Special Report: Light Rail

It May Be Time For Another Censure

Once again, the mayor is refusing to follow Council's unanimous direction and bringing embarrassment to the city through his antics. Maybe it's time for Council to set the record straight with another censure.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 19, 2013

An article in today's Spectator gets us up to speed on Mayor Bob Bratina's latest LRT tomfoolery.

In short, Bratina says the Spectator made up the story, filed on Wednesday by reporter Meredith MacLeod, about him saying Premier Wynne told him Hamilton would have to choose between LRT and all-day GO extended to Stoney Creek.

During an appearance on the Bill Kelly Radio show Thursday, Bratina categorically denied speaking to Wynne about LRT and accused The Spectator of fabricating the story.

I'm extremely skeptical of the claim that this is the story of a slanderous daily rag striking the flint and fanning the flames. In my personal experience, I've been interviewed by reporters from various news media on several occasions. Sometimes what I say gets abbreviated, truncated or otherwise mangled in the story that follows; but in my experience, MacLeod has always quoted and represented my comments accurately, fairly and in proper context.

I have learned to trust her commitment to accuracy, and I would be extraordinarily surprised to discover that she fabricated a quote just to create a story.

Pattern of Behaviour

On the other hand, Bratina has a pattern of spouting bizarre and unjustifiable claims, sticking his foot in his mouth, doubling down when he gets criticized, reluctantly backtracking after sustained outcry, and then incomprehensibly jamming his foot right back in a couple of months later.

Bratina has previously claimed on numerous occasions that the City would have to choose between LRT and all-day GO service. It's been one of his favourite go-to talking points against the city's LRT plan. The Province and Metrolinx have had to set the record straight more than once, just as they had to do again this week.

Should we be surprised, then, that when Bratina went on The Agenda with Steve Paikin and the Bill Kelly Show this week, he continued to polish his other well-worn chestnuts as well? Echoing his own past claims, he said that we should be building a north-south LRT line before an east-west one and that we don't need an east-west LRT because you can drive across the city in 20 minutes.

This is in direct contradiction to Council's repeated unanimous votes in support of the east-west B-Line, not to mention the multiple feasibility, planning and design studies that the City and Province have completed since 2007 that demonstrate the B-Line is rightly the city's first priority.

Some Champion

It's also in direct contradiction to Bratina's own promise, made right after Council unanimously approved the City's Rapid Ready transit plan, that he would now become a champion for the city's LRT plan.

Bratina knows the plan needs a political champion. He often quotes approvingly from the 2012 McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL) study on LRT in Hamilton. The study notes the importance of "strong political leadership" as "a critical element in the success of any rapid transit and TOD project.

A political champion can help to realize success by marshaling resources, building coalitions, and resolving disputes. Coordinating institutions, streamlining processes, and minimizing red tape are seen as crucial in implementing TOD projects and are dependent on strong political leadership.

Bratina refused to champion LRT prior to Council's unanimous vote for the city's LRT plan because, as he argued, Council had not yet approved the final plan - despite voting unanimously in repeated motions over several years to continue advancing the city's LRT plan, and despite the clear message from Metrolinx and the Province that a successful transit project needs the full support of local leaders.

He ongoing refusal to take this role seriously even after the final Council vote he had previously said he was waiting for tells us plenty about his real intentions.

Deja Vu All Over Again

As Andrew Dreschel reminds us in today's column, this episode is already playing out in a manner eerily similar to the pay fiasco over his chief of staff, Peggy Chapman. In that story, Bratina said that the City's Human Resources department had determined Chapman was being paid less than her position warranted and initiated a pay increase.

Human Resources director Helen Hale Tomasik clarified that it had been the Mayor's office that had initiated the request for "data on salary ranges paid to prior chiefs of staff" and the Mayor who had made the decision to give Chapman a $30,000 raise.

Bratina backtracked over the next few days until finally admitting that he had, in fact, been the one to initiate the request. He issued a quasi-apology in which he claimed his comments were "not well-worded" and that the mistake was made "unintentionally".

