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Taking money from both pockets

Over the last six years, the City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham have been embroiled in a lawsuit.

First launched in 2011, the suit came after the city said it was Durham’s responsibility to fund the $8.9 million in liabilities – pensions and benefits, for example – left over from when Oshawa uploaded its bus service to the region. The region disagreed, and here we are.

The last six years have seen some visits to the courtroom, including in 2013 when the city’s request to have the case dismissed was denied. Since then, all has been quiet, with both sides saying they would head to arbitration.

But what hasn’t been quiet is the meter running for the lawyers’ time.

According to a recently released report from the region, it has spent more than $720,000 on legal fees alone. What makes it even worse, however, is that this is only one side of the legal fight. The city’s legal costs remain unknown – they were disclosed to councillors in a closed meeting late last year – so who is to say how big the bill is on Oshawa’s side?

At this point, it would not be unreasonable to assume that legal costs between the two sides have breached the $1-million mark, and that’s even if Oshawa spent half as much on its lawyers for the case. And when the bill comes in, guess who’s going to be left on the hook? Taxpayers.

And when the decision is made as to who owes who for those liabilities mentioned above, who’s going to pay for that? Taxpayers, once again.

The City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham need to get themselves in a room and hammer out a deal on this issue once and for all, and put it behind us, because as things stand right now, the only winners in this case will be the lawyers.

And the losers? The residents of Oshawa who are going to have to pay for both sides of the legal bills.