Special Report: Light Rail

Hamilton City Council a Test of Faith in Good Governance

Just as new investment and trust is manifesting in Hamilton, some Councillors want to pull the rug out from under its own LRT plan, thinking that there will be no consequences.

By David Brace
Published April 06, 2017

Most of the very councillors who are now trying to undermine Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan were the same Councillors who started this project and voted for it continuously over their time in office. They created the vision and have also created the division.

I moved back to Hamilton 27 yrs ago. I began my cultural business here because I believed in the potential of this city. A cultural renaissance was under way. Galleries, artist co-ops, theatre, music and the rise of new restaurants, cafes and bars slowly took root.

New businesses began to move here. Tech, design and branding firms, film and animation companies and small independent retail liked what they saw and invested in Hamilton.

But an urban economy needs the support of the City to justify the long-term investment for real sustained growth. Infrastructure, transit, zoning and regulations can help us grow and provide housing and jobs for more people.

In recent years, I have watched with dismay as year after year, council after council has started five-year and ten-year strategic plans, only to shelve them after two or three years.

In the past two years, Council has repeatedly voted its support for the fully-funded LRT project, and people took it as a sign of dependability, of real city investment in our future growth.

People have responded. New development projects are already going ahead because of the City's commitment to LRT.

And now, just as new investment and trust is manifesting in Hamilton, some Councillors want to pull the rug out, thinking that there will be no consequences.

The results of this dithering will be the divestment of future generations and the flight of new business to greener pastures just down the road - cities like Kitchener-Waterloo and Mississauga, which are going ahead with their own LRT investments.

Council sets the tone and agenda for the city, and they lack curiosity and ambition. My faith in good governance is being tested. Their failure to act for our future will see our efforts to invest in Hamilton wither on the vine. I am really questioning if my love for this City has been misplaced.

David Brace is an artist who lives and works in Hamilton.


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By john1242 (registered) | Posted April 06, 2017 at 09:37:24

I agree LRT should go head but as plan Eastgate Square to Mcmaster as original plan since 2008;Rapid Read Report April 1,2008;Feb.,2013 (D Hull);August 10 2015 (D Dixon )March 11 2015 Ten Year Transit Local was # 1 priority Eastgate to McMaster.for Mertolinx and Wynne to approve with 100% funding. Mayor Fred and City Manager C Murray meeting on Jan 25 2015 Wynne said 100% for LRT Eastgate to Mcmaster.City Manager C Murray letter March 16 2015 to Bruce McCuaig Metrolinx of Council approved Feb 27 2013 Rapid Ready Expanding Mobility Choices in Hamilton. May 26 2015 Wynne announced $1.0B LRT McMaster to Queenston Rd with A-Line LRT (spur)?Restart E/A because the change in scope. Feb.2 2017 Metrolinx /Wynne cancels spur line where does money allotted for Spur line Council didn't have a said ?Metrolinx change the scope E/A needs to be approve. This lack of transparency with Liberals/Metrolinx/City Council with taxpayers of Hamilton on LRT is confusion causes doubt in the system. Lobby City Council /Metrolinx to allotted to LRT Eastgate to McMaster. Note: How much revenue (taxes)are generated from Transit Terminal (mcNab terminal Zero)

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2017 at 20:09:36 in reply to Comment 121114

They've publicly released budget data on B-Line if you're paying attention to boring Metrolinx PDF files instead of only reading mainstream media such as TheSpec. With the A-Line spur removed, Metrolinx's B-Line LRT has an $892M budget rather than a full $1B.

From Metrolinx Capital Projects Group Quarterly Report PDF (Feb 2017). The previous quarter PDF had a full $1B before the A-Line BRT announcement, before suddenly falling to $892M (2015 currency, before inflation adjustment) in this linked PDF -- the first Metrolinx Capital Projects Group Quarterly Report released after A-Line stub was removed.

Metrolinx PDF Footnote says: "Hamilton LRT budget has been updated to reflect the recent Treasury Board approval amount and the removal of the ALine. 2015$"

I am satisfied that Metrolinx has been transparent with their budgetary data to me as a taxpayer. There are other documents that break down the spending further when the projects are well under way (e.g. Annual Report showed what was spent on Crosstown LRT construction for 2015-2016 out of its allotment of $5.3B total). I anticipate spending breakdowns of the Hamilton LRT B-Line $892M will begin to happen once Hamilton LRT monies begin to be spent.

