Special Report: Light Rail

Councillor Nann: Reject LRT Cancellation, Ask Feds for Funding

The Ward 3 Councillor is requesting an emergency Council meeting to reject the Provincial cancellation or the Hamilton LRT project and to request federal funding.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 17, 2019

Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann is calling on her Hamilton City Council colleagues to hold an emergency meeting to reaffirm the City's commitment to the light rail transit (LRT) project the Ontario Government just abruptly canceled, and to request federal funding to complete the project.

Councillor Nann calls the Province's cost estimate "deeply misleading", noting that they conflate capital costs with 30-year operating costs to create a perception that Hamilton's projct "was somehow going to be wildly more expensive than already in progress and complete LRT projects in Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa."

For example, Waterloo Region's ION LRT system, an 18 km surface line similar to Hamilton's 14 km route, was recently completed for less than $1 billion.

Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson has asked the Province to share their cost analysis which concluded the project will cost $5.5 billion.

Nann points out that this project has been under development since 2007 and has more than 70 Council votes behind it, and that the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce credits the planned line with a 500 percent increase in new downtown residential development. The construction was also going to include necessary infrastructure renewal along the corridor while creating thousands of jobs.

She summarizes, "Losing this project is akin to literally throwing hundreds of millions of dollars, billions in future investments, thousands of jobs and 13 years of hard-fought community advocacy down the toilet."

In light of a dubious Provincial offer to establish a task force to find other ways to spend $1 billion on transportation in Hamilton, Nann proposes a Council motion to "re-commit to using the entire $1.3 billion promised to build the LRT system" and to "immediately request that the Federal Government commit to a financial partnership with the city" to complete the project.

Following is the full text of her letter:

December 17th, 2019

Time to Build our Future

It's not over.

Yesterday, with no warning, and despite many, repeated promises to the contrary, Doug Ford's provincial conservative government pulled the plug on Hamilton's 13 year journey to building a world-class transit system.

Using deeply misleading numbers which included both operating and maintenance costs over a 30 year period, they falsely and maliciously claimed that Hamilton's LRT project was somehow going to be wildly more expensive than already in progress and complete LRT projects in Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa. This is simply not the case.

Since 2008, Hamilton City Council has voted in favour of LRT, almost unanimously, 70+ times. Our last election, largely seen as a referendum on LRT, showed overwhelming support from the community in favour of it. 60 properties have been bought, $184 million spent, hundreds of residents and business displaced or renovicted.

The Chamber of Commerce reports that the LRT project has already resulted in a 500 percent increase in downtown residential units. The entire downtown secondary plan is based on completion of the project.

But even that isn't the whole picture. The $1.3 billion committed to build our LRT includes critical below the road infrastructure replacement like century-old sewers and water pipes and the redesign and beautification of 14km of our main commercial and residential thoroughfares.

And in the midst of a climate emergency, fully electric transportation is the future and a leading solution to reducing Hamilton's nation-leading GHG emissions. Losing this project is akin to literally throwing hundreds of millions of dollars, billions in future investments, thousands of jobs and 13 years of hard-fought community advocacy down the toilet.

And that is why, my council colleagues, we cannot allow this to happen.

The provincial government is now saying that we can still have the $1.3b, and we can spend it any way we want. Yet, there's no timeline and no process. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled again.

If we accept that LRT is over, we'll spend the next 13 years squabbling over how to spend imaginary money that may never materialize. That $1.3b was committed for LRT, not for roads, not for buses, not for stadiums, not for anything else but a once in a generation city-building project that Hamiltonians have by and large embraced.

So, let's take that $1.3 billion promised and build our LRT. And let's demand that the federal government step in to ensure that it goes ahead, exactly as planned.

Given the urgency of this matter, I am calling for an emergency meeting of Hamilton City Council, where I will move the following motion:

WHEREAS: Hamilton City Council has voted 70+ times over the last 13 years in favour of building an LRT.

WHEREAS: Several Provincial Governments have committed $1.3 billion to build it.

WHEREAS: $184 million has already been spent on this project.

WHEREAS: The current provincial government claims we can still use the $1.3b billion for LRT.

WHEREAS: The Federal Government is committed to partnering with municipalities on financing transit and infrastructure projects.

BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

A) The City of Hamilton, through this motion, re-commit to use the entire $1.3 billion promised to build the LRT system, exactly as has already been exhaustively planned and approved, and nothing else.

B) Hamilton City Council immediately request that the Federal Government commit to a financial partnership with the city to ensure that the LRT project gets completed exactly as planned and approved.

Yours in Community,

Councillor Nrinder Nann
Ward 3 - City of Hamilton


Editor's Note: Hamilton Light Rail has launched a new campaign calling on Hamiltonians to send Premier Ford a message calling in him to fix Minister Mulroney's mistake and get the Hamilton LRT back on track. Please join the call to action and make your voice heard.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted December 18, 2019 at 14:59:46

Great idea Councillor Nann. However, you fight an uphill battle trying to convince deadbeat colleagues who have foot-dragged, voted against the project or flip-flopped ad nauseum over the years. I wish you all the luck as apparently, from past experience, you face a daunting task. As far as Federal funding, you better go to Filomena Tassi. Bratina is a lost cause when it come to LRT.

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By BTH (registered) | Posted December 18, 2019 at 21:26:42

It's a great idea but my concern is that even though it's got merit, the federal government would say no because they wouldn't want to set a precedent. If they pick up an expensive project like this because the province has tossed it on the floor and walked away, it's almost an open invitation to Ford and any other premier to do the same thing with other expensive things and send them upstream along with the bill to the federal government. The federal government wouldn't want to get stuck with provincial projects with bills that were supposed to have been paid with provincial taxes out of the federal budget without the additional tax revenue that provinces would get to keep.

So, as I said, I think it's a great idea and I have my fingers crossed because I think it's the only thing that'll save the LRT at this point but I acknowledge it's a long shot.

Bob Bratina isn't just a lost cause when it comes to LRT, Bob Bratina is a lost cause when it comes to Hamilton, period. I live in his riding not to far from two of the LRT stops and this major infrastructure project passing through a good chunk of his riding going up in a puff of smoke on Monday by Trudeau's arch-rival and key campaign plank Doug Ford has elicited nothing out of Bratina. Zip. Zero. Nothing. I've been unable to find any comment from him on this at all.

In the four plus years he's been my member of parliament all I've heard and seen are mailing and statements that he's up there in Ottawa fighting for us. And that's it. There's been no evidence of him producing anything for us, just statements that he's fighting for us. Honestly, if I was him, when Trudeau announced infrastructure money during his first term as prime minister, I'd have been pushing for a cut of that to take the B line LRT further into Stoney Creek and/or start building the A line to more fully complete the rapid transit system in Hamilton. But Bob? Nothing. No movement on securing any of that infrastructure money for any project in Hamilton. I held my nose and voted for him in the previous election but it was a strategic vote. Unless he shapes up fast and comes out swinging hard in favour of getting the federal government to take over the LRT and get it done, I won't be voting for him again. Members of parliament are supposed to represent their constituents. Not be missing in action for four years plus and counting.

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