Special Report: Light Rail

LRT Meeting with Transport Minister Must be Open and Public

It is totally inappropriate for Mayor Bratina to hold a secret meeting with Minister Del Duca on a Provincial commitment to LRT, especially after Bratina's own history of misrepresenting Council's LRT position.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 16, 2014

Bob Bratina seems to be constitutionally incapable of doing the right thing when it comes to light rail transit in Hamilton.

The mayor who campaigned on a platform that included support for the city's developing LRT plan has spent his term trying to confuse and undermine that very plan.

His latest gambit is to invite Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca to a July 25 private meeting of his governance advisory committee to discuss whether the Province will keep its commitment to 100 percent capital funding for the Rapid Ready LRT plan the City submitted last year.

Bratina sent the following email to Council on Friday, July 11:

I have confirmation that the Minister will be meeting with me and our governance advisory group (Clrs Merulla, Duvall and Powers) on July 25th at 10am in my office.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact myself or Peggy.

Among the three other members of the committee, Powers is the only member of Council who has broken with the otherwise unanimous support for the city's LRT plan, which Council approved in February 2013 and which includes a class environmental assessment, 30 percent detailed engineering and design on the system and a comprehensive land use plan.

Bratina is also opposed to the LRT plan, but he justifies his vote in support of Rapid Ready through a tortuous interpretation of the plan in which he claims it is not actually an LRT plan.

That's an interpretation City Manager Chris Murray laid to rest in a debacle of a Council meeting in April 2013 after Councillor Brian McHattie tried to pass a motion clarifying Council's support for LRT in response to Bratina's misinformation.

Ironically, Council also established the governance advisory committee in response to Bratina's earlier refusal to accurately communicate council's position on LRT to the Province.

It is totally inappropriate for the Mayor to try and hold a secret meeting with the Transport Minister on a possible Provincial commitment to LRT, especially after Bratina's own disgraceful history of misrepresenting Council's position on this very issue.

Councillor Sam Merulla has already said he will not participate in the private meeting on July 25. This private meeting must not go ahead at all.

Bratina has lost the moral authority to be trusted with engaging the Province on LRT, not only because this term of Council ends in a few months but more importantly because he has proven, over and over again, that he cannot and will not act responsibly on behalf of Council and of Hamiltonians.

It is extremely important for Minister Del Duca to come to Hamilton, demonstrate that he understands Council's position, and provide clarity on what the Province intends to decide in response.

But that meeting has to involve all the councillors, not just a small committee, and it absolutely must happen in the open, not in a closed-door meeting in Bratina's office. Otherwise, it will be just another cloud of smoke in the fog of drama and confusion that has been pouring from this Mayor's office since early 2011.

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.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 08:28:40

Bratina is the ultimate troll. I have never seen someone so expertly say absolutely nothing while talking out of both sides of his mouth. October 27th can't come soon enough.

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By Andreas (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 09:33:04

I encourage Ryan to send this post to Minister Del Duca directly. My guess is that the meeting will happen and that not having Clr. Merulla there will allow a lopsided group to "represent" the city.

RTH people, send letters of Hamilton LRT support to Minister Del Duca. We all know that there is still plenty of support for LRT in Hamilton, but most of us are fatigued with the delay in the funding and planning process. Keep pushing the campaign: hamiltonlightrail.ca!

Keep the pressure on Bratina and Del Duca. Have Merulla represent the pro-LRT stance and make sure the letters to Del Duca equip him and his staffers with the facts on Hamilton LRT.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 09:53:03

"Bratina is the ultimate troll. I have never seen someone so expertly say absolutely nothing while talking out of both sides of his mouth."

Exactly. Which is why my sig says what it says.

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By williammehlenbacher (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 10:01:17

McMeekin in a interview with Joey Coleman, said he would be bringing Del Duca before Council to speak and answer questions, now the Bratt wants closed door meetings with a few. Bratt is trying to get his voice heard in a private meeting as he has not decided LRT is the way to go at least not that line, he wants to use the rail trail. I am glad Sam Merulla will boycott this, as should others , or the right message will not be sent. Why is the Bratt having anything to do with the future, as he will not be here after October. Thanks Bob Bratina.

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By Historic (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 10:56:30

Or maybe, it's just a standard first meeting with a brand new cabinet minister who's only been sitting in the legislature for 2 years. A "get to you know you" kind of meeting, which are incredibly common.

Sam Merulla, in refusing to participate, is just as much a spoiled brat as Bob Bratina and Brian McHattie is just upset he wasn't invited to this party. Typical "me first" Hamilton city council.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:10:13

“The confusion comes from the gap – the very wide gap – between the Kathleen Wynne government’s rhetoric surrounding the budget, and the actual budget. The words have been all about new programs, new spending and new ways in which the government can better lives and stimulate the economy…. The thing is, the actual budget doesn’t tell that story. At all."

theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/ontarios-budget-on-second-thought-this-might-hurt/article19607475/

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By JayRobb (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:27:35

My hope is that the July 25th introductory meeting is light on lobbying and heavy on listening to, and learning from, the Ministers.

