By Graham Crawford
Published July 26, 2011
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina made a second appearance in the same week for a full hour on the Bill Kelly Show on Friday, July 22 to talk about light rail transit (LRT).
I have to admit that transcribing for a third time in a week is a little much for this typist. But as someone suggested to me, I listen to the Bill Kelly Show so you don't have to.
I have to say that for a guy who earned his living for about 40 years talking, Bob doesn't exactly impress with his ability to develop a cogent argument. It's not as if he isn't used to public speaking. That was his job.
If you think I'm just being nasty, read on. And once you've done that, go back and compare this edition of Bob's meanderings with his meanderings on last Monday's Kelly Show. Oh, and then read Lloyd Ferguson's comments one more time. What kind of clarity rating would you give them respectively?
Bob's response to Bill's welcome.
It's a pleasure to have the possibility to get the facts straight.
Kelly: You must be getting tired of talking about this.
Bratina: I am.
Bob on comments made by MPP Ted McMeekin about LRT and GO.
Well, the current wrinkle belongs to Ted McMeekin unfortunately, and I don't know why he felt the need to address Mayor and Council about something we all know: that we'll have to make a case to Metrolinx. Yeah, we know that. There's nothing to this story.
This started with the so-called business leaders meeting with the Spectator's Editorial Board and they drew out their laundry list of complaints and nobody's championing LRT.
The LRT process is going on exactly as it was meant to. And even the recent furor about shutting down the LRT group is completely misunderstood because what the City Manager said was to stop all non-essential work. In other words, do the job that was mandated by Council, Council direction 2008, or it's a long time ago, 2008.
Bob on what staff are trying to do at the moment.
What Chris Murray wants to do is to get this back in the hands of Council as soon as possible so we can make the next decision, which is how much more funding just for the study, there's so much more on the study to do, and so we need to have a full understanding of where, Council does.
So Chris's direction is to do the work that was assigned but don't do anything else because I guess other work was being done that didn't, non-essential is the key word, OK.
So, and Jill Stephen who is the engineer in charge of the LRT project actually told us this morning that she initiated this directive back in May where they're reviewing the work and making sure we're right on track because Metrolinx doesn't want to hear about a case what would happen if you didn't build it or all kinds of other extraneous matters.
So, Council will get a report on the work that has been done so far and be asked the question where do you want to go from here?
Bob on Metrolinx funding for LRT.
And so Metrolinx, some people think that Metrolinx is sitting there with $800 million dollars saying, "Come on Hamilton, let us know." And that's not how it works. What Metrolinx wants to know is there a plan that will make it worthwhile for the Province to invest significant dollars in the plan,
So, show us, Hamilton. Show us what the potential ridership is. Show us what the potential development is, the revenues that would come to the City and the Province.
We don't know, for instance, if all of the revenues of the B-Line which are now shared to make all of the other lesser used HSR routes possible. Whether all that money would have to be retained within the LRT envelope to pay for it.
Bob on Lloyd Ferguson's comments on Bill Kelly on Tuesday, July 19.
Then, how do we pay for all the other stuff? So there are so many questions. Council needs to be apprised of it and I'm sorry to say, we heard from Councillor Ferguson on your show that there's something about autocratic behaviour.
Council, politicians have no business sticking their nose in once we've given the direction to staff and say, Here's the thing we want you to do. You come back and bring us the report. You can't step in and say, "Oh no, you shouldn't move one guy over here or there." You can't interfere politically... You can't demand that it happen publicly.
I mean you can go sneak around and pound on somebody's door, OK I didn't know about that.
Bob on where the idea about LRT is running off the rails is coming from.
From the Spectator Editorial Board and whoever's driving it. I think the 2014 election campaign is underway with hopefully a comeback because it seems that there's an alignment of old allies, and that's fine. But, give the public a break. You're wasting the public's time, emotion and energy. The LRT file is fine.
Bob on LRT as a priority.
You know, when my son was five years old, guess what our priority was? To have him graduate from university. But, he wasn't going in to university when he was six years old, he was going in when he 18 years old. So it's a priority, but what do I do when, and it's the same with this.
Our LRT, in fact Mr. McMeekin sort of suggested that while the monies, we all know we're going to get the GO money. So Dwight Duncan has a great big envelope with $100 million dollars on his desk, "Oh yea, let's send that.."
That's not how it works. They want to hear from us on where are you with your GO preparations, is there a potential for development. Let us know. So, that's the important file. It's not that it's so high priority that we're just blowing everything out, but its time is now.
