Special Report: Light Rail

Letter: Once Again, Council Must Affirm Its Support for LRT

After Mayor Bratina's comments, Council needs to make it perfectly clear to the Province, Metrolinx and the people of Hamilton that Council's unanimous approval of the Rapid Ready report confirms Council's support for LRT.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 21, 2013

At this Wednesday's Council meeting, Councillor Brian McHattie will introduce a motion "to make it clear that our No. 1 priority is LRT on the B-Line."

The following is my letter to Council in support of that motion, which I hope will be included in the agenda for that meeting.

I urge everyone to send their own letters to Council. Please remember to copy City Clerks Rose Caterini and Mary Gallagher.

I would also appreciate it if you post your letter in the comments below as an inspiration to others.

Dear Council,

Due to the unfortunate string of comments that Mayor Bob Bratina has made recently regarding Council's position on Hamilton's LRT plan, the city finds itself once again engulfed in confusion and uncertainty. As a result, Council must once again clarify its support for the B-Line LRT to mitigate the damage.

Council needs to make it perfectly clear to the Province, Metrolinx and the people of Hamilton that Council's unanimous approval of the Rapid Ready report does, in fact, confirm Council's support for City's plan to implement the B-Line LRT with full provincial funding.

Before Council's unanimous February 26, 2013 vote to submit the Rapid Ready plan to the Province, Mayor Bratina insisted that he could not "champion" the plan because Council had not yet voted to submit it.

In a September 28, 2012 email, Bratina wrote, "Council can, if it wishes, pass a resolution calling for the Mayor to demand 100 percent capital funding, which I would present to Metrolinx and the Province." He said that without Council approval, he did not have a mandate to champion the plan.

The Council vote on February 26 conferred that mandate, and in a February 28, 2013 email, Mayor Bratina wrote, "Council has now provided direction with the expectation of 100 per cent of capital funding and that will be our position dealing with the government." Asked directly whether he will now champion LRT, Bratina responded, "Yes."

Unfortunately, that has not happened. Now the Mayor is suggesting that Council did not actually vote to confirm Hamilton's LRT plan after all.

In an email published on April 19, 2013 by The Hamiltonian, Bratina suggests that the vote was actually to increase bus service levels in preparation for possible future LRT. He wrote, "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."

This is unconscionable. The Rapid Ready report was clearly a vote to approve and submit Hamilton's LRT plan to the Province, as the Mayor himself understood before the vote, if not after.

But the harm does not stop there. Last Wednesday, the Mayor told the Hamilton Spectator that we would have to choose between LRT and extending all-day GO service to Stoney Creek. When the Province clarified that the city does not have to make such a choice, the Mayor denied having made the claim and accused the Hamilton Spectator of fabricating the story.

However, the Mayor has a history of claiming the city would have to choose between LRT and all-day GO service. He said this several times in 2011, and both the Province and Metrolinx have had to issue clarifications, confirming that both all-day GO and LRT "are viable and can co-exist. Hamilton's current rapid transit situation is not an 'either-or' scenario."

It gets worse. Last week, the Mayor told Steve Paikin on TVO's The Agenda and Bill Kelly on AM 900 CHML that he is not convinced about Hamilton's economic development argument for LRT and that he thinks the city should build a north-south line before the east-west line because "you can get anywhere in 20 minutes" in a car. When Paikin asked him why he is "not completely sold" on Hamilton's LRT case, he went on to talk yet again about extending all-day GO service to Stoney Creek.

This behaviour of questioning and undermining LRT while positing false alternatives between LRT and extended GO service has been ongoing for years. In 2011, the Mayor claimed the city was "not hearing any kind of clamour from the public" and "no solid interest" from developers, that LRT was "not a priority" and would only make sense "if somehow a million people move to Hamilton over the next five years". This is directly contradicted by the research, which indicates Hamilton stands to enjoy a large net benefit from LRT investment.

Metrolinx, the Province, and a McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL) study have all confirmed that a successful LRT implementation requires a political champion. The MITL study notes the importance of "strong political leadership" as "a critical element in the success of any rapid transit and [transit-oriented development] 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."

Similarly, Metrolinx Vice-President John Howe has told the City that we need to champion the project. In December 2011, Howe told the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce's transportation committee, "LRT will be very difficult if we don't have a strong partner alongside it."

If left unchallenged, the Mayor's steadfast refusal to champion the LRT plan may well doom it to failure.

We are not operating in a vacuum. At the same time our Mayor has refused to support Hamilton's LRT plan, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion has been busy promoting her city's Hurontario LRT plan, which is still in the planning stage. Contrast Mayor Bratina's commentary with this press release Mayor McCallion issued on November 30, 2012:

"Light Rail Transit continues to be a priority and we know it represents the future for our City. Light Rail Transit on Hurontario can be found in all aspects of our future planning. It will not be easy. Anything worth doing takes time, money and effort and we respect that and are thankful for the support we have received."

This is why Council needs to take the lead away from Mayor Bratina and take control of the message going to the Province: we are competing with other GTHA cities for transit funding and approval, and we will lose out if we continue to send mixed signals about the city's commitment to LRT.

