LRT investigation shouldn’t run into confidentiality hurdles, says lead attorney

“Nothing is prohibited for us under litigation.”

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One of the lawyers leading the LRT’s investigative work does not believe there are barriers to obtaining details of key witnesses who might be concerned about public disclosure of confidential information, even if those details are part of ongoing lawsuits.

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Christine Mainville said there might be one area where disclosure would be carefully guarded, but otherwise she hopes for an open flow of information.

“I don’t see any obstacles. We’ve already interviewed over 90 people and the only thing I would say is off limits if there are confidential arbitrations,” Mainville said in an interview Thursday night after hearing citizens speak about their Ottawa LRT issues during the final public meeting. before the hearings.

At the same time, “nobody can answer a question just because a particular issue can also be the subject of confidential arbitration,” Mainville said.

“I don’t think it will prevent us from getting to the facts.”

Mainville is one of the three main lawyers for the commission of inquiry. Kate McGrann and John Adair are the others. Your job is to identify and interview witnesses and collect documents as you piece together facts that will help the commissioner of inquiry, Judge William Hourigan.

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The provincial government has asked the commission to investigate the commercial and technical circumstances that led to the breakdowns and derailments of Stage 1 of the LRT.

The December 16, 2021 cabinet order launching the LRT inquiry commission said the investigation should not interfere with ongoing legal proceedings.

“The goal is for everyone to tell the truth because they can't be charged,” says LRT investigations attorney Christine Mainville.
“The goal is for everyone to tell the truth because they can’t be charged,” says LRT investigations attorney Christine Mainville. Photo per brochure

Mainville suggested that an active legal dispute between the city of Ottawa and the Rideau Transit Group should not create barriers to information gathering, since the litigation is public and those court documents are in the public domain. Those documents would also be accessible to the commission, if the lawyers are interested in them.

“Nothing is off limits to us by virtue of litigation,” Mainville said.

Mainville said there was a process to protect “valid claims of confidentiality and privilege” and that it was something the commission was required to follow under Ontario’s Public Inquiry Act.

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Since the investigation does not assign blame or responsibility, witnesses must be open and frank about the operation of the LRT project.

“The goal is for everyone to tell the truth because they can’t be blamed,” Mainville said.

RTG has previously opposed the release of documents in freedom of information requests due to the alleged proprietary nature of the design and construction of the LRT system.

The city has also managed what information the public can see when it comes to the Stage 1 contract. The agreement is posted online, but it is partially redacted.

“There may be some aspects of the documents where there is a valid claim, and that is a process that is being worked on, but I don’t see that stopping us from getting the answers we need to fulfill our mandate,” Mainville said.

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The commission of inquiry has an exceptionally compressed schedule to produce a report. The deadline for a final report is August 30, but the Ontario transport minister can extend it to November 30.

So far, 40 witnesses have been identified to testify at the hearings over four weeks, starting June 13. The investigative commission is willing to let the daily hearings drag on until 9 pm while the lawyers and other participants try to obtain key evidence in the file. within the schedule.

Mainville acknowledged that this investigation would be “quick.”

To gather information within time constraints, the commission’s attorneys interviewed witnesses under oath before hearings, something not generally done in investigations, Mainville said.

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“There are many witnesses interviewed during the investigation, but their statements do not become evidence,” Mainville said. “But one way that we have streamlined this process is that we have conducted several interviews under oath so that we can then use them as evidence.”

The witnesses who are asked to testify at the hearings are those that the commission’s attorneys consider important. The commission’s attorneys might also agree that the public needs Listen to those witnesses.

The commission has collected a million documents and the lawyers have identified 10,000 documents “relevant” to the investigation.

The consultation will include expert panels later in July to help explain best technical and procurement practices in the industry. That final expert advice will inform any recommendations made by the commissioner in his final report.

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Assembling an independent panel of experts in the areas of transit infrastructure and public-private partnerships can be quite a challenge for a researcher seeking completely independent information.

The city’s auditors general, and even the city itself, have been challenged to find consultants who have not had RTG companies or the city of Ottawa as previous clients. Additionally, there are many companies that have worked directly on the Ottawa LRT project.

The commission’s lawyers have seen how difficult it can be to bring together independent experts.

“I’m not worried,” Mainville said. “Let’s get there.”

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