Sure enough, just a few months later Bratina reverted to form, insisting once again in an email rant to Spectator editor-in-chief Paul Berton that the pay increase had come from the HR office and not from his initiative.

Council took the unprecedented step of censuring the Mayor over that debacle because, as the Censure motion stated, "this Council believes these actions fall below the standards of conduct which are expected of a Member of Council."

Once again, the mayor is refusing to follow Council's unanimous direction and bringing embarrassment to the city through his antics. Maybe it's time for Council to set the record straight with another censure.

See also:

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Today (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 13:19:23

I suppose the key is will LRT spark new investment in Hamilton, new housing developments and motivate more people to move from Toronto to Hamilton that work in the Toronto area. All day GO service probably addresses that more distinctly.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:27:42 in reply to Comment 87980

LRT offers a city-long swath of land that has prime, dedicated transit access - much more physical space and proximity to other parts of the city than a single GO transit node. Anyways, I don't think it is important to ask which one will generate more development because we don't have to chose between them - we can have them both. With an A- and B- line LRT, people living anywhere near those corridors could potentially commute to downtown Toronto, so if we are trying to decide which project is better for development, my answer is both.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2013-04-19 19:28:00

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By TnT (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 16:26:50

Censor. Is that the only avenue council has to rebuke the Mayor? It seems it had zero effect last time and he obviously thumbs his nose at it. Council needs a little more teeth to be able to impeach the mayor.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 20:52:46 in reply to Comment 87990

I don't know if impeachment is where I would go at this point, I mean by elections are pricey. I think this is strike two, and a suspension of some kind would be appropriate, if it is at all possible.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 20:53:19

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 06:20:28 in reply to Comment 88022

and with that...Bratina makes strike three. I'm not a fan of the city staff or bureaucracy, but putting Murray on the hot seat like that is about as unprofessional as it gets.


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By Hipgnosis (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 18:05:04

Is there any chance that our esteemed Mayor just has his nose out of joint because LRT has taken up so much of the discussion and all day GO service, which I think he will try and take full credit for, has been put on the back burner so to speak since the ball is already rolling?

Whatever it is his agenda certainly doesn't seem to include championing LRT in Hamilton which is incredibly disappointing.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:30:45 in reply to Comment 88001

Its also a bad call on his part from a reputation point of view - all day GO service in Hamilton is basically a no-brainer, whereas championing LRT in Hamilton is something worth bragging about.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 18:52:31

I'd say no. All day GO is a done deal. Time to move on to other important issues, like championing LRT.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:11:53 in reply to Comment 88003

All day GO is a done deal when the platforms are built and the trains start loading and offloading users.

That hasn't happened yet, and in truth the platform hasn't even begun construction.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:30:26 in reply to Comment 88008

Agreed, but what I meant was is that as far as the Mayor of Hamilton is concerend,It's a done deal. It's green lit and there's nothing more in regards to all day GO at James North that should concern the mayor at this point.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 20:29:16 in reply to Comment 88011

I get what you are trying to say here Kirk. The Mayor has (apparently) secured it, GO has said they are going to build there, it's up to the bureaucracy now.

That being said, if it gets somehow dropped, or delayed and shows next to no progress, it's still a high priority development and you can bet that it is something the mayor should be concerned gets done promptly and smoothly.

However, I'll fully admit, I'm speaking somewhat out of frustration that we've heard no new on this front, seen no construction where it's planned for, and have heard more news about it being expanded for Aldershot then news on Hamilton's future development.


This is a station that should have been errected 5 years ago IMO.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 20:35:14

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:02:18

I will say this, I do personally feel that GO expansion/all day service should be a higher priority then LRT. I wouldn't say reject LRT entirely, but getting the rail to Liuna is something I want to see.

That being said, Bratina's two-faced rejection of LRT amongst his other frequent flip-flopping, backpedealing and unprofessional behaviour is deserving of more then censure.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 19:04:41

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2013 at 00:53:46 in reply to Comment 88006

I will say that all day GO should be lower priority than LRT. We already have all day GO bus service from a station closer to downtown, that is far better integrated with the HSR (especially the Mountain routes). The all day GO trains from LIUNA will be significantly slower than the direct to UNION buses during the day. Given the choice, people will still prefer to take the bus from Hunter.