How will the Province be prioritizing projects and deciding when and where to invest $29 billion over the next 10 years in public transit, transportation infrastructure and other priority infrastructure projects across Ontario?

It would be good to get details on the "rigorous business-case analyses" to be used by the Province in prioritizing transit investments in the GTHA. How well will the Rapid Ready report stand up to that analysis?

Beyond investing in the existing GO network, the Province has identified a number of big ticket priority projects, including:

GO Rail Service Expansion (more two-way, all-day and rush-hour service)

GO Lakeshore Express Rail Service (including electrification)

Electrification of the GO Kitchener line and Union Pearson Express

Brampton Queen Street Rapid Transit

Dundas Street Bus Rapid Transit

Durham-Scarborough Bus Rapid Transit

Hamilton Rapid Transit

Hurontario-Main LRT linking Mississauga and Brampton

Relief Line

Yonge North Subway expansion to York Region

The Province has already dropped some hints, saying that proceeds from the dedicated fund for the GTHA would be "invested exclusively in public transit priorities that address congestion and improve mobility throughout the region."

It would also be good to use the meeting with the Ministers to talk about the Province's GO Transit plans for Hamilton.

The new GO station at James North, and a potential Centennial GO station in Stoney Creek, align with the government's priority of expanded two-way, all-day GO Transit rail service, with improvements on all corridors and the potential to electrify the GO rail system to deliver service at intervals as frequent as 15 minutes.

Have to think the GO station on James North will be a major catalyst for economic development downtown (bring on the young professionals who are working in Toronto but paying property taxes here and enrolling their kids in Hamilton schools).

And a GO station in Stoney Creek could help densify the 'burbs and ease north-south congestion by giving Mountain residents the option of commuting by rail to downtown Hamilton, with transit from the James North station then running to the Hamilton General, St. Joe's, McMaster, the federal government buildings and other major employers in the lower city. This would have the added bonus of increasing transit ridership in Hamilton, which was identified as a key component of a strategy to get Rapid Ready.

So whoever's in the room July 25, I hope they spend less time talking and more time asking good questions, listening and taking notes.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:40:07 in reply to Comment 103249

How would a Stoney Creek GO station help those on the Mountain (by which I'm assuming the residents of Wards 6, 7 and 8) get downtown?

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 19:54:18 in reply to Comment 103250

Stoney Creek includes areas below the mountain as well as on top of the mountain, but the last time I checked the proposed station was to be built along the CN line below the escarpment.

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By Perhaps (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2014 at 18:04:39

Perhaps we should generate a list of questions we'd like answers to here.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted July 17, 2014 at 11:45:07

So how do we address the attitude of Councillors as shown in the article in urbanicity entitled 'A QUICK QUESTION TO COUNCIL | LRT'? http://urbanicity.ca/2014/07/a-quick-que...

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By RT (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2014 at 08:17:11 in reply to Comment 103257

Perhaps a follow up question such as "if you don't want municipal dollars to support the LRT plan, why not?"

It may be that these councillors are taking a principled stance (Toronto doesn't pay so why should we, or we were promised 100 percent).

In other words, could be just hard nogatiating. Risky position to take nonetheless.

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By Badaboom (anonymous) | Posted July 17, 2014 at 21:58:37

Raise the Hammer should really understand real world politics. This meeting can't be open to the public because the Minister will provide information and lay down the law to wit: if certain councillors run amok with their rhetoric or unrealistic expectations, then the province will move on. Period. If on the other hand the province sees partners, they will be generous.

Take it to the bank. That is what will happen at the meeting. And don't believe the cozy spin afterwards either.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted July 19, 2014 at 12:15:49

I don't understand the advantages of LRT to justify the cost associated with it (building and maintenance). Also I find he overhead wires to be an eyesore. Seems like an ancient technology that cities should be dismantling not building anew.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2014 at 14:52:49

Councillor Sam Merulla just issued the following news release:

Hamilton: Merulla was reconsidering to attend a meeting hosted by Mayor Bratina this Friday, with the Transportation Minister of Ontario, regarding a council resolution to obtain clarity, on the Light Rapid Transit funding status.

Merulla stated; "I have sought out a legal opinion; it could not be concluded definitively, that the meeting is legal."

Merulla also attempted to receive guidance via the Office of the Ombudsman, but was told that, it is not in their mandate, to provide advice; only investigate complaints. "Hence, my due diligence on this matter has been thorough and I have an aversion to attending a potentially illegal meeting. I will only be present for the public portion or the press conference". ‎ Merulla stated.

Merulla also stated, "I don't think it is too much to ask public officials, to not conduct public matters ‎in secret".

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