Special Report: Light Rail

McHattie to Premier: Hamilton Ready for LRT Funding

Councillor Brian McHattie reiterates Council's position on the east-west B-Line LRT and reminds the Province of its commitment to provide full capital funding.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 27, 2014

Ward 1 Councillor and mayoral candidate Brian McHattie has written an open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to reiterate Council's position on the proposed east-west B-Line light rail transit (LRT) system and remind the Province of its commitment to provide full capital funding.

The letter, issued as a news release this morning, calls on the Province to "ensure that Hamilton receives its fair share from the province for transit funding, whether from the province's general revenues, or from special revenue tools being considered currently."

It adds that Hamiltonians will not be happy to have to contribute to transit funding only to see their money used to build LRT in other cities but not Hamilton.

The letter also notes that some of the claims being made in the media recently about LRT are not accurate. One of the false claims circulating is that the B-Line does not have ridership to warrant LRT. McHattie writes, "If introduced today, LRT along our preferred route would already have ridership comparable with many successful North American systems including San Francisco, Portland and Minneapolis.

The letter concludes, "someone has to stand up for all Hamiltonians when it comes to ensuring promises made to our citizens are kept."

Background

The Province has spent the past several years trying to decide on a set of "revenue tools" to pay for the next wave of Metrolinx regional transportation projects. The first wave, concentrated almost entirely in Toronto, was funded from general Provincial revenues.

Hamilton's B-Line LRT is included in Phase One of the Next Wave projects. Detailed planning and design for the line is already complete, including a required environmental assessment and a complementary land use study to ensure that the area around the line is zoned for transit-oriented economic development.

Last year, Council unanimously voted to support the city's Rapid Ready LRT plan, which was then submitted to the Provincial government for final approval and funding.

Recently, however, Premier Wynne told Nicholas Kevlahan she didn't know whether Hamilton wants LRT or bus rapid transit (BRT).

Mayoral Misinformation

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina has steadfastly refused to champion Hamilton's LRT plan or, indeed, even to represent Council's position accurately, despite supporting LRT in his 2010 mayoral campaign. Instead, he has re-interpreted the city's Rapid Ready plan, which he voted for, to claim that it is not actually a plan to implement LRT.

When Councillor McHattie introduced a motion to reaffirm Council's support for LRT, the meeting turned into a debacle with Mayor Bratina insisting that Rapid Ready is not an LRT plan and having an altercation with City Manager Chris Murray after Murray confirmed that the report really is an LRT plan.

Murray told the councillors:

So in terms of where we've been all along, we've been focused all along on the B-Line and advancing the detail of that B-Line so the Province can make a decision on the B-Line. Okay? ... [The Rapid Ready report] puts the ball certainly in the Province's court to make a decision. We've done our homework, we are ahead of everyone else. You know, we think investing in transit, LRT specifically, in the City of Hamilton is something fundamental to our growth, and that, you know, it's really at the end of the day up to the Province to make a decision about what it is it wants to invest here in Hamilton.

Afterward, Bratina approached Murray and spoke aggressively, prompting Councillor Jason Farr to retort, "I heard what you said. I got it verbatim. You're being awful nasty, awful nasty."

Councillor Sam Merulla introduced a motion calling on Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse to investigate the incident. When Basse eventually submitted his report, he concluded that Bratina's "tone and comments to the City Manager ... were not appropriate" but he should not face a censure because he apologized to Murray, and Murray later said he did not feel intimidated or threatened.

More Mixed Messaging

This past Monday, Ontario Liberal candidates Ivan Luksik (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) and Javid Mirza (Hamiton Mountain) penned an opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator arguing against LRT and saying the city should focus instead on GO stations on James North and Centennial Parkway and BRT lines on the north-south A-Line, Centennial and the B-Line.

Between the misinformation in Luksik and Mirza's letter, Wynne's recent comments and Bratina's ongoing games, some people are wondering if the fix is in for Hamilton's LRT plan. The Province promised Hamilton two LRT lines back in 2007, and seven years later it is still not clear whether that promise will be kept.

Two prominent Ontario Liberals have said that Monday's op-ed does not reflect Liberal policy. Transport Minister Glen Murray, who is speaking in Hamilton tomorrow at a luncheon organized by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, wrote: "Government supports Metrolinx GO expansion LRT A and B lines. Need to work with city, Metrolinx and community leaders."

However, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin wrote, "we're [content] to work with City - don't want to build if not wanted. Will depend on revenue tools and a realistic view about same."

