McCallion's frustration is understandable, given Hamilton's lack of commitment to the Regional Transportation Plan. Competition and contempt are not how Metrolinx started out.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 24, 2013
The Spectator reports that Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion doesn't think Hamilton should be considered part of the GTHA for the purposes of The Big Move, the province's regional transit plan.
"I don't know how Hamilton ever got into the GTA, and I think we should chuck them out," she said.
McCallion's comment is unfortunate. The GTHA is a physically and economically contiguous region, and the purpose of improving regional transportation via The Big Move is to enable it to function more effectively. For some parts of the region, that means mitigating traffic congestion. For others, it means increasing investment and economic activity via anchors of strategic public infrastructure.
The municipalities that make up the Metrolinx area need to work together to achieve the shared goal of a more functional, more successful regional economy, not take potshots at each other.
At the same time, McCallion's frustration is understandable, given Hamilton's lack of commitment to The Big Move. Just recently, Hamilton City Council voted to reject every proposed revenue tool on the Metrolinx short list and Mayor Bob Bratina, who regularly disparages the city's LRT plan, recused himself from voting on the Metrolinx investment strategy at the Large Urban Mayors' Caucus of Ontario.
McCallion, who has been advocating forcefully for her city's LRT plan under The Big Move both in public and in direct dealings with the Province, can perhaps be forgiven for holding Hamilton in some contempt.
Read what she said to CHCN News: "The position of the mayor of Hamilton is that he couldn't support our position at the large urban mayors conference, because his council hadn't dealt with it yet, and he didn't know whether the Metrolinx plan was a good one or not." Ouch.
(McCallion has also recently blasted Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell for her last-minute suggestion to replace Mississauga's Hurontario LRT with a rapid bus.)
As it happens, Hamilton could have missed out on being included in the GTHA. It was largely through the advocacy of Rob MacIsaac, former mayor of Burlington and the inaugural chair of the Metrolinx board, that Hamilton was brought into the Metrolinx mandate.
This meant Hamilton would have an opportunity to be part of the Regional Transportation Plan and have several projects - all-day GO train service and two planned LRT lines, as well as several "quick win" initiatives like new buses, a planned bike share and the just-approved dedicated bus lane on King - coordinated and funded through the Metrolinx process.
Former Mayor Fred Eisenberger, also formerly a member of the Metrolinx Board and a strong advocate for LRT in Hamilton, is frustrated by Hamilton's lack of commitment to The Big Move. In an email response to RTH, Eisenberger wrote:
I am not surprised that Hazel has dismissed Hamilton as a credible part of Metrolinx. Hamilton or this Mayor has shown little interest in the overall congestion issue, has indicated no openess to funding mechanisms as other communities have, and is now considered irrelevant by other community leaders on this issue. Small wonder that Hazel now says play or get out of the way, as only she can or will.
Eisenberger writes of a sense of solidarity that formerly existed among the Mayors whose municipalities were part of Metrolinx.
I was an active particpant in the Metrolinx board and positioned Hamilton to be close to the front of the line for Metrolinx funding, with the understanding that the more pressing congestion problems in the short term were in the GTA. [Toronto] Mayor [David] Miller at the time, as well as the other Mayors, all spoke very favourably of Hamilton's role and the need to provide transit projects there, as well as in the other areas in the GTHA in the near term.
The Metrolinx board originally comprised the mayors of the municipalities within the region. However, the Province decided in 2009 to merge Metrolinx with GO Transit and replace the mayors with an appointed board. Richard Koroscil, then the President and CEO of John C Munro Hamilton International Airport, was appointed Hamilton's representative and remains in that role today.
Koroscil remains supportive of both Hamilton's LRT plans and the benefits of regional planning. In an April 2013 Spectator article, Koroscil is quoted saying, "Businesses and the public don't care about boundaries. We cross them every day. This is a regional plan."
Metrolinx has already funded $15 billion in transit projects, including $10 billion in new LRT lines in Toronto. On June 1, Metrolinx will publish an Investment Strategy that will formally recommend several revenue tools to pay for $35 billion in major transit projects, of which Hamilton's east-west B-Line LRT is one of the top priorities.
It is not yet clear what the revenue tools will be, whether they will be administered by the Province or individual municipalities, or whether municipalities will be allowed to opt out of the investment strategy.
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