Ottawa School Bus Shortage Sparks Clash in Council Meeting

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The escalating discontent over insufficient school bus services in Ottawa climaxed this week. An Ottawa councillor was expelled from a virtual public conference for interrogating school authorities about reparation for parents who have had to assume the responsibility of driving their children to school.

Councillor Clarke Kelly, during the Wednesday assembly, directed his ire at the head of the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), boldly proclaiming, “I hope you’re out of a job soon.”

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Simultaneously, the Ontario government is setting in motion an impartial inquiry into the OSTA and its financial operations.

An online meeting was held by OSTA with school board trustees and councillors regarding the pressing school bus shortage, which has left an estimated 9,000 students sans transportation. Kelly was forcibly removed from this meeting following his line of questionings about pecuniary relief for parents incurring additional expenses due to driving their children to school.

Describing the situation outside local schools, Kelly called attention to the resulting chaos that has jeopardized student safety. He implicated the OSTA leadership in this disarray, highlighting their apparent ill-preparedness.

In response to Kelly’s allegations, the OSTA declined an on-camera interview but asserted its commitment to transparency via a released statement. They added that the city and its councillors are not accountable for providing transportation services and that they were included in the virtual meeting due to their constituents’ queries.

They claimed that Kelly’s untimely interruptions led to a tense situation prompting his removal from the meeting. According to OSTA, Kelly became aggressive and disrespectful, leaving them with no choice but to dismiss him from the forum.

When questioned about his removal, Kelly reported feeling upset and let down by the evening’s proceedings.

As the bus driver scarcity and cancellations continue, other political figures have begun to take notice. Despite an additional $1.8 million grant to the OSTA, no significant resolution has been met, as pointed out by Carleton MPP, Goldie Ghamari. Presently the Ontario government is setting a third-party review of the OSTA in motion.

In the meantime, OSTA is contemplating several provisional strategies. These include the use of coach lines for secondary school students, the reworking of bus routes, and reassigning students to the OC Transpo. Regrettably, these alterations project a timeline of weeks or months.

Thus, while politicians demand resolutions to the school bus shortage, parents remain burdened with transporting their children daily. Consequently, there is a growing call for the resignation of the OSTA’s general manager, Vicky Kyriaco.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.