Text of McHattie's Letter

Following is the full text of the letter:

Hon Kathleen Wynne, MPP
Premier
Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

February 26, 2014

RE: Support for LRT in Hamilton

Dear Premier Wynne,

As you are aware, a lot is currently being said in the media, both mainstream and social, about Hamilton's LRT plans. Some of it is accurate. Some of it isn't.

Perhaps the most troubling statements are the ones suggesting that the provincial government will not honour its commitment to providing 100% of the capital costs of Phase 1 of Hamilton's LRT system.

While I have no reason to believe that the commitment made by your government will not be kept, I feel it necessary to assure you that Hamilton City Council stands by our stated support for LRT as approved by unanimous vote on February 27th, 2013.

Other GTHA cities, particularly Toronto, are already receiving provincial funding for their transit needs, with other cities also in line. Hamilton has a place in that funding line, and we intend to keep our place very near the front. Hamilton has spent the last several years completing its due diligence in planning for LRT so we will be ready to take the next steps as part of the Metrolinx strategy.

Hamilton must remain competitive, not only internationally and nationally, but also regionally. As you are well aware, modern transit is one important contributor to being competitive.

We want to ensure that Hamilton receives its fair share from the province for transit funding, whether from the province's general revenues, or from special revenue tools being considered currently. We know that such revenue tools will generate funding from Hamiltonians and we won't accept a lower quality transit investment locally, only to see our money go towards building higher quality subways in Toronto or LRT in Mississauga.

We want and need the province to be our partners in success. We are ready for LRT. If introduced today, LRT along our preferred route would already have ridership comparable with many successful North American systems, including San Francisco, Portland and Minneapolis. However, Hamiltonians simply can't afford to modernize our transit system and to achieve the benefits of moving more of our people throughout our city, nor can we afford to realize the proven economic development benefits of LRT, by ourselves. We need the provincial government to honour the funding commitments that have already been made.

I'm writing to you because I believe someone has to stand up for all Hamiltonians when it comes to ensuring promises made to our citizens are kept. In my view, we have to reduce the level of noise and mixed messages you have been receiving and increase the clarity and consistency in the communication of Hamilton's democratically approved priorities. I know my Council colleagues want the same thing.

Finally, I would appreciate hearing from you with an update as to where Hamilton stands in your plans for LRT funding.

Yours truly,

Brian McHattie
Ward 1 Councillor
City of Hamilton

cc Hon Ted McMeekin, MPP, Minister of Community and Social Services
cc Hon Glen Murray, MPP, Minister of Infrastructure

(h/t to @HSRTransit (an unofficial feed for transit news run by a private citizen) for posting the letter this morning on Twitter.)

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

38 Comments

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By Right on! (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:11:41

Great work McHattie. This is the kind of leadership we need.

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By BoBra (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:32:05

I agree. Great work. It reminds me of how much of a complete void in leadership we have in the mayor's office right now.

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By BobbyB (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:34:56 in reply to Comment 98030

What's worse is that Bratina's lies on this and other issues are hurting the potential of this city. The guy just makes things up and then pretends to speak on behalf of the whole city. IT'S CRAZY!

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By Zlinkwe (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:48:10

We would be damn lucky to have this guy as mayor and not just because I like the sound of Mayor McHattie.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:36:15 in reply to Comment 98032

It does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

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By JM (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 13:49:12

Thank you, Brian!

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 13:53:11

Well written. Thank you!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 14:27:04

This letter substantially increases the probability that I will be voting for Mr. McHattie in October.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2014 at 15:08:23

From @SamCraggsCBC:

"Mayor isn't happy about McHattie's pro-LRT letter to the premier. Says it should've been on campaign stationery"

https://twitter.com/SamCraggsCBC/status/...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:38:00 in reply to Comment 98040

He was relating the facts, including the fact of council's endorsement of LRT.

I don't see that as relating to the election, I see that as him being a responsible councillor.

Just wish he had gotten some other councillors to co-sign the letter with him.

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By campain (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 15:54:24 in reply to Comment 98040

Lol, how's that de-amalgamation plan coming again? Any more pressers with university profs coming up?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 15:46:15 in reply to Comment 98040

who cares

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 15:46:36

So this is what Mayoral leadership looks like. Well done. Great letter.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:31:38

I really liked the letter, thank you. I don't know if Brian would make a great mayor or not, but safe to say he would be head and shoulders above what we currently have. I suspect that there will be a provincial election in the coming months and who knows what the political landscape will look like. If the Liberals do get back in it would be nice to know that they are still on board with their 2007 promise. The McHattie letter would not have been necessary if our current Mayor kept his promises and followed councils direction instead of his agenda (whatever that is).