Bob on why we're not asking for the money from Metrolinx at this time.
Well the Downtown BIA under Gerry Murphy who's a great guy, and I love him, and I've ridden in his truck in the Santa Claus Parade, he sent us a letter on behalf of his organization saying we should be pushing for LRT funding. Well, you're not gonna push the Province. You're gonna convince the Province with a business case that it's a worthwhile investment.
It's not we all wear T-shirts and walk around Queen's Park and say we want our LRT money. We need to show the Province that it's a worthwhile investment because that money is coming out of everybody's pocket.
And so, if they're going to announce in the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail and everywhere else that Hamilton's getting $800 million dollars, a good question will be, "For what?" And we need to know the answer to that question and we don't have it yet.
Council is going to deal with that question ourselves. We'll get a state of the project report, probably in September, and we'll be asked, "Where do we go from here?" And Jill Stephen is already working out the coordinates of what needs to be done, timelines, and so on.
And there's no ask for any money that's going to take place this year or next year. Maybe late next year. I wouldn't be able to say that, but in terms of the overall project and getting on board, there's so much work that needs to be done, but it's embarrassing that this file has been so misunderstood because of inaccurate or biased reporting.
It's a simple matter. We have to do our work. We have to make a case. When we make the case, Metrolinx will decide whether it's worth investing or not.
Bob on Mark Chamberlain's op-ed piece in Saturday's Spectator.
I would say to Mark Chamberlain, if you're an advocate, an anti-poverty advocate, wouldn't you want to know what the tax impact is on every resident including those marginal people who are trying to hang on to a small cottage in the North End or the East End and a $200 dollar increase in their taxes might put them out of their home? You have to factor that in. We can't just say, "Oh, I love those cute little trains, let's get em." It's a very complicated process.
Bob on the role of developers in helping to garner Metrolinx funding.
We're not going to get the money unless we back it up. Metrolinx is not gonna take it on faith. "I'm SURE the building will come." We have to show data, numbers. I mean the BIAs and the house builders and everybody, line up your developers and get them on board and show, you know, what is possible on what parcels of land because that's the missing piece.
Bob on feeling he was misquoted by the Spectator.
Another thing is the B-Line itself which goes from Eastgate to McMaster, and I was misquoted in the Spectator in the article because it said that I suggested that you could build a line from McMaster to Mohawk Road, what I meant was and I think I said it because there were people sitting there listening to me say it, just to be clear you could make a hybrid of the A-Line and the B-Line.
You could maybe take the Mac to downtown piece and then you could do the downtown or the Bayfront to say Mohawk Road, I'm not sure that the airport, it may be a little far away right now and you can always extend the line, but Hamilton's chief transit or people moving problem is up the mountain to down the mountain.
Of course, that we have a large student population and if McMaster continues on the path which they've started now which is great interest in downtown, then you have a similar situation which you have in Waterloo, all those universities, you know, 60,000 students moving around. Their advantage is that RIM and the universities have developable space around them.
So, my comment McMaster to Mohawk was meant to be a hybrid, part of the A-Line and part of the B-Line, because the work plan that Jill Stephen has to provide, and the business case that they have to provide, includes alternatives. They have to say, "This is our B-Line case da-da-da-da, and this is the alternative to that."
And so it has to beat the alternative on a fair fight in terms of development and so on. That's all of the work, that's why we're two and three years away from being able to present to Metrolinx saying here's what we want.
Bob on next steps related to LRT.
Now the City Manager wants to come back to Council and say, "OK, here's where we are. Now how much do we need to invest, should we invest to flesh the whole thing out to get to the point where we go to Metrolinx and say here's our case?" And Council is going to have a tough decision to make. But it's completely appropriate that the work be evaluated to this point, brought forward to Council and then our next steps.
But believe me, folks, anybody who thinks that I just have to phone up the Premier and ask for our $800 million because we all want LRT is, is sad that that's being projected that way. It's completely ridiculous. That's not the mandate. It's not how we're going forward.
And if peoples' feelings are hurt because we have to go through the process, well that's too bad because that's what we have to do. We're not gonna get a nickel based on what we have right now. But we got a whole bunch of bloggers that want LRT. Who's that gonna convince?
Bob on GO versus/and LRT.
Metrolinx is knitting together GO systems, LRTs and all of that, and I'm confident that the sooner we get LR- ah, GO, all-day GO service up and running, the stronger the LRT case will be... Metrolinx is about that fabric of transit opportunities, and so why would get into these silly arguments about what is your priority, something that is going to happen in two months or something that is going to happen in tive years?
