The Mayor who has spent his term incomprehensibly trying to confuse and undermine that same LRT plan stayed in form on Wednesday.
By Ryan McGreal
Published August 01, 2014
This past Wednesday, Mayor Bob Bratina appeared on the Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML to discuss last Friday's private meeting with Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca in which they discussed the plan Hamilton submitted to Queen's Park to fund a light rail transit (LRT) line as part of a comprehensive transit plan.
You can listen to the audio recording.
They opened the interview by joking about the fact that the meeting was private and pointed out that most meetings between City and Province representatives don't happen in public.
Obviously, there was no discussion of why anyone would have any concerns about how Bratina would represent the city's position on LRT in a closed-door meeting, let alone a meeting just a few months before his term is up.
Bill Kelly (BK): As the Minister I think repeated for the umpteenth time, they know Hamilton's position already.
Bob Bratina (BB): Yeah.
BK: And I think Mr. Del Duca made that quite clear, didn't he, at the meeting?
BB: Well, he did. You know, the question is, does Hamilton?
Let's pause here quickly. First of all, while the meeting and its outcome were inconclusive, Minister Del Duca saying the Province is clear on Hamilton's position is a new piece of information.
Up until the meeting, Provincial representatives from former Transport Minister Glen Murray to Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin to Premier Kathleen Wynne kept saying they didn't know Hamilton's position, despite the fact that the City sumitted its LRT plan more than a year ago.
It's actually an important milestone that Del Duca has explicitly said that the Province understand's Council's position and that the Rapid Ready LRT plan is a detailed, comprehensive plan.
Of course, Bratina immediately muddied the waters by questioning whether Hamilton does, in fact, support the LRT plan that Council has repeatedly supported and approved through every motion since late 2007.
This is par for the course. The Mayor who was elected on a pro-LRT platform (Bratina was actually the moderator at a large Hamilton Light Rail public meeting in 2008) has spent his term incomprehensibly trying to confuse and undermine that same LRT plan.
The interview continues:
BB: You have one meeting and you have three versions of the meeting after the meeting.
Which is one of the reasons why the meeting should not have been behind closed doors.
BB: It's, I know clearly that we have a transit proposal in Rapid Ready, they know, they've read it, so I think the real issue now is that, I'm only aware, for instance, on the LR- on the pure LRT file of two councillors who are outspoken insisting that the LRT portion, ah, be prioritized.
Once again, Bratina is pretending the Rapid Ready plan does not prioritize LRT as the centrepiece of a comprehensive improvement to our transit system. Last May, his antics in this vein turned a Council meeting into a debacle in which City Manager Chris Murray directly contradicted him on the focus of the Rapid Ready plan:
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? ... We think investing in transit, LRT specifically, in the City of Hamilton is something fundamental to our growth.
The result of that meeting was a directive from Council clarifying and reaffirming its position that the Rapid Ready plan is a request for 100 percent capital funding for LRT and requiring that Bratina include Councillors Jason Farr, Lloyd Ferguson and Brian McHattie when communicating with the Province on transit - a directive Bratina did not follow at last Friday's meeting, since Farr and Ferguson were not in attendance.
On with the interview:
BB: So, and I could be wrong, and that's fine. So I think that at some point, Council's going to have to make it very clear what, where all of us stand because we're basing the current position on 100% funding of the LRT. The Minister constantly referred to 100% funding of your rapid transit - there was no L.
Councillor Brad Clark, who was in attendance on Friday, describes the meeting differently. In a Facebook post after the meeting, he wrote, "In the meeting, Minister Del Duca indicated that the government is committed to 100% capital construction costs on LRT. Later, he said 100% capital construction on rapid transit."
Brian McHattie, also in attendance at the meeting, writes the same thing in his blog post following the meeting, writing that Del Duca "Used the term LRT in the meeting interchangeably with RT, and during the media scrum said, 'It could well be LRT' when asked if the funding was for Rapid Transit or Light Rail Transit."
But Bratina claimed in the interview that Minister Del Duca never said the L word. (If only there could have been some way for everyone to know exactly what was said during the meeting.)
Then he went on to insinuate once again that Hamilton would have to choose between LRT and all-day GO train service. He suggested that Hamilton's share of the Provincial regional transit fund is around a billion dollars and that both rapid transit and GO expansion will have to be funded from the same share.
He also said our rapid transit should integrate with GO transit and once again raised the idea of running a north-south A-Line: "So who knows, maybe that will come back stronger in terms of how it's prioritized."
Then Kelly raised the bugbear about whether the economic uplift will actually be as high as the report suggests. Bratina jumped in:
BB: The uptake that the LRT would bring on the B-Line involved, for example, two properties: the Ivor Wynne precinct, which was going to be developed into residential, commercial and therefore there would be an uplift and taxes would flow and so on. That's off the table now. There's a stadium there. Main and Bay - that was a big emp- when all this was devised, nothing was going on there. What's happened now? Mac, of course, that's, that would be, that wouldn't affect that property, so let's just deal with Bay west to Hess, Caroline and Hess, you have two hotels and two large condominium projects which are now not factored into the lift that that LRT would bring, yet it, those things, Ivor Wynne precinct, Main and Bay, as an example, were part and parcel of the, how much better will things be. So that has to be reviewed. I'm not saying the whole thing's, throw it out the window, but they can't go with the numbers that were presented prior to that development.
Ivor Wynne is no longer a redevelopment site because Bratina and Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young decided to build the new stadium on the site of the old stadium - a site Young had previously insisted could not be financially viable for the team due to its location.
In addition to forcing the team to leave their old home and play in temporary digs during construction, this decision also precluded the redevelopment of the stadium site and stalled the redevelopment of the West Harbour site - all to save the egos of Young and then-president Scott Mitchell from having to accept the West Harbour, which they had also insisted could not be financially viable for the team due to its location.
Nevertheless, these two sites - Ivor Wynne and Main and Bay - are only a tiny fraction of the total uplift opportunity along the B-Line. The Canadian Urban Institute studied the economic development potential and came up with a very conservative assessment of new taxable assessment along the line without LRT and with LRT:
Distribution of new taxable assessment without LRT and with LRT (Source: Canadian Urban Institute)
It's pure disinformation to suggest we need to go back to the drawing board just because one development site along the 14-km length of the B-Line has gone ahead and and another will remain as a football field.
The assessment already assumes that there will be some development even if the LRT is not built - just an awful lot less.
The segment closes out in the same way. After spinning a folksy yarn about the CFL and Sir John A MacDonald High School, Bratina concluded by raising the cost of electrifying the GO line and questioning whether the Federal government will contribute any money.
Like everything else Bratina has done on this file since early 2011, the interview consisted entirely of FUD, misinformation, insinuation and condescension toward the LRT project and its supporters.
The same person who promised in February 2013 that he would begin to "champion" the LRT plan once Council had approved it has instead continued to throw up every excuse imaginable to claim that the project cannot or should not go ahead.
Without a political champion to build consensus, respond to challenges and resolve conflicts, Bratina's dim view of the LRT plan's prospects is likely to be self-fulfilling.
This is not conduct befitting the Chief Magistrate of the City, and it's especially exasperating given that he was elected mayor in 2010 in part on the strength of his abundant support for LRT, support that evaporated once he took office.
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