Special Report: Light Rail

We Bet on Hamilton. Now Council is Betting Against Us

A small business owner who moved to Hamilton because of LRT wonders why Council is threatening to renege on its commitment.

By Alistair Morton
Published April 03, 2017

In 2009, my wife and I moved to Hamilton from Toronto. We bought a gorgeous house in Ward 3 and placed our small business in Ward 2. Since then I have grown to love this city and the people in it. Also my wife and I have been working hard on building our business which now employees 12 people and is still growing.

Now, we don't hire hourly, minimum wage employees. We hire professional staff for fully salaried positions that receive full benefits with comparable incomes to Toronto. That allows people not to have to commute for four-plus hours a day outside of the city, simply to buy a house, raise a child, take care of a parent and enjoy the city that they love and spend their money, earned locally and inside their city.

Before Toronto, we had lived in Calgary. We moved east in 2006, and after three years of life in Toronto we realized this wasn't where we wanted to be. So we started looking.

Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington were the first logical choices, but none of them resonated with us, as none of them felt like an actual City. They all felt more like suburban commuter hubs for Toronto. They had no "true" downtown cores, none of the charms of a real city, so eventually we focused our attention on Hamilton.

Based on what we'd heard at the time, in regards to Hamilton's progressive policies like re-focusing economically on technology, health and having a real plan to start to rebuild the city's core as it bounced back from decades of recession.

The LRT played prominently in this decision. Coming originally from Calgary, we knew how great LRT was and how it made such a difference, not just for the working class or lower-income residents, but for also the engineers and skilled executives who used it daily.

Knowing what we did, we knew LRT would be essential for the growth of our business, and the growth of economic engine of Hamilton overall. To us, it was a no-brainer.

We bet on Hamilton, and we bet on Hamilton City Council. We moved our home, and we moved our business to both be right on the planned line, and we've since been waiting ... patiently.

So the recent rumbling that Council is now planning to kill the LRT by delaying important votes is very discouraging.

The City that we bet on might not bet on us.

I know my business doesn't have the clout of, say, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or McMaster University, or one of the city's larger developers or employers, but we are part of a large and growing group of new small to mid-sized businesses that have all made the same bet on Hamilton.

It's really hard to understand any of the logic of any of the arguments I have heard from councillors against LRT, who are threatening to turn their backs on us now, and the people we employ, and the money we move through and keep in this city.

We all bet on Council. What Council is now doing is betting against small business and the people like us, and our kids, and the next generation.

What exactly has happened to make this so political?

Alistair Morton is co-founder and creative director at Wise and Hammer, a Hamilton business that employs 12 people.


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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2017 at 17:08:10

Nobody is betting against you. The B-Line exists today. In fact, the current B-Line goes all the way to Eastgate. The proposed LRT doesn't. Please explain how putting an existing bus line on rails affects your business in any way. You know what *will* affect your business? The $317 billion provincial debt. The day that interest rates increase will be an economic apocalypse for the province. As a small business owner you should really focus on that. If that doesn't do it for you then how about hydro costs spiraling out of control in part because Ontario sold Hydro One to fund transit projects? Do you use electricity at Wise & Hammer? I know you do. All those fancy computers. One final thought: Bombardier, who builds LRT cars, is in the news because surprise, surprise; they're corrupt. After receiving our tax dollars to give them a hand up what did they do? Why, increase their CEO's compensation of course. This is the company Metrolinx has partnered with. The same company that can't even deliver Toronto's streetcars. FAN-tastic. Real competent crew we've got here to coordinate this $1 billion LRT. Metrolinx is 3 years overdue on delivering a parking garage in Burlington too. Is it any wonder that the people of this City are just itching for a chance to stick a finger in the eye of the government and tell them to stick their "gift?" The whole project is a Ponzi scheme to enrich bureaucrats, developers, government yes men, and CEOs. Dump the LRT. Actually, I'm not even anti-LRT. I'm anti *this* LRT. Put it on Main Street, keep our bike lanes, reduce lanes for car traffic, make it run to Eastgate and maybe we'd talk. As it stands, this is a dog's breakfast and needs to die a quick death.

