By Ryan McGreal
Published May 07, 2013
After going off-message continuously to criticize Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) plan, Mayor Bob Bratina is now selectively toeing the line on Council policy where it serves to expose Council's own equivocation on the LRT file.
While attending a recent Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario (LUMC) meeting that endorsed the Wynne Government's plan to introduce new revenue tools to pay for The Big Move regional transit plan, Bratina recused himself from the vote.
In an email to councillors, he wrote:
Members of Council,
You may have read media coverage of the recent LUMCO meeting on Metrolinx funding which stated in part, "The Large Urban Mayors' Caucus of Ontario is backing Ms. Wynne's call for new revenue streams - likely to entail taxes, tolls or levies - dedicated to building transit...Other mayors backing the implementation of new revenue streams include Burlington's Rick Goldring..."
I explained to the meeting our Council's position and therefore did not participate in the vote. Mayor Fennell of Brampton found herself in a similar position because her council had not yet come to a conclusion on funding tools.
Hamilton Councillors recoiled last week from a staff report [PDF] recommending a variety of revenues tools proposed by Metrolinx to pay for the regional transit plan, which includes Hamilton's B-Line LRT.
Metrolinx has released a shortlist of 11 revenue tools in advance of its Investment Strategy, which it will release in June. Those tools include:
City staff were "supportive of the shortlist of revenue tools" in their report, but rejected the transit fare increase, property tax, development charge and parking space levy options.
However, Council rejected all of the revenue tools, saying instead that the Province should fund the transit projects, including Hamilton's LRT, entirely without using any new revenue sources that would impact Hamilton residents.
This prompted an exasperated Councillor Brian McHattie to lament that Council's "support for LRT is about a centimetre deep. While they support the reports, the concept of LRT, when it comes to taxpayers funding the programs with new dollars, there's no support."
The details of the Investment Strategy have not yet been finalized. It is not clear whether municipalities would collect the revenues directly to help fund their share of The Big Move or whether the money would be collected directly by the province.
It is also unclear whether individual municipalities will be allowed to opt out of the Metrolinx Investment Strategy once the Government decides on its final list of revenue tools.
I hope for Hamilton's sake that the Ontario Government insists on maintaining a coordinated approach to regional transit instead of allowing parochial and short-sighted councils punch holes in its plan.
Cherise Burda and Travis Allan look at the potential for development charges to do a better job of incentivizing compact urban development.
Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) has a great article on the parking levy and the opportunity to reduce the subsidy for sprawl.
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