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By Cardinal (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:08:47 in reply to Comment 88006

They're both important priorities, but one of them is already a done deal (been a done deal since Mayor Fred days infact) and the other one needs leadership. What the aren't is in competition.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:12:27 in reply to Comment 88007

I'll agree with that, they aren't in competiton, but I'll direct you to my reply to CaptKirk

All day GO is a done deal when the platforms are built and the trains start loading and offloading users.

That hasn't happened yet, and in truth the platform hasn't even begun construction. This should occur sooner rather then later.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 19:12:58

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 20:50:06

The core of Ryan's article is the conduct of the mayor, not the details of LRT & GO. This mayor could not direct traffic, let alone provide leadership, innovative thinking, and bring high-level integrity to the job.

This mayor must be dumped in the next election. A couple of months ago I posted here, asking you #HamOnt veterans to name anyone who could emerge as a mayoralty candidate, who can lead a modern city. Is there someone with leadership skills who we can support? There are so many channels available to get the voters engaged and get us all to the polls in 2014. There's no time to waste. Let's look forward, starting now, while keeping a watchful eye on our current Dear Leader.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 20:58:32 in reply to Comment 88020

If there was one councillor I'd had to pick, it would be Jason Farr. He's been tireless in supporting his ward, working on intitives that benefit the entire city, and compromising when it's called for and has been a breath of fresh air on council, but I fear he's too new to the job and ward 2 would lose an excellent voice as a result and I have no idea if he'd even consider it, or if he could garner enough suburban vote. Although, it would leave Matt Jelly as the likely heir apparent for the ward, or Martinus Gelenynse who impressed me during the last debates, but I don't think he'd have the reputation to be a mayor. I'd also happily vote for Fred again.

I'll say this, if Terry Whitehead or Larry Dianni runs and gets in, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 21:04:42

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 21:15:05

In the end, what good is censure? Bob has learned nothing from it. I honestly can't tell if he's "willfully stupid" or losing grip. I can't believe (anymore) that he's consciously lying.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 03:32:57

In the next election we need somebody young'ish and relatively new to the Hamilton political scene. The rumour of Ted McMeekin running just doesn't do it for me. A Glen Murray type is what Hamilton needs right now.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 03:44:00 in reply to Comment 88040

Provincial cash to add GO train stop at LIUNA Station
BY JOHN BURMAN Wed Mar 26 2008 20:32:38

One line in the Ontario budget should put GO and VIA Rail passenger trains back on the tracks at Hamilton’s LIUNA Station.

The province is putting up $3 million to put in a platform, ticket kiosk and lighting for a GO Train stop just east of the old CN station on James Street North, now a highly successful banquet centre owned by the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

The move clears the way for Hamilton to have extra GO Train service without track and tunnel bottlenecks that limit the number of trains that can use the Hunter Street terminal.

VIA Rail, which pulled out of the James Street station in 1992, shifting passengers to the Aldershot GO station, has indicated it is interested in using the new platform, returning VIA service to the city, if the GO Transit Authority is on board.

Downtown Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina, a member of GO’s board of directors, says the authority — which shifted Hamilton stops from James Street to Hunter Street in 1993 — approves the idea. “They’re onside with this.”

Bratina and Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who pitched the new platform plan to Metrolinx, formerly the Greater Toronto Transit Authority, some time ago, say the new platform could mean more GO trains coming to Hamilton.

MacIsaac said last night that GO trains using the LIUNA stop will supplement, not replace, existing service at the renovated TH&B Hunter Street GO station and bus terminal.
MacIsaac said the provincial government is focused on transit and putting money into it because “we just don’t have enough roads to handle all the people that are coming here. Public transit is going to be the only viable solution for mobility.”

Eisenberger said yesterday the additional service at James Street “won’t be a full blown station, but it’s a beginning to all day service and allows more things to happen.”

