Special Report: Light Rail

No LRT Funding Announcement After Meeting With Minister Del Duca

The Transport Minister acknowledged that Council has submitted a comprehensive LRT plan but would not provide an answer on whether full capital funding for rapid transit will apply to the city's plan.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 25, 2014

"I'm not in a position to make an announcement today." That is the message out of today's private meeting among Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin and Councillors Russ Powers, Scott Duvall, Brian McHattie and Brad Clark.

Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca
Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca

Asked point blank, repeatedly, by reporter Joey Coleman whether the Province will keep its commitment to provide full capital funding for the City's light rail transit (LRT) plan, Del Duca acknowledged the work that City staff have done to prepare the Rapid Ready plan that Council approved in 2012, but would not be drawn on whether the Province will fund that particular plan.

Instead, he reiterated the party line that the Province will provide 100 percent capital funding for "rapid transit". Asked what he means by 100% capital funding, Del Duca punted again, saying that he will provide clarity on what that means some time in the future.

At least he acknowledged that the City has, in fact, submitted an LRT plan. I guess that's progress. He also finished his song-and-dance about his government's commitment to full capital funding with the statement, "It may very well be LRT."

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina

Mayor Bratina took only one question before leaving, and his answer was bizarre and incoherent. Coleman asked why Councillor Lloyd Ferguson and Jason Farr were not in attendance at the meeting, as per the Council motion [PDF; see item 7.7] approved on May 8, 2013. The motion stipulates in part:

That the Mayor be directed to include Councillors Farr, Ferguson and McHattie when communicating on Council transit priorities with the Province of Ontario;

Bratina responded that the motion was related to a Chamber of Commerce initiative and refused to be drawn further. He took no additional questions and walked away from the scrum.

So what was actually said during the meeting? An article just published in the Spectator quotes conflicting accounts of what transpired by attendees Clark and McHattie.

Clark said it was made clear Hamilton has more work to do, to make its case for a rapid transit project, but added the specifics will come from Metrolinx and senior provincial staff in the coming weeks or months.

McHattie, by contrast, said the minister praised the work already competed by Hamilton and seemed to think "we've done enough" to take the next step.

Of course, if the meeting was open to the public, we would not have to try and piece together what was said based on the impressions of people who were in attendance.

Councillor Sam Merulla, who is a member of the Mayor's Governance Advisory Committee, refused to attend because he could not get a definitive answer on whether the meeting was even legal.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, Merulla stated, "I don't think it is too much to ask public officials, to not conduct public matters in secret".

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 Reality (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 14:44:16

So to interpret the Ministers policalspeak into something people can understand, it means don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen anytime soon, because it isn't going to happen.

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By Real Reality (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 14:53:59 in reply to Comment 103509

Or maybe it means, We're gonna wait until after the election when someone who isn't bonkers is in charge in the city again.

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By Reality (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 15:13:08 in reply to Comment 103510

No it means, we tried to bribe you during an election campaign for a second time, it didn't work, so you are no longer a priority.

Whether the mayor in your opinion is bonkers or not is irrelevant, he is a Liberal himself.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 15:03:02

comment from banned user deleted

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By Reality (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 15:14:21 in reply to Comment 103511

McHattie always leaves me puzzled.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 15:16:13

The "promise" is 100% abstract and open-ended. Wish I were more surprised.

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 16:34:29

What the hell? So all this money spent to date was for what exactly?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 21:35:07 in reply to Comment 103515

Buying time (and perhaps votes).

$3 million seems like a lot of money, but it's not even a rounding error to a government whose latest budget sits north of $130 billion.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 18:44:32 in reply to Comment 103515

To provide justification for some individual's jobs.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 18:45:56

The only real story I see here is whether Sam Merulla was in town today, or if his blowing off the meeting was his way of calling in sick and heading away for the weekend.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 19:51:21 in reply to Comment 103517

He was in the lobby during the meeting and spoke with Joey Coleman during the live feed.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 26, 2014 at 08:42:54 in reply to Comment 103526

Thanks!

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By rednic (registered) | Posted July 25, 2014 at 22:35:24

And the sunshine list members wonder why no cares anymore

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By Muggins (registered) | Posted July 26, 2014 at 14:09:33

Merulla's position around whether the meeting was legal is very puzzling. I worked in government for 30+ years and I've never heard of such a thing. In my experience, these types of meetings (basically a briefing of a new minister on a municipal issue / position by municipal officials) are rarely public. I suspect Merulla did not want to attend in order to avoid taking a position on the issue, despite the fact he has publicly stated he supports LRT provided the province provides 100% of the funding. I can't figure out where Merulla is coming from on this one. Other than to maybe avoid taking a solid position on LRT and risk alienating voters.

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By Disinterested (as opposed to Not interes (anonymous) | Posted July 26, 2014 at 18:23:13

The way I see it if you want to accept the LRT project you must vote for McHattie. If you want to reject the project, you vote for Clark. Is this really the ballot box question you want going into the October election?

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By arienc (registered) | Posted July 27, 2014 at 16:42:00 in reply to Comment 103543

It sure looks that way. What probably ends up happening is Eisenberger comes up the middle to win, and we get 4 more years of talk and hope for LRT with no concrete decisions made by anyone involved. The big stall continues.

At this point, although I'm still hopeful for LRT, it appears that Rob Ford has poisoned peoples' opinions of what LRT actually is to the point that it's become a political 3rd rail. In the end, I don't care whether it's LRT, BRT, or they just decide to cut Hamilton out of rapid transit altogether. Just make up your minds and get on with it, whatever "it" is. Hopefully some of those hardened opinions begin to soften once Eglinton is up and running in 2020. By then it will be our kids' battle.

As long as they don't waste $5B building a highway to Mount Hope and waste a further $100B subsidizing the associated sprawl that will follow a new highway, I'm fine with a principled stand of "we just don't have the money". All this politicking and making the same non-announcements over and over again is getting tiresome.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted July 26, 2014 at 20:14:51

LRT is DOA.

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By BuildLRT (anonymous) | Posted July 27, 2014 at 22:00:56

If we want LRT, it's ours but the province is not going to save us from our poor local leadership. That's up to us.

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By Disinterested not Not Interested (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2014 at 11:32:56

Fred is an interesting choice. Thoughtful support rather than blind support ot rejection

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 28, 2014 at 12:36:12 in reply to Comment 103565

Fred wants to turn back the clock on 6 years of consulting and design work. He supports LRT but is afraid to support it....not the kind of leadership this city needs.

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