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Ottawa LRT maintenance group announces new CEO as train faces first snow day with riders

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After a tough month for Ottawa’s new light-rail transit (LRT) system, senior city officials on Tuesday appeared to welcome a senior leadership change within the group contracted to build and maintain the Confederation Line.

In a memo sent to the City of Ottawa’s top manager, who in turn distributed the document to members of city council, Rideau Transit Group said that as of Nov. 11, its CEO, Peter Lauch, is now serving as head of its maintenance division, Rideau Transit Maintenance.

“Rideau Transit Group (RTG) and Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) have taken important steps to continue our transition from build to operations,” the memo from RTG said.

“Mr. Lauch has worked on the Ottawa light-rail transit project since 2013. His extensive experience coupled with his knowledge of the City of Ottawa and its light-rail transit system will serve as an asset during this transition period.” Story continues below advertisement 2:03 Politicians, media ride LRT trains ahead of Confederation Line’s handover to city Politicians, media ride LRT trains ahead of Confederation Line’s handover to city

After blasting the Confederation Line’s rocky performance in recent weeks, senior city officials appeared to respond positively to the move on Tuesday.

City manager Steve Kanellakos — who last week told the transit commission that RTM has “failed the city and its residents” — said that the group is “implementing changes that puts renewed focus on improving LRT service in Ottawa.”

“As a private and independent company, decisions regarding leadership are at the purview of the board of directors. However, I am hopeful that, Rideau Transit Maintenance will bring forward solutions to quickly resolve issues that have been felt by residents across the city since the launch of full-service in October,” Kanellakos wrote in his own memo to the mayor and councillors.

“The City of Ottawa is committed to delivering an exceptional transit system to our residents. We will work closely with Mr. Lauch and his team to make sure this happens.”

In a statement sent to Global News via email, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Watson said the mayor “is pleased to see that RTG is taking the necessary steps to address the ongoing operational issues with LRT.”

“The mayor looks forward to RTM finding solutions to these issues, which have put a great deal of stress on transit users across the city,” the statement said. Story continues below advertisement

News of the managerial change came as the Confederation Line faced its first full day of carrying passengers through the snow — a day that ultimately didn’t pass by trouble-free. 1:09 Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels

No train delays were reported during the morning commute on Tuesday, but a stopped train at Cyrville station towards the eastern end of the line forced OC Transpo to call in replacement bus service between St-Laurent and Blair stations at around 3:40 p.m. during the afternoon rush hour.

Several pictures posted to social media showed commuters lining up in the cold waiting to board a replacement bus. OC Transpo reported at 4:53 p.m. that “full service” on the Confederation Line had resumed.

Councillors call for restored bus service on social media

Councillors Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney, the latter of whom sits on the transit commission, later tweeted that they want to see cancelled bus service restored.

“I feel horrible for commuters tonight delayed in the cold by another train failure,” Leiper tweeted. “It’s time to bring back the suburban routes until some period of virtually flawless performance is achieved.”

Leiper called on the mayor to initiate discussions on the proposal. A third city councillor, Carol Anne Meehan, tweeted that she agreed with her colleagues.

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Record one million job losses in March: StatCan

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OTTAWA — More than one million Canadians lost their jobs in the month of March, Statistics Canada is reporting. The unemployment rate has also climbed to 7.8 per cent, up from 2.2 percentage points since February.

Canada’s national statistics agency released its monthly Labour Force Survey on Thursday, using March 15 to 21 as the sample week – a time when the government began enforcing strict guidelines around social gatherings and called on non-essential businesses to close up shop.

The first snapshot of job loss since COVID-19 began taking a toll on the Canadian economy shows 1.1 million out of work since the prior sample period and a consequent decrease in the employment rate – the lowest since April 1997. The most job losses occurred in the private sector and among people aged 15-24.

The number of people who were unemployed increased by 413,000, resulting in the largest one-month increase in Canada’s unemployment rate on record and takes the economy back to a state last seen in October, 2010.

“Almost all of the increase in unemployment was due to temporary layoffs, meaning that workers expected to return to their job within six months,” reads the findings.

The agency included three new indicators, on top of the usual criteria, to better reflect the impact of COVID-19 on employment across the country.

The survey, for example, excludes the more commonly observed reasons for absent workers — such as vacation, weather, parental leave or a strike or lockout — to better isolate the pandemic’s effect.

They looked at: people who are employed but were out of a job during the reference week, people who are employed but worked less than half their usual hours, and people who are unemployed but would like a job.

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Employee at Ottawa’s Amazon Fulfillment Centre tests positive for COVID-19

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OTTAWA — An employee who works at Amazon’s fulfillment centre on Boundary Road in Ottawa’s east-end has tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon says it learned on April 3 that an associate tested positive for novel coronavirus and is currently in isolation. The employee last worked at the fulfillment centre on March 19.

Two employees told CTV News Ottawa that management informed all employees about the positive test in a text message over the weekend.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft wrote “we are supporting the individual who is recovering. We are following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

The statement also says that Amazon has taken steps to further protect their employees.

“We have also implemented proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the FC.”

CTV News Ottawa asked Amazon about the timeline between when the company found out about the positive COVID-19 case and when employees were notified.

In a separate email to CTV News Ottawa, Crowcroft said “all associates of our Boundary Road fulfillment centre in Ottawa were notified within 24 hours of learning of the positive COVID-19 case.”

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Ottawa facing silent spring as festivals, events cancelled

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This is shaping up to be Ottawa’s silent spring — and summer’s sounding pretty bleak, too — as more and more concerts, festivals and other annual events are cancelled in the wake of measures meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The province has already banned gatherings of more than five people, and on Monday officials announced city parks, facilities and services will remain shut down until the end of June, nor will any event permits be issued until at least that time.

“This leaves us with no choice but to cancel the festival this year,” Ottawa Jazz Festival artistic director Petr Cancura confirmed Monday.

This was to be the festival’s 40th anniversary, and organizers announced the lineup for the June 19-July 1 event the day after Ottawa’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. 

The Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals had already pulled the plug because of similar restrictions in their cities, so Cancura said the writing was on the wall.

“We have a few contingency plans to keep connecting with our audience and working with our artists,” Cancura said.

People holding tickets to the 2020 festival can ask for a refund or exchange for a 2021 pass.

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