Top city boss backs transit management as LRT problems continue

File photo of LRT

Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

Top municipal bureaucrat Steve Kanellakos launched into an impassioned defence of city management Thursday, shielding transportation general manager John Manconi from calls for his firing.

Kanellakos said he felt compelled to address the issue before the transit commission dug into the current problems plaguing the $2.1-billion Confederation Line during a special meeting.

“This management team, and Mr. Manconi in particular, aren’t going anywhere,” Kanellakos said. “I have 100-per-cent confidence in them. I almost dread to imagine where we’d be if I didn’t have John and his team working every day diligently to get us to where we are right now.”

On Wednesday, citizen transit commissioner Leah Williams, who wasn’t at the meeting on Thursday, called for the city to remove Manconi from his job and reorganize senior management at Transpo as the Rideau Transit Group and its maintenance affiliate continued to have problems providing the transit system with the required minimum number of trains for the busiest times.

“If you’re taking out leadership, you take out me. I am ultimately accountable,” Kanellakos told the transit commission.

Kanellakos challenged council to move a motion at the next meeting to remove him if the members believe he hasn’t done everything possible to make the system better.


“Don’t take out the people that are killing themselves every day to try to fix this system and make it better and don’t put out information into the public without the an understanding of how complicated and difficult and challenging it to actually make this system work every day. They are pulling miracles out there.”

Kanellakos said the problems with the LRT, which have included computer, door and switch problems, have forced the city to severely pivot in its transit operation plans.

“Nobody could anticipate that we would have so many issues so soon,” Kanellakos said “No one could anticipate that we would literally throw our plan into the waste can and come up with a new plan to be able to deliver services.”

Kanellakos credited Manconi and staff for coming up with new plans in response to the LRT problems.

Kanellakos said he’s not blaming RTG for the problems and he acknowledged that the company is trying to improve. The city needs to focus on supporting RTG to be better, he said.

“We’re not at the place where we’re blowing up the contract. We may be there one day. That’s a possibility, and we may be discussing that at (a finance and economic development committee meeting),” Kanellakos said.

Said Kanellakos: “It’s an unbearable situation and we feel the weight of that.”

Early discussion during the transit commission meeting was dominated by questions on track switches. Some transit commissioners accused RTG for not being ready for winter.

RTG is bringing in experts from JBA Corp. to help the company improve its maintenance program.


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