Special Report: Light Rail

Mississauga Mayor Decries Hamilton's Inclusion in The Big Move

McCallion's frustration is understandable, given Hamilton's lack of commitment to the Regional Transportation Plan. Competition and contempt are not how Metrolinx started out.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 24, 2013

The Spectator reports that Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion doesn't think Hamilton should be considered part of the GTHA for the purposes of The Big Move, the province's regional transit plan.

"I don't know how Hamilton ever got into the GTA, and I think we should chuck them out," she said.

McCallion's comment is unfortunate. The GTHA is a physically and economically contiguous region, and the purpose of improving regional transportation via The Big Move is to enable it to function more effectively. For some parts of the region, that means mitigating traffic congestion. For others, it means increasing investment and economic activity via anchors of strategic public infrastructure.

The municipalities that make up the Metrolinx area need to work together to achieve the shared goal of a more functional, more successful regional economy, not take potshots at each other.

At the same time, McCallion's frustration is understandable, given Hamilton's lack of commitment to The Big Move. Just recently, Hamilton City Council voted to reject every proposed revenue tool on the Metrolinx short list and Mayor Bob Bratina, who regularly disparages the city's LRT plan, recused himself from voting on the Metrolinx investment strategy at the Large Urban Mayors' Caucus of Ontario.

McCallion, who has been advocating forcefully for her city's LRT plan under The Big Move both in public and in direct dealings with the Province, can perhaps be forgiven for holding Hamilton in some contempt.

Read what she said to CHCN News: "The position of the mayor of Hamilton is that he couldn't support our position at the large urban mayors conference, because his council hadn't dealt with it yet, and he didn't know whether the Metrolinx plan was a good one or not." Ouch.

(McCallion has also recently blasted Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell for her last-minute suggestion to replace Mississauga's Hurontario LRT with a rapid bus.)

Early Regional Solidarity

As it happens, Hamilton could have missed out on being included in the GTHA. It was largely through the advocacy of Rob MacIsaac, former mayor of Burlington and the inaugural chair of the Metrolinx board, that Hamilton was brought into the Metrolinx mandate.

This meant Hamilton would have an opportunity to be part of the Regional Transportation Plan and have several projects - all-day GO train service and two planned LRT lines, as well as several "quick win" initiatives like new buses, a planned bike share and the just-approved dedicated bus lane on King - coordinated and funded through the Metrolinx process.

Former Mayor Fred Eisenberger, also formerly a member of the Metrolinx Board and a strong advocate for LRT in Hamilton, is frustrated by Hamilton's lack of commitment to The Big Move. In an email response to RTH, Eisenberger wrote:

I am not surprised that Hazel has dismissed Hamilton as a credible part of Metrolinx. Hamilton or this Mayor has shown little interest in the overall congestion issue, has indicated no openess to funding mechanisms as other communities have, and is now considered irrelevant by other community leaders on this issue. Small wonder that Hazel now says play or get out of the way, as only she can or will.

Eisenberger writes of a sense of solidarity that formerly existed among the Mayors whose municipalities were part of Metrolinx.

I was an active particpant in the Metrolinx board and positioned Hamilton to be close to the front of the line for Metrolinx funding, with the understanding that the more pressing congestion problems in the short term were in the GTA. [Toronto] Mayor [David] Miller at the time, as well as the other Mayors, all spoke very favourably of Hamilton's role and the need to provide transit projects there, as well as in the other areas in the GTHA in the near term.

The Metrolinx board originally comprised the mayors of the municipalities within the region. However, the Province decided in 2009 to merge Metrolinx with GO Transit and replace the mayors with an appointed board. Richard Koroscil, then the President and CEO of John C Munro Hamilton International Airport, was appointed Hamilton's representative and remains in that role today.

Koroscil remains supportive of both Hamilton's LRT plans and the benefits of regional planning. In an April 2013 Spectator article, Koroscil is quoted saying, "Businesses and the public don't care about boundaries. We cross them every day. This is a regional plan."

Metrolinx has already funded $15 billion in transit projects, including $10 billion in new LRT lines in Toronto. On June 1, Metrolinx will publish an Investment Strategy that will formally recommend several revenue tools to pay for $35 billion in major transit projects, of which Hamilton's east-west B-Line LRT is one of the top priorities.

