When someone asks, "What's in it for me?" remind them that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a major chunk out of our infrastructure deficit and address our collective needs across the city.
By Ron Marini
Published April 11, 2017
Yesterday, an acquaintance from Stoney Creek told me he learned that his Stoney Creek Councillor was opposed to the LRT because "there is nothing in it for Stoney Creek."
After that comment, I recalled Stoney Creek Councillor Doug Conley complaining last fall that there was a lack of capital projects scheduled in 2017 for his Stoney Creek Ward 9.
To be clear, capital projects are one-time budget items for such things as wastewater and water treatment plant upgrades, sewer and watermain replacement, road or sidewalk reconstruction and in the case of other city assets such as community centres, their refurbishment or construction, among a myriad of similar projects.
If the Stoney Creek Councillor wants "something for Stoney Creek" and Councillor Conley wants more infrastructure money for his ward, then the answer lies in accepting the Province's one billion dollars for LRT. This money is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address Hamilton's multibillion dollar infrastructure deficit.
By way of background, each and every year since amalgamation, the vast majority of the City's capital budget has been consumed by the Public Works Department in its efforts to meet the challenges of aging infrastructure and a changing environment.
In spite of this reality, Gerry Davis, the City's former General Manager of Public Works, annually presented a report card to council on the state of Hamilton's infrastructure.
In a nutshell, we have a severe infrastructure deficit in the billions of dollars. Even though Council has assiduously tried to turn the deficit, it continues. We note that Hamilton is not alone as this is a continent-wide problem.
For the most part, the infrastructure is paid for by local property taxes. Sure, there are project-specific contributions in some instances by the senior levels of government, but it is the weary Hamilton taxpayer who shoulders the infrastructure tax burden.
However, we are now presented with a very unique opportunity to redress the infrastructure deficit and that is via the Provincial billion dollar commitment to LRT.
In speaking with Public Works staff, I understand that of the one billion dollar commitment, seven hundred million dollars is to replace the aging infrastructure along the LRT route. That is $700 million not on our taxpayers' back but on the entire province.
That equates to 14 years' worth of annual Public Works Capital Budget funding if the average allocated by council was $50 million per year. And that means that there is capacity to start allocating the annual Public Works Capital projects to other needy areas such as Stoney Creek or the city neighbourhoods which have severe social needs, should Council so choose.
On the other hand, should Council elect not to recommend the LRT EA to the Province and the project fails, our infrastructure deficit will continue on as it has these past numbers of years - too many projects chasing too few dollars.
Recently, Council boldly addressed the social housing crisis with a made-in-Hamilton solution. It is time for Council to be bold, take care of the interests of all Hamiltonians and look the infrastructure deficit in the eye and vote to approve the Environmental Assessment and to keep the LRT program rolling.
So when someone asks, "What's in it for me?" remind them that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a major chunk out of our infrastructure deficit and address our collective needs across the city and not just the LRT corridor.
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