Special Report: Light Rail

It All Comes Down to This Coming Wednesday

If there was ever a time to speak up and make your voice heard loud and clear, it is between now and the Council meeting on April 26.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 21, 2017

It all comes down to next Wednesday. Hamilton City Council is risking the city's LRT plan in a high-stakes game and things are getting downright ugly.

Council needs to approve an amendment to the Environmental Project Report so that the Environment Ministry can complete its Environmental Assessment for the LRT. The project can't move forward until this step is finished, meaning the deadline to get a contract signed to build the system before the next Provincial election will be in jeopardy.

Knowing that, a majority of councillors are stalling and filibustering instead of approving the Environmental Report.

Councillors have already hashed over the Environmental Report over two long committee meetings totalling literally 26 hours, and at the end of both meetings they voted to defer a decision. This is despite the fact that there is no good reason not to approve the report and submit it to the Province.

The vote has been pushed back to the upcoming Council meeting this coming Wednesday, April 26. If Council defers a vote again - or, worse, votes against submitting the report, the entire LRT project will be in jeopardy.

We risk losing everything: ten years of planning and development, $1 billion investment in rapid transit, hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure replacement and capacity expansion along the LRT corridor, 3,500 construction jobs, apprenticeship programs for young Hamilton, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in new transit-oriented development that we need to grow our tax base and get the city's financial affairs in order, and Hamilton's very reputation as a serious place to invest and do business.

Through a depressing combination of partisanship, gamesmanship, lack of vision, lack of courage and fear of change, there is a very real chance that Council will kill this once-in-a-lifetime chance to transform the future.

We can't let that happen!

Between now and next week, it is absolutely imperative that your Councillor hear from you and everyone you can convince to do the same - especially if you live in the ward of one of the "swing" councillors who is still undecided and most likely to end up voting in favour:

The best thing you can do is pick up the phone and call your councillor. Here are their phone numbers and email addresses:

Contact Your Councillor
Ward Name Email Phone
Mayor Fred Eisenberger mayor@hamilton.ca 905-546-4200
1 Aidan Johnson Aidan.Johnson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2416
2 Jason Farr Jason.Farr@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2711
3 Matthew Green Matthew.Green@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2702
4 Sam Merulla Sam.Merulla@hamilton.ca (905) 546-4512
5 Chad Collins Chad.Collins@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2716
6 Tom jackson Tom.Jackson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2707
7 Donna Skelly Donna.Skelly@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2706
8 Terry Whitehead Terry.Whitehead@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2712
9 Doug Conley Doug.Conley@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2703
10 Maria Pearson Maria.Pearson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2701
11 Brenda Johnson Brenda.Johnson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-4513
12 Lloyd Ferguson Lloyd.Ferguson@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2704
13 Arlene VanderBeek Arlene.VanderBeek@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2714
14 Robert Pasuta Robert.Pasuta@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2705
15 Judi Partridge Judi.Partridge@hamilton.ca (905) 546-2713

If there was ever a time to speak up and make your voice heard loud and clear, it is between now and this coming Wednesday.

I'll be completely honest: if we succeed, this won't be the last time we have to push Council to do the right thing and stay on track. They will have an opportunity to vote on the Operating and Maintenance Agreement with Metrolinx early next year. This is a long road and we're not at the finish line yet.

But if this step fails, the whole project may well fail with it. So we have to speak up now - respectfully, optimistically, hopefully - and get through this crisis. Then we'll start planing to be ready for the next one.

No huge, city-changing project ever came easy, and this is no different. The important thing is not to become discouraged and give up. There are people around the Council table and in the city who want this project to fail, and our cynicism would be their strongest ally.

It's not too late to save Hamilton's LRT plan from fear and cynicism, but we all need to push together.

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 guelphite (registered) | Posted April 21, 2017 at 14:26:24

Personally, despite the obvious indications that this is to stall for time, the outcome most likely would not have been in our favor Wednesday if it had been a close 8-7 vote not to defer. The councilors that this hinges upon seem rather small-time, and have a low capacity for an issue of this magnitude (not at all an insult considering Hamilton's unassuming history regionally so far this century), so having the vote conducted a reasonable amount of time into next week's meeting, assuming no further fillibustering, should produce the best shot at moving the EPR forward.

Comment edited by guelphite on 2017-04-21 14:26:37

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By George (registered) | Posted April 21, 2017 at 22:27:25

Can the argument be made the city is not proceeding in good faith as required under the MOU? They are NOT discussing the EA at all. They are hashing out the merits of the LRT itself which has already been decided.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 09:59:11

I have been through this before, more accurately Ottawa went through this with the North-South LRT Line in 2006. What has to be made apparent are the costs if they (Hamilton City Council)kills this project that they (the city) will have to pay out of general revenues.

