'My sense of hearing them talk is that they're focusing in on micro issues, when we should be dealing in this right now from a macro perspective. You know, jobs and dollars.'
By RTH Staff
Published April 25, 2017
The following is a transcript of interview with Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson on CHML's Bill Kelly Show on April 21, 2017. The audio is available here: https://omny.fm/shows/bill-kelly-show/what-has-the-city-been-doing-to-help-alleviate-t-1.
Bill Kelly (BK): Obviously the focus for a number of us is what's going to be happening next week when Hamilton City Council will - we are told - once again deal with the LRT issue. It was in many people's minds a very disturbing and disconcerting a message that we got from Council after that marathon session the other day. But there will be yet another meeting obviously dealing with this idea about the environmental assessment for LRT.
Some pro-LRT councillors have been waving the flag for this over the last number of years seem to be giving up, seem to be waving the white flag right now saying it's over. I'm not so sure. As I mentioned in my commentary early this morning I don't think it's quite time to write an obituary for LRT yet, but what is going to happen? What has happened?
Lloyd Ferguson is one of those people that's been a champion for this project all along. He's the councillor for Ward 12 in Ancaster and joins us on the Bill Kelley Show to talk about that. Lloyd, thank you for the time. It's good to have you with us today.
[Discussion about rainstorm and stormwater management in Ancaster]
BK: I mean anecdotally has your office received any concerns about flooding and things to end of this nature but residential damage?
Councillor Lloyd Ferguson (LF): Well quite frankly I can't get through all the LRT lobbying exact emails my goodness hundreds of them pouring in this morning and you try to scan down them on the blackberry and you try to get the issues like what happened to Ancaster last night... [More discussion about rainstorm and stormwater management in Ancaster]
BK: Let's get into some of those other calls that you have on your cell phone right now, Lloyd, and the number of people that have responded since this meeting what are you hearing.
LF: Oh just a tremendous lobby, and you hear in both ways and you know I have some Ancaster people that are telling me they don't support it and don't like that I am. The vast majority that I'm getting from Ancaster people do support it - does that surprise you? No, no because you know I've been working very hard to try to get the message out of what the benefit is to the people of Ancaster for this. And it's beautiful with the 2017 budget because I can display it right to them.
When you first talk to them, I'm sure my colleagues running the same thing, if I walk through Fortinos, I normally get stopped four or five times, which is great to get to chat with people, they can ask you these questions... But if I just point-blank asked them, Do you support the LRT? Nine times out of ten it's going to be 'no' and I ask why? 'Well we don't need that train running down King Street'.
Okay, you know that is a billion dollars is going to be invested in the municipality that we lose if it doesn't go to LRT? That is the message and number two is: do you know that will create 2,500 jobs. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities hired a consultant in this area and I have a copy on my desk that shows, excluding construction, a billion dollars invested in infrastructure will create 2,500 jobs. Now the construction jobs are on top of that, which will be for four or five years.
But the big issue for me, for Ancaster... The people of Ancaster will probably rarely if ever ride the train, so there's nothing in it for my community as far as getting to work or getting around town. But it's the last 30 years we've seen that lower city appraised values go down as the downtown deteriorated and that's starting to shift. You know, whether it's Toronto people finding Hamilton, whether it's the GO train, or whether it's LRT.
And when I talked to the development community, all of that matters, but the most important is the LRT, because we've changed the zoning through that route now to allow in that particular downtown area up to 25 floors. And I use as an example the All Saints Church, we've got nothing in tax revenue out of that for the last number decades.
Even those derelict homes, some of them straight two floors, very minimal taxes, developers are running and buying these places up now because they'll be able to take them down, put up a 25 floor facility, which is the application for All Saints Church. Put commercial on the first two floors and residential above that, so do the arithmetic: take 25 floors times a yield of six condos per floor times five thousand dollars a year in taxes. That's all new tax.
And we saw it happen in the average tax increase citywide was 2.1 percent and that was well reported through to people like CHML and all other news media. The increase in Ward 1, 2 and 3, and particularly 1 where this is starting to occur, just through property acquisition values, was 4.5 percent. The increase in taxes in Ancaster is 1.5 percent.
So finally, after 30 years of it going into the suburbs, particularly into Ancaster, because people aspired to move to Ancaster, paid too much for the homes, assessed values went up radically, and our taxes went up accordingly. Where now, we're seeing it start to shift back to the lower city, and that'll just go on exponentially, as that whole route and downtown areas are redeveloped.
BK: All right, let me ask you something, though, because you presented this argument and I know you've been very active in the Ancaster community from day one talking to people about this, and explaining that situation to them, and you probably had more than one or two conversations in the airways... Why don't your council colleagues and understand that as well? Because when I talked to some of them they just don't seem to get it. They were either not getting it or they're ignoring it.
LF: You know I - and you know I can't get inside my colleague's head, same as they can't get inside mine. My sense though, I mean I just listened for the for the most part on Wednesday, listen to the delegations. I missed the first few because weeks ago I agreed to be a speaker at the Ancaster Senior Achievement Centre annual meeting. But my sense of hearing them talk is that they're focusing in on micro issues, when we should be dealing in this right now from a macro perspective. You know, jobs and dollars.
BK: Lloyd, you made it, you made a statement and it's right along the lines of what you just said, 'What is the problem?' and you and I have talked about this when it came to City Hall renovations, to do with a stadium issue. We can go back as far as the expressway that predates your time on this council but though that took years as well.