Yeah, they're priorities but we have to work through them chronologically and we haven't given up on LRT by any means and I, actually Bill, I'm just tired of it. There was no, Ted McMeekin's comments started all, ball rolling again.
Then they put a thing in about comparing GO with LRT and it says GO $100 million and LRT $800 million, those numbers are useless to compare because for instance the $100 million for the GO all-day service is a Provincial contribution in total. The $800 million, we have no idea what the local tax implications are. It could be $200, 300, 400 million, so to put those two numbers up and say, "What do you think, this against this?" It's meaningless, but it sells newspapers.
And that's what they're here to do, to sell newspapers. And I don't begrudge them that, but please don't misinform the public or create emotions. We've heard so many, "I'm a senior and I'll be happy to pay $125 dollar increase in my taxes."
Well, thanks a lot. So I'm gonna go down to somebody in the Beasley neighbourhood who's just getting by, just barely able to pay their little home with their kids and place and I'm gonna raise your taxes because somebody else is fine with that. No, we're gonna weigh the whole thing and see what the best outcome for the City is.
Bob on what the City of Hamilton needs to do to determine funding levels.
Well, the argument would be that we can show that there will be $200 dollars worth or more of development along the B-Line between Wentworth Street and Eastgate Square. And that will generate $x over forty years, so much tax money that it will be a revenue, really it'll be a wash after 20 years or whatever it is.
We have no idea, we don't have any of that information. We can't even take a wild guess as to what possible revenues, and even the Province would say that to because they will get Provincial revenues. They don't throw money around, there's got to be something coming back, and so those are the steps we have to go through and present to the public, to Ted McMeekin's people, to Judi Partridge's people in Waterdown, to Lloyd Ferguson's people. What's in it for me. That's a fair question.
Bob on the 100% of capital costs phrase.
The phrase that's been going around, and I've been caught up in it too because it becomes part of the vocabulary, a hundred percent of capital costs. So, we've started to dig into that and we find that the closest we can come to 100% of capital costs is "a lion's share". The people who are working on our file say they don't know of any statement by the government that a hundred percent of anything will be paid.
Bob on VIA and GO service to the North End.
In 2004, Paul Shaker and I worked on the return of VIA Rail passenger service to James Street North. And our discussion was whether we should encompass the GO with the VIA because it's obvious that both would use the same service. So, we limited it to keep the messaging simple, but our intent was exactly what's coming about, that passenger service, GO and VIA, and VIA is on it, be returned to James Street North. So it's even better now because the Province has fleshed that out in their work to a station on the east end of the City, Centennial Parkway somewhere there.
So, we will now get two stations and I'm not looking for a glorious Union Station next to LIUNA. A platform and a waiting area is fine, just as long as the train stops there. They've already got the whole thing designed and there's parking in place for about 250 cars.
And you know Mayor, or rather MPP, Minister Bradley is very keen on it for St. Catherines and that's the track that goes past LIUNA, that goes past Centennial, the little stop in Grimsby, you can actually get a VIA train in Grimsby you can't in Hamilton, and then on down the line to St. Catherines and possibly Niagara.
The other thing that's very big in terms of the investment, because it's $100 million dollars is a marshaling area at the east end of Hamilton, so the GO trains wouldn't start in Aldershot they would go all the way back to somewhere east of Centennial and wait there overnight and then begin their trips to Toronto through James Street North, Aldershot, so on from that point.
Bob on what the Province wants Hamilton to do about promoting all-day GO service.
It's a marvelous project and the government really I think were asking us to give them more support, that we're making this commitment and talk about it Hamilton because, tell us what it means to you.
So what we've been doing is we've been going out to developers, and 50 Murray Street is an example, old school now condos, other people coming to the City asking a simple question, when are you starting GO because we would like to exploit these especially brownfields in and around James Street North and the north part of the City.
You had the Chateau Royale, which had a rocky start because the guy was going to build two towers, remember the Alexander Square had two towers and he was going to make two condos and halfway through the project he decided to knit the two together and make the big one. He said people were telling me we were crazy in Hamilton. Well they're all full. There's 200 units. Why? The GO train was right there.
Bob on whether all-day GO service is a done deal.
I never said it (GO) was a done deal. I said we had to convince the government, who I think are well down that road, that they were getting mixed messages because people were phoning from City Hall on the LRT file and they were probably wondering, "Why aren't we getting more calls on the GO file?"