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:36:53

McHattie please take a hike. The province is broke.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 17:14:21 in reply to Comment 98048

Nope, not true. Like everywhere else, Ontario's revenue-to-debt ratio has grown significantly since the beginning of the Great Recession, but the province continues to receive good credit ratings anyway because it has a lot of power over taxation and other revenue tools. Which is exactly what we're talking about here - using those tools to finance vital urban infrastructure that will help stimulate the economy, increase tax revenues, and over time get the revenue-to-debt ratio back in line.

You know, for someone who uses the handle "Capitalist"...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 16:38:45 in reply to Comment 98048

You keep saying that word "broke", I do not think it means what you think it means.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 17:33:51

Sharp! Vaguely reminds me of the DiCocco end-run in May 2006.

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By yay McHattie (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 18:59:45

McHattie's got my vote!

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By RailGal (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2014 at 19:47:25

16 politicians sitting around a council table do not always have Hamiltonians' best interests in their decision making processes. LRT is a prime example. The reality is, the provincial and federal governments are always open to investment partnerships. That means, the City of Hamilton will have to find a way to pony up its share of the cost of one or two LRT lines, and so it should. It is beyond comprehension as to why politicians and ill-informed citizens would expect upper levels of government to hand the municipality a $1-billion gift. There are countless revenue tools that could be implemented to raise funds for LRT and other transportation initiatives. Perhaps it's time for the City bean-counters to explore funding mechanisms that make sense for Hamilton, instead of writing-off altogether the prospect of LRT. While it would NOT be the silver bullet to cure Hamilton of all its ails, LRT would give the city its much-needed boost toward becoming the world-class city in can and will be. We must be committed philosophically and financially if LRT is to become a reality in Hamilton. There is no free ride; no free lunch. The sooner we accept and appreciate this fact, the sooner building on the A-Line will begin. Thanks for such a great article, Ryan. Cheers.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 12:25:48 in reply to Comment 98056

The Metrolinx plan includes spending $50B over 25 years, or $2B per year

Hamilton B line would be about 1.6% (approx $800m) of that, so the other 98.4% is going elsewhere.

$1B in that scheme is not much at all.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2014 at 20:10:10 in reply to Comment 98056

It is beyond comprehension as to why politicians and ill-informed citizens would expect upper levels of government to hand the municipality a $1-billion gift.

For my own part, I expect it because that's what the Province has been promising since 2007. It's what the Province is already doing in Toronto. it's what Metrolinx was founded to accomplish.

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By RailGal (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 12:39:04 in reply to Comment 98058

I respectfully agree; the Province made a commitment 7 years ago when it seemed governments were flush with infrastructure cash. Economic times have changed and so has fiscal reality. Ontario has become a have-not province yet the federal government refuses to acknowledge its gross underfunding of Ontario.

My point is this: elected officials who have been sitting around the Council table in Hamilton for far too long still do not seem to understand that developing positive investment strategies and seeking to form investment partnerships with other levels of government and the private sector should supersede the inclination to expect that other levels of government will fix and provide. That cannot her achieved with year after year of zero percent tax increases. In essence, as we stare at the basket of lemons left over from the 2008 Global economic downturn, let innovation and new, bold thinking become the order of the day, instead of the hat-in-hand approach for which Hamilton City Council has become infamous. As Minister Glen Murray pointed out at the Chamber of Commerce lunch Feb 28th, it's time for politicians to behave as citizens again by understanding that more than .25% of the GDP must be invested in building sound, modern and beautiful infrastructure for the citizens of today and the future.

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By huh? (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 15:21:25 in reply to Comment 98058

also, building much needed infrastructure in our community with our tax dollars is not exactly a gift. we send queen's park a lot of money and in return we expect it to come back in various forms of service. it should never be seen as a form of beneficent behaviour on the province's part for distributing our money back in a fair and equitable way. we shouldnt have to beg and scheme for our fair share

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By Worthit (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2014 at 10:58:16

Why would Hamilton accept anything less than what Toronto or other cities are getting for their rapid transit plans? Other cities get the best technology, most generous funding because they demand it and believe they are worth it. Those promoting getting less for Hamilton are either ill-informed about what others are getting or have one heck of an inferiority complex. Either way, they do our city a disservice.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted March 02, 2014 at 23:30:20 in reply to Comment 98064

Toronto is getting funding because it needs it. They have real traffic problems Hamilton does not we have an efficient safe network of oneway streets. Toronto has a myriad of offices and jobs Hamilton does not (hospitals I believe are the biggest employer now). Hamilton is a very spread out city where transit is incredibly difficult to implement and fund.

