Regional councillors pull out of voting on transit plan
CTV Southwestern Ontario
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:31PM EDT
Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig and Regional Chair Ken Seiling have both notified council that they will not be voting on the rapid transit options due to conflicts of interest.
Both councillors say they are in conflict because they have children who own properties along the proposed transit route.
In a statement Craig says "Due [t]o the very recent purchase by my son of a residential property near the Ainslie Street Terminal, I must declare a possible conflict of interest on the rapid transit issue."
Seiling explained that his decision follows discussions with his lawyer regarding property owned by two of his children.
"The result of that inquiry is that a review of both the legislation and the case law does not provide me with a clear enough interpretation or direction," he says in a statement.
"Given the importance of this project to the wider community and not wishing to distract from the debate in any way, I have decided to err on the side of caution and declare a conflict of interest with regard to this matter."
In his statement Seiling did not clarify whether he voted on previous rapid transit-related issues while the possible conflict of interest existed.
He tells CTV News the properties involved have been owned for up to five years, but he only considered them as a possible conflict in recent weeks.
North Dumfries Mayor Robert Deutschmann declared his conflict earlier this year due to property he owns along the proposed route.
Mixed reaction in council to proposal
Following the conflict of interest statements by the two councillors, the preferred option for rapid transit chosen by Waterloo Region staff was presented to council.
The preferred option includes light rail (LRT) from Conestoga mall to Fairview Park mall and adapted bus rapid transit (aBRT), from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal.
But while staff say comments from hundreds of residents brought forward during public consultations were considered, councillors say the feedback they've received doesn't seem to match up.
Councillor Sean Strickland says "In the last two days I've had ten e-mails, nine against. Now it's unscientific, but that's just a snapshot of the public opinion pressure."
Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan adds "It's not just the ones that council's receiving. I'm getting them from the township...and it's about ten to one."
According to the staff recommendations, 78 per cent of the more than 700 respondents indicated they supported rapid transit in general and 66 per cent supported LRT.
Nancy Button, director of rapid transit for Waterloo Region, says "What staff have undertaken is public consultation, it's not a formal public opinion survey, we never claimed that it was."
Strickland says it's his jobs to weigh all opinions, "When it comes time to make a decision I'm going to make that decision on what I get from the public and on my own judgement."
But he admits it's a fine line, and you can't make a decision based on public opinion alone.
Button says "The direction of this project is based on a number of things. There's the expert analysis, we've had expert peers review the analysis and we have the public input."
And the decision will have a big impact, since the project could cost upward of $800 million.
There will be more than a dozen more opportunities for public input in the coming months, and the issue is expected to be back before council in June.