OSTA La Vista Baby: Councillor Bounced From School Bus Meeting

West Carleton-March Councillor and Deputy Mayor Clarke Kelly was ejected from a virtual meeting last week after getting into a heated discussion with Ottawa Student Transportation Authority general manager Vicky Kyriaco.

After a heated exchange, Kyriaco announced “Coucnillor Kelly is out of this meeting” and ejected him. Kelly yelled back, “I hope you’re out of a job soon,” seconds before he was out of the virtual meeting.

The meeting, which took place Sept. 14, featured a presentation on the current school bus driver shortage that has led to the cancellation of many routes in the city’s west end.

Kyriaco had mentioned during the presentation that transportation to and from schools was a privilege, and not a right. Kelly interjected and commented that people in the rural area pay taxes just like everyone else, and that for the last 50 years school bus transportation was expected.

Kelly also wanted to know what was different between this year and previous years. More than 75 per cent of the province’s school bus cancellations are in Ottawa, with most of them being in Barrhaven, Stittsville and the rural western part of the city.

Kyriaco informed Kelly that the presentation was not open to comments and exchanges, but that he could use the chat function. They agreed to have a Q and A session after the meeting.

During the presentation, Kyriaco explained that there was a number of reasons for the bus driver shortage. The vast geography of Ottawa’s rural area was one of the main reasons given. Rideau-Jock Councillor David Brown commented that his ward alone was geographically larger than the entire GTA.

She also explained that the average income and standard of living for seniors in Ottawa – most school bus drivers are retirees looking for a part time job to either keep busy, make extra money or both – is higher than that of seniors in Toronto and other parts of the province.

Kyriaco also said that many bus drivers were unwilling to go into the rural areas because of the dangers of bad weather as well as the extremely deep ditches. Throughout the area, deep ditches provide a challenge to bus and truck drivers. The problem is not just rural. In Barrhaven, Borrisokane Drive has ditches that are among the deepest in the city.

OSTA was able to secure contracts with nine of their 10 operators. One of the operators declined the contract. Kyriaco said that the operator was the only one in the western and rural western area.

During the Q and A, Clarke made the comment that OSTA was making no effort to solve the problem in the western rural area, which triggered Kyriaco to snap back at him. That led to a heated exchange and his ejection from the meeting.

Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari commented that it was the only time she had ever seen an elected official kicked out of a meeting by a non-elected manager.

On Tues., Sept. 19, OSTA reported 54 school bus route cancellations after reporting 29 the previous day.

Councillor Clarke Kelly was ejected from the OSTA information meeting.