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By ImprovingTomorrow (registered) | Posted April 03, 2017 at 18:57:39 in reply to Comment 121049

As far as "I'm in favour of LRT, just not this LRT, we need to be frank as adults that this LRT is the one that is on the table. It's not a back of the napkin on the fly project, but the end result of nearly a decade of intensive research and exploration of all possible options. And conveniently, it's also only one part of the enhanced transit network called BLAST, so it's honest to consider it step one of a stairway to a stronger more connected city. We also have the first time ever offer of 100% funding for it, a sweetheart deal that other cities like Kitchener and Ottawa, who have to chip in from their own tax base towards their higher order transit, understandably envy. Hamilton is not in a position to say, at this late date, that we've decided on a different plan that will set us back years. We accept things in Hamilton getting better, or we look a gift horse in the mouth and then spit in the giver's eye. If you're upset that the current plan doesn't go all the way to Eastgate, instead of venting your vitriol on people advocating for improvements, you really ought to be spilling your spleen on Chad Collins, whose opposition to any sort of improved transit is what shortened the plan in the first place. With the plan shovel ready now, to say "Oh, sure, I want an LRT, but not like this" is no different from saying "I understand the complexities of this issue far better than expert research teams that did studies based on all of the relevant data which I don't have access to," which makes you sound no more credible than the people who pretend they understand climate science better than all of the world's climate scientists, and it is very much he same as saying "I want to stop this project, and kill any and all benefits it may bring to Hamilton, at any cost." I'm glad to know plenty of citizens in Hamilton that have bigger hearts and greater optimism and civic investment than that.

Comment edited by ImprovingTomorrow on 2017-04-03 19:01:47

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By ImprovingTomorrow (registered) | Posted April 03, 2017 at 18:47:10 in reply to Comment 121049

Refusing this opportunity for Hamilton will in no way whatsoever impact the province's debt. If Hamilton says no to a billion dollar investment after voting yes to it 52 times, that money will go towards higher order transit in a different city. Refusing a Hamilton LRT is not some sort of magic wand that will deposit that money back in taxpayers pockets or reduce the province's debt by a single penny, so that argument is inherently dishonest. Similarly, refusing LRT will not magically undo prospects of a Hydro One sale, so once more it is disingenuous to make the accusation that that's what this is about. Hamilton has exactly one choice in this scenario. We can do what Brampton did and give the finger to the offer of a provincial investment in bettering our city, or we can do what Kitchener did and be grateful for an investment in our city. Did Brampton refusing an LRT reduce the province's debt? It did not. Did it give Brampton the opportunity to spend that money on something else that they wanted? No, not that either. Did it do anything to benefit the citizens of Brampton? No, it simply moved Brampton to the back of the line to enjoy any additional support from the province. Brampton got nada. How about Kitchener? Kitchener is already seeing a massive increase in development and investment, and the first passenger hasn't even set foot yet on their new LRT. Hundreds of new businesses have opened in Kitchener and the business real estate market is suddenly booming.

Comment edited by ImprovingTomorrow on 2017-04-03 19:01:59

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By Ascreennametoremember (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2017 at 18:37:38 in reply to Comment 121049

Where will this money go if Hamilton doesn't use it? Back into the Province's coffers.

This isnt money given to us.

It's a ticket for this LRT.

It has no cash value. You cannot trade it in for anything else.

Anyone saying no to this is in my opinion fiscally irresponsible by hoping that the next government (conservative or NDP will give Hamilton something only if we vote no), through the $300million in infrastructure improvements and the $70million cheque we need to write to Metrolinx for defaulting on our commitments as a city.

The "let's wait for something better" group remind me of those against Obamacare and voted for "something better" without having an alternative in hand.

What happened? Americans discovered health care ain't easy....

Thank you Alistair for coming here and investing in our city. We need people like you.

Gratefully Yours,

Alex Bishop

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By brundlefly (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2017 at 17:30:16 in reply to Comment 121049

Wow, thanks for the unsolicited lesson in how I should run and what I should focus on in regards to my business.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 03, 2017 at 21:12:01 in reply to Comment 121051

Not surprising, given that he even knows the capital structure of your business and your clients so that he knows the effects of an interest rate increase.

Given such vast knowledge of your business, you should jump right on his advice.

Obviously I'm just kidding. But on a serious note, please accept my thanks for your vote of confidence in Hamilton by coming here and opening your business here. It is my sincere desire that we should prove worthy of the trust that you have placed in us by keeping our commitment to implement LRT.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2017-04-03 21:15:23

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