“VIA has indicated that if GO will consider it, they will consider putting it on as a stop (for Toronto to Niagara trains).”

“It is a major trigger for having folks consider living in Hamilton or investing here,” he said. “I think it was the smallest line in the budget for things concerning Hamilton but it will have the most impact in the long run,” Eisenberger said, adding he thinks it could be a year or more before any GO trains roll into the station.

Perhaps, the mayor said, this could also open the door to expanded GO Train service into Niagara region.

GO Transit CEO Gary McNeil, who was not available for comment, has said in the past service is expanded to meet passenger demand, not on speculation.


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 03:45:48

The Hamiltonian asked Mayor Bratina for a statement on the issue of LRT, all Day Go and what may or may not have been said between Premier Wynne and the Mayor. The following is the mayor's response, verbatim:

The Government has not received any messaging on Hamilton's LRT beyond what is contained in the Rapid Ready plan. My direct contact with Premier Wynne this past weekend was brief, friendly and appreciative of her understanding and support for our City. To repeat, no conversation took place between myself and the Premier about LRT and GO planning for Hamilton.

With regard to the implementation of the B-Line LRT, the approved Rapid Ready document contains the following direction on page 30 of the report under "Core Actions".

"Light rail transit and bus rapid transit are ultimate goals and their implementation will require regular bus service restructuring. In preparation, the objective will be to increase bus service levels in the A-line and B-line corridors to emulate rapid transit."

If Council wishes to put forward a motion stating that "the City of Hamilton requires that upon approval of the Metrolinx funding plan work begin immediately on the B-line LRT project" I will of course make Council's decision known to the Provincial Government.

Bob Bratina, Mayor


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By Likeitornot (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 15:45:47

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 21, 2013 at 00:48:57 in reply to Comment 88053

Sorry, but being elected Mayor does not provide license to do whatever you want.

The mayor is not a puppet, but is the leader of council. He or she represents the opinions of council (of which he/she is a part, helping to form those opinions) as well as the opinions of the constituents (whose opinions are also supposed to be represented by their elected ward councillors).

If the mayor has every right to advocate for/against any position he wants, there is no purpose for council. This is clearly not the way the system is meant to operate.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 20:53:13 in reply to Comment 88053

Similarly, the whole city is represented by the councilors that make up city council. It is their constituents which drive what they decide, and ultimately what the mayor should be championing. He does not have the right to go around saying whatever he feels like, especially in regards to senior government members.

So actually yes, he is under an obligation to be a spokesman for city council's positions and decisions. Especially when those positions and decisions are backed by years of studies, reports and public consultation.

Comment edited by MattM on 2013-04-20 20:53:30

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By Likeitornot (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2013 at 01:07:18 in reply to Comment 88058

Are you really that naive, council hasn't made a final decision on anything yet, they are just kicking the tires right now.

Once all of the costs and implications of this proposal are front and center do you really think that there is going to be unanimous agreement on council for pushing ahead with this.

Do you really think that those on council for or against will suddenly be silenced because council has come to a decision. If you do you are not very politically aware.

Just remember, they made a decision on the West harbour for the stadium and where is that going now. Politicians always reserve their right to change their minds and do so often.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 23:50:27 in reply to Comment 88058

Not to mention the fact that he was supportive of LRT during the election campaign and only flip-flopped after. Like it or not, the citizens of Hamilton elected a pro-LRT mayor, and a pro-LRT council. He's free to voice his opinion, but he is NOT free to misrepresent his opinion as council's position.

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By Likeitornot (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2013 at 00:46:29 in reply to Comment 88060

I was just pointing out the reality of the situation. Council has absolutely no control over what he says or does. They can censure all they want, but it means very little. He will continue to state his opinion as long as he is Mayor.

As for electing a pro LRT Mayor, that was just one of the many things he represented himself as. Most in this city do not see LRT as such a pressing issue that would cause them to vote for a candidate just because of it.

I am not defending his actions, I think he's an idiot, but he was democratically elected and is entitled to advocate for whatever he chooses. If the electorate doesn't like his actions they will unelect him next election.

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