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Hate the long walk on Canada Day? Ottawa mayor, feds point fingers over transit plan

The same plan was in place last year, and the city got ‘a lot of feedback’ about it
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Throngs of revellers decked out in red and white will make a 1.4-kilometre trek in the July heat from downtown Ottawa to the national Canada Day celebrations, passing by a transit station they’re not allowed to use — and the city and federal government are blaming one another for the plan.

“I just think it will be a frustrating experience for Ottawa residents and for visitors,” Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said in an interview Thursday.

The national celebration runs all day on July 1, with speeches from dignitaries, music and family activities, culminating in a fireworks show after dark. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend.

The main stage will be set up at LeBreton Flats, near the Canadian War Museum, which is just a stone’s throw from OC Transpo’s Pimisi Station.

And while officials are encouraging people to use public transit, which is free for the day, they warn that attendees will instead be asked to get off the train at the next station over.

There’s no parking near the site, either, so the 20-minute walk along Wellington Street will be the only option for most people. Pimisi Station will only be open for people with reduced mobility or local residents who are not going to the events.

The same plan was in place last year, and Sutcliffe said the city got “a lot of feedback” about it.

“After the experience we went through last year, I expected that the people who were involved in it would come up with a different plan for this year,” he said.

Sutcliffe said he learned that didn’t happen about a month or six weeks ago, and “at that point it was too late to do anything about it.”

The mayor blamed the federal government for the plan, but the decision was made by Ottawa’s special events advisory team, which includes representatives from Canadian Heritage, OC Transpo and emergency officials.

City staff tried to put forward other suggestions, Sutcliffe said, but the Heritage representative would not agree.

Kanata—Carleton MP Jenna Sudds, a member of the federal cabinet, pointed out that the events team is mostly municipal officials.

“The opportunity has been on the table for a year for (city officials) to address that,” she said in an interview Thursday.

“This is their station. This is their city and their streets.”

The main issue is foot traffic on the bridge near the station, rather than the capacity of the station itself.

The committee opted not to close the bridge for the celebration, and instead to keep it open for emergency vehicles.

“This is a public safety issue, dealing with 50,000 people leaving an event at one time,” Sudds said.

In a briefing for media this week, federal officials said the Canada Day event is different than others held at the LeBreton Flats site because there are no tickets being sold, making it impossible to know how many people will attend.

There’s also a constant flow of visitors throughout the day and evening, officials said, with screening points and bag checks at the entrance.

Sarah Ritchie and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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