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Ottawa’s $2.1 Billion LRT Line Opens — and Fails

After more than six years of construction, at least 63 failed progress inspections and four missed deadlines, the first stage of Ottawa’s new light rail Confederation Line opened to the public. However, the 13-station line, running east-west between Gloucester and Tunney’s Pasture, was beset with problems from day one. Bus lines that had been cancelled were reinstated to meet demand. On 6 November 2019, city manager Steve Kanellakos criticized the line’s builder, Rideau Transit Group, for “inadequate management oversight, poor planning, under-resourcing and failure to anticipate predictable issues.” Kanellakos also said, “They have failed the city and its residents. We have not received what we paid for.” Another 44 km of track, to be added to the Confederation Line and the existing north-south Trillium Line, was approved in February 2019 with a budget of $4.6 billion.

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Ottawa Greenlights Controversial Chateau Laurier Renovations

Ottawa City Council approved the construction of a controversial addition to the storied Chateau Laurier, which had been fiercely contested by a large swath of the public. Detractors compared the seven-storey, 147-room extension, which blocks the view of the Chateau from the adjacent Majors Hill Park, to a radiator and a shipping container. But after submitting five designs in three years, the hotel’s private ownership was eager to move forward. Opponents of the addition planned to go to court to prevent construction, which was slated to begin at the end of 2019.

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SNC-Lavalin

SNC-Lavalin is a global engineering and construction firm based in Montreal, Quebec. It works in several industries including oil and gas, mining, cybersecurity and nuclear power. It also builds public and private infrastructure around the world.

The company began in 1911 as an engineering consultant for power projects. In 1991, the original company, called SNC, merged with competitor Lavalin to become SNC-Lavalin. Today it employs some 50,000 people in more than 50 countries. In 2018, it registered $10.1 billion in revenue.

In Canada, the company has received contracts to build major transit projects in cities including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Worldwide, SNC-Lavalin oversees resource-extraction and infrastructure projects in North America, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East.

Since 2011, allegations of fraud and corruption on the part of SNC-Lavalin and several of its executives have plagued the company with scandal.

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Irving Group of Companies

Companies owned by New Brunswick’s Irving family dominate the province’s natural resource industries, as well as its media, engineering and construction industries. The first Irving business was a sawmill purchased in 1881. The family now owns many companies that supply each other from different steps in the chain of production. These companies largely fall under four umbrellas: J.D. Irving Limited (whose many segments include forestry, food, construction and transportation), Brunswick News (newspapers), Irving Oil (oil refining and marketing) and Ocean Capital Holdings (real estate, radio, construction and materials). The Irving family owns Canada’s largest oil refinery, is one of the five largest landowners in North America, and employs 1 in 12 people in New Brunswick. It is one of the wealthiest families in Canada.