It is not yet clear what the revenue tools will be, whether they will be administered by the Province or individual municipalities, or whether municipalities will be allowed to opt out of the investment strategy.

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 Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:26:43

The Big Shove?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:30:23

Who knows what is going to happend if Hamilton do not accept it are we still going to pay taxs for the GTA anyway after june 1st

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:30:50

comment from banned user deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-05-24 13:37:09

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By trough (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 13:34:13

The livestock are starting to shoulder competitors out of the way to feed at the provincial trough.

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By Hmm...ilton (registered) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 14:33:51

What bother's me most about this is that she's not calling for the city to step up she's calling for exclusion. She not saying "play or get out of the way" she's saying "You're not one of us, you never were. Now go away." That's not a criticism of our city hall, that's a jab at the people of Hamilton.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 15:09:59

If Bratina insists on slowing things down, it's no wonder she wants to jettison him overboard.

It's the price we pay for electing a mayor with his own agenda.

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By Jackson Square One (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 15:26:50

Even with its considerable strategic advantages (eg. proximity to GTA, richness of existing infrastructure, dominance of provincial Liberal ridings) Mississauga is refusing to take anything as a given. There's a lesson there.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 24, 2013 at 17:49:28 in reply to Comment 88966

And even with no 'real' city there, they are pushing hard for LRT, not BRT. They know what we know - LRT is a massive EcDev driver. If Hamilton botches this up, once again we lag behind with a crumbling urban core, while cities and suburbs around us reap the benefits of massive private investment along their LRT corridors. TO is getting several LRT lines, Miss wants one, K-W is getting one. Hamilton can either remain a major player in the Southern Ontario economy in the next 30 years, or be relegated to the 2nd or 3rd tier city category with Brantford, Sarnia, St Catharines etc..... Based on our city council, I think we all know where we're headed....

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 24, 2013 at 18:01:03

This is Hazel being Hazel. Loud, promoting Mississauga, trying to carve out a bigger piece of the pie for her community. She has to. The "Revenue Tools" that will come on stream to pay for LRT in Hazel's "Land of the Car" will go a long way towards camoflaging the massive property tax hikes that will be coming down the pipe in Mississauga in the not too distant future. Mayor McCallion will not long be in the ground before people start to realize she hasn't done such a great job after all. Sure she held the line on taxes but she largely did it by spending development fees almost as fast as they were coming in. Now the poster child for suburban sprawl is landlocked on its municipal borders and the old infrastructure boogeyman is on his way. Along comes Metrolinx and its "revenue tools" as the perfect patsy for Hazel to pass off as the reason for having to raise property taxes. Perfect timing.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2013 at 06:38:48

Hazel McCallion’s legacy hangs in the balance.

If she is removed from office in the coming weeks, the 92-year-old could be forever associated with the worst elements of backroom municipal politics.
If not, she’s likely to be remembered as one of the greatest mayors in Canada’s history.

With less than two years left in what she has called her final term, and with the decision in her conflict of interest case expected within two weeks, McCallion has recently approached city business with an air of urgency.

Last week she endorsed a $10 million funding request from the University of Toronto toward a new $70 million to $100 million innovation complex in Mississauga — almost before the pitch had been delivered.

“This is for future generations in Mississauga,” she said, before exhorting her council colleagues to get on board. They did.

She has made it no secret that a massive $1.6 billion LRT project along Hurontario St. — her city’s spine — could be her last major battle.

McCallion has been pushing Premier Kathleen Wynne about the dire need for better transit throughout the GTHA ever since Wynne became a frontrunner for the job.
As chair of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, McCallion pushed through a resolution endorsing most of Metrolinx’s proposed revenue tools to fund its $50 billion Big Move regional transportation plan. She did the same at Mississauga council, telling colleagues to put aside their concerns about transit funding impacts in consideration of the greater good.

She chastised a neighbouring mayor, Brampton’s Susan Fennell, for publicly stating she didn’t support any of the revenue tools. Fennell quickly changed her tune.

McCallion isn’t just talking about Mississauga these days when she addresses the “crisis” of traffic congestion or testifies about the cancelled gas plants; she’s speaking on behalf of all Ontarians.

In March, when called before a provincial inquiry into the gas plant cancellations, she ripped into all three parties: the Liberals for agreeing to the projects in the first place and the Conservatives and NDP for playing “political games” at the expense of urgent provincial business.

