Mayor Bratina claims Hamilton has to choose between LRT and all-day GO service extended to Stoney Creek. The Premier says they're "not competing projects". We've heard this story before.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 17, 2013
this article has been updated
According to a report published today on the Hamilton Spectator website:
Mayor Bob Bratina says Hamilton will have to choose between a light-rail transit line running through the lower city and extending all-day GO service to Stoney Creek.
The mayor says that was made clear by Premier Kathleen Wynne at a private fundraiser for local cabinet minister Ted McMeekin last weekend. Her senior staff confirmed that when pressed by Bratina later.
Assuming such an exchange actually took place, the question we need to ask is: did Premier Wynne frame the matter as having to choose between LRT and extending all-day GO service, or did Mayor Bratina?
I've contacted Mayor Bratina, Premier Wynne, Transport Minister Glen Murray, Minister McMeekin and Metrolinx to seek clarification and will update this if and when we receive any responses.
Meanwhile, the Spectator article has just been updated with the following:
But the premier’s office issued a statement after Bratina’s comments Wednesday saying Hamilton LRT and the expansion of GO "are not competing projects."
"Metrolinx has already committed to providing two-way, all-day GO service to Hamilton," a spokesperson for Wynne said in an e-mail.
So it looks like the Mayor is once again attempting to manufacture controversy over Hamilton's LRT plan.
Mayor Bratina has spent the first two-plus years of his term steadily undermining Hamilton's plan to build an east-west light rail transit (LRT) line across the city.
Sometimes the undermining has been overt and aggressive, as during the summer of 2011 when he claimed the city was "not hearing any kind of clamour from the public" and "no solid interest" from developers, that LRT was "not a priority" and would only make sense "if somehow a million people move to Hamilton over the next five years".
Bratina also told then-Premier Dalton McGuinty that LRT was not a Council priority, allowing the Premier to wiggle out of his own 2007 promise to fund LRT, and went on to argue that the promise had never actually promised to fund LRT after all.
During this time, City Manager Chris Murray suspended the Rapid Transit Office and Bratina claimed the city had to choose between LRT and all-day GO service. Other Councillors questioned the email, which Murray sent out right before going on summer vacation. Rapid Transit manager Jill Stephen, who was on vacation when the email went out and didn't know it was coming, resigned from the city soon after.
Metrolinx was also caught unaware by the city's abrupt change in focus and clarified that both all-day GO and LRT "are viable and can co-exist. Hamilton's current rapid transit situation is not an 'either-or' scenario."
Meanwhile, Bratina was also busy misrepresenting successful LRT systems in other cities, arguing point-by-point against LRT to neighbourhood associations and residents, and claiming he didn't know where infill development along the LRT line would go.
After the furore of that manufactured controversy died down, Bratina continued to undermine LRT, albeit more passively by consistently refusing to champion the plan - despite acknowledging that a successful LRT plan needs a political champion!
He has been perfectly happy to accept the Transportation Ministry's warning that Hamilton may have to bear some of the capital cost - despite the fact that the Province still refuses to provide any straight answers on what that share might be, and Metrolinx has been operating on the assumption of full capital funding.
Instead of demanding a fair deal for Hamilton, Bratina has questioned whether LRT is affordable and claimed that LRT is at least a decade away - a self-fulfilling bucket of cold water on a project that could already be under construction with the right political leadership.
It seems pretty clear from this latest stunt that his heart still isn't in it.
Update: According to a follow-up article in today's Spectator, Mayor Bratina wasn't even in attendance at the event where Premier Wynne ostensibly made the remark about LRT and all-day GO extension.
But it emerged later Wednesday that Bratina did not attend the event where Wynne spoke last Sunday - a $500-per-ticket fundraiser for Hamilton cabinet minister Ted McMeekin at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
McMeekin said the premier spoke about transit in general, but did not convey any expectation that Hamilton would have to make such a choice.
"I'm a little confused because he (Bratina) wasn't at the fundraiser," McMeekin said Wednesday, noting only a member of the mayor's staff attended.
Bratina did not respond to The Spectator's requests for a second interview to clarify his comments.
It just gets more cringe-inducing from there.
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