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 rational (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 00:17:20

Mr. Bratina needs to be censured. Again.

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By PublicSpacePete (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 00:59:44 in reply to Comment 88078

I disagree as we are way beyond that. We need a subcommittee that does not include the Mayor as he can no longer be relied upon. We need a recall process for our mayors.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 06:22:56 in reply to Comment 88081

Yeah, Peggygate, the recent Wynne fabrication and now this. That's strike three in my eyes for our esteemed mayor.


Nevermind his political flip flopping and campaigning on issues the municipality has no control over. At least when Rob Ford makes an embarrassment out of himself, it's entertaining to watch. This kind of behaviour is exactly why so many in Hamilton find city politics in Hamilton to be inept and toxic.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-25 06:24:56

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:54:40 in reply to Comment 88081

We don't need a censure to fix things with LRT, but we do need one to discipline Bratina and his obstinant resistance to council's direction on LRT. Its about not letting him get away with doing a crappy job as mayor. The subcommittee is about LRT. The censure is all about the mayor.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 13:31:46

Man i need to know WHO will run for Mayor in the next election Bob is doing a alful job so far ,if he is not championning the LRT he is putting Hamilton ferther down , we need someone who whould chasmpion like a Marc Chamberlain

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 13:55:19

I'm afraid it's even gone beyond not being a good mayor, or not doing his job. He is actually undermining and obstructing council decisions!

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By theashleighp (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2013 at 14:08:44

This is what happens when people vote for a name that they recognize rather than someone who is actually qualified for the job. Eighteen months to go!

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2013 at 17:59:49

Sent today

Dear Mr Mayor, and City Council

My name is Gregory Galante. I live in Ward 3, am a lifelong Hamilton resident, homeowner and tax payer. We have been presented as a community an opportunity with the proposed LRT system to further cement, build upon and expand the recent renaissance we have all witnessed begin in our downtown and lower city. This has come after years of suburban Mississauga like sprawl and the increasingly expensive and inefficient infrastructure investments that go with that sprawl. Such trends of municipal planning are from a bygone era that each day become a smaller and smaller speck in the rear view mirror of hour city's history.

Hamilton has an opportunity to jump ahead of the times and embrace philosophies of densification, vertical growth (why are we afraid to build high rises in this city ?), walkable streets, slowing traffic and encouraging entrepreneurship, business growth and general livability across the breadth of the oldest part of our city. The benefits of this potential however will benefit everyone who calls Hamilton home no matter where they happen to live. This comes in the form of an increased tax base, both residential and commercial, as the influx of people both working and living in the core rises. LRT while no panacea is an intregral part of continuing to invest in and promote the rejuvenation of our city. To paraphrase Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut, "you can't be a suburb of nothing".

I would implore all of you to get off the fence if you are sitting on one and pursue the building of LRT in Hamilton.

Gregory Galante ggalante@talonridge.ca

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 18:26:34 in reply to Comment 88101

Well said Greg !!!!!!!!!!

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 14:00:56

I am deeply concerned over the mayor's obstruction of council and its unanimous approval of the Rapid Ready report.

As a citizen and taxpayer of Hamilton I am very disappointed in his conduct and thwarting of council and its decisions.

Can council do something to to ensure that our Rapid Ready report gets full, high profile support from some other council member(s)?

Furthermore, I believe the mayor's inexplicable conduct, once again, damages council's work. No mayor should do this to their city! I urge council to take action against the mayor's conduct yet again.

Ward 5 resident

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 18:23:10

Dear Council,

I moved to Hamilton in 2003 and at the time I only knew the Hamilton that many outside of this fine city perceive -- that Hamilton was mainly industrial. While the city certainly has a proud industrial history, a history for which it should take more pride, I have come to love the many other characteristics of this city. One of the best recent developments in Hamilton is the new vibrancy felt in the core. Despite the often intimidating and seemingly neglected spaces, people are making an effort to make the city core a family friendly environment and their home. I am one of those people.

At some point the city of Hamilton touted itself as striving to be the best place to raise a child. I ask council, with all due respect, by what measure? Safety? Health? Opportunity?

I have been closely following the discussion on LRT. Many people are focussing on the business case for the investment. I have no illusions that there will be a financial cost. I also believe there will be considerable return for that investment, but I also feel as though it is the seemingly sole focus of financial return that is derailing this initiative. A collective sum of initiatives could all be advanced by remembering the vision for the city, rather than a disjoint series of tax hikes. I find it disturbing that council would allow the decimation of our city's "future fund" for a single sports complex, a comples that was intended to support amateur sport, predicated upon a number of intangible benefits to "the city", while a real city building and potential rebranding opportunity cannot find similar focus or commitment from the mayor. The LRT offers a chance for this city to make real gains in making the city core inviting to all residents of Hamilton (and beyond), to spur both business and residential growth, and (to me) most importantly to make the core a place where families and their children can thrive with having a more active lifestyle, cleaner environment, and pride in the city's vision.

I ask council to send a clear, strong message that Hamilton actively supports LRT. I also urge council to appoint an official spokesperson to represent a clear and consistent message in Hamilton's interest in obtaining the LRT.


GrapeApe Ward 1 Resident

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