Special Report: Light Rail

Bratina Continues to Sow Misinformation on LRT in Radio Interview

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)
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.

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.

16 Comments

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted August 01, 2014 at 11:11:02

Again more detail splitting from the man who has the worst grasp on details. :( Having a stop for LRT at the Future Fund Stadium is excellent. This is an excellent example of long term planning, albeit completely by accident.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 01, 2014 at 11:59:44

I didn't realize the entire B-Line corridor was fully redeveloped and humming along like an economic powerhouse. Do plywood storefronts, parking lots and dollar stores contribute more in taxes than I previously thought??

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 01, 2014 at 23:36:12 in reply to Comment 103683

Yes, they probably do.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 03, 2014 at 09:18:00 in reply to Comment 103695

actually they don't.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

I was just poking fun at the sad fact that we have a mayor who still doesn't grasp the basics of economic development.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 04, 2014 at 22:10:38 in reply to Comment 103705

What does an article on home depot vs. condos (large, single floor business vs small, multifloor residence) have to do with dollar stores downtown?

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted August 01, 2014 at 15:55:09

Sad to say but with each passing day I am becoming more and more convinced that there is no LRT in Hamilton's near or mid-term future.

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By why would there be (anonymous) | Posted August 02, 2014 at 07:16:43 in reply to Comment 103686

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted August 01, 2014 at 20:32:48

There are times when reading some of the articles (and comments) here, I have to wonder whether people are actually familiar with the land east of downtown. You know, all the way out to Eastgate. Especially when it comes to 'possible development'.

Bus tours of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo have been organized over the past year. And I know there's one planned for Hamilton. I think there's merit in having one from Centennial-to-James, focusing on evidence-and-reason-based assessments and projections regarding potential development. It might help inject some reality into the discussion. Because right now, I'm continually doing spit-takes and phoning my chiropractor for adjustments because I'm shaking my head so much.

I'm going to be making sure I get front-row seats for the election goings-on; the debate over LRT as it's shaping up to be perhaps THE election issue. I can't wait to hear the dialogue...and the reaction to it in the run-up to October 27th. '86 Days of Madness: Fomenting at Its Best'.

Comment edited by ItJustIs on 2014-08-01 20:33:34

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 01, 2014 at 22:49:12 in reply to Comment 103690

I'm not sure I follow your train of thought. Who's doing the bus tours? And who do you think is unfamiliar with the land east of downtown all the way out to Eastgate?

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By Vod Kann (anonymous) | Posted August 02, 2014 at 22:12:30

Having Tim Hortons Field on the line would actually be a reason why we would want to have a B-line LRT and boost ridership but what do I know.....

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By LRT here,LRT everywhere (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2014 at 21:08:15

I would like to say one thing - the so-called LRT spectrum is incredibly diverse. If the LRT-advocates are talking about their beloved LRT, what are they talking about EXACTLY? What is their vision? See in GOOGLE ST.LOUIS LRT or STREETCARS IN ROME.
Are they prepared to tell general public, that they would like to fully rebuild corridors A or B to be used only by rail vehicles?
If not - then they will be always talking only to "converted" people and general public (incl. politicians) will be always confused or hostile about and to their messages and/or plans.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2014 at 07:55:10 in reply to Comment 103964

What ridiculous FUD.

what are they talking about EXACTLY?

That would be the detailed design specified in the city's Rapid Ready LRT report, which was presented to Council in February 2013 and has been written about and linked from this site in a number of articles since then.

Metrolinx has settled on the Bombardier Flexity Freedom LRT vehicle, which has already been selected for use in Toronto's Eglinton Crosstown LRT line and Waterloo Region's Ion LRT line.

Are they prepared to tell general public, that they would like to fully rebuild corridors A or B to be used only by rail vehicles?

That's just wrong. The City's plan is for LRT to run in dedicated lanes on streets that will still have separate automobile lanes.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 10:11:57 in reply to Comment 103979

The vast majority of people in Hamilton have no idea what you are talking about. You can repeat on this site a million times that the Rapid Ready LRT report was presented to council, but the vast, by that I mean probably 99%, majority of people who drive on King Street and Main Street have no real or comprehensive idea what LRT means and will have no idea until a shovel is in the ground. Ergo the need for a referendum with "proper" public debate.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2014 at 10:47:43 in reply to Comment 103985

I realize your "99%" claim is just hyperbole, but the fact is that most people don't know - or care - about any municipal project. In that context, the breadth and level of public engagement on LRT has been unprecedented. The City talked to literally thousands of people across the city about LRT and found overwhelming support citywide. Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen advocacy group, also spoke to thousands of people at various events and meetings and found overwhelming support.

The problem is that for the past three-plus years, we have had a mayor who utterly refuses to speak clearly or accurately about LRT, combined with City staff who have fallen totally silent on the matter.

As a result, a collective amnesia seems to have fallen over the public commentary that is ongoing in the vacuum of clear official communication. Populist media commentators are playing fast and loose with the evidence, ignoring the research and misrepresenting both the B-Line LRT and the various alternatives (of both location and technology) that have been considered.

At the same time, politicians who absolutely know better are doing the same, and also pretending that wide consultation and engagement did not take place, in order to further their own political ambitions.

Then we have trolls and astroturfers muddying the water with deliberate misinformation intended to sow uncertainties and doubts, with no one to set the record straight.

What we are seeing is precisely what always happens in the absence of leadership.

So enjoy your condescension and your provocative Orwell quote, and understand that you are part of the problem.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-08-15 10:51:47

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted August 16, 2014 at 11:52:01 in reply to Comment 103989

Sorry Ryan, didn't mean that quote directed at you. Did not know how to create a signature, but now I have.

I just think there should be a referendum on this issue because it is a big deal, regardless of which level of government pays for it.

Hyperbole - yes - we all do that to a degree. But I think you acknowledge that the vast majority of people aren't aware of the issue and they should be.

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By LRT here,LRT everywhere (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:36:53

If I were an LRT spokesperson,I would be more assertive and aggresive about the whole project - no fuzzy sketches from elsewhere,no tiny drawings. (1) I would go to the hated Toronto and get a few photos from current construction at Queen and Broadview, Spadina and Dundas or Waterfront. (2) I would tell people, that this chaotic mess would be moving ahead slowly - perhaps 5 to 10m per day. (3) I would ask people, if they like current St.Clair W or Spadina north of College - again no cut-and-paste. (4) I would engage people once per week - not at pre-election or budget time. (5) I would put a small kiosk at City Hall and I would make sure, that this kiosk is serviced at reasonable times. --- Current evasion and procrastination by Mr.Bratina confuse the situation and as you said,show a lack of leadership.. We have that lack of leadership in Toronto too. We are supposed to have surface (Eglinton) LRT ready by 2020. Yet the proposed design is getting muddled by talks of super-wide sidewalks (3m) and quite recently Mrs. M.B. (one of the councillors) complained about loss of turn-lanes for vehicles using the corridor. Go and figure.

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