LRT public inquiry has cost taxpayers $14.5M so far

The cost for the public inquiry into what went wrong with Ottawa's Confederation Line is already $14.5 million. The final report is due out on Nov. 30. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
The cost for the public inquiry into what went wrong with Ottawa's Confederation Line is already $14.5 million. The final report is due out on Nov. 30. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

The results of the public inquiry into what caused the array of problems with the Confederation Line — including two derailments last year — won't be known until next week, but the price tag is already becoming clear.

So far, the inquiry, called by Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney a year ago, has cost roughly $14.5 million in public funds.

The commission heading it up has spent about $10 million, paid for by provincial taxpayers. And in a city report released to council's finance and economic development committee earlier this month, it was revealed that local taxpayers have shelled out $4.5 million.

Those figures don't include the millions undoubtedly incurred by the private entities that participated in the inquiry, including train-maker Alstom and Rideau Transit Group, which oversaw the design, building and long-term maintenance of the $2.1-billion line.

The costs are largely due to the army of lawyers involved in the inquiry, the massive number of documents it handled and the logistics of holding this summer's public hearings.

The commission interviewed more than 90 witnesses and examined more than 40 of them during four consecutive weeks of public hearings in June and July.

All of those interviews were transcribed word-for-word and posted on the inquiry's website, as were the livestreams of the public hearings.

More than one million documents were filed, which takes resources to organize. The city, for example, says it has shelled out about $890,000 for date and file transfer services.

Ottawa Light Rail Transit Public Inquiry
Ottawa Light Rail Transit Public Inquiry

The costs don't come as a surprise. When former mayor Jim Watson and some other councillors voted against calling a judicial inquiry — which is similar, but not exactly the same, as a public inquiry — one of their arguments was that the proceedings could cost up to $20 million.

For example, the judicial inquiry into Hamilton's Red Hill Valley Parkway, which that city's council agreed to in 2019, was estimated to cost $11 million originally.

Its price tag is now up to $26 million.