Everybody else involved with the B-Line project is going forward with the B-Line's RFQ Process in good faith, except the City of Hamilton. If they kill this by voting down the amendment to the EA then the first cost they will be legally responsible for is the entire cost of the RFQ Process (which could be very high because anyone who is interested or say they were interested in making a bid can claim costs. For example, there were 6 different Consortia (groups of companies) making bids in the RFQ process for the now under construction Confederation Line in Ottawa. 3 Consortia made it through to the final RFP Process. Those 3 Consortia alone represented 85 separate

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 10:17:15

(Sorry Little hand pressed the post comment button) companies. I have no idea how many were represented by the 6 Consortia in the RFQ process because that information requires a freedom of information request but a little birdy told me it was well over 100 companies. That's a huge lot of potential legal costs claims.

So if Hamilton Council kills this project during the RFQ phase you could be facing initial legal costs going into the millions of dollars, (you won't know until its all over). That's not counting the money wasted on planning, engineering soil testing which I know is already occurring! Oh boy, the day Metrolinx comes calling into City hall with their bill, will be one for the ages! The worst part will be the abuse your City Council and by association, the citizens of Hamilton will have to endure from everyone else who wants that money to build rapid transit projects in Ontario.

Tell your politicians minimum, you are going to facing a legal bill in excess of $10 Million, that money will have to come from general revenue which means, cuts to services. In 2018 they will have to explain during a municipal election that their principled stand against that free provincial money will now lead to fewer services and most likely as well as quite ironically, transit service cuts to the HSR!

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By john1242 (registered) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 11:08:20

Read the MOA dated March 8 2016 Background item C and D Change revised change in"PROJECT SCOPE" Read Item 3 "PROJECT SCOPE" Item "Material Change" all changes where made by Metrolinx/Province of Ontario That's why a amendment to the"EPR"and E/A. Hamilton and Metrolinx approval for 13.9km LRT in 2011 What changed ? 1)On Jan.25 2015, Mayor Fred and City Manager Chris Murray meeting with Primer Wynne between closed doors. Mayor Fred said 100% funding for LRT from McMaster to Eastgate Square ? 2)A letter dated March 16 2015 from City Manager Chris Murray to Bruce McCuaig President /CEO,Metrolinx stating asper City of Hamilton,City Council direction of City's updated transit plans Feb.27 2013 Rapid Ready Expanding Mobility Choices in Hamilton was APPROVED by Council 3) on May 26 2015 Wynne's announcement 100% funding for LRT from McMaster to Queenston Circle?and LRT A-Line (SPUR) to West Harbour Go Station to Waterfront with $1B budget ? The question to Mayor Fred what happen and was Council aware before May 26 2015 My position is to extend LRT to Eastgate Square using $150m from the Spur line which was cancelled by Metrolinx /Province feb.2 2017 ? for complete Phase 1 LRT as original R/R Report Hamilton needs a made in HAMILTON Transit Plan not a Wynne's Plan Metrolinx spoke person on April 22 2017 states " LRT project would not be technically difficult because the city's original approved plan environmental assessment route is largely complement" I support LRT which benefits all of HAMILTON When will funding be announced 4-10 years and what Province Government?? Liberal,NDP,Conservative ???

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 12:30:21

"The planners, the politicians and the public, are all swept along in a furious spending binge with no guarantees of success.

Sound like anyone you know Ryan?

"Transit projects often fall far short of the promises made: James"


Comment edited by JimC on 2017-04-22 12:30:52

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By MrMcMahon (registered) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 20:26:04 in reply to Comment 121313

This LRT reminds me of the old iconic elevator- to- nowhere in Jackson Square way back when.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 22, 2017 at 13:51:20

John 1242, you would have a point if there hadn't been other scope changes that Hamilton Council simply accepted. The problem is that, most of the city councilors are against LRT, not this project and not this specific scope change. They have publically stated too many times that they are against LRT as a concept, not just this project or just this specific scope change. Only a few of the councilors against this have even mentioned that this vote in particular is to pass an add on to the project's Environmental Assessment.

Too many of the anti-LRT councilors were extremely clumsy and showed too little competence in the use of precise language in public that, would keep the city from being sued, after the fact! I have lived this as a resident of Ottawa and as a professional urban planner. The completely undisciplined use of language by the anti-LRT councilors is deadly after the fact, when angry companies and the people that represent them, who made bids during the RFQ process go to get their money back. The normal way of doing this is of course, to immediately sue!

When you don't use perfectly precise language when in public, you pay a price. The anti-LRT councilors have made this mistake and if this project gets killed because of them, the city will be found at fault. That's why the mayor of Ottawa from the first election win in 2010 told his councilors to shut up, come to him first on these types of controversial issues. Do not argue the points of a particular project or policy in public! This is what competent councilors who have basic intelligence know before they enter municipal politics. It will most likely be successfully argued that, a certain group of councilors who were always against the LRT program conspired during the RFQ process to kill the project while everybody else involved moved forward in good faith (a legally defined public process with rules that everyone including the city has to follow and is now breaking).

Therefore, instead of voting down the winner of the RFQ or the winning project plan at the end of the RFP process, both of which have to be voted on by the council before construction starts, they are now pulling support before the RFQ process ends, which is something you are not supposed to do. This makes the city liable for all the associated costs of this particular process!

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