They elected a leader who seemed to rejoice in infuriating Ottawans, but now it's the ATU drivers who get to climb back on the buses and face the public. Here's hoping most of the riders see the pointlessness of abusing the men and women at the wheel, but I bet hardly any of them will have pleasant first days back.


The real long-term losers are the people of Ottawa, especially those of us who saw in council's eagerness to build a $4.7-billion system of rail lines and busways that are rail-lines-to-be a vision of a city that would finally fight its way out of the 1980s. One that no longer thought that yet another subdivision upstream on the Rideau River was good planning. One that actually had begun to believe its own rhetoric about having people live more compact lives in a vibrant downtown and not building their lives (and neighbourhoods) around cars.

That's done now. Yes, drivers heading downtown from the burbs had a rough time sitting on the Queensway, but at least they got to work on school without having to go begging to their friends or relatives (or complete strangers) for help. The people who believed the city's guff about transit got it in the shorts, and they won't forget the betrayal.

Read the full article.
Related: Ottawa OC Transpo Guide


  1. Anonymous12:52 PM

    In the Calgary Herald they reported yesterday that O'Brien, Cornellier

    and Graham emerged with an agreement to let talks go to binding

    arbitration. It is also reported that they said they came to this

    agreement because "It is in the best interest of Ottawa citizens"

    Throughout this entire strike I hardly think either side had our best

    interests in mind, so why say that now? Are we such fools to believe this

    statement? Where were our best interests when they sent people from both

    sides to the CIRB to refute the fact that OC Transpo should be declared

    an essential service? Where were our best interests when businesses were

    failing, people were suffering, jobs were lost, students were left out in

    the cold, elderly were left shut in and people were dying in fatal


    If anything, the people of Ottawa should take one lesson from this strike

    and apply it to every aspect of their daily lives as much as possible.

    The lesson learned should be to depend on OC Transpo as a last resort

    only! If you have other means of carrying out daily living without

    including the transit system in the equation, then you should use those

    options instead. Everyone in Ottawa should be doing this until such a

    time as the transit system in Ottawa is declared and essential service.

    We know how the transit authority and this union operate. We know how

    heartless and underhanded they are! We know that another strike will most

    likely happen again in 3 years. Therefore, let's all use it as little as

    possible, let's become less dependant on this union and transit system!

    This union has proven it is nothing more than a terrorist organization

    that is all too happy to use their constitutional right to carry out it's

    acts of terrorism!!! Oc Transpo has proven to us that they are not here

    for the citizens of Ottawa by showing their lack of positive action and

    lack of willingness to negotiate during this strike!!!

    Both are to blame for all the hardships had in this city for the past 51

    days and neither will be punished in any way for those hardships. They

    are lucky that here in Ottawa we have become so civilized as to not hold

    anyone accountable, or heaven forbid, cause any type of retaliatory

    violence towards either party involved in this fiasco.

    Fed up in Ottawa

  2. That the transit strike will end is nothing but good news. Hooray!

    Is there NO sense of urgency at OC Transpo? Another week before the busses are on the road? Somebody there is brain dead!

    Hire a school bus! Charter! Work 24/7 on the needed inspections - but turn some wheels! DUH!

    This latest strike, completely needless and preventable probably seals the fate of OC Transpo as a credible transport provider. Regardless of who the good guys & bad guys of the strike are, it is the responsibility of OC Transpo management to MANAGE! This means the city and the mayor as well.

    I know that few in political Ottawa are capable of thought beyond the current month, BUT. Has no-one kept track of the trials and tribulations of the current project for transit infrastructure renewal? Has everyone forgotten that the current foolishness cost the previous mayor his job? Am I the only one who remembers that a federal minister had to intervene and stopp the flow of funds to the ill-considered version of the project? Does anyone in the city's administration actually believe that the federal and provincial governments (not to mention the local ratepayer) are going to shovel over the wheelbarrow loads of cash needed to complete the current overly-ambitious project to the current management?

    At the very least a visible display of positive action is urgently needed.


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