To me, I feel this is sufficiently transparent to me, but I wish the media would report more accurately sometimes. I do wish that many city/media sources didn't play FUD with the oft-parroted "BILLION! BILLION!" when the proper data is already disclosed in perfectly fine Metrolinx PDF files. The social/economic benefits of the Hamilton LRT easily justifies the already revealed $892M budget for the B-Line, and yes, I'd like to see it extended to Eastgate sooner than later as everyone else would. As many have said, Metrolinx understandably do need to become more accountable (e.g. construction efficiency tracking of several hundred construction sites). After the earlier bad publicity, they appear to be working towards benchmarking the performance of their construction sites according to Metrolinx documents I am reading.

Either way, there is quite a great deal of information that are found in many Metrolinx documents (custom Google search of Metrolinx documents)

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2017-04-06 20:31:45

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted April 06, 2017 at 12:50:54

If I were a developer who made investments based on the LRT, a plan that seemed to be in stone with full capital funding from the province and countless and recent ratifications by council, I would be looking into what grounds I had for a lawsuit against the city, should they now decide to back-out.

Anyone with knowledge on the subject know if such a thing is possible?

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2017 at 16:08:10 in reply to Comment 121115

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Comment edited by JimC on 2017-04-06 16:16:16

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted April 06, 2017 at 21:31:23 in reply to Comment 121117

"If I were a developer "

If you bought a house based on a ratified municipal plan that they were going to build a park next to it, and then they did an about face and turned it into a landfill, wouldn't you look for compensation? I recognize it's an extreme example.

I'm simply wondering if it's something that might come up, because I'm thinking there are a ton of people who have invested a significant amount of dough in the downtown and at the potential LRT stops that stand to lose a lot of money if council votes it down this far into it.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 06, 2017 at 17:47:16 in reply to Comment 121117

Yes, bananas. A while ago there was some nutcase commenting that we don't need an LRT because the singularity is approaching. Craaazy...

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2017 at 17:13:57 in reply to Comment 121117

1) It's a comment on an article on a site, your conflation is irrelevant.

2) Investors and developers do help pay for the improvements, it's called increased assessment on property tax. It's how cities grow.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2017 at 13:27:07 in reply to Comment 121115

I'm no expert, but I think property investors, developers etc would have a difficult time trying to sue the city based on an unfulfilled promise by council. Ottawa faced lawsuits from contractors when they cancelled an LRT line after they had awarded the contracts to build it. Ottawa settled the suits for $36.7M. It's a fine line if properties are being purchased and developed based on council's previous unanimous support for a project and the expectation that they will continue on the same course in good faith into future implementation of the project. LRT in Hamilton is in the implementation phase, however no contracts have been signed.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 07, 2017 at 00:27:37 in reply to Comment 121116

It wasn't a settlement, the city of Ottawa lost the North-South LRT Line court case, roughly $36 Million paid to Siemens and $6-7 Million paid to PCL Dufferin. Not to mention the damage to the city's reputation that followed.

The big problem for Hamilton and its council is that, if they do indeed turn down the LRT cash they will owe many groups quite a bit of money. If the council suddenly turns around and kills this project, the city may not only owe Metrolinx cash but several engineering and planning firms, who have yet to be paid by Metrolinx. Plus a group I know who has been working with Metrolinx doing construction phasing, engineering and planning proposal modeling and guidance.

Pull the plug on this right now and Metrolinx puts a stop payment on all the cheques still going out to these companies. They all will get told, "if you want to get paid, talk to Hamilton City Council!"

Big money has already been spent by several groups who are planning to bid in the RFQ process. A lot of expensive work is already being done by them. Its unlikely developers will get any compensation but pull the plug in the middle of RFQ process, when there are already interested parties preparing bids, yes you have to pay them their bid preparation costs, that by itself can go into the millions of dollars, depending how much work has already been done by each group.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2017 at 07:54:27 in reply to Comment 121123

AH, I stand corrected. I read a CBC article that used the wording "out of court settlement." http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ott...

I do agree that there will be an enormous tab to pay for nixing the project. $70-80M has already been spent, council will have to find a way to pay that. I'm sure other companies will come forward with bills as well. We will all be on the hook for cancellation for decades to come with absolutely nothing to show for it. I also believe future councils will be timid to ever get involved in large city building efforts. It will remain a lingering shadow.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 07, 2017 at 08:42:45 in reply to Comment 121126

All of this may be true but I think there are far stronger arguments to support the LRT project. If council wanted to kill the project they probably wouldn't be swayed by some 10's of millions in 'cancellation fees'.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2017 at 08:53:47 in reply to Comment 121128

No disagreement here, just following a line of thought about consequences. I believe the really damaging consequences of killing the project will be born out in decades to come: a local economy throttled by low expectations.

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