Downtown Bureau

Hamilton CAN Kickoff

A citizen's group challenges City Hall's culture of entitlement and disdain for public input. Get ready to watch the sparks fly.

By Jason Leach
Published April 21, 2006

Well over a hundred people jammed the ultra-cool Sky Dragon Centre on King William Street to launch Hamilton's first ever Community Action Network campaign.

This group, Hamilton CAN, is simply a group of concerned citizens who are committing to work for mayoral and council candidates who have a vision for Hamilton's future in the November election [Ed. Note: RTH contributor Ben Bull also volunteers with Hamilton CAN].

For too long, Hamiltonians have elected Councillors whose poor decision-making and lack of leadership have directly led to the decline of our great city. They'll tell you otherwise, but the proof is plain for all to see:

and the list goes on and on.

Hamiltonians don't want their city to continue on the same path that it has been, but have never really been informed about the issues or the solutions. This has been done intentionally by the "old boys club" who want to remain in power at all costs. An uninformed public is the number one way of attaining that goal.

Read a transcript of Joanna Chapman's speech, hosted on the CATCH website

At the CAN kickoff, Joanna Chapman gave a great speech outlining her experience as a Dundas Councillor prior to amalgamation. I think most life-long Hamiltonians in the room had to pick our jaws up off the floor upon hearing the manner in which Dundas council used to function.

It was fascinating to hear how different the political culture was in Dundas compared to what we're all used to in Hamilton. Meetings featured citizen involvement, minimal talking by Councillors (I don't believe that one ;), prompt starting times and efficient conduct, and no chatting or leaving the room by Councillors when citizens were speaking.

In Hamilton City Council, citizen input is regarded as intrusive and unwelcome. Councillors show up late regularly and leave when citizens speak. Many times, citizens will go through the hassle of registering to speak, showing up during the day when Hamilton's meetings are held (most folks work during the day, making it virtually impossible to attend City Hall meetings) only to be told that their agenda item will be dealt with next week or next month.

Councillors regularly come into a "discussion" on a subject with their minds already made up. Seldom is their opinion formed via input from the residents (their employers) of their ward. Consider the aerotropolis plan: the city refused even to consider a growth strategy that excluded it, despite the overwhelming opposition from citizens who made the effort to attend public meetings.

Politics is certainly not of the people, by the people, or for the people in the Hammer.

CAN wants to change that and needs all the help it can get in preparing for the upcoming election. Log onto the CAN website and find out how you can volunteer right in your own neighbourhood or on one of their committees.

It's a novel thought in our fine city, but perhaps the day is coming where you and I actually matter. We the salaries and the bills in this city. Whether you speak broken English or British English (like Ben) your voice deserves to be heard throughout the year, not just once every three years.

Join CAN and take back control of your city. The future is in our hands.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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