Ottawa’s new council, the Emergencies Act inquiry and another LRT shutdown: Five stories to watch in Ottawa this week

Ottawa’s newly elected councillors are sworn in, the new police chief begins his job, and Canada’s top cop testifies at the Emergencies Act inquiry. takes a look at five stories in Ottawa to watch this week.

New city council sworn in

The Jim Watson era at Ottawa City Hall will officially come to an end Tuesday when mayor-elect Mark Sutcliffe and a slate of new councillors are sworn in for the 2022-26 term.

Sutcliffe, a former broadcaster and entrepreneur, was elected with 51.37 per cent of the vote on Oct. 24, defeating his primary opponent, outgoing Coun. Catherine McKenney, by more than 42,000 votes. Sutcliffe ran on a platform of keeping tax increases to between 2 and 2.5 per cent, fixing OC Transpo, and repairing roads. He’s also pledged increased police spending to address crime, particularly in the ByWard Market.

Citizens also elected 11 new councillors and returned 12 incumbents to city hall. This election saw the addition of a 24th ward, meaning there will be 24 councillors and the mayor in the council chamber.

Sutcliffe says unity and teamwork will be important in his first few weeks as mayor.

Mark Sutcliffe waves after delivering his victory speech after being elected Mayor of Ottawa in the 2022 municipal election, in Ottawa, on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New chief of police begins beat

Another change in leadership in Ottawa is the newly hired chief of police, replacing Peter Sloly, who resigned amid the Freedom Convoy occupation in February.

The Ottawa Police Services Board announced the hiring of Eric Stubbs Oct. 21, three days before the municipal election, despite calls from council candidates and citizens to delay the hiring process until after the new council was sworn in.

Stubbs is an assistant commissioner with the RCMP in British Columbia, and worked as Director General, National Criminal Operations, at the RCMP headquarters in Ottawa from 2014 to 2017. He begins his new role in Ottawa on Thursday.

Stubbs has already faced criticism locally because of comments following enforcement of an injunction barring protesters from blocking an access road in the Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C., used by Coastal GasLink pipeline workers. Two journalists were arrested covering the ongoing B.C. pipeline dispute. At the time, Stubbs said they did not identify themselves as journalists until after they were arrested.

Outgoing mayor Jim Watson says Stubbs will work to establish a relationship with Indigenous communities once he is sworn in.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs has been named the new chief of the Ottawa Police Service.

Province to make new mask recommendation

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is expected to announce Monday a new recommendation to increase mask use in the province amid a rising wave of respiratory illnesses, but he will stop short of a mandate.

The move comes as Ontario hospitals face surges in patients with COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus—better known as RSV—particularly among children.

Locally, CHEO has expanded its ICU capacity to meet growing demand and the medical officers of health for Ottawa and Eastern Ontario are also strongly encouraging mask use. While neither has said they would mandate masks, they’re also not ruling out the possibility of a mandate returning.

Newly-elected Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth said she intends to move a motion to mandate masks in schools. Schools in the OCDSB do not require mask use this year, but have had mandates in the past. Ottawa Public Health is strongly recommending mask use.

Dr. Kieran Moore, OntarioÕs chief medical officer of health places his mask on as holds a press conference regarding the lifting of most mask mandates for indoor settings in Ontario at QueenÕs Park in Toronto on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Top cop speaks to inquiry

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is among a list of witnesses set to speak at the Public Order Emergency Commission this week.

The inquiry, which is examining the federal government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act in February to remove an occupation protest from downtown Ottawa, will also hear from Deputy Commissioner Mike Duheme, who will testify alongside Lucki.

Notes published by the commission showed in the days leading up to the invocation of the Act, Lucki had lost confidence in Ottawa police leadership and wanted the OPP to take over. She had also reached out to the government hours before the Act was invoked to say that she didn’t believe police had used all other options at their disposal.

The inquiry will also hear from some high-ranking federal officials, including deputy public safety minister Rob Stewart and senior deputy minister of national and cyber security Dominic Rochon.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is seen during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Another LRT shutdown in the works

Transit users in the city will not be able to take the LRT on Saturday because of a line-wide shutdown.

The city says O-Train Line 1 will be completely closed Saturday so that the Rideau Transit Group can perform vehicle and system testing related to a previously reported axle hub failure on some vehicles.

All trains with more than 175,000 service kilometres were pulled from service over the summer for inspections and proactive replacement of their axle hubs. The issue arose in July when an operator noticed vibrations and an inspection revealed an issue within the wheel hub assembly.

A root cause for the issue has yet to be identified, which is why the shutdown of the line has been scheduled. The city says shutting down service on a Saturday, when ridership is lower, will minimize customer impacts.

Starting at 6 a.m. on Nov. 19, R1 replacement bus service will run at a frequency that matches Line 1 service. Full O-Train Line 1 service will resume at 8 a.m. Nov. 20.

 Ottawa’s LRT train on Thursday. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

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