Why can't this council seem to get their head around big projects? They're fine at fixing cracks in sidewalks and putting stop signs in, a lot of them, but when it comes to dealing with some of this stuff here, their eyes just seem to glaze over.
LF: Yeah, because they start to get bogged down. In my view, and I don't mean to sound critical, but you get bogged down on the little issues. That's for later. We'll have hundreds of those, and we'll have to work our way through those also. But don't take your eye off the ball that this will reform our city.
It's a billion dollars being invested and 2,500 jobs. Focus on that right now, and let's deal with the micro issues, like where the buses are going to run, later, or you know where the stop should stop at, whether it's King and Bay or King and James. Deal with that stuff later. Don't let this billion dollars slip away from us and the jobs that will create. And it's about taking the city to the next step.
I mean the media constantly criticizes us for not looking past the election cycle. This will hurt most of us who support it in the next election cycle. Because still if you can't get the message out, and I haven't done a very good job because a lot of people still don't know. I'll talk to lawyers saying, 'Why are you building that stupid train down King Street?' and then explain it to them, they go 'oh, okay'. And so we haven't done a very good job.
And I think a lot of us are looking at what happened in Ottawa. Ottawa right about the same time, about a year before the next municipal election they made the decision to proceed with LRT and awarded a contract but the shovels weren't in the ground yet. Carbon copy here. Most of the people who ran against the incumbents ran on an anti-LRT platform, because it was their feeling, same thing that my colleagues are feeling, in their communities most people don't support it, because they simply don't understand it or they just don't like that change.
And most of them in Ottawa who supported it got thrown out, and anti-LRT candidates got elected. They immediately canceled the project, it cost them million dollars to get out of the contract. And now, they reversed it and they're building the LRT today. And so if you look back through history and look what happens other municipalities, you can see it happening. And so it's important to message out to the city.
I remember growing up, I was just a kid, but they're were building, through stages, the highway from Windsor to Montreal. I can remember my father saying, 'Why the heck are they building this controlled-access highway from Windsor to Montreal for? They'll never use it.' Well, look out 30, 40, 50 years and it's the engine that drives the province now.
You won't see benefits in this train for at least 10 years. And so what we got to do, is I think, is take one right now to make these tough calls, for our grandchildren. Because it won't benefit us during the next municipal election, and that is my read of it. My fear is that we're getting too bogged down on micro issues and the fear is the next election cycle, because if you saw the poll fifty-five percent were opposed to LRT. And that may continue and could cause receipts next October.
BK: Well again, like you know, there's so many analogies to draw here though Lloyd and I use the expressway, as well I know it's not a total apples to apples comparison, but the critics of the expressway for years and years always said we don't buy this stuff that there's going to be economic development and that's baloney that's never going to happen, nobody's even going to use the road.
We finally persevered and we were finally successful in getting that done. And it didn't happen that week but what did happen is exactly what you're saying is going on downtown right now in anticipation of that road a lot of land on Upper Stoney Creek was purchased and it sat idle for years until we finally built the road.
Now look at the development that's got up there. Look at the increased tax base. Look at the industrial parks that have been developed. It did work, but it took some people with some vision on City Council to say 'I know you don't agree with me but I have to look at the long-term here' and they were right and I think the people that are supporting this are right now too.
LF: And quite frankly we get information about this pushed out us constantly, so we're getting all the information. You can't, it's just physically impossible, to get all information out to the voters. And so they're going to be making their decision on what they feel at that particular time. Same thing we saw in England on the referendum.
And you know, I don't know how history will judge that whether it was the right thing to do, and it was very close also, but people making decisions based on the thoughts at that particular moment in time when they walked into the ballot box. And so sometimes we have to make tough decisions. I know I'll get criticized for this in a lot of areas, but in my heart of hearts, I think it's the right decision, and if it's not I'll find out next October.
BK: Two things about that, first of all, as a public official you're going to get crap no matter what decision you make. I mean some of the people are going to disagree, and it's the same thing with all your colleagues. You may as well do the right thing, because you're not going to escape that criticism.
Secondly, I got about a minute left here, let me ask you this because there's a strong rumor floating around here right now that there's some last minute back room conversations going on between Queen's Park and the city, at this stage. Would some last-minute modifications - and let's cut to the chase here and say extending it once again to Eastgate square - is that going to win some people over that weren't on side before?
LF: I don't know. Yeah, I know Terry's floating that, but you know, I don't know...
BK: Yeah, well Councillor Whitehead is also floating the idea that we're still going to get the billion dollars eventually anyway too, and I'm not buying that.
LF: Well, two words: prove it. It's as simple as that. You know, I saw Premier Wynne. I think she's frustrated over fiddling with this thing. She offered a billion dollars to this community. And by the way, there's only one riding in Hamilton that's Liberal, and so there's not a lot politically for her to gain.
BK: And in the upcoming provincial election, the NDP seats are probably going to remain NDP, the Conservative seat is going to remain Conservative, if Ted runs again, I'm sure he's probably going to get re-elected. So there's no upside. On the other hand if they'd redirect his money over to Toronto, where there's, what, sixty-four seats? There's a lot more political game for them to make there. I mean these guys have to open their eyes to the reality of what's going on here.
LF: Yes, that's the politics of it. And you got to see this. I mean, nobody was more surprised than I was when we got 100 percent, and quite frankly I think Fred did a heck of a job selling this thing at Queen's Park. I don't know how he did it. A big part of it was, look, we've been a depressed community for a long time, we need a break.
But we are the envy of the municipalities across the province that we got 100 percent funding. Quite frankly I think we'll be the laughingstock of the country if we send it back. And that'd be embarrassing.
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