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By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 08:36:03 in reply to Comment 98119

Hmmmm, Toronto has lots of offices and jobs and traffic, while Hamilton has one way streets and no offices and no traffic. Gosh, if only there was some kind of conclusion we could draw from that.

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted March 04, 2014 at 07:11:11 in reply to Comment 98128

Gee, that's a real simplification. To wit: numerous streets, including major ones, are one way in Toronto. I think you've missed the point there.

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By Hart (registered) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 12:57:49 in reply to Comment 98064

No one is promoting "less" for Hamilton. In fact, it is the complete opposite. RailGal is simply stating that, when Hamilton politicians are advocating an all or nothing approach, in effect, dictating terms to other levels of government, the result will be that other municipalities (Brampton, Mississauga, Burlington) will be the beneficiaries of any available infrastructure funding that is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm appalled that our city had no problem covering 55% of the cost to build the Pan Am stadium that will benefit only a few, but has no desire to come up with financial tools that could raise funds locally (without increasing residential taxes) to build modern transportation that benefits everyone.

My question is not whether Hamilton can afford LRT, rather, can Hamilton afford NOT to build LRT. It's all in the 2013 Rapid Ready report in the financial section which should have been entitled, "The Cost of Not Building LRT in Hamilton."

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2014 at 15:46:13 in reply to Comment 98100

There are indeed people promoting less for Hamilton. Our silent councillors, and the vocal anti-LRT camp (cheerled by dreschel) want NOTHING for Hamilton.

There are also those who want BRT, not understanding that the cost to us will end up being the same (as the capital difference will be spent elsewhere) and the return will be dismal compared to that of LRT.

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By Hart (registered) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 18:13:33 in reply to Comment 98105

@seancb, for clarification, I was referring to the original post by Railgal in my post when I wrote "no one is promoting less for Hamilton"…My intent was to point out that the poster did not seem to be promoting less for Hamilton. I am in complete agreement that there are many in our city who seem to be content with less for Hamilton. I do, however, disagree with the 100% or nothing stance that some are taking. Regardless of political promises at any level of government, without a champion in Hamilton, our city has been bypassed time and time between 2010 and 2014 in terms of infrastructure spending. I am not including the $44 million GO Station on James North, because that promise was made prior to the last municipal election and, is therefore, a re-announcement of already allotted funds. Cheers.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2014 at 12:39:28 in reply to Comment 98064

It's as simple as this.

You should send this directly to bratina and dreschel

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 13:54:24

Railgal: not that I am against the LRT, however when did politicians ever behave as citizens? One only has to dig so far to see that what average citizens may want or not has not necessarily been deciding factors. Why is it that the so called business class,property owners or in another era freedman,given more weight to the conversations? Have not those classes of people led to the dismantling of other vital services? While calling for bold new ideas is not wrong,I question things when certain voices are left out as they are deemed not so relevant.

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By Hart (registered) | Posted March 01, 2014 at 14:53:03 in reply to Comment 98102

Well put, Scrap. The idea of bold, new thinking in my view begins with a focus on high needs communities so it would seem perhaps we may be on the same page.

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2014 at 03:28:57

Thanks Hart.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 08:20:03

Here's what a real media outlet has to say about LRT...

Welcome changes are already happening. Check out the system's proposed route in Waterloo and Kitchener and be amazed by the condominium and apartment towers that have already risen as well as the cranes that are building more. Then, marvel at the old factories and warehouses that are finding new life as workspaces for high-tech startups and other businesses.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 10:52:39 in reply to Comment 98127

In the Spec's defense, their editorial stance is pro-LRT, even if they do publish a lot of FUD.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2014 at 14:25:08

Hard to believe it has been a year.

Mar 8 2013:

In a recent interview with The Hamilton Spectator, Transport Minister Glen Murray seemed to indicate Hamilton wouldn't have to make a direct capital contribution to construct its $800 million project.

"They're not going to be expected to, in the sense that we're not asking them to make a financial contribution with a very specific tax," Murray told The Spectator.

However, reached today, the minister clarified his statements and said Hamilton would be expected to fund some of the project. He said municipalities, including Mississauga, that are having trouble paying for their transit projects will be given access to yet-to-be announced revenue tools and financing options. Municipalities will find out in the summer what these tools are.

mississauga.com/news-story/3133112-hamilton-will-have-to-pay-for-lrt-says-minister/

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