But her revered reputation as Ontario’s most senior political figure, a straight-shooter who doesn’t suffer fools or mince words, might soon take a blow she won’t be able to recover from.

“If she is removed from office, this will be the central story in the Hazel McCallion narrative,” says Tom Urbaniak, who authored a biography of McCallion. “The manner of retirement will be inscribed in history.”

The conflict case involving votes she participated in at the Region of Peel in 2007 mirrors the Mississauga judicial inquiry that wrapped up in 2011. The votes in Peel allegedly stood to save her son, Peter McCallion’s, company $11 million in development charges on a downtown hotel-convention centre it was looking to build.

The 2011 inquiry found her in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Ontario’s municipal conflict-of-interest law for pushing her son’s hotel-convention centre project.

She was let off the hook, though, largely due to the narrow scope of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. She declared a conflict at city council when the development was addressed, so was not in contravention of the act. However, she did not declare a conflict at the region, on which the current case is focused.


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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 25, 2013 at 12:43:45 in reply to Comment 88974

“This is for future generations in Mississauga,” she said, before exhorting her council colleagues to get on board. They did.

As chair of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, McCallion pushed through a resolution...

...did the same at Mississauga council, telling colleagues to put aside their concerns about transit funding impacts in consideration of the greater good.

Regardless of one's opinion of transit or McCallion, I think you have to admire the way she LEADS discussions.

It's a very mayoral quality, not seen in Toronto lately, not seen in other places we know too ;-)

Without a strong voice guiding debate, that debate often takes on a life of its own and its path usually runs into the weeds.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2013 at 08:50:54

For most of Hazel's tenure, she couldn't give a flying fig about public transit. Evidence? Have you ever been to Mississauga north of the QEW? It's a collective of gated neighborhoods ringed by six lane stop lighted freeways with posted speed limits of 70kph, which means everyone does 90. It makes Main St in Hamilton look like a cart path. If you've ever bothered to look at a Mississauga Transit bus, the only routes with any kind of ridership are the Hurontario, Bloor and Eglinton lines leading to Toronto. The rest are mostly useful for burning diesel fuel and mostly empty seats.

For Mayor McCallion to suddenly embrace public transit and congestion easing is RICH to say the least. West of Toronto it is largely the sprawl and the manner in which it was allowed to sprawl which has been the single biggest contributor to congestion in this section of the GTHA. The juxtaposition of Mississauga (sprawl) next to Toronto (density) is akin to a very large funnel bowl trying to empty into a very small funnel spout. For most of the last 40 years Hazel McCallion cared only about growing Mississauga and gave not a thought about how to integrate this growth in a manner that would be as seamless as possible with the surrounding municipalities. Now she's brow beating the mayors of these municipalities to get on board with Metrolinx? PLEASE.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 25, 2013 at 13:56:25 in reply to Comment 88975

She may be a hypocrite but she's not wrong about needing to do something going forward.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2013 at 18:51:00 in reply to Comment 88980

Not only is she a hypocrite, she's a snake in the weeds. She has built her reputation over resisting new taxes. Her 11th hour embrace of Metrolinx's "Revenue Tools" to pay for transit is subterfuge. ( see my first post on this thread). Mississauga taxpayers are in for sticker shock over the next ten years as they will see their property taxes skyrocket to cover the cost of infrastructure replacement and improvements that Hazel won't have to worry about because she'll be in the ground. She intends to piggyback Mississauga's infrastructure needs (which means tax increases) on the back of Metrolinx and call it the cost of building a "transit friendly city".

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2013 at 20:07:24 in reply to Comment 88982

She's has already started adding new taxes onto residents, including a 5% infrastructure levy in 2007 which, while only making a small dent on infrastructure renewal, is a step bigger than most cities. [1]

She has also called for Mississauga to receive similar powers to those granted in the City of Toronto Act, in order to impose vehicle registration fees and land transfer taxes in the city. Unfortunately, other councillors shot it down but she's more than willing to actually LEAD and try to create change. [2]

[1] http://www.thestar.com/opinion/columnists/2007/11/08/a_new_tax_yet_hazel_smells_of_roses.html

[2] http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2012/10/10/land_transfer_tax_mississauga_mayor_hazel_mccallion_a_lone_voice_backing_the_idea.html

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By sledge (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2013 at 21:43